The Oprahfication of America

A couple of weeks ago, my wife went to Massachusetts to take care of her sister's children so that she and her husband could take a trip to the Caribbean.  My wife ended up spending two weeks in the Bay State because of the mega storm that hit while she was there and several smaller storms that followed it. 

Last Friday, I called to talk with my wife.  She was out, so I spent some time talking with my brother-in-law.  He's a developer who lives outside Boston, and I've talked with him for several years about the importance of buying guns and ammunition.  During our conversation, I explained that he shouldn't keep putting it off.

To his credit, my bother-in-law has started taking a gun class and eventually he plans to get a permit, but so far he hasn't bought a gun--pistol, rifle, or shotgun.  I've been telling him that he needs all three and more than one of each, plus lots of ammunition.  A few years ago, he could have obtained any of them easily with high capacity magazines for the rifles and pistols, but things have changed.  It's getting harder and harder to find the guns that he needs, and high capacity magazines are coming under threat in one state after another. 

During our discussion on Friday, I told my brother-in-law that the day is coming when he will need those guns.  Notice that I said "is coming," not "may come," and "will need," not "may need," because I think it's a virtual certainty, but I'm willing to concede that there is a chance that I am wrong. 

For instance, Republicans and Democrats in Washington may have a Kumbaya moment and agree that they should just get along; our nation's creditors may keep buying our debt at historically low rates even as the dollar becomes increasingly insecure; we may find a way to cut Social Security, Medicare, and defense spending without creating a backlash; the freeloaders among us may have a change of heart and decide as a group that it's time to get off the dole; criminals may decide that crime doesn't pay and go straight; and pigs may learn to fly.  Truth is, I think the likelihood of avoiding the inevitable is about the same as the probability of pigs learning to fly.

On Saturday, I called my wife again, and she said that my brother-in-law told her that he felt depressed after our conversation.  I feel depressed, too, but how I feel doesn't matter.  What I told him is either true or it's not true; it's accurate or it's inaccurate; and how I feel about it is totally irrelevant.

I used to tell my strategy students that they should base their analyses on factual information.  I would say, "I'm interested in finding out what you think, believe, and know.  Please don't tell me how you feel."  Unfortunately, in 21st century America how people feel dictates the way they live their lives.  I call this phenomenon the Oprahfication of America.

Oprah Winfrey became a billionaire by capitalizing on the burning desire of Americans, particularly American women, to have others care about how they feel.  Oprah is a master at feeling other peoples' pain.  Long before Bill Clinton and Barack Obama learned to cry on cue to show their heartfelt feelings, Oprah was doing it on stage in front of cameras for big bucks.

I believe that Oprah could win the presidency if she decided to run, and I'm not kidding.  Forget the fact that she has no political experience.  Oprah can feel people's pain and that's enough to win the presidency these days.  If you have any doubts, try explaining Barack Obama's victory in 2012.  In 2008, people voted to elect a black president, but in 2012 after four dismal years in office, no other explanation makes any sense.

Obama may have learned to feel other people's pain from Oprah, but where he learned it is immaterial.  The fact is that he has learned the art of manipulation, and at its core it's about convincing people that you can feel their pain. Unfortunately, feeling people's pain won't bring Republicans and Democrats together; it won't solve our deficit and debt problems; it won't secure our nation's borders; it won't inspire people to get up off their lazy derrieres and get to work; and it won't make us any safer at home or abroad.

Take the Sandy Hook massacre, for instance.  All of us felt terrible about it, and Barack Obama and Dianne Feinstein were the first two out of the gates to launch campaigns attacking law-abiding citizens in the wake of that horrific incident by playing on our feelings.  Nothing they have proposed will affect the criminals among us because criminals don't care about the law in the slightest.  The only people who will be penalized by their proposed legislation are law-abiding citizens like you and me.

Just once I would like to hear the president explain how he plans to take guns away from criminals.  The reason he doesn't talk about it is because it's impossible.  The only thing he can do and the only thing he has done is attack the other victims of the Sandy Hook massacre: law-abiding gun owners who need those weapons for self-defense especially now thanks to pandering politicians like Obama and Feinstein.

Obama and Feinstein are playing on the feelings of Americans at a time when the facts suggest that we need more gun owners in America who have lots of ammunition and high capacity magazines.  That's why I think buying guns and ammunition right now makes a lot of sense.  If the day comes when you are attacked in your home by a band of marauding criminals, you will rue the day that you decided not to buy a gun.  That mistake may cost you your life.

Buying guns and ammunition is like buying insurance.  You are protecting you and your family against the worst case scenario, and those high capacity magazines that Obama and Feinstein love to hate may help to save your life.  This may seem peculiar to antigun fanatics, but criminals don't take a break while you reload.  Those magazines enable you to show overwhelming force, and although they may not be the smartest people on the planet, criminals understand bullets whizzing by their heads.

I don't know how you feel, but I would rather win than lose in that situation.  Excuse me.  I didn't mean to say "feel."  I know that our families will be better off if we have the means to defend them properly with 21st century weaponry because that's what criminals have. 

Thankfully, our constitution gives me the right to keep and bear arms.  It doesn't say muskets.  I am incensed that politicians would play games with my family's security to score political points at this critical juncture.


Neil Snyder is the Ralph A. Beeton Professor Emeritus at the University of Virginia.  His blog,, is posted daily.

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