NRA membership vs Facebook gun groups : No Compromise In Episode 2, hear how the Dorr brothers have used Facebook Live to grow their fanbase and convert disaffected NRA members over to their side. It has to do with social media savvy, expensive suits, red flag laws, and making their fans feel seen and heard in a way the NRA simply can't.

The Facebook Flock

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript



Previously on NO COMPROMISE...


AARON DORR: You must have me mistaken. We're not the Koch brothers. All of America is Dorr brothers right now.

BEN DORR: Dorr brothers.

A DORR: We're all Dorr Brothers. And, my goodness, we just want to get this country back.


GREG KINMAN: In light of recent events, so much has gone on with the NRA. And we don't know all the facts, but it's kind of gotten to the point where it's the last straw.


ALEX JONES: This is the heart of 1776 right here.


DIANNA PLOSS: There aren't a lot of women here, so we need more women. We need more women. Ladies...


DAVID TREIBS: Yes. I think - I'll be honest with you. I think that violence is inevitable.


A DORR: He's in Georgia. I'm in Iowa and Missouri. we're just good friends. There's a lot of gun guys like that. Are you still live right now?

HAGEN: Yeah, I'm recording. I mean, I usually don't throw this in.

A DORR: Just kill this part. I'm off the record right now.

HAGEN: Oh, why is that, though?


To really understand people who want no gun regulations at all - what we're calling the no compromise gun rights movement - we can't just focus on its leaders. We've got to meet some followers, right?

HAGEN: To do that, I drove down to Coweta County, Georgia, about 40 miles out of Atlanta, headed toward Alabama, to a brown house at the end of a windy road - weathered clapboard siding, an old Jeep, American flag.

CAROLYN RICKER: Like I said, my house is very plain. It's (laughter)...

HAGEN: As I step inside Carolyn Ricker's house, my eye immediately gets drawn to this...

Oh, look at all...

...Peg board covered in spools of different colored thread - beautiful little workplace.

Are you the sewer?


HAGEN: In front of a sewing machine.

RICKER: My daughter was in a play. She had - she played Dorothy in "The Wizard Of Oz" - local production. So I had to sew her costume.

HAGEN: This is where she comes when everyone in her family leaves for work - to pull up Facebook.

RICKER: I prop my phone up (laughter).

HAGEN: You prop your phone up on the sewing machine?

RICKER: Well, not on the sewing machine. On that toolbox back there, I'll just prop it up. And I'll be - you know, I'll be doing something by hand, and then I'll have to pause it while I take a seem. And then I'll listen to it. So yes, that's how I do it (laughter).

HAGEN: That's adorable (laughter).

RICKER: I'm - well, and I knit a few rounds. I shoot a few rounds (laughter).

HAGEN: Between stitches, that's how she watches her live videos.

RICKER: And it's just fun because we're all part of this community. It's like pulling up your hot chocolate and sitting down. OK, we're here together, you know? And you have that sense of community, but you still can't see each other.

HAGEN: Videos like this.


PATRICK PARSONS: Hollywood left-wing Democrats who hate your guts and hate my guts, who want to kill babies, eat them for dinner and then choke down one of your AR-15s and steal it from you.

HAGEN: This is the Dorr brothers' partner in Georgia, Patrick Parsons.

RICKER: He's obnoxious. And that's (laughter) - and I say that in a kind way. But he gets your attention. And that's what you need if you're going to make sure that you're not going to be railroaded or steamrollered into giving up something that you shouldn't really have to give up.

HAGEN: Parsons runs Carolyn's local no compromise group - Georgia Gun Owners. We heard from them in the first episode.

HAXEL: The Dorrs and their buddies like Patrick are part of a growing pro-gun movement that's been attacking the NRA from the right.


PARSONS: The NRA is selling you out.

RICKER: He's one-on-one. He's face-to-face. He's warm. He's personable.

HAGEN: Patrick typically puts out a few videos a week. Carolyn says she tries to keep up with all of them.


PARSONS: Blame it on the establishment gun lobby, Georgia Carry and the NRA, who, for years, have been working behind the scenes to stop constitutional carry from passing at the capitol in Atlanta.

HAGEN: Carolyn loves this stuff.

RICKER: The right of the people to keep and carry arms shall not be infringed. My standard is Constitutional carry, period.

