Is the NRA Losing the Culture War?

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Millennial infographic (Photo: Richfield.com)

Millennial infographic (Photo: Richfield.com)

The Huffington Post’s “guy guy” Mike Weisser argued in a recent Op-Ed that the NRA is losing the “culture war” with pro-gun control organizations like former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Everytown for Gun Safety.

“I think that June 2, touted as Gun Violence Awareness Day, may mark a true turning-point in the argument about guns,” wrote Weisser.

“The pro-gun community can lobby all it wants for laws that make it easier to own or carry guns, but fewer gun restrictions won’t really matter if the country’s dominant culture becomes anti-gun,” he continues. “And while the NRA has been promoting gun ownership as their response to the ‘culture wars,’ the millennial culture that is emerging and will define the country appears to be solidly anti-gun.”

Weisser draws this conclusion for three reasons (a) less than half of America owns guns, (b) the industry has failed to penetrate new markets such as women and minorities and (c) to quote him directly, “the social and political views of millennials are completely at odds with the socio-demographic profile of the gun-owning population.”

Okay, there’s a lot I want to say because Weisser is sort of on to something but is also way off base.

Let’s start with this question, is the NRA failing to capture a younger audience? I don’t know, I think the jury is still out on this. One thing for sure though is that the NRA is keenly aware of its millennial deficiency and lack of diversity. How do I know this? Well, if it didn’t feel the need to reach out to younger and more diverse demos there would be no NRA Freestyle, NRA News Commentators, e.g. Colin Noir, Dom Raso, nor would there programs like “I Am Forever” or “Love At First Shot.”

The real question is whether these new personalities and programs are gaining traction with millennials, minorities and women? Tough to say.

To focus on the younger demo, “I Am Forever,” the show that turned high school senior Reagan Tyler into a “shooter athlete” did not post impressive numbers on Youtube. The first episode garnered around 8,400 views. Subsequent episodes garnered considerably fewer, some under 1,000 views. Sure, views are only one way to analyze the success or failure of a show (there are others, comments, engagement in terms of likes and shares on social media), but when one is dumping some major dollars into production costs, talent, filming, etc., which it appears the NRA did in this case, there is no way around acknowledging the obvious: the show was not a hit.

Other shows like “Noir” and “Media Lab” have done better in terms of views, but it be tough to argue that either was a runaway success in its first year. The NRA is bringing back “Noir” for a second season, but I haven’t heard whether “Media Lab” will return.

So, to go back to Weisser, he may be correct to assert that the NRA is struggling to win the culture war. However, just because the NRA is having trouble in this department, does that mean the entire gun industry is also struggling to win hearts and minds? No, I don’t think so.

To stick with the Youtube realm, and to focus on millennial target audience, all one needs to do is to watch Demolition Ranch or IraqVeteran8888 or FPSRussia to see that the younger generation has indeed taken up an interest in firearms (Based upon their respective content, I’m making an assumption that a large percentage of their audience is under 35). IraqVet and Demolition Ranch consistently get traction on their channels, some of their videos eclipse 100,000 views, and FPSRussia has over 5,000,000 subscribers with a total of 662,388,089 views. By comparison, CNN — the news network — has 820,233 subscribers with a total of 754,874,496 views.

If the significance of those numbers are lost on you, don’t worry about it. Just know that there is evidence to suggest that millennial gun owners are out there, they’re just not relying on traditional outlets like the NRA to consume gun-related content.

 

Besides Youtube, there are other barometers to check the pulse of millennials, minorities and women. The NSSF, the firearms industry trade organization, has done numerous surveys to measure any changes in demographics. A 2013 Analysis of Sport Shooting Participation in the U.S. 2008-2012 revealed the following with respect to new shooters:

  • Younger: 66 percent of new shooters fall into the 18-to-34-year-old category compared to 31 percent in the same age category for established shooters.
  • Female: 37 percent of new target shooters are female compared to 22 percent of established target shooters.
  • Urban: 47 percent of new target shooters live in urban/suburban settings versus 34 percent of established target shooters.
  • The report shows that one-fifth of target shooters in America first started participating in the shooting sports between 2008 and 2012. That means 20 percent of all target shooters began participating in the past five years.

