Politics & Policy

It’s Time for the NRA to Cut Ted Nugent Loose

Ted Nugent in 2010 (Randy Snyder/Getty)

Ted Nugent should resign from the board of the National Rifle Association. And if he does not, he should be pushed from his position.

This week, in the course of “defending” the right to keep and bear arms, Nugent enthusiastically shared a choice piece of anti-Semitic propaganda. Then, shamefully, he refused to acknowledge or to address his mistake. If Nugent wants to behave like a fool, that is, of course, his prerogative. But he must do so in quarantine, a long, long way from the rest of us.

This is not an enjoyable or typical thing for me to write. As a rule, I like hyperbole. As a rule, I don’t think that there is anything wrong with harsh, indignant defenses of fundamental rights. And, as a rule, I like eccentrics and wish dearly that our culture gave them a little more latitude to be themselves. But there is nothing hyperbolic or eccentric about Nugent’s post, and nor does it channel his righteous indignation in support of a righteous cause. Contrary to some of the protestations I have seen, this is in no way a question of “political correctness” or of effete “elite sensibilities”; it is anti-Semitism, plain as day. To anybody with eyes, his message was as clear as it was indefensible: Disloyal, money-grabbing, Israel-preferring Jews are “really behind” the gun-control movement, and they should be cast out of American society in consequence.

Consider the criticisms that are leveled in Nugent’s graphic. Do they have more to do with their targets’ attitude toward firearms or with their targets’ Judaism? Michael Bloomberg, you will observe, is “outed” not as an implacable enemy of the Second Amendment (which he is), but as a “9/11 Israel agent” and “Jew York City mayor.” Rahm Emanuel is hit not for his disgraceful behavior as mayor of Chicago, but for having “served in Israel’s army during Gulf War.” Alan Dershowitz, who remains admirably honest about the meaning of the Second Amendment even as he opposes it, is attacked not for his support of stricter regulations but as an “ISRAEL FIRSTER.” And Frank Lautenberg, who never saw a gun-control bill that he disliked, is slammed for having given “Russian Jew immigrants your tax money.” It is no accident that all of those depicted have Israeli flags next to their photographs: These people, the image implies, are little more than corrupt agents of a foreign state.

#share#In and of itself, Nugent’s outburst would have been ugly as hell. But since he is associated with the NRA, it serves as no less than a disastrous repudiation of the necessary case he’s been tasked with making. In the semi-illiterate Facebook note that accompanied the image, Nugent contended correctly that all people have a “basic human right to self defense” irrespective of their race, sex, religion, or circumstances, and that the Second Amendment is the auxiliary mechanism that makes that human right feasible. How, one wonders, does he intend to reconcile this universalist claim with the proposition that one particular racial or religious group is behind a plot to undermine it? As far as I can see, he cannot — at least not without suggesting that the members of that group are inhuman. Moreover, he cannot simultaneously advance the case that the right to keep and bear arms applies to the individual and propose that, in fighting for that right, we should make sweeping generalizations about particular groups. It just won’t work.

There is always a line somewhere, and Nugent has unapologetically leaped across it.

Which brings us to the National Rifle Association. Up until now, the NRA could be forgiven for having tolerated Nugent’s excesses. He is, after all, a rock star rather than a politician, and his passion for the Second Amendment has been admirable. It takes all sorts to make a movement — those who can offer the visceral case are just as important as those who can crunch the numbers and parse the laws. But there is always a line somewhere, and Nugent has unapologetically leaped across it.

Moreover, unlike Phil Robertson, the Benham Brothers, and Brendan Eich, he has done so in a way that has a direct impact upon his professional relationships. As Bob Owens notes over at Bearing Arms, “some of our most vocal and successful gun rights advocates, such as Alan Gottlieb at the Second Amendment Foundation, are Jewish, as are a significant number of gun writers, editors, and photographers.” How will it look to them if the movement’s most effective and most powerful organization is seen to indulge anti-Semitism within its ranks? And how will it look to the increasingly diverse array of American gun owners, many of whom will be crucial to the fight going forward?

The answer, I’d venture, is “pretty bloody terrible.”  The NRA shouldn’t wait around to find out.

— Charles C. W. Cooke is a staff writer at National Review.

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