HAXEL: Constitutional carry is also called permitless carry. The idea is you shouldn't need permission from the government - any government - to carry a concealed firearm. That means no permits, no background checks.

HAGEN: No nothing. That's what Carolyn's talking about.

HAXEL: And if it's true that she watches all of Patrick's videos, on average, that's about 2 1/2 hours a week.

HAGEN: Spent stitching and listening.


PARSONS: They all want tyranny over your rights, your God-given right to defend yourself and your family.

HAXEL: Listening and stitching.


PARSONS: We need to go for the kill now. Get the government out of the gun business now.

HAGEN: Which is why we wanted to talk to her. I'm Lisa Hagen.

HAXEL: And I'm Chris Haxel.

HAGEN: And this is NO COMPROMISE, an NPR investigative series about one family on a mission to reconstruct America using two powerful tools - guns and Facebook.

HAXEL: We're getting to know a side of the gun debate that most folks never see. And the more we learn, the more we realize guns are just the beginning.

HAGEN: In the last episode, we met leaders in the no compromise movement, people who say the NRA is soft on guns.

HAXEL: In this episode, the flock. We meet people who watch these videos and love them. And we trace how the Dorrs built a Facebook community that supercharged their whole operation.



PARSONS: So those of y'all who are just now coming on, let me know where you're watching from.

HAGEN: In almost every one of these gun videos on Facebook, there's a point where the guys do shout-outs


PARSONS: Stewart is here. The great Johnny Lo (ph) is here from McDuffie, Ga. Bill is here.

HAGEN: It's like a ritual. Reminds me of that moment in church where everyone greets each other.


PARSONS: There's Al in Cobbtown, Jim in Rome. Max, nice shirt. Brian in Columbus. Gary, still stuck in California, what's up?

HAXEL: But since this is a Facebook congregation, where you can't really turn to your neighbor and shake their hand, the gun guys step in, riff off the comments.


PARSONS: The Great Olen Nicholson (ph), Jim Boggs (ph) says Bill Heath is a douche. Yeah, he probably is. Now, here's the thing about Bill Heath.

HAXEL: Each video is usually dedicated to a main topic - some liberal attack or Republican betrayal.


PARSONS: There are nasty, moderate, anti-gun Republicans lurching around. They are going to dump you and your Second Amendment rights in a grave and keep their power.

HAGEN: Doesn't have to be a local issue.


PARSONS: We are talking the Mexican murder rate. This is information you will not hear on fake news CNN, MSNBC and, most of the time, Fox News.

HAGEN: Just something that gets that blood up.


PARSONS: You are clueless, Joshua. You are a slave to government. That's what you love, and that's what you're...

HAXEL: And if you're into the no compromise gun rights fight, nothing gets the blood up quite like the National Rifle Association.


PARSONS: A lot of people say, well, you guys are dividing the gun movement. But remember, the NRA, with Wayne LaPierre and Chris Cox and all these people who run the show there in their ivory tower there at Waples Mill Road, they have decades now of financial impropriety. This is just...

HAGEN: The last couple of years have been bad for the NRA - investigations, public infighting and all kinds of stories about big boss Wayne LaPierre spending money on himself.


PARSONS: Italian patent leather shoes, probably made for him specifically on some freaking, you know, cow over in Italy or something.

HAGEN: Carolyn Ricker, our Coweta County mom, used to be a member.

RICKER: They got my $105 for a three-year membership, and they're not getting another dime. And I am not contributing to their legal fund because if they can pay for - if Wayne LaPierre is going to get $20,000 Armani suits from Beverly Hills, they can pay some legal fees.

HAXEL: Let's get a quick fact check out of the way because we're going to hear about these suits a lot. According to leaked NRA documents, LaPierre spent $39,000 in a single day at a Beverly Hills menswear boutique - couldn't tell you if that was just one suit or some cufflinks or what. The point is he makes and spends a whole lot of money running what's supposed to be a nonprofit.

HAGEN: And, either way, custom suits aren't what drove Carolyn away from the NRA - Parkland was.


ANDERSON COOPER: We begin our program with broken hearts in yet another American town, which, today, became the site of yet another deadly school shooting. A high school in Parkland, Fla., became the scene of chaos.

RANDI KAYE: Anderson, I can tell you that, for sure, it was an afternoon filled with terror for so many.

