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One thing to notice about Daily Kos and, in fact, liberal commentary in general is that a dishearteningly large proportion of it only indirectly concerns liberal ideas, values, and activities, but is instead a reaction to their opposites: The latest outrage by some radio hatemonger, the most recent legislative assault on ordinary people by Republican politicians, another bit of crazy talk from some religious fringe loon, partisan media propaganda from supposedly "mainstream" sources, etc.  While it is important to be informed about the other side's activities, it is also very important to be aware that focusing on them comes at a cost that must be carefully balanced, because they are not paying the same level of attention to us in turn.  As a result, we relegate ourselves to the role of critics and concede the active initiative and the legitimacy it carries to people who should be on the fringe.  I apply game theory to illustrate this below.

To understand this, a few things must be made clear at the outset that a lot of people don't seem to appreciate:

1.  We are powerful.  Everything we say and do - and everything we do not say and do - has political consequences, however indirect or long-term their manifestations.  Ignoring or belittling this fact just means the power is underutilized or squandered, not that it diminishes or ceases to exist.

2.  We are responsible for the status quo.  The radical right did not put itself in power over this country - it isn't intelligent enough to do so, as we routinely note.  We put it in power: We as Democrats, liberals, leftists, what have you.  No amount of money on their side could compensate for the lack of our obliging them, and not much is needed from them if we keep helping them.  Our failure to appreciate the consequences of our messaging priorities created a situation where there was a net memetic reward for being on the radical right, and we continue to perpetuate this reward.  I demonstrate this below.

3.  Only we can change the status quo.  We will not argue other people into changing it for us, and certainly not while we blindly reaffirm the status quo while deludedly thinking we are challenging it.  Also shown below.

Case 1: Total Defeat

Consider the fictional debate below regarding religious interference in politics - the issues debated are merely an example, and the principles being illustrated can apply equally well to all subjects:

Theocon says: This country is inherently a Christian country, founded in Christian principles, and in order to remain in God's grace we must institute Biblical law.  Failure to do so will only increase the incidence of divine wrath we have already seen, such as hurricanes, floods, plagues, and criminal violence.
Liberal commentary says: Up until recently, American Christianity was by and large more concerned with preserving its own liberties from state interference rather than attempting to impose itself on others via government institutions.  Indeed, even in the Gospels Jesus tells his disciples to be humble, quiet, and private about their religion rather than arrogant and political.  Moreover, how is it fair for only one set of religious beliefs to impose themselves on others?  Mr. Theocon would presumably not appreciate someone else's interpretations of the Bible that he does not share being legally imposed on him and his children via school prayer, and yet he seems fine demanding the power to do that to others.  Clearly Mr. Theocon needs a lesson in the Golden Rule.
If we were to go by ordinary standards of liberal commentary, we would be smugly self-satisfied with the above exchange as just another example where we had completely obliterated the right's delusional, hypocritical, ludicrous arguments.  Except in systemic game theory terms, the above exchange is a total rout against the liberal position.  

What subject are they both addressing?  Expanding government imposition of sectarian religious beliefs.  Not the removal of such practices that already occur, such as "God" in the Pledge and on our money, or restrictions on abortion based on nothing but religious beliefs.  The initiative of proposal is conceded to the right-wing position without the liberal commentator even being aware of what they are doing, because the liberal reads and reacts to Mr. Theocon's blog while it's unlikely that Mr. Theocon reciprocates.

What kind of arguments are being made?  The liberal's arguments are only concerned with what Christians want, what the Bible says, and attempting to excite moral compassion in Mr. Theocon and his readers that is unlikely to exist given what the latter has already said.  As noted, it's unlikely that Mr. Theocon or his community are ever going to see these appeals or care in the slightest if they did, so what is the net effect of this emphasis?  To place Christianity, the Bible, and the values of those who thump them front-and-center in the discussion of both sides of the political spectrum, and make the subject of imposing sectarian religious beliefs via government into a mainstream political proposal open to serious debate.  

No progress toward greater secularism is posssible from such a launching point - only a losing game of pure defensiveness that sabotages itself from the very start.  While moral self-consistency, mutualism, and compassion are liberal memes, the context in which they're articulated - the playing field if you will - is religion, and thus native conservative territory that they invariably control.  The full, unstated extent of the argument is that politics should be approached through religion, and then the subject should be what is religiously acceptable rather than establishing fundamentally progressive premises.  

