It would be pretty difficult for any American to share a birthday with the United States and not grow up to be a little patriotic. But Billy Johnson has taken his love of country straight to the digital front lines. Although his YouTube channel, Amidst The Noise, has been online less than three years, his compelling video commentaries have already been viewed more than 2 million times.
As a commentator for NRA News, Johnson has lent his pragmatism and ability to see through the prevailing rhetoric to the battle for preserving our Second Amendment freedoms.
About two-and-a-half years ago, I went down to my basement and made a video I called “Choose Your Own Crime Stats.” In the video, I talked about the 50-percent decline in violent crime over the last 20 years. In the wake of the Aurora and Newtown shootings, I was frustrated that the media wasn’t having an honest discussion about violence in this country.
That video was an outlet for my frustration. The response shocked me. Within a month, it had been viewed more than a million times. And, more importantly, people were truly engaging the information in the video. They were discussing, agreeing and challenging me—and each other. It made me feel hopeful. It also motivated me to move from being a guy who made a video to a blogger.
From that video, Amidst The Noise was born. I have spent much of my career making films for other people. I have spent very little of my career in front of the camera. Having an outlet for my ideas and a public forum for discussion of liberty and freedom has been both inspiring and, at times, discouraging. The Internet is truly a fickle mistress. In my own small way, I am just trying to be the type of citizen who takes seriously the responsibilities inherent in the label “citizen.”
In the last couple years, I’ve been called everything from a “hipster conservatarian” to a “liberal gun-toter.” I think that’s awesome. When it comes to politics, we are quick to try to fit people into rigid categories. I don’t think protecting our rights should be a partisan issue. I don’t accept the idea that Republicans get gun rights, while Democrats get gay rights. I belong to both the NRA and the ACLU. That tends to freak people out. But what should freak them out is that we have, as a nation, widely accepted infringement upon several of our constitutional rights. And the infringement of any right is something that we should speak out against. We must speak as Americans, not as Republicans or Democrats. We must speak as patriots.
When the NRA invited me to create a video series about issues surrounding violence, national gun policy and Second Amendment freedoms, I was stoked. I have said several times that I will stand with any organization that stands up for our rights. I bring something a little different to the NRA News commentator crew. On my blog you will find criticisms of everything from the indefinite detention clause in the NDAA, to the NSA’s blatant disregard for privacy and Fourth Amendment rights, to political and media fear-mongering that aims to rob us of our right to keep and bear arms. I am unapologetically pro-liberty. And I believe that a healthy, informed and active citizenry is vital to the health of our nation.
In my own small way, I am just trying to be the type of citizen who takes seriously the responsibilities inherent in the label “citizen.” I hope that others will join me. I hope that our elected and appointed leaders will hear us.
I hope. And in this frustrating, discouraging, battle-weary world, sometimes hope is the most precious commodity of all.