HAGEN: A high school shooting in a Florida suburb, where an expelled student shot and killed 17 people. The whole country reacted. There was a huge rally in D.C. And student walkouts stayed in the news for weeks.


UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Chanting) What do we want? Gun control. When do we want it? Now.


UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Chanting) This is what democracy looks like.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: That was the message from waves of high school students across the country today as they poured out of schools, across football fields and into the streets to demand action on gun violence.

HAGEN: All the outcry brought attention to this one policy - red flag laws, the idea that if someone might be about to harm themself or someone else, there should be a way to take their guns until they're better.


VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE: To literally give families and give local law enforcement additional tools.

HAGEN: That's Mike Pence at the White House in 2018 just after the shooting.


PENCE: But the ability to go to court, obtain an order and then collect not only the firearms but any weapons in the possession.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Or might take the firearms first and then go to court because that's another system because a lot of times, by the time you go to court, it takes so long to go to court, to get the due process procedures. I like taking the guns early, like in this crazy man's case that just took place in Florida.

HAXEL: Take the guns first - due process later. But what President Trump said is a deal-breaker in the gun rights world. And around the same time, you've got the NRA's top lobbyist saying this.


CHRIS COX: We need to stop dangerous people before they act, so Congress should provide funding for states to adopt risk protection orders.

HAXEL: Also known as red flag laws. It felt like a rare moment of possibility for supporters of gun control.

HAGEN: And a really jarring time for folks like Carolyn. So she's seeing all this talk about new gun regulation and thinking, what is going on with the NRA?

RICKER: I emailed them, and I got nothing back. I said, what - tell me about these red flag laws. What are - there was nothing on their site. There was nothing. They just went dark. And I never got a satisfactory answer back. And so when they called for a fundraiser to get more money, I said, can you tell me what your stand is on the red flag laws? Well, ma'am, I'm just a - you know, I'm calling about raising money. I said, well, I'll tell you what. Here's the message, and you can give this to Mr. LaPierre. When you are ready to fill my inbox with angry tirades and reasons why we shouldn't have red flag laws, then I will listen and I will be happy to continue to support you. And until that happens, no. Don't - I mean, just don't.


HAGEN: She wanted answers.

HAXEL: When your advocates don't deliver in a moment like that, you feel like you've been fooled.

RICKER: And that's why I decided, well, if they're not going to defend my gun rights, who will? And Patrick, he keeps people in the loop. Because of his challenges, he doesn't expect us to be yes-dear dummies and go along with it. It's, this is what's happening. Look for yourself. Do this for yourself. This is empowerment.


HAXEL: That word empowerment is interesting. For her, watching the videos makes her feel powerful - more powerful, anyway, than cutting the NRA another check.

HAGEN: Of course, there was always another way. She would've had to wait for the legislative session, figure out committee schedules, drive 40 miles to the state Capitol, sign up to speak, wait her turn and then testify for, like, two minutes in front of a roomful of intimidating lawmakers.

HAXEL: But instead, she can watch Patrick stand outside the Capitol for her.

HAGEN: Supporting him feels much more like helping out a friend. Carolyn told me one time about this thing that happened in her neighborhood that she immediately wanted Patrick to know about.

RICKER: Well, in this neighborhood, we had somebody try to steal an engine. The thief was held at gunpoint until the cops got there. Now, that, to me, was very responsible. He did not shoot anybody. He just said, you're going to stay here. Don't move. I've got the police on the way. And he was taken into custody, and everything was fine.

HAGEN: And you called Patrick about that?

RICKER: Yeah, I did. I called him, and he actually answered the phone (laughter). I mean, not that - you know, there's no hero worship there, but I was surprised that he did 'cause I was just going to leave a voicemail.

HAGEN: Were you a little bit like, oh, I didn't actually mean to talk to you?

RICKER: Yeah, I did. I said that. I really wasn't expecting you to pick up your phone (laughter). He said, that's OK. What's on your mind? And I told him. He was like, OK, cool. You know, so it was all very, very professional, very cordial. It was not - I mean, he's a decent guy.

HAGEN: It also strikes me as the opposite of your interaction with the NRA.