Who is personally being addressed as an authority?  Not the liberal commentator, but (a)Mr. Theocon, and (b)the fictional character of Jesus as laid out in the holy literature of Mr. Theocon's religion.  In other words, the liberal is attempting to undermine the credibility of Mr. Theocon - credibility that does not exist, and in the process is actually creating that very credibility.  Remember point 1 above: We are powerful.  We have the power to give conservatives far greater credibility than they could ever achieve through their own constituencies, and the power to deny it to them.  The liberal commentator above has made Mr. Theocon into the focal point of the debate, elevating him to a status nothing about him deserves.  And while that may serve to reinforce the sense of superiority of liberal readers, seeing how unworthy Mr. Theocon is, it merely reinforces his stature in the eyes of a lot of others while denying stature to those who should have it.

The conservative's comments occur 100% within conservative memespace, and so do the liberal's - in other words, all the terms of debate are preemptively conceded, basically admitting defeat before the argument even begins, and the liberal contents him or herself with merely making themselves feel intellectually superior by making more logically valid propositions using the other side's premises.  And that would mean something if politics consisted of a debate society, but it doesn't.  The liberal totally lost the above exchange, and what's more lost before they even started talking because they failed to establish their own premises.  Here is a visual representation of the premises of the above exchange:

Meme Grid 1

Needless to say, cognizant writers of liberal thought and Democratic campaign themes need to be aware of Case 1 and carefully avoid it and all of its manifestations, across all issues.  Failure to do so creates the very twisted politics we observe today, where "mainstream" liberal/moderate commentary and Democratic politics appears to suffer from Stockholm Syndrome and the positive/progressive ideas are simply ignored because it's easier and more entertaining to attack the right than to promote the left.  That has to change, and the change has to begin with our own commentary priorities as bloggers.  This doesn't mean we have to go cold turkey on having fun with right-wing nutter butters, but some intelligent prioritization is necessary.

Case 2: Failure by Memetic Attrition

Using the same debate, let's see what happens with a somewhat different liberal approach:

Theocon says: This country is inherently a Christian country, founded in Christian principles, and in order to remain in God's grace we must institute Biblical law.  Failure to do so will only increase the incidence of divine wrath we have already seen, such as hurricanes, floods, plagues, and criminal violence.
Liberal commentary says: There are so many things wrong with Mr. Theocon's arguments that it's difficult to know where to begin, but let's give it a try.  

1.  The Founders were quite explicit in establishing this as a secular nation.
2.  Their decision has been borne out by centuries of American politics where secularism has remained a fundamental legal standard.
2.  Both facts are proven by the existence, maximum prominence, and completely unaltered status of the First Amendment in the Bill of Rights, which completely rules out what Mr. Theocon proposes short of violent insurrection or a radical sea change in public opinion that does not appear likely to occur.
3.  "Biblical law" has never been in force in the United States, so why does he assert that it's necessary to institute it now in order to "remain" in God's grace?  What has changed that suddenly a secular country has to become theocratic to achieve the same results that Mr. Theocon claims he wants to preserve?
4.  What possible argument could be made that "Biblical law" would make a more just society?  If anything, the laws of the Bible are savagely barbaric, uncivilized, ignorant, pointless, and superstitious, with no rational basis toward making a more functioning society.
5.  Mr. Theocon's claims that hurricanes, floods, plagues, and criminal violence are a result of lack of Biblical law is not borne out by history, since these have not only existed throughout history, but were more prominent in the past when religion played a greater role in society for the obvious reason that religion is not rational and cannot effectively address any of these problems.
6.  There is no scientific basis for anything Mr. Theocon has said about the causes of natural or man-made disasters, and no halfway sane reason to harbor his beliefs about them.
7.  Furthermore, the argument is not even borne out by Mr. Theocon's own alleged religious beliefs, as the Gospels are full of warnings not to abuse God as a tool of politics, so even if we were fully in Mr. Theocon's deranged corner on the core assumptions of his claims, we could not reasonably accept his positions.

While Case 2 does a better job of introducing liberal memes than Case 1 - for instance, rule of law, constitutionalism, science, etc. - there are still terminal flaws with the liberal response.  Most prominently, what do you notice immediately when you compare the liberal commentary to the conservative statement it addresses?  One was written as a brief, careless expression of opinion that probably took thirty seconds to write, if not simply being cut-and-pasted en masse as a boilerplate.  The liberal response, however, is extensive and thought-out in detail, offering a laundry list rebuttal.  Such responses cost the writer a lot more than they cost the memes they're attacking, and the latter can proliferate like bacteria while writers of the former tend to prefer being ad hoc in order to tailor their responses to the specific combination of claims being made.

