On “Gun Girl” and Navigating Respectful Political Discussions

Illustration by Drew Buchanan

Richard Smith
Contributing Writer

Kaitlin Bennett, commonly referred to as “Gun Girl,” has been making a name for herself on Twitter with her poorly conducted interviews in which she asks loaded questions based on inflammatory, conservative views. It has been called into question whether or not people should circulate her material with the intention of insulting or criticizing her, as that would be playing right into her hands.

“Dragging” Bennett is indeed playing her game, as it fights fire with fire and adds to the belligerent nature of the debate. But, to abstain from discussion of her statements and behavior entirely would simply avoid the necessary conflict.

It’s important to ask in this case why we don’t simply ignore anyone with her views. We clearly don’t and shouldn’t, because the discussion is an important part of developing understanding and respect of differing viewpoints on different political issues, even if we can’t always agree.

What she does wrong then, is not engaging with these issues, but the way she engages with them. It is important that we discuss and criticize what she does, because that will lead to us collectively understanding why it is wrong. 

The discussion of Kaitlin Bennett ought to be a discussion concerning tastefulness, argumentative technique, and respect. 

Rather than “drag” her or say that it’s “on sight,” which only fuels the flame of political tension, we should point out her argumentative inadequacies. This would easily silence her. We should ask ourselves: What is wrong with Kaitlin Bennett that isn’t necessarily wrong with any other person who is outspoken on political beliefs?

Due to the nature of Twitter, people who are drawn to support Bennett due to seeing criticism of her would have to have already been following someone who outspokenly criticizes her, which is unlikely. Therefore, this number of people is probably very low. For all other viewers garnered by viral criticism, they are either indifferent or critical of her. Both of these audiences will quickly stop watching her content once she is no longer viral.

The question remains as to what revenue Bennett is receiving due to her newfound virality. I could find no results online as to what sort of money she regularly receives for her work, let alone due to recent popularity. 

Supposing, however, that all the benefits of this popularity come in the form of support from websites such as InfoWars and Liberty Hangout, it seems to follow the same consequences as her influx of general viewers. Once again her popularity will wane as her virality does, and she will be rendered as useful to these websites as she was before.

In one of her most viral interviews, the interviewee Michael Hawse used his sudden popularity to set up a fundraiser that donated to pediatric research which garnered about $500 on the first afternoon. 

So even without the discussion reacting to Bennett being considered, there has been a tangible good that resulted from her virality. This is because her going viral has reminded viewers how to act and motivated them to act well.