HAXEL: Lisa lives in Atlanta, so it's natural for her to focus on Patrick's group, Georgia Gun Owners. Since I'm in Kansas City, I pay more attention to the Dorr groups in Missouri and Iowa. I sent Facebook messages to a bunch of people who comment on the videos Aaron Dorr makes for the Missouri Firearms Coalition, and only one person wrote back - John Burke. We ended up talking on the phone about maybe doing an interview. He was polite but cautious. John is in a militia group called Three Percenters, and he didn't really want the interview to be about that.

Also, you know, people in the gun world don't trust the media. And in some ways, that's fair. It's true that a lot of reporters don't know much about guns. They call an AR-15 assault rifle, use the word clip when they mean magazine and for some reason seem to think semi-automatic is an important word when talking about a handgun. It drives me crazy, too. So anyway, I told him it's my job to cover guns. I like hunting. I even used to be in the Army - jumped out of airplanes and shot lots of guns. I think I can give you a fair shake. John agreed to the interview and invited me to his home near Lake of the Ozarks.

Looking back, I was feeling pretty good about talking my way into this interview. But as it turned out, it wasn't really me who convinced him to do it. It was Aaron Dorr.


HAXEL: Just for radio purposes here, can you say and spell your first and last name?

JOHN BURKE: First name is John - J-O-H-N. Last name is Burke - B as in boy, U-R-K-E.

HAXEL: And just for clarification, is Carla going to be participating?

CARLA BURKE: I'm going to try to keep my mouth shut.


HAXEL: Carla is John's wife. They moved from the Chicago suburbs to Missouri when they retired.

J BURKE: It recently fell down, but we've got a metal plate against that tree right there.

HAXEL: I see, yeah.

They like being outdoors. John even set up a little pistol range in the backyard.

J BURKE: With 3, 5, 7, 10 and 15 yards marked out.

HAXEL: What's back that way - anybody, any neighbors, nothing at all?

J BURKE: Nope.

HAXEL: Yeah.

J BURKE: Nope. Are you recording now?

HAXEL: Yeah.

J BURKE: OK. The rowboat that you see upside down that we inherited...

HAXEL: Yeah.

J BURKE: The big joke is when they come to confiscate my guns, I lost it in a boating accident. So that little rinky-dink rowboat - that's the SS Gun Loss (laughter).

HAXEL: They said they barely watch TV anymore, but they are big fans of Aaron Dorr. Whenever they get a Facebook notification for one of his videos...

C BURKE: Yeah.

J BURKE: Missouri Firearms Coalition is having a live watch party - OK, we're on.

C BURKE: OK, everything else is on pause.

HAXEL: Oh, yeah.

Or if they get a notification that a reporter wants to do an interview, they check with Aaron to see what he thinks. When they tell me that, I'm like, oh, really?




C BURKE: Yeah, 'cause we check you out, too (laughter).

HAXEL: Good, good.

J BURKE: Due diligence. I...

HAXEL: Trust and verify, right (ph)?

C BURKE: Trust and verify (ph).

J BURKE: I told you right upfront, I will research, dig and pull threads, you know?

C BURKE: So it was the first thing he did and - was check with Aaron. And...

J BURKE: It took him a day, but he got back to me. And if I did something like that with the NRA...

C BURKE: He would've been, go away; leave me alone.

J BURKE: ...It would never happen, you know?

HAXEL: Just like Carolyn Ricker in Georgia saying she's fed up with the NRA, the Burkes are not happy about Wayne LaPierre and his wardrobe.

J BURKE: While it's important for him to look professional and look good, I don't think, as a member of the NRA, my money is being best used by him buying a $50,000 suit.

C BURKE: Especially when he's using it to stab us in the back.

J BURKE: Yeah.


HAGEN: I like how every time we hear about those fancy suits, they get more expensive.

HAXEL: Yeah. Anyway, as we're sitting in their living room, John tells me they started to get interested in guns back in Illinois.

J BURKE: We went out and we bought a couple of handguns to take to the range. I got a 9 mm 1911, and she got a 9 mm polymer handgun. And we would go to the range. Like, you know, Illinois law is really stupid. You've got to unload it. You've got to make sure it can't fire. The ammunition has to be completely separate than the firearm. They both have to be locked in separate containers.

HAXEL: All these regulations you have to follow.

J BURKE: The range is three blocks from our house. Why are we busting our butts doing all this work to go three blocks?

HAXEL: They just found this stuff to be really onerous, and they didn't want to deal with it anymore.

J BURKE: The Second Amendment is very clear - shall not be infringed, period.