What subject are they both addressing?  The conservative is still 100% conservative, and the liberal is still overwhelmingly focused on the validity of the conservative's arguments while only making weak, tangential inroads toward establishing their own.  The liberal notes almost in passing that the conservative's premises are fundamentally wrong, despite continuing to pick apart their specific arguments in detail exhaustively.  This is irrational and a waste of time, like saying "Yeah, you're nuts, but I'm going to pretend you have valid points anyway and address them point-by-point."  The vast majority of people will not be persuaded by the logic of the argument because logic was never the point, and rather simply pick up on the fact that a debate is taking place, thus once again legitimizing the subject and Mr. Theocon in particular as an authority being criticized rather than a nut being dismissed.

What kind of arguments are being made?  The liberal's arguments are logical, but they are logic applied to the conservative's premises, picking them apart one by one and showing everything wrong with them.  This would seem like a complete victory to the status quo standard of commentary on our side, but it's not any kind of victory: (a)Conservatives will likely never see it, (b)conservatives will not be persuaded by the logic even if they are, (c)most other people will mostly pick up on the legitimacy granted to the subject and to Mr. Theocon rather than to the specific arguments being offered, and of course (d)the conservative meme can be proliferated a lot more rapidly and clearly than the liberal's rebuttal, since rebuttals aren't really memes in themselves so much as criticisms of memes that to some extent help perpetuate what they attack.  Mr. Theocon and his nuttery are still front and center, with liberal memes only barely peeping out the curtain.

Who is personally being addressed as an authority?  The liberal commentator thinks he is establishing himself as an authority by making logical arguments, but since the subject of his arguments is Mr. Theocon, in fact he remains merely a critic and is establishing Mr. Theocon as the authority - albeit one who is being denounced as unworthy.  But the fact of spending so much time attacking him belies the face-value of the rebuttal - obviously the liberal considers the conservative to be an authority.  And if both sides agree that the conservative is an authority, why would the middle disagree?  Visual representation of this discussion's memespace:

Meme Grid 2

What the image illustrates is that this approach sets up liberal values and ideas as an embattled, insurgent minority position rather than something with authority.  That might feed the egos and rebel fantasies of some on the left, but it doesn't contribute to actual progress in real politics.  The commentator above doesn't understand that what he doesn't choose to argue with is every bit as important as what he does, regardless of how perfect his logic is wherever he applies it.

Case 3: Liberal memes in a conservative cage.

But let's say the liberal commentator is judicious about what to address:

Theocon says: This country is inherently a Christian country, founded in Christian principles, and in order to remain in God's grace we must institute Biblical law.  Failure to do so will only increase the incidence of divine wrath we have already seen, such as hurricanes, floods, plagues, and criminal violence.
Liberal commentary says: Our nation was founded on a principle of secularism that precisely rejects the imposition of state religion, and it is encoded explicitly in the very first right articulated in the supreme law of the United States.  We are each entitled to our religious beliefs, and to not have those of others imposed upon us by the power of the state.  Any attempt to do so would be a violation not only of the Constitution, but of the most basic principles of our republic and the most basic fairness between people.  There are no rational, legal, or moral arguments for doing so, and any such demand is simply tyrannical.
This is a much better, more effective response than Case 2, but while it makes a strong introduction of liberal memes, you will note that the entire commentary still revolves around rejecting conservative memes and proposals.  Rather than promoting the liberal meme of secularism as a positive in itself, the liberal memes are simply wielded as weapons to criticize the conservative position and reject the proposals that arise from it.  In other words, it is entirely defensive and still concedes the ground of authority to the conservatives.

What subjects are both addressing?  The primary subject is still conservative memes and proposals, even though liberal memes are strongly introduced.

What kind of arguments are being made?  Liberal arguments are made, but only as tools to deconstruct and reject conservative ones - not to promote themselves as inherent good.  The arguments remain defensive.