Long story short, the gun industry is not losing the culture war to gun grabbers, despite what Weisser alleges. Is the NRA having trouble gaining traction in new markets? Maybe, but again, it’s taking steps to address that problem right now (It appears it’s launching a new NRA News). Over time, I suspect the NRA will find its footing and serve the younger generation as well as it did the older generations.  In the meantime, millennials have a bunch of different gun-friendly personalities they can engage with.

On another note, in citing a Pew poll, Weisser writes the following, “a majority of millennials support gay rights, less than a majority are patriotic, only one-third are religious and they voted Obama in 2012. As for Boomers, who buy and own most of the guns, they don’t support gays, they are fiercely patriotic, a majority are religious and they split their vote evenly in 2012. What these numbers tell me is that over the next twenty years, the gun industry better come up with a wholly different argument for owning guns.”

Weisser totally misses the mark here. The primary reason for keeping and bearing arms hasn’t changed since the founding of this country. Americans own firearms for self-defense — not only from street thugs, drug dealers and sociopaths, but also from government tyranny. It doesn’t matter whether one is pro-gay marriage or anti-gay marriage or religious or non-religious, one either has an appreciation and a respect for the natural right to self-defense or one does not. As a millennial (I was born in 1982, that makes me a millennial or close to one at least) that is both pro-gay marriage and non-religious, I can tell you that I do believe in the right of self-defense. I have a strong feeling I’m not the only one.

{ 32 comments… add one }
  • Peter Kosanovich September 2, 2016, 8:12 am

    I think the NRA is missing a huge opportunity to draw more membership and improve their image with non gun owners. I have had this discussion with friends and family and though it’s a small group of people what stood out was the following.
    Virtually all have no issues with firearm ownership but take issue with how it’s managed with respect to who can gain access to owning a firearm. Background checks seem to be the big issue for most. They can’t understand why the NRA is so against background checks and the majority said they would support the NRA if they were to adapt some of those policies in their pitch to the public. I really think if they adapted some simple common sense policies like mental health and background checks they would actually gain membership. You can’t keep hard lining and expect people to come your way unless your willing to compromise something. This becomes even more critical as the next generations come into play who tend to lean toward less violence, gay rights and all other things that they hold as their values. The opportunity is there but the NRA needs to make the next move if they want to survive………

    • arnold September 2, 2016, 11:18 pm

      You are absolutely correct. The NRA has become the face of irresponsible gun ownership and is being seen as a group that is more interested in protection gun manufacturers than american lives or average gun owners. One vote on the Supreme Court is all that is required to change the meaning of the Second Amendment and it is coming. We gun owners better get involved in supporting responsible gun regulations to reduce gun violence or we could lose it all.

      • Saibubbasez January 12, 2017, 1:55 pm

        Still think that ‘one vote’ on the SC is coming ? Also, the NRA has long advocated better mental health screening and the inclusion of those who are demonstrably impaired in the Fed database. Federal medical privacy laws, put in and maintained by ‘Progressives’, preclude it. What NRA DOES NOT support is the ‘slippery slope’ of ‘feel good’ gun laws that do little or nothing to prevent criminal access, restricting only the law-abiding. The NRA has long supported responsible ownership, perhaps you should actually join and see. Contrary to ‘Bloomberg propaganda’, the majority of financial support to NRA comes from us, average people, not ‘the Industry’.

  • Steve Nottonson June 9, 2015, 7:43 am

    The increases in women hunting and buying guns for protection was not
    covered.

  • Ken June 9, 2015, 2:54 am

    Well, I’m not worried. IMO, the only thing that the dismal numbers of NRA’s YouTube productions mean to me is that the NRA doesn’t know the entertainment business very well. Oh well. I thought I read that gun sales to women are way up. And as far as Weisser saying that June 2 was a “turning point in the argument,” well, I didn’t see any orange at all where I live and I wouldn’t even have known about it except I read about it somewhere (maybe Drudge) after the fact. I’m really not worried. I think a lot of people *think* they know a lot about Millennials, but I don’t think so. Defending one’s life and loved ones is a pretty basic instinct and if they’re not so inclined now, many will change their minds. Just like the ones who voted for Obama in 2012 who are rapidly getting disenfranchised with him will turn away from such liberalism and socialism.