C BURKE: Period.

J BURKE: It's not shall not be infringed unless a reasonable argument can be reached. It's not...

C BURKE: Or shall not be infringed unless it scares someone (laughter).

J BURKE: Yeah, or offends someone or...

HAXEL: John and Carla tell me gun politics are a big reason they decided to retire here in Missouri. John can shoot targets off the back porch and the neighbors don't care.

C BURKE: We were seriously digging into the state laws and political climate. That was a big factor...

J BURKE: Yeah, yeah, definitely.

C BURKE: ...In us choosing Missouri.

J BURKE: You don't move to Illinois if you're allergic to corn. You don't move to Texas if you're allergic to cattle. You just - you dig and you find out what the...

C BURKE: You don't move to Missouri if you're allergic to nickel (ph, laughter).

HAXEL: The Burkes are really big on this idea. They tell me again and again they do their research.

J BURKE: Buyer beware. You've got to know your sources, and you've got to comparison shop the information - with anything, actually. You know, the old joke is, well, I read it on the Internet, so it must be true. And it's a joke, but there are people who believe that. And you have to research.

HAXEL: That research is how John found the Missouri Firearms Coalition.

J BURKE: We came across the Dorr brothers, and we really liked what they were saying. We really liked that they were in Jefferson City - physically in Jefferson City, not just firing off an email or sending a letter or something like that. They were actually on the steps of the Capitol, actually physically being in the faces of the congressmen and the politicians and talking to them. And it wasn't just empty.

C BURKE: We like that they're not just offering lip service.

J BURKE: Yeah.

HAXEL: Boots on the ground, John says. They're talking about videos like this.


A DORR: I've been in the Capitol all day, talked to probably 15 or 20 lawmakers on your behalf, talking about SAPA, gun-free zone repeal and the list of pro-gun priorities that we have this year.

HAXEL: Aaron is in a suit and tie under the vaulted Capitol ceiling in Jeff City. He's been making videos like this for about five years now, but he started in Iowa with his first gun group, posts like this one.


A DORR: So for all you grassroots folks out there, take action today. Make sure your state senator feels the pressure on this issue. And we'll keep you informed. Thanks a lot.

HAGEN: Back in those days, the videos were just little updates, five minutes tops. But if you scroll through these videos, you can watch Aaron experimenting. He goes to gun shows, does rifle giveaways, posts videos people send in of their kids target practicing. This boy is 10...


HAGEN: ...270,000 views on that one, way better than Aaron's Anti-Gun Business of the Week posts.


A DORR: Good afternoon, folks. Aaron Dorr here with Iowa Gun Owners. This week's Anti-Gun Business of the Week is Toys R Us right here behind me on Kimberly Road over here in Davenport.

HAXEL: Reposts of other people's footage, typically showing law-abiding gun owners saving the day, do the best. To be honest, it's rare for Aaron himself to break 10,000 views.

HAGEN: But this one did OK.


A DORR: The bottom line is - it's windy outside, so I apologize for the noise in the background here. But the bottom line is, right now, the city council here is scared. The anti-gun members of the council, anyway, are scared.

HAGEN: He's standing outside in the snow, suffering for the cause, which gets him almost as many views as that 10-year-old at the range. But it's OK because, remember; Aaron's not alone.


CHRIS DORR: Howdy, folks. Chris Dorr here for Minnesota Gun Rights. I wanted to give you a quick update on Senate file...

HAGEN: This is a family business.


B DORR: Hi, folks. Ben Dorr here. I'm from Northfield, Minn., and I'm the political director for Minnesota Gun Rights.

HAXEL: Working as a team makes it easier to cover more ground. Together, the Dorr brothers post videos in seven states and with a couple friends.


GREG PRUETT: Hey, everybody. Greg Pruett here, president of the Idaho Second Amendment Alliance. And...

PARSONS: Georgia Gun Owners is coming in with the fire power bombs.

HAGEN: Now you're in 12 states pulling in 75,000 views easy. Horsing around with your bros for a couple hours, "Hollywood Squares" style.


A DORR: How did we get a fifth person here? I looked up as this broadcast got going, and I was like, wait, we got five faces on here tonight.

C DORR: Yeah. The FNG better introduce himself.


PRUETT: Just a resident troll from Idaho.

C DORR: The funny new guy.