Who is personally being addressed as an authority?  Case 3 makes progress in that it no longer addresses Mr. Theocon himself as an authority, and it does attempt to reclaim some level of authority for the liberal position by attaching it to American law and tradition, but the tone of the appeal is elegiac rather than confident and authoritative: E.g., "Back in my day, America was a free country" is not authoritative, even though it appeals to authority.  Moreover, the liberal commentator doesn't sound like an authority so much as a fearful sermonizer, in his own way somewhat similar to the tone of the conservative, but still conceding the power to set the agenda to the latter.  Memespace visualization:

Meme Grid 3

Case 4: Meme Parity

The following is where we need to be in how we address every issue, and is the only launching pad from which to make progress:

Theocon says: This country is inherently a Christian country, founded in Christian principles, and in order to remain in God's grace we must institute Biblical law.  Failure to do so will only increase the incidence of divine wrath we have already seen, such as hurricanes, floods, plagues, and criminal violence.
Liberal commentary says: We must strive to not only uphold, but expand the liberty, equality, and opportunity of American life through strong support of the Bill of Rights, proposing and articulating new mechanisms to implement and protect it in everyday life at all levels of government, and promote this nation's commitment to being an enlightened, educated, curious, and scientifically engaged society intrepidly pursuing discovery and technology.  Only in this way can we both prepare to deal with natural disasters such as hurricanes, floods, and plagues as well as man-made disasters like crime, but also to create new possibilities for people to explore their talents and enrich life for all.
What do you notice about the liberal commentary above compared with the previous iterations?  It makes no mention of Mr. Theocon, and completely rejects the right-wing memespace rather than attempting to apply liberal arguments to it.  Instead, it creates a rigorous set of moral and value premises all its own, and articulates ideas within that context rather than putting them in a conservative cage and trying to "rebel" against it through sheer force of logic or outrage.  

We already know who wins when liberal and conservative memes ignore each other and only promote themselves - that was the whole basis of the Enlightenment and everything that followed.  Philosophers refused to keep their ideas caged within the ideology of religious doctrines, and instead of trying to reform religion, they simply discarded it in favor of arguing on their own terms - some spiritual, some purely scientific and secular.  

The results have spoken for themselves.  And the same process applied to the fall of Communism, when people just stopped pretending that their criticisms were based on the best way to serve Marxist revolution and instead started saying "Wait a minute, this is crap.  I don't support the premise.  Here's what I really stand for..."  In the same way, the moment we stop treating this as an intellectual exercise, and stop framing arguments within the premises established by conservatism, we begin to win and make progress.  Centuries of progress unfolded from the moment liberal thinkers stopped trying to moderate medieval nonsense and instead just focused on promoting their own values and ideas.  We need to follow that example again, and not just the most elite among us - but all of us should reach an understanding about this.

What subjects are both addressing?  For the first time, in Case 4 the two sides are not agreeing on the subject.  The conservative is still promoting conservative memes, but the liberal is now fully focused on promoting liberal memes rather than moderating or deconstructing the other side's.  This is the real debate - the one where fundamental values and ways of seeing the world compete - everything else was nothing more than rhetoric, with the liberal preemptively surrendering.

What kind of arguments are being made?  The liberal is directly opposing their own values and priorities against the conservative's, and taking back the initiative of proposal and agency.  They are setting both the terms of the debate and drawing their own conclusions from them.  

Who is being personally addressed as an authority?  Neither side acknowledges the other as authoritative, and both set themselves up as authorities.  Who do you think would win under such circumstances?  We already know the answer because it already unfolded for centuries: The person whose ideas, when put in practice, yield the best results wins a contested battle of authority.  But that's only if it's contested - regardless of objective results, if the liberal simply concedes ownership of the agenda, it won't matter what their ideas achieve in practice.  Illustration of Case 4:

Meme Grid 4

In other words, "meme parity" doesn't stay equal for very long: Once achieved, liberals start winning.  What this means is that we must consciously adopt some level of "epistemic closure" ourselves in order to perpetuate our ideas - not to the self-defeating extent of the right, obviously, but simply to whatever degree makes the promulgation of our values and ideas most effective.  We must simply ignore the right unless there is some immediate practical purpose to doing otherwise - just going after them because they annoy us is not helpful, and obviously letting them set the agenda doesn't work no matter how thoroughly we debunk them.  But most importantly, stop making them and their lunatic ideas the subject: If they are in power, the subject is their failure to address our ideas.  And if they are not in power, they are not the subject AT ALL.  

