The NRA would like you to meet Colion Noir. He’s the host of their new show, Noir, which premieres May 11 on NRA Freestyle. Noir is just one of the new shows the NRA plans to launch, alongside Media Lab, in which a Veteran Navy SEAL will dissect violence in TV and movies, NRA Sharp (“for the culturally curious”), and I Am Forever, about another Veteran Navy SEAL and the teenage girl he will “guide” on “her journey toward personal protection.”
About two months ago, the NRA announced a partnership with Noir who, as an African-American millennial, isn’t the typical NRA spokesperson, thus the basis of his appeal. Since Newtown, the NRA has made a mission of winning over more non-white supporters. The NRA even hosted a “Youth Day” at which children were offered free memberships.
But the odds are not ever in the NRA’s favor: According to a Harvard University Institute of Politics poll, taken in spring of last year, 49% of millennials support stricter gun laws, compared to 15% who think they should be less strict (35% want no change in the laws). Only 18% of 18 to 25 year olds reported owning a gun.
Noir has an impressive social media presence — over 35,000 followers on Twitter, 181,000 likes on Facebook, and nearly 220,000 subscribers to his YouTube channel — and got his start in the pro-gun world with YouTube videos about firearms. His show is part of this broader NRA effort to reach out to the not older, white and male crowd; he’s co-hosting with Amy Robbins, a young white woman who says her mission is to “highlight women shooters and our influence in the gun world.” She also says she has total disdain for guys who pick up a gun by “limp wrist[ing] it like he was picking up a tarantula.” The whole thing winds up reading like an out-of-touch person’s idea of what hot, hip gun supporters should be.
Though the only clip available right now is a short preview, the show already looks like it’s all over the place. Noir promises he’ll be discussing politics; the video cuts to him asking, “Is it me, or is Mayor Bloomberg the lamest billionaire on the planet?” At one point, Noir announces that “we’ll talk about everything and politicize nothing,” but goes on to say he’s not convinced that the anti-gun citizens really exist. “I have a theory. No one is actually anti-gun. You’re either pro-gun, scared of guns, or you’re hiding it, because you think it makes you look progressive. You come on my show, you’re going to have to be honest about it.”
Even the styling makes no sense: Noir wears a Phillies hat in one shot, an OKC Thunder hat in another, and a Yankee hat in the direct-to-camera addresses, making the clips feel even more staged than they already are. It’s as if, on three separate occasions, someone on set said, “We need a crisp baseball hat on this guy to make him look more ‘accessible-urban.’” And no one even thought through how inauthentic it would look for this guy — from Texas! — to go back and forth between mutually exclusive fandoms. On the promotional photo on the website, he is wearing a Boston Red Sox cap.
As you can probably guess, Colion Noir is not his real name. It’s Collins Idehen. (Can you imagine the pitch meeting, trying to come up with the just-right fake name for the face of young black gun ownership? “How about Jack Black? Wait, that’s taken.” “You know, Noir means “black” in French.” “French? Isn’t that a little liberal-elite for our taste?” “No, trust me, people are going to like it.” “BOOM. Best brainstorm ever!”)
Noir seems to have emerged out of the ether; evidence of his earlier, real-name career is scant. In interviews, he recites an origin story that sounds too good to not be scripted: he told conservative news site TheBlaze that he was “not too fond” of guns as a kid and didn’t fire one until after college, when he went with gun-owning friend to a range one day. “Quite frankly, when I stepped in I was terrified.” But once he fired, “it was literally love at first shot.”
Today, Noir is a self-described “Urban Gun Enthusiast.” To quote from his website: “I am unapologetically a Gun Enthusiast. I love shooting, I love guns, and all things gun related.” He addresses what he must assume is a primary concern at the top of his personal FAQ: “Are you just a pawn for the NRA?” (Spoiler alert: he says no.) He also writes that he wasn’t pro-gun until he fired one, after college, and was “immediately intrigued.” “Intrigued” is such an interesting word choice. I mean, I watched Breaking Bad and was “immediately intrigued” by the cooking-crystal process, but I can’t say it really swayed me, meth-wise.
The NRA seems to think that the right way to address the lack of enthusiasm for guns among young people, African-Americans and women is to just dress up two young hosts — one female, one black — and assume that this will “solve the problem,” when the real, underlying reasons these demographics aren’t flocking to the NRA have very little to do with optics and everything to do with the concern that the NRA has no interest in common sense gun regulations that would make it harder for criminals and the mentally ill to have easy access to firearms. The majority of gun violence victims are people of color. If a gun is present in a domestic violence situation, a woman is 500% more likely to be killed.
Noir says this is a gun show “for my generation.” Noir’s generation, not so coincidentally, is the one upon whom the pain of gun violence falls most of all. 54% of people murdered with guns in 2010 were under the age of 30.3.
Watch the Noir preview here: