The Austin Chronicle

No, Armed Protests Are Not Normal in Austin

By Brandon Watson, March 12, 2014, 12:00pm, Newsdesk

Despite our willingness for bluster, we Texans pride ourselves on at least being polite. We take off our hats at the dinner table; we always put out an extra plate at the table. When we do need to express disapproval, we even soften it with a favorite phrase. But you should trust that we aren't rolling out any red carpets when we say "Bless Alex Jones' Heart."

Of course, Jones doesn't really need a red carpet. Those are for the illuminati or the Bilderberg group or maybe the Cobra Command. But that doesn't mean Jones and his followers shun the spotlight. Hell, even a flashlight will do. At "High Noon" today, some of them are gathering at 1201 San Jacinto. You'll probably notice them because they'll be carrying rifles. And some of them will be dressed like Civil War-era gutter punks.

It seems the hot shots of Come and Take It Austin took umbrage to a SXSW panel about social media and gun control. With toddlers in tow, they marched down Sixth Street last Saturday waving flags and revolvers. Infowars, seeing an opportunity for a headline, encouraged them to give it a second go today. The group's goal, as stated on their webpage, is "to condition Texans to feel safe around those of us that carry [guns]."

Still, those of you who were actually invited to our city's annual party should know that this isn't exactly everyday behavior. It is true that Texans do enjoy firepower. It is de rigueur for GOP politicians to be photographed at firing ranges, and even our bright liberal beacon Sen. Wendy Davis supports open-carry laws. But in Austin, most of us are content to keep our phallic symbols in our pants.

Without wading into the larger gun-control debate, these kinds of protests are not about the concept of "liberty" that Infowars slings around like a short-order cook. They are about display and braggadocio. For Alex Jones, they are about branding. Like with the Tea Party, citizen groups are the way business interests are able to claim populist legitimacy. But even Bugs Bunny couldn't stay in drag for too long.

Of course, Come and Take It does have the right to peaceful assembly. Infowars has the right to print fan fiction as well. However, both groups seem to think that those opposed to their agenda shouldn't have those same rights. Even the most commonsensical attempts to solve armed violence require them to go out with all cylinders blazing.

Here in Austin, at least, we mostly think they are firing blanks. If you see them while trying to get to a mid-day panel, feel free to Instagram a few candids. Just don't judge Austin by its outliers. To paraphrase another favorite Texas idiom, they may be hitched to our fine town, but they definitely aren't churched.

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