  • 33Charlemagne June 8, 2015, 7:09 pm

    ” Weisser writes the following, “a majority of millennials support gay rights, less than a majority are patriotic, only one-third are religious and they voted Obama in 2012.As for Boomers, who buy and own most of the guns, they don’t support gays, they are fiercely patriotic, a majority are religious and they split their vote evenly in 2012. What these numbers tell me is that over the next twenty years, the gun industry better come up with a wholly different argument for owning guns.”

    Weisser seems to forget that people tend to get more conservative as they get older. His characterization of baby boomers today would not have been accurate in 1969 and its very likely the viewpoints of millennials will change in the future.

    • will valley June 9, 2015, 1:02 pm

      Agreed, they need to show hipsters with fashionable hair cuts and clothing, tattoos, carrying or shooting. The real tree style is getting old and the new generation identifies this with, hunting, the Christian right, duck dynasty, grandpa, Larry the cable guy and the confederates. NRA should hire the best marketing firm money can buy. If Bloomberg and the other anti’s haven’t already beat them to it.

  • Bob Vela June 8, 2015, 6:01 pm

    Many Americans will not like this but a famous Mexican President said “The respect of another’s rights is peace”. To be American is to stand for everyone’s rights no matter how we may not care for them. The Constitution never stated except for this group, it said WE THE PEOPLE.

  • Fern June 8, 2015, 4:47 pm

    No NRA membership here-doesn’t mean handgun sales are not exploding. I work in firearm sales and sales are–great. More women and young want to carry. Trap shooting is making a resurgence. We used to sell more rifles and shotguns, now it’s almost 2:1. NRA can’t be used to gauge gun ownership.

  • Robin Miller June 8, 2015, 2:10 pm

    I’m one of the 94% of American gun owners who do not belong to the NRA. Sorry, but I’m too young (62) to want draft-dodger Ted Nugent as my spokesjerk. And the hatred for America’s twice-elected president that pervades NRA culture is a turnoff of and in itself. Some of the posters I see at local gun shops & ranges might as well be plastered on government buildings in Iran.

    • Damon June 8, 2015, 3:52 pm

      I’m right there with you. Also, I support equal rights for all American citizens, whether they’re homosexuals, Jews, or Muslims, I’m patriotic only in the sense that I love my country, but won’t go to the ME to die to help pad Halliburton’s bottom line, and I voted for Colin Powell in 2008 and 2012, because the nominated candidates from both parties had no message for me or mine. Also, last year when Initiative I594 was on the ballot in WA state, the NRA was conspicuous in its absence of advertising, polling, education, or funding. I don’t know (or care) what segment of gun owners and enthusiasts they represent, but it ain’t me.

  • Chief June 8, 2015, 2:06 pm

    “a majority of millennials support gay rights, less than a majority are patriotic, only one-third are religious and they voted Obama in 2012″ This quote taken from the article .This shows a symptom of the lack of raising and morality taught to children while they are in the home .It also shows the propaganda that infiltrates public schools and of course television .This progressive plan of brain washing children and the desensitization to immoral acts etc has been in the works for decades .Its more than losing our 2nd amendment rights ,its losing all of them and the whole Country we love .

    • Willie-O June 13, 2015, 2:42 pm

      Amen brother !! Short, sweet and accurate….just like my wife with virtually any handgun. “Progressives”….typically found to be Democrats (dumb-o-craps) have been and are winning the war, which is proven by the shift in opinions surrounding damn near all “social issues”.

  • Jeremiah June 8, 2015, 1:44 pm

    I agree the NRA needs a bit of new packaging, not only with their TV shows, but also American Rifleman, et al.

    More young men and young women need to be seen and heard from in both arenas exhibiting their love and respect for owning firearms.

    I am also one of the many who believe that our own government, in its present iteration, is displaying all the critical warning signs bordering on evocative and proactive (pre)tyranny.

    Therefore, in addition to owning firearms for target practice, plinking and self-defense and the sheer joy of owning magnificent and historically significant apparatuses of armament, I also own firearms to reasonably help me keep a watchful eye on the acerbic winds emanating from Washington D. C., “just-in-case.”

  • buurga June 8, 2015, 1:40 pm

    ANYTHING the Huff and Puff Post has to say is suspect. Very.

