Why did I love this book?
Busse offers the new perspective of an insider—an erstwhile gun executive. I’ve always held that the gun industry has gotten far too little attention historically, and that commercial forces substantially helped to create and then maintain the American gun mystique and culture long after the “frontier” closed. Busse’s work shows just how explicitly the gun industry today, since 9/11 and the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, relies on “manufactured fear” to push products. The book teems with examples of fear marketing, including endorsements from social media celebrities that created a new breed of “couch commandos,” steeped in the “glorification of violence, the utter rejection of political correctness, and the freewheeling masculinity and objectification of women.” And in Busse’s view it’s not just that gun marketing has changed, but that the gun industry has transformed American culture itself, radicalizing it and shifting it toward authoritarianism.
We’ve seen and felt this malevolence of hate grow in the last two decades. But Busse’s book invites a surprising perspective on that malevolence. Maybe we’ve been overthinking it. To some extent it exists not because of tectonic changes like economic globalization or the decline of the working class or even changing gender roles but also—or perhaps simply—because the industry and its “puppetmaster,” as Busse calls the NRA, has relentlessly fed fear, misogyny, and malevolence to move units.