Writing with bad intent: Mongering fear

Inform, instruct, train, sell products, sway votes, incite a riot, make people laugh, get clicks.

I used those all recently as examples of what a writer’s intent might be. A bit later I mentioned another example: Scare people so they will buy guns and ammunition.

So what if you write with the intent of starting a riot and nobody shows up? What if no one is buying what you’re selling?

It’s possible that your message wasn’t clear. Maybe your writing is just crappy, or boring, or both. It happens.


A few other possibilities:

  • You don’t understand your audience, the people who are your prospective customers, so your message doesn’t move them.
  • Your message just isn’t compelling.
  • Your intent was bad, even creepy (hey, Aqualung).
  • Your product stinks or catches on fire at inopportune times.
  • Perhaps you’ve written and published so many distortions and fabrications (i.e., lies) that people just no longer trust you.

So what do you do when your message falls on deaf ears?

Take a close look at what you’ve been doing, from execution (writing, editing and publishing your words) all the way back to your intent. Be open to change and taking a different approach.


Gun sales spiked during the Obama administration, as people who had much to gain from spreading fear managed to convince their target market that the government was plotting to take their guns. When it turned out that didn’t happen, and Obama was no longer president, gun sales dropped. (Link added 9/14/2017.)

Having had some success with fearmongering and hate before, the NRA refocused its sights on Black Lives Matter, “leftists,” the media and other perceived threats. Its primary purpose these days seems to be more political than ever, even though selling guns and retaining power remain important. 

As effective as it looks lately, maybe someday the raw, vicious messaging will backfire. Maybe responsible gun owners will tire of the cynical marketing and politics spewed out by NRA leadership. Maybe they will leave the NRA in droves, or simply man up and throw out the creators and purveyors of such dangerous and deadly marketing content.

Maybe pigs will fly someday, too.

Update 7/28:


The NRA: Going armed with intent?

On the off chance that you haven’t read my previous post, please take a couple of minutes to do that. At the end of it I said I’d share my thoughts on the intent of one of the videos linked to that post.

My thoughts, as promised:

The video, like a number of others from the National Rifle Association, was crafted to support more than one objective. The intent isn’t to support the safe, responsible use of firearms, as I remember the NRA doing when I learned about those things as a Boy Scout in the 1960s.

No, today’s NRA wants people to be afraid of each other, so it uses frightening imagery and scare words, often in the form of lies, to engender fear and hate.

Why? The other reasons are pretty clear from this and other NRA messaging:

The NRA does this because its leadership, supported by what we must infer is a large percentage of its membership, believes in white supremacy.

The NRA does what it does to maintain and increase its membership.

The NRA does what it does so that people will buy more and more guns and ammunition.

The NRA’s intent is to maintain and increase its own clout and to keep the American people buying guns and ammo from the association’s corporate backers.

This is all revealed more grotesquely in a newer NRA video that I will not even share here. It is that vile. In one sense, what the NRA does is akin to going armed with intent. That’s a felony in some places.

There’s no doubt that writing with intent and passion can be effective. Depending on the intent, such content can be destructive and even deadly.


Writing with intent: YouTube, NRA

The other day I wrote these words about writing with intent. The very next day I found a couple of vivid examples of that.

In this one, from YouTube, the intent is crystal clear:

Let’s launch your video marketing campaign

You know exactly what to expect, and you can decide if you want to watch a how-to video about launching a video marketing campaign. Well done.

The intent in this other example is less clear, but see if you can identify at least one of its multiple objectives.

Freedom’s Safest Place | Your Choice

Let me know in a comment what you think the NRA’s intent is with that video. I’ll share my own thoughts on it sometime soon.


Dropping “America” before Election Day

Changing my name seemed like a good idea a few weeks ago.

Following Budweiser’s lead when it rebranded as America, I tried to have a little fun emulating one of the dumber marketing gimmicks ever. I changed my Twitter name to B.J. America and my blog to “The America (formerly Smith) Compound.”

My wife never really embraced the notion of being Mrs. America, or Ms. America, but I thought it was worth a try.

My intent was to change back to Smith after Election Day 2016. That’s when America beer will go back to being Budweiser, after what the foreign-owned company’s spokesman predicted would be “the most patriotic summer that this generation has ever seen.”

How a summer can be patriotic was never really explained.

The thing is, I couldn’t wait until November. I’m not exactly proud of the way America is acting lately.

The name has become too much of an embarrassment. Our discourse, if we can even call it that, has gotten too ugly.

Some elements have gone well beyond ugly. The words toxic and unhinged come to mind.

Candidate Trump is a dangerous GOP mistake who spreads lies and bigotry and plays on the fears and prejudices of millions of Americans to further his incoherent political agenda. Congress continues to do nothing to confront our national addiction to gun violence. We are complicit by accepting their inaction.

That’s not my America.

Back to The Smith Compound.

This is now The America Compound

The other day I renamed the protagonist of my first crime novel Detective America, and I will use the new name, Blood Solutions: A Detective America Novel, for marketing purposes until after Election Day in November.

I was going to replace just his last name, Shaw, and go with Blood Solutions: A Red America Novel, but that didn’t feel quite right.

In fact, I am so inspired by America, and the beer formerly known as Budweiser, that I’m going to change my last name until after Election Day. I think you should, too.


B.J. America

B.J. lives in Longmont, Colorado, U.S. of America, with his wife, Susan America, and their American cat and dog, Sophie and Red.