Cases 5-7: Victory

We have already seen how meme parity begins to yield victory even in recent history.  At times where liberals have been confident, cohesive, and forward-looking, the right falters in its alpha-wave drumbeat of self-involved right-wing meme promotion and starts to fall victim to precisely the problem identified above with liberal commentary: They start to spend more time attacking us instead of promoting their own ideas, and it never works so long as we remain focused our own agenda.  However, it does start to work if we begin spending more and more time responding to their attacks, distracting us from progress and giving them more space in which to pursue their agenda while we neglect ours.  But while we are at meme parity, we sort of pass through the mirror and it becomes they who start to exhibit defensiveness and reactionism:

Liberal commentary says: We must strive to not only uphold, but expand the liberty, equality, and opportunity of American life through strong support of the Bill of Rights, proposing and articulating new mechanisms to implement and protect it in everyday life at all levels of government, and promote this nation's commitment to being an enlightened, educated, curious, and scientifically engaged society intrepidly pursuing discovery and technology.  Only in this way can we both prepare to deal with natural disasters such as hurricanes, floods, and plagues as well as man-made disasters like crime, but also to create new possibilities for people to explore their talents and enrich life for all.
Theocon says: The obsession with worldly pursuits like science and technology is nothing before the Word of God, and cannot substitute for faith and obedience to natural law.  You cannot defeat God with machines and logic!  If we are to be saved, we must have Biblical law.
Notice what's happening here?  Now it's the conservative reacting defensively to confident promotion of liberal ideals, and attempting to make pragmatic arguments that (LOL) science doesn't work!  If you can put the right into this position, you've already won - but ironically the best way to do it under most circumstances is to simply ignore them and speak to your own values.  Illustration:

Meme Grid 5

That obviously won't work for them, so then they get more desperate and obsessed with attacking the liberal position:

Theocon says: And God said, "He who says there is no God shall be damned to hellfire for all eternity!"  And so shall those who make idols of blasphemous science and put the laws of men before the laws of God!  This liberal commentator is a Communist atheist Socialist Fascist Nazi homasekshull Jeeee-ew!  We must purify the world of the unbelievers!
Of course this is delicious, and only accelerates the right's self-destruction to warp speed because it further isolates them, further puts them in the role of the screaming fringe minority attacking society rather than the authority upholding it.  They've explicitly conceded that everything other than their own weirdo sectarian religious beliefs is on the other side, and further announced themselves as deranged bigots:

Meme Grid 6

Invariably that's when they begin to collapse completely, and what remains of surviving conservative argument has to be very quiet, humble, and accept the liberal premises they had previously fought in order for anyone to listen at all - exactly as it had been around the 1960s:

Theocon says: Is there no room amid all this cynical science, technology, and skepticism for traditional values and faith?  Have we banished God from our hearts, and are we then surprised when people behave without morality toward each other?  Why else would there be such greed and violence?  We must reintroduce God into our culture.
See, now it's the conservative whose tone is elegiac and whose arguments are fully within the liberal framing, conceding that liberal values are authoritative and pining away from some fantasy of an "enlightened" and peaceful religious culture that they themselves would never tolerate if given power:

Meme Grid 7

So be aware of what you choose to address and how you choose to address it.  It may be a lot easier to just endlessly play off of the psychotic nonsense conservatives promote than to build on your own ideas and values, but all you're doing is undermining the authority and strength of all of us put together in order to play some frivolous game to feel intellectually superior to people who are far beneath you.  Remember that when deciding whether the best subject for your next bit of writing is what some Fox News apparatchik quack-talked on the air, or whether we would all be better served by looking deeper at the issue involved and speaking to its most fundamental roots.  

Originally posted to Troubadour on Thu Apr 04, 2013 at 04:02 PM PDT.

Also republished by Political Language and Messaging.

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Comment Preferences

  •  So how do we win on choice when we're losing so (4+ / 0-)

    badly in the states?  How do we turn that around?

    "Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." --M. L. King "You can't fix stupid" --Ron White -6.00, -5.18

    by zenbassoon on Thu Apr 04, 2013 at 04:08:40 PM PDT

    •  You have to educate the people of these states (8+ / 0-)

      about the nature of bodily autonomy.  The one way to do that, I think, is reverse psychology:

      Manipulate conservatives in these states into pushing bills that would impose close state supervision on all aspects of a pregnant woman's life - totally prohibit smoking and drinking on their part, have state inspectors invading their home every week to check for things that could endanger the pregnancy, force them to have a certain diet or else be arrested for "child abuse" of the fetus.  Basically, force the consequences of state interference into reproduction right to the forefront of their awareness, and then let them decide if they like the smell.  See how much conservative women like that kind of control, and how much conservative men like having "their" authority over "their" women usurped by the state.