  • BRASS June 8, 2015, 1:18 pm

    I think based on my experience that there are two reasons among all that contribute significantly to failing to attack more younger, female and minority shooters:
    1. Lack of real shooting opportunities
    2. Lack of good advice by well meaning folks and gun sellers.

    A quick explanation: How many retail gun stores or ranges have you been to that will allow you to actually test shoot a gun you may be interested in? We always hear and read that prospective gun buyers, especially first time buyers should try out any gun, usually meaning handgun, for fit and comfort level. You can’t do it at BassPro, Sportsman’s Warehouse or any retail store I’ve ever been to. I’ve been to one indoor range in California, Range 2000 just outside San Diego where they had a variety of guns available for ‘rental’ shooting at a per hour fee. Essentially for most of us, trying out a gun means knowing someone with the gun you may be interested in who will take you to a range.

    2. Advice – Too many of us have strong opinions on what guns others should shoot and are too willing to share them, including me. I have adopted the same approach any good professional salesman of large ticket items uses: I ask questions and listen before I offer advice, when asked. I ask questions to find out not only what the new shooters needs are but what their preconceptions are. Suggesting a handgun that they already have had a negative seed planted against may be counterproductive. Why do you want a gun? — May be the least important or useful question one can ask? Do salespersons of other important decision making items ask: Why do you want a house or car or dental work?
    More important might be: What do you know about handguns (more likely than long guns)? Have you ever fired a gun? Did you enjoy it? What didn’t you like about it or what don’t you like about guns? There are many questions that could be tailored after leaning just a little bit about someone. My wife for example hates loud noises, she doesn’t like people yelling, she has always been physically strong but doesn’t see herself as someone using a gun to save herself or others. Even after decades of being married to an avid gun guy, shooter, reloader, Marine and self defense student, her trips to the range have to be short, as pleasant as possible and simple instruction designed to pinpoint a technique or scenario that can save a life that she can envision like saving my life if disabled or unable for some reason to take the lead, or a grandchild during a home invasion. My daughter in law will shoot anytime or anyplace, learns quickly but still sees firearms as a defensive tool and never a recreational one, which is okay. My oldest son more models me in his reasons, interests and desire to know more while the youngest son mirrors his mom more in a utilitarian interest in guns.
    Better communication by those of us wanting to assist new or inexperienced gun owners or shooters tailored to what they see as their role rather than what we see is I think an important idea.

    • Leadsender June 8, 2015, 3:20 pm

      I have to disagree with you on point #1. There has been a growing market in the gun range business for the past several years presenting greater opportunity to go into a a gun store/range for CPL/CCW classes, training and gun purchase. In this area alone, there have been at least five new ranges to open up or expand operations. As a matter of fact I just read an email form MSP that the state has 470k plus of open concealed carry licenses. We can give our opinion but, the final decision of what firearm to purchase has to go to the individual purchasing the weapon.

  • Jim June 8, 2015, 1:17 pm

    I agree with all of the above comments but another reason young folks are not interested in firearms is they have never spent two or more years in the military. I have had a love for shooting since I was five years of age. I received my first Daisy BB gun then. I then graduated to .22 rim fire at ten , 30-30 at fifteen and .30 cal at 18. (I am still in love with the M-! Garand). One does NOT have to take a life of any animal to enjoy shooting. I am now approaching my eightieth birthday and love still blooms I do feel sorrow for todays youth; not knowing the skills ( or the thrills0 of placing a small bullet in the X ring at 100 (or more) yards!

  • Carl June 8, 2015, 12:03 pm

    While I fully support the NRA, I have always found it to be more than a little out of touch with mainstream society. On one hand, it provides excellent firearms training that clearly states the exact opposite of what all the anti-gun groups are saying, but on the other hand, it seems to do little to promote that. This lack of a proper image to the public is often exaggerated by non-NRA groups (and yes, a few yahoos), a few inappropriate comments from its leadership (but not nearly as many inappropriate comments as are made by the majority of politicians out there), and perhaps too much representation by rural America (there is everything right with rural America, but it lacks the numbers of people needed to secure their voice). Also, gun use is all too often associated with racists, over emphasis on patriotism, the extreme religious right, and anything that is ultra conservative (I’m not passing judgement here on these other things, although I don’t understand racism; however, the existing general media does a really good job promoting positions that these things are bad and that gun owners are the devil incarnate because they support ALL of these things the media claims are bad). The point is that gun use has nothing to do with these things. It has to do with gun use plain and simple, whether for sport and recreation, or for self defense, all of which are valid and good things. I think we need to promote gun use for gun use alone. The shooting sports are great fun, and let’s face it, shooting is much more fun than mock-shooting in video games. If you want to let people know what something is all about, you need to engage them in it, and you need to engage everyone, not just a select few. If people have fun with it, they will come. Increasing proper training and access will help a lot too.

