Frank Smyth

This piece by Frank Smyth on the use of "negative incentive" methods in Central America was originally published in our August 1987 issue. Image credit: Stephen Kroninger


by Frank Smyth

Last Friday The New York Times finally addressed a conflict of interest that it had been ignoring for years. Although, among the powerful institutions that have long done so, the Times is hardly alone. The matter helps illustrate how the gun lobby has managed to shape the nation’s gun debate without showing its hand. The news comes to light one day before the start of the National Rifle Association’s annual convention in Indianapolis.


Gun culture is often associated with red states in the South, Midwest and Rocky Mountains. But gun ownership is a time-honored tradition in many blue states, too, like among the bedroom communities within commuting distance of New York City in Southwestern Connecticut.


Earlier this year, long before this week's latest tragic shooting at the Washington, D.C., Navy Yard, one expert after another predicted the gun lobby's demise. The horrific massacre of mostly first-grade children in Newtown, Connecticut, seemed to have changed the nation's views of guns. President Obama and Congressional leaders promised action in Washington. Governors in states from New York to Colorado pledged to pass stricter gun laws in their states, too.

"Poor Al he was a Sharp guy," begins the description of a gun target firm's newest "Life-Sized Tactical Mannequin Target." With a dark skin tone and features that seem to resemble the civil rights figure and MSNBC cable news host Rev. Al Sharpton, the Zombie-looking gun target called "Al Zombie" comes with the disclaimer that "[a]ll Zombies Industries' products represent fictitious characters and are works of fiction" and "[a]ny resemblance to actual persons (living or dead)" is "entirely coincidental."


Here's why the NRA is dead wrong about gun control causing genocide. But at least they agree with human rights groups about the horrors of the military dictatorship in Guatemala.

What does America's gun lobby have to do with the question of genocide in Guatemala? Plenty, although not for anything they did. But for the particular ideology they bring to this and almost every other case of genocide or similar violence in the twentieth century.


On Wednesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on gun violence featuring testimony from the NRA's Wayne LaPierre, as well as Mark Kelly, the husband of former Representative Gabrielle Giffords, Democrat of Arizona, who was shot in the head while holding a public meeting in her district two years ago.

Members of the Judiciary Committee should take the opportunity to press LaPierre on whether his organization truly represents the views of most American gun owners -- and on what, specifically those views are.

Subscribe to Frank Smyth


Subscribe to The Progressive

This time we’ve got some advantages.

We need to improve the condition of workers this Thanksgiving weekend. Here's what you can do.

By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

Public School Shakedown

Progressive Media Project