Posted on November 3rd, 2010 Comments
Politics isn’t about reality, it’s about shaping the perspective of reality. The Right has done a far better job of this over the past two years than the Left. Or maybe Obama, Reid, Pelosi don’t enjoy a good fight.
Either way, a lot of post-election night comment frames the Republican sweep of Congress as a naturally occurring trend, as predictable and tempered as the swing of a pendulum. That’s a positive-minded thought and perhaps it’s true. But I’ve seen it lead to a second, more complacent, even bitterly gleeful assumption that the majority party will receive the same trouncing next election after their agenda inevitably fails.
I’d like to go on record with a counter prediction: Namely, the Right-wing spin machine will do everything in its power to frame Obama for any failure to advance its agenda, and/or any political fall-out when the Right-wing agenda succeeds at the expense of the people.
In fact, while some states are still counting election results, I already see evidence that Republicans are laying the groundwork for this. Witness these words from last night’s victory speech by Rep. John Boehner, who is in line to become speaker of the House in the new Congress (emphasis added):
“The people’s priorities will be our priorities. The people’s agenda will be our agenda… While our new majority will serve as your voice in the people’s House, we must remember it is the president who sets the agenda for our government. The American people have sent an unmistakable message to him tonight, and that message is: ‘change course.’”
Boehners speech echoed three key rhetorical elements of the campaign season:
Obama + Reid + Pelosi = Government = Control = Culpability for the people’s pain
The problem is that Boehner and a Republican-led Congress now share a spot in the crosshairs of the people’s pain. So, in a clever rhetorical twist, Boehner accepted control on behalf of his party, while removing both from any responsibility for future negative fallout. By equating his party’s agenda with the people’s agenda, Boehner rewrote the above equation to read:
Obama + Reid + Pelosi = Government = Control = Culpability for the people’s, Boehner’s and Republican’s pain
By framing themselves as humble civil servants , Republican’s retain their underdog role, and can thus continue the narrative of the campaign trail. They’ve set the post-election stage to blame Obama for any unpopular political developments during their time in Congress. More to the point, their narrative provides needed air cover when forwarding an agenda that doesn’t necessarily have the people’s best interests in mind.
Some further predictions: Expect Obama to be branded for opposing permanently extended tax cuts for the rich (e.g. Obama wants to raise the people’s taxes), for dismantling financial regulation and reform (Obama’s against jobs for the people) and for rescinding healthcare reform (Insurance companies are defenders of the people’s liberty). Expect Obama to be branded as uncompromising in the face of an uncompromising Congressional majority.
To be clear, I don’t view Obama as a victim here – unless he’s the victim of his own inaction. Unless Obama and the Democrats rev up their counterspin – or, even better, their proactive spin machine, there’s no guarantee that negative voter reaction will end up on the Right’s doorstep during the next two elections – even if the Right is entirely to blame.
Posted on September 27th, 2010 Comments
So, I took a year off from blogging: Partly due to an overabundance of paid work, partly due to a crisis of conscience. I suddenly discovered that my initial blog bored the snot out of me. I was shilling my chops as a writer, not challenging them. I was trying to impress you all with how knowledgeable I was… And, for that, I apologize. I just needed the work really badly, and I read somewhere that demonstrating expertise (e.g. distributing free advice) was a great way to build credibility. But, given the thundering stampede of thought leaders out there, I figured it was time to cull the herd – beginning with me.
Not that I’m back-pedaling on the quality or value of my professional-grade copywriting services, or my particular expertise. Well-written content influences attitudes and decisions far more than many people realize. I just found it boring to write about professional copywriting.
Writing about Spin is a different matter – particularly the kind of Big Tent spin you’ll find on any cable news channel, where people bleed tears, sacrifice orphans and set themselves on fire just to move the needle on their agenda. If you want entertainment, watch Fox News. If you want reasoned discourse, watch Law and Order.
As Hunter S. Thompson famously wrote: “Some people will say that words like scum and rotten are wrong for Objective Journalism – which is true, but they miss the point.” The point is that giving “scum and rotten” a legitimate voice and equal time is neither objective nor balanced reporting. It’s infotainment, and it was never limited to cable news. A couple of years ago, there was a front page story on the New York Times about Creationists’ “politically savvy challenge to evolution as the bedrock of modern biology.” As Charles P. Pierce retorted recently in Esquire magazine, this supposedly balanced reportage “is as self-evidently ridiculous as an agriculturally savvy challenge to Euclidean geometry would be.”
And what of it? News sources are just like any business. They have a brand product for sale. It’s all hair gel, TV personalities and Kool Aid. I may loathe the freak show that news content has become, but I just can’t get enough of it. The rhetorical stunts are like something out of Cirque du Soleil, or Hooper. The possibility for carnage are never far away. And details like facts and the Truth are only a distraction, as evidenced by the self-marginalization of the Liberal elite, which insists that the Truth is a dog whistle only it can hear. Talk about missing the point.
There’s this old joke about two guys who encounter a bear. When one bolts, the other says, “Don’t you know you can’t outrun a bear?”
“I don’t have to outrun the bear,” the other replies. “I just have to outrun you.”
See? That’s the populist Right – the guy who bolts. He understands he needn’t win the debate. He just needs to NOT LOSE. These folks know infotainment. They know how to steal the cultural conversation and run with it. Every time I think reality is going to catch up with them, they change the rules. There is no spoon. I hate them for that, and I loathe them. But I can’t ignore them. They’re just that good.
As Paul Simon sang, “That’s worth some money.” I can let them make me bitter, or I can let them make me better, which is by way of announcing a new direction for my blog, wherein we freely adopt a new view of the cultural conversation as bloodsport.
Let’s stop quibbling about whose agenda is right and whose is crazy, and let’s just enjoy the tactics, the maneuvering, the feints, and the crippling smack-downs. Let’s quit taking sides, and just look at what rhetoric works best, no matter how crazy it is, by examining its impact on our own lizard brains. We may all be witnessing the end of our culture, but that’s no reason not to have a little fun. As Henry Miller, our national prophet and the author of Tropic of Cancer, said: “Away with lamentation! Away with elegies and dirges! Away with biographies and histories, and libraries and museums! Let the dead eat the dead. Let us living ones dance about the rim of the crater, a last expiring dance. But a dance!”