HAXEL: It's a lot easier to make videos when you don't have to stand in the snow or outside a bowling alley. Inside, everyone's got microphones and audio equipment.

HAGEN: Comfy office chairs, interchangeable banners and branded gear. It's all working so well that they decided to launch their own national supergroup, the American Firearms Coalition, the Dorrs' challenge to the NRA.


C DORR: We've been executing this plan to try to build up a crescendo here so that we're bringing maximum leverage of gun owners to bear at exactly the right time so that the pump is primed so that when we get a meeting like we've got tomorrow...

HAXEL: And within months, you're flying yourselves out to Washington, D.C.


A DORR: You guys, if you're getting signed in right now, this is the American Firearms Coalition. We're right here at the White House. We're going to be inside later this afternoon - probably can't do a video inside the West Wing, but we will - we'll be in there later on today.


A DORR: Guys, it's going to be a big day here in D.C. And again, the problem is the wrong people are talking to the president. The wrong people are giving him advice. The wrong people are telling him that gun owners just don't really care. We're going to tell these guys...

HAGEN: The brothers Dorr and their pals are right outside the U.S. Capitol Building. The white dome is rising up behind them in the frame. We're looking at fresh haircuts, suits and ties.

HAXEL: They're usually dressed pretty casual, which makes sense. They don't want to be confused with NRA big shots.

HAGEN: It's the summer before coronavirus, and the Dorrs are here with 116,000 individually printed pieces of paper.


B DORR: We're here doing what we said we were going to do. We're delivering your petitions to the president, to the White House, telling them to stop...

HAXEL: They did not meet the president, but they say they did pass their petitions along to his legislative liaison along with a message - no red flag laws.


PRUETT: This movement, this no compromise grassroots movement is from the bottom up, and that's a big difference between the American Firearms Coalition and the NRA and some of these other groups. You know, I think that's been a big frustration from a lot of gun owners is they don't ever know what these gun groups are doing. But what we tell you all the time. We're always live on Facebook.

HAGEN: It's true. These guys are live on Facebook a lot. It's what makes this all possible. There are lots of gun rights groups in the U.S., some with a lot more money than the Dorrs. But unlike most of those groups, the brothers have mastered Facebook Live and built a following.

HAXEL: A loyal one. Look at John and Carla Burke.

J BURKE: They are very above board and there's nothing underhanded about them.

C BURKE: Yeah. If you count all your cards on the table...

J BURKE: There's no hidden agenda that I can see from them.

HAXEL: You're going to see me coming.

C BURKE: What you see...

J BURKE: Yeah. Yeah.

C BURKE: ...Is what you get, and there's a lot of me so (laughter) here we come.

HAXEL: Paying members like the Burkes are just two examples. The Missouri Firearms Coalition has 130,000 followers on Facebook.

HAGEN: And in Georgia, it's nearly 425,000. And for the ones we've met, the appeal of these no compromise guys is passion.

J BURKE: They're very in your face and offensive and, by God, I love him for it. It's what you've got to do. You don't go into a war zone with Nerf guns and pillows.

HAGEN: And transparency.

C BURKE: I like him, you know, because he does keep us in the loop. He says this is what we did with your money. He gives you accountability.

HAXEL: The thing is outside of their Facebook fans, those aggressive tactics don't win the Dorrs many friends. And as for accountability, a lot of people have questions about that.

HAXEL: I ask John and Carla if they've heard any of the accusations.

He has been accused of being basically shady. I mean, are you guys - are you aware of those claims at least?

J BURKE: Oh, yes. Oh, yes.

HAXEL: But they totally brushed them off.

J BURKE: It's a very common tactic to take your opposition and undermine them.

HAXEL: Right.

J BURKE: And as...

C BURKE: Discrediting is the oldest tactic in the book.

J BURKE: Yeah. And people are going to say what they're going to say. Haters are going to hate.

HAGEN: It's clear the Dorrs and their partners are connecting with their followers.

HAXEL: Which, according to Mark Zuckerberg, is exactly the point of these Facebook videos.


MARK ZUCKERBERG: People watch live videos longer, and they comment more than 10 times as much as on regular videos. People love going live because it's so unfiltered and personal, and you feel like you're just there hanging out with your friends.

HAXEL: All it takes is one friend who follows the Missouri Firearms Coalition for these videos to start popping up on your news feed. Compare that to something like NRATV, which was a streaming platform you had to seek out.