    • will valley June 9, 2015, 1:18 pm

      They need to market to the gay community, they have a right to defend themselves too. Maybe a commercial with guys holding hands and hanging at the gun range. Does your gun club reach out to these people or are we all so conservative that we cant bring ourselves to it. If that community got behind (no pun intended) 2nd amendment rights we would be a force to be reckoned with. People will say why do we have to appeal to them?….cause they are in the positions of power…..like it or not…….right?

  • Abner T June 8, 2015, 10:59 am

    Might be time for the NRA to start running contests on YouTube… such as, who can produce the best 30-second firearms safety ad, or who can do a ‘short’ on weapons safety and/or personal defense on campus…

  • WillB June 8, 2015, 9:46 am

    When you begin with an invalid assumption, you end up with an invalid analysis. Gunownership and the NRA are distinctly different. To prove that, you only need to compare the number of gunowners to the number of NRA members. Notice the great divide? Ignoring that makes the author’s opinion meaningless. So, go back and begin from that point. Culture is not based on the “few” but on the “majority” and the NRA does not represent the majority of gunowners based on the fact so few belong to the NRA (for whatever reason). It’s been that way as long as I can remember and I was an NRA member in the 50s.

  • Joe June 8, 2015, 9:44 am

    Millennials tend to be liberal or libertarian. They have little interest in the police state / drug war / social agenda most conservatives tend to drive, which tends to alienate them from conservatism.

    “Vote for me, I’ll outlaw gay marriage.” doesn’t go far. “Vote for me, I’ll free you from social security milking your income and DEA storm troopers kicking your door down because you grew the wrong plant” resonates a bit more. Most of them embrace freedom if explained properly. Look at how many flocked to Ron Paul.

    I don’t find many of them rabidly anti-gun, but if you want to create pro-gunners, take a few shooting.

    • DWard June 8, 2015, 11:27 am

      Of course then you have the ‘millenials’ chant for voting “vote for me I’ll do nothing and take credit for everything”.

  • Jighead45 June 8, 2015, 5:49 am

    The primary problem can be summed up by this statement from your article:
    but also from government tyranny.

    Where did you get this information?

    I am 55 and own a safe full of guns and have more sitting in the closet due to lack of space, and I don’t have any of them because I’m worried about “Government Tyranny” nor do I know a single person who does. I have them because I enjoy shooting, both target and hunting. Some of my fondest memories revolve around my Grandfather, Father and guns. Many people no longer have that connection because their Grandparents or Parents didn’t instill it, for many different reasons.

    One of the biggest issues with guns is educating the non gun owners about who gun owners are. Most of us are not what the media potrays us to be; a bunch of wild eyed, tri corner hat wearing, parnoid gun nuts sititng in a dark basement waiting on the ATF to kick the door in.

    And then someone writes something like this and validates the anti gun crowds perceptions.

    Please quit helping, because your not.

    • Dr Motown June 8, 2015, 8:11 am

      Exactly what I was going to say! For many of us, it’s a sport or hobby. Yes, it’s great to have the ability to self-defend, but that’s not the the primary reason for our ownership.

    • Gen X Sperry June 8, 2015, 10:53 am

      The anti-gun agenda wants us to be divided (Hunters/sport shooters vs. 2ND ammendment supporters).
      Don’t think for a minute that not supporting the right to legally own modern semi-automatic rifles will keep your double barrel duck gun safe in your home.

      Stand together or hang separately I believe a wise man once said.

    • DWard June 8, 2015, 11:22 am

      While I agree with you that most gun owners have weapons for many reasons other than self defense etc, you miss to entire point of what the ability to own and carry a weapon is based upon. It is not based on your right to hunt, it is not even based on your right to protect your household from thieves and murderers. The entire context of the second amendment is for the security of a FREE state; not even the security of a free nation, but a FREE STATE. While it can be extended to a free nation of all fifty States, it is still for the Sovereign States to protect themselves from a federal government gone bad. And it is going bad awful fast. And in order to have a well regulated militia to defend that free State, when needed, is the ability of each individual to own and carry a weapon of his choosing.