      Going faster miles an hour, with the radio on.

      by Troubadour on Thu Apr 04, 2013 at 04:19:54 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  What Infrastructure is There to Reach Them? nt (4+ / 0-)

        We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

        by Gooserock on Thu Apr 04, 2013 at 04:20:57 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  CORRECT! (5+ / 0-)

        the proper phrasing, at the proper moment, can have huge impact.

        every person likes to think that they understand things in general, while in fact, that is quite untrue. Few of us understand the cosmos, the idea of an infinite universe, black holes or star formation, or how those things have real time impact on our lives (PS. They do).

        If we can take an issue, and properly phrase the background in a way that the majority of people can understand on a personal level, and provide a concise answer to that issue, we win.  Unfortunately, that is very tough to do, especially with guns, bibles, religion, fear, and big government crowding out most messages of late.

        What we call god is merely a living creature with superior technology & understanding. If their fragile egos demand prayer, they lose that superiority.

        by agnostic on Thu Apr 04, 2013 at 04:56:28 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  We have to be willing to exclude memes (7+ / 0-)

          from our own awareness in order to avoid being swamped.  The right uses control of the media to automate the promotion of their memes, but instead of amping up our own systems of promotion we simply try to address them, futilely swatting at their swarms like a cloud of mosquitoes.  

          We've proven many times over the past few years how effective we can be when we simply dismiss media narratives and act on our own initiative rather than arguing with them and waiting for them to acknowledge a consensus they never will.

          Going faster miles an hour, with the radio on.

          by Troubadour on Thu Apr 04, 2013 at 05:03:21 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  Of course, there's also outright defiance. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      zenbassoon, viral, wader

      Just ignore what are plainly unconstitutional laws, help spread abortion services, and rub it in the faces of the state so that they crack down hard and create martyrs and political prisoners.  That is, if anyone is serious enough about choice to make such a sacrifice.  If not, then they'll deserve exactly the state they get.

      Going faster miles an hour, with the radio on.

      by Troubadour on Thu Apr 04, 2013 at 04:23:40 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Take the initiative. Make them respond. (8+ / 0-)

      Go on the offensive with plans for many community women's health clinics and watch them try to denounce women's health.

      Freedom isn't free. Patriots pay taxes.

      by Dogs are fuzzy on Thu Apr 04, 2013 at 04:29:45 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  "Biblical law"? (5+ / 0-)
    Our highest law is the Constitution!

    "Biblical law"?  Name me one country that ever used the Bible as their law?

    You want to stone to death people for eating pork?  Do you eat pork?  When you stop eating pork .

    "Biblical law"?  You must approve of the buying and selling of slaves.  We got rid of slavery a long time ago, is that what you want?

    Become a true American, read the Constitution and then we can talk.

    This would be my comeback.

    In Game Theory I would probably fail, but I would walk away from this confrontation with certain satisfaction.

    I studied a bit of Game Theory decades ago and I appreciate your analysis.

    Daily Kos an oasis of truth. Truth that leads to action.

    by Shockwave on Thu Apr 04, 2013 at 04:38:07 PM PDT

    •  It's hard for us not to respond to conservative (4+ / 0-)

      stupidity because we're guaranteed to win the intellectual battle, but we need to cultivate a greater awareness of what it costs us in the larger context to spend so much time addressing their ideas and their claims.  Believe me, I know - I had a distinguished career as a troll on a Republican site for several years.  It was a lot of fun, but it was a complete waste of time, and apparently the content I contributed motivated more people to visit that site than otherwise would have, making it more profitable for the owner.

      Going faster miles an hour, with the radio on.

      by Troubadour on Thu Apr 04, 2013 at 04:42:34 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  That must have been hell or a learning experience (5+ / 0-)

        We are dealing with people with a completely different world view.

        We just need to GOTV and put real Dems in office at all levels.

        If we got 70% of the eligible voters to vote instead of 52%, these idiots would't stand a chance at the polls.