HAGEN: The NRA ran its own online TV network for four years before it pulled the plug. It was filled to the gills with that same tirade vibe Patrick and Aaron are serving, except from shiny gun celebrities like Dana Loesch.


DANA LOESCH: The only way we save our country and our freedom is to fight this violence of lies with the clenched fist of truth. I'm the National Rifle Association of America, and I'm freedom's safest place.

HAXEL: But nobody was watching. The actual viewership was really low. I asked John and Carla Burke about NRATV, and they're like, you know, they tried it, but they weren't into it.

HAGEN: And in Georgia, Carolyn Ricker told me the same thing.

You just gave me a thumbs down.

RICKER: I haven't seen it.


RICKER: I mean, I haven't actively looked for it, and I haven't seen it, so it's kind of like I heard about it but I don't know - I think I've seen a couple of items.

HAGEN: And how much did NRATV cost to run a year, paying all those stars, production, scripts?

HAXEL: Twenty million dollars a year. And even with all that money, they still couldn't simulate the feeling of community that the gun guys get out of Facebook for a tiny fraction of that price tag.

HAGEN: Which is something Facebook did on purpose. Just like John and Carla, Facebook's algorithm values authenticity or what looks like it.

HAXEL: It doesn't care about Hollywood production value. What it cares about is engagement - comments, likes...

HAGEN: Anything that looks like people are genuinely interacting with each other, which might be what these check-ins and shoutouts are all about.


PARSONS: The great Olma Nicholson (ph) in Madison County. Michael says we're worse than a bunch of women. Thanks, Michael. See you later, bud. Out.

HAGEN: Doesn't matter if they're drawing trolls. Like P.T. Barnum said, there's no such thing as bad Facebook Live comments. The algorithm amplifies content it perceives as popular. So a Facebook Live video that gets lots of comments and shares...


PARSONS: Wendel (ph) says, you've become a shame and disgrace to gun owners. You need to go. Radical hatred, that's what you have. Wendel says I have radical hatred.

HAGEN: ...Is more likely to be at the top of someone's news feed.

HAXEL: It's almost like the gun guys hacked the system or, better yet, used it exactly the way it was designed, just not for friendship.

HAGEN: For what then? Hundreds of hours of videos, a splash of Facebook magic, a familiar lineup of charismatic friends, each with their own special style, but always circling back to the same central message.


A DORR: This is government control top to bottom.

PARSONS: They all want tyranny (ph) over your rights - your God-given right, your natural right.

B DORR: As long as people are willing to sit, government's willing to control.

PARSONS: Stop their tyranny, to stop their government control.

B DORR: It's a radical government's control.

PARSONS: Tyranny.

B DORR: To Control.

PARSONS: Tyranny.

HAXEL: But what happens if the messengers can't be trusted?


HAXEL: We're logging out of Facebook...

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: They're trying to incite their base so that they will donate more money to their cause. And they wind up doing nothing to help gun rights or anybody else.

HAXEL: ...And finding out the Dorr brothers look a little different in real life.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: He's so hostile and so aggressive and rude that I'm - you know, I'm not going to listen to him. And so he is completely ineffective in this house.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: That's when it became apparent to me that there was an ulterior motive. Now, there had always been something that's struck me as off about Aaron and Chris.

HAGEN: That's next time on NO COMPROMISE.


HAXEL: NO COMPROMISE is us, Chris Haxel and Lisa Hagen. The show is produced by Graham Smith and edited by Robert Little of NPR's Investigations Unit. Josh Rogosin and Steven Key (ph) are our sound engineers; sound design by Josh and Graham. Our music comes from Peter Duchesne, Brad Honeyman (ph) and The Humpmuscle Rolling Circus.

HAGEN: Thanks to Neil Carruth and Anya Grundmann from NPR programming. Special thanks to our friends at Story Lab - Michael May, Alex Goldmark, Bruce Auster and Cheryl W. Thompson - also to A.C. Valdez and our colleagues at the Guns & America reporting collaborative. And, hey, Peter Lesbo (ph), thanks, man.

HAXEL: NO COMPROMISE is a production of NPR, working in partnership with KCUR in Kansas City...

HAGEN: WABE in Atlanta.

HAXEL: And WAMU in Washington, D.C.


Copyright © 2020 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.