    • Rick Robinson June 9, 2015, 1:54 pm

      Yes, I agree. And a similar point: When firearms owning groups get together to protest a proposed or passed law, or to make a point, the media will be there. I have always cringed when the weapons owners show up looking like they are the James Gang recreated, with rifles and sidearms hanging all over them.

  • Rob Kay June 8, 2015, 4:23 am

    Excellent analysis. Mike Weisser has a point. The NRA and NSSF need to penetrate minorities, even the gay market if they are going to be relevant. Colion Noir videos are not enough.

    • Leadsender June 8, 2015, 2:49 pm

      I could not agree with you more. The only true constant is change and sadly the NRA and people in general are slow to change. I just happen to be a black male and when I first started purchasing firearms some 30 plus years I was a member of the NRA. I am no longer a member of the NRA. Why? Because the leadership and the membership did not make me feel as if I wanted to be a member of the organization. First you let Charles Heston sand up in front of the convention and say “Not form my cold dead hands” and then have a nation wide interview siting that black and minorities have a propensity for violence. Really, when I look around the world I see a whole lot of violence from people that don’t look like me. The NRA leadership was silent on that one. I subscribe to at least four gun/weapons web site’s and I read what my fellow CPL/CCW carriers have to say. When an event involving black people and guns the racist come out in full force. Once again, words like those animals, thugs and goons are at it again. Those very same people have little to say when white police officer’s fire over 100 rounds from atop the hood of a car and killing two with a judge saying he will not charge any officer. They have little to say when a white couple kill two police officer’s in the NW. I would find it very strange sitting at an NRA convention know that some of the very people that I am sitting with are those same people making negative comments about black folk online. I found it strange that in the back rooms that the NRA was saying home much they loved Obamer because he had cause guns and ammo sales to increase to levels never seen and then turn around in the public put on a public face of hating the the guy. I like Colion Noir and have viewed some of his videos. However, you can not place just place a black face (Ben Carson) on and issue and expect black folk or other minorities to fall in place. If the message is the same the only thing that has changed is the face presenting the message. Going forward, the new theme for the gun industry should be “Every body digs something”. We who like to shoot take pride in our ability to hit what we are shoot at and to place most shots in the bulls eye. You may not dig what I like to do and I may not dig what you like to do but, we must RESPECT each others right to do what we do not matter what the risk. In addition, we have to get rid of the labels. I know a lot of different people who just like to shoot. PERIOD!

    • will valley June 9, 2015, 12:44 pm

      My biggest problem with the NRA is the constant fear mongering in their mag, while much of it is true, it gets tiresome when continually bombarded with it. I don’t even read the magazine anymore.
      If NRA wants to target (no pun intended) women and youth they need to put out a quality magazine that appeals to those demographics with good marketing (that’s how the anti’s do it) the guy with the deep voice saying (they want to take your guns” isn’t cutting it. And the butch woman who is suppose to be living in some place like Montana sitting on a truck talking about Bloomburg ain’t cutting it. Marketing propaganda needs to make guns ownership look more metro, hip and a must have. If the NRA was in the fashion business their product would be leisure suits and good luck selling that idea to women and future generation. So marketing needs to change and quick! Maybe a section of their site could be dedicated to the various 2nd amendment threats and quick breakdown of the issue in the magazine. so people can go to the website and look it up. Also, I wouldn’t be too sure that all future generations will want gun control. Things aren’t getting better and at some point that generation is going to see the sh*t hit the fan. Secondly, the misuse of laws , police and government corruption will erode the authority and rule of law and already is and these generations are already showing a distain for authority and ridiculous laws. Lets also not forget about the large amount of youth who are part of mentored hunting programs.
      There eventually will be a rebellion against PC. The Tim will come when PC will be considered old fashioned. We don’t talk or think like our grandparents or grandparents did. Liberal double speak may become a joke like using …thee and thou and shall. Oh and the Bloombers, fondas, turners and Pelosies aling with the rest of the liberal baby boomers….they ain’t getting any younger and eventually will disappear into the back pages of wiki.

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