New NRA Video Fuels American Extremists, Says Former CIA Analyst

Member of the Oath Keepers
A member of the Oath Keepers militia provides security at the Sugar Pine Mine outside Grants Pass, Oregon, on April 22, 2015. Jim Urquhart/Reuters

A new ad put out by America's biggest gun lobby, the National Rifle Association, has been compared to an extremist recruitment video by terrorism experts.

"They use their media to assassinate real news. They use their schools to teach children that their president is another Hitler," says a new NRA recruitment video published in early June, referring to the American left.

Backed by an ominous soundtrack, the video features NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch, who works for the right-wing media outlet The Blaze, stating left-wingers "use their ex-president [Barack Obama] to endorse the resistance" and that he pushes them to violently protest and accuse the Trump administration of "racism and sexims and xenophobia and homophobia."

"The only way we stop this, the only way we save our country and our freedom is to fight this violence of lies with a clenched fist of truth," Loesch says before urging viewers to join the powerful gun lobby to fight back.

This is the kind of rhetoric that creates extremists, according to ex-CIA intelligence analyst Cynthia Storer, who is now an adjunct instructor at Johns Hopkins University teaching intelligence analysis and counterterrorism.

"The NRA is feeding an us vs them narrative of the kind that fuels all extremist movements," Storer wrote on Twitter Thursday. "I should know."

Read more: Most terrorists in the U.S. are right wing, not Muslim: report

Storer should know because she developed the models the CIA uses to track the steps of extremist radicalization. While serving at the agency for 20 years—Storer left in 2007—she focussed on counterterrorism and the war on terror against al-Qaeda from the early 1990s.

"Extremism sparks extremism in return. It's a vicious cycle and the world burns. Left and right, head [sic] these words," she continued.

When challenged by a reader who said the left has their own narrative—which they claimed is backed by the media—Storer replied that "the left isn't urging people to buy guns to start a revolution." She, however, "agreed that the divisive language from both sides needs to stop."

Right-wing terrorism in the United States is on the rise, and a national survey of 175 U.S. law enforcement agencies in 2014 ranked the armed right-wing sovereign citizens movement above Islamic terrorists as the most prominent domestic terrorist threat. The proliferation of armed militias like the Oath Keepers is also concerning law enforcement officials.

A report released last week found that within the past nine years, right-wing American extremists plotted or carried out nearly twice as many terrorist attacks as Islamist extremists domestically.

Free speech advocates and dangerous speech experts also weighed in on the NRA video. "Language like 'violence of lies' & 'clenched fist of truth' weaken civil discourse," read a tweet from the Dangerous Speech Project.

The group, headed by Susan Benesch—a well known free speech scholar and researcher at Harvard's Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society—analyzes extremist speech. The NRA's ad, they said, "seeks to divide" Americans.

In a recent interview with Newsweek, Benesch said that extreme rhetoric on both the right and left in America is dangerously polarizing politics and that leaders need to condemn violence and the dangerous and violent speech that incites hatred head-on. Otherwise, they risk an increasing risk of violence.

Benesch cited Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders' condemnation of the shooting of Republican whip Rep. Steve Scalise by a Sanders supporter at a GOP baseball practice early this month as the ideal.

"Real change can only come about through nonviolent action, and anything else runs against our most deeply held American values," Sanders said, calling the shooter's actions "despicable."