        Time is on our side but they will put all the "structural" blocks to true democracy that they can.  Gerrymandering, voter suppression and apathy are on their side.  This is the game they play.  As their late guru Paul Weyrich said "our leverage in the elections goes up as the voting populace goes down".

        This is the game they play at the top.  At the bottom they are just zombies motivated by racism and intolerance.

        Is there an opportunity for real dialogue with these guys?  I confronted some at town hall events in 2009 and decided it was a waste of time.

        I studied game theory a long time ago, the context was military combat.  The only combat we have is at the polls.

        Perhaps OWS was the one example of a re-framing of the dialogue as you propose.  We went from arguing about the deficit to argue about inequality.

        Then again, the public opinion swings regarding marriage equality and marihuana are also interesting to analyze.

        Daily Kos an oasis of truth. Truth that leads to action.

        by Shockwave on Thu Apr 04, 2013 at 05:24:55 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Yes, it was hellish. (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Shockwave, Bozmo2, radical simplicity

          It was around 2002-2004, so right at the peak of fascist frothing.  The only thing I learned from those lunatics - and really the only thing they're capable of teaching - is that they're irrelevant as members of society, and would only become relevant if they ever worked up the courage (Ha!) to violently act on their malice.  But the moment they do, they've already lost because they become hunted animals.  You start to realize that legitimacy rests in yourself, and you don't need their permission to do anything.

          I agree with your points, particularly about OWS.  Except for the silly, frivolous distractions of ideological minutiae that occurred internally, as a general movement it was exactly what I'm talking about - something articulated not as a reaction to the other side's agenda, but an attempt to address our own.  That's exactly what needs to happen, and not just on one issue or via one organization.

          The most important problem with Republicans is not that what they do is demented, corrupt, criminal, and evil, but that their policies are not the rational, intelligent, honorable, law-abiding, and decent policies we support.  The most important problem with austerity is that it fails to expand public services critical in a time of economic struggle, not merely that it does the opposite.  The difference is subtle but critical.

          Going faster miles an hour, with the radio on.

          by Troubadour on Thu Apr 04, 2013 at 05:40:38 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Recommended, tipped, quibbled (5+ / 0-)

    Being deranged bigots doesn't mean they've lost. In fact it seems to get them elected in many places.

    They're already in reaction mode against eevul socialist communist nazi godless Muslim liberals, and they get lots of fundraising mileage from it.

    Persuading people starts with establishing credibility as someone who's not an enemy, and speaking their own language. Every successful propagandist has done this.

    Freedom isn't free. Patriots pay taxes.

    by Dogs are fuzzy on Thu Apr 04, 2013 at 04:41:28 PM PDT

    •  There is a threshold where it becomes useful (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      slowbutsure, Bugsby

      to address them - like when they achieve a major party nomination for office and practicality demands taking them seriously.  

      But we shouldn't even allow it to get that far: We should give the full credibility of our hostile opinion to the Republican candidates we want to see nominated, not the ones we don't.  In GOP primaries, find excuses to attack Republicans that you like from the left so they look more attractive to the GOP, and ignore those who you really don't want to see.  Pretend to be angrier at the Republican who is less egregious, and give them more attention and thus more credibility both with the right and the middle as a person of stature.  

      Great signature line, BTW.

      Going faster miles an hour, with the radio on.

      by Troubadour on Thu Apr 04, 2013 at 04:50:22 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Good Diary -- Liberals need to be on attack (15+ / 0-)

    EXAMPLE -- Liberal/Democratic argument re: Estate Taxes

    GOP:  Democrats want to impose a death tax on you.
    DEMS: Our estate tax proposals only affect those taxpayers who leave estates over $X millions and exempt [fill in blank, "Farmers" "Small Businesses" etc.].

    What the response should sound like:
    GOP: We oppose death taxes
    DEM  Taxes are a responsibility we all bear to maintain a healthy Democracy.  
    The Republicans insist on taxing men and women for working. As liberals, we'd rather tax dead people than working people who deserve to keep the money they've earned.

    -- Religion is like sodomy: both can be harmless when practiced between consenting adults but neither should be imposed upon children.

    by Caoimhin Laochdha on Thu Apr 04, 2013 at 04:46:30 PM PDT

  •  T&R repub to Political Language & Messaging (6+ / 0-)

    Nuance is lost upon those who choose not to look.

    by poliwrangler on Thu Apr 04, 2013 at 05:16:26 PM PDT

  •  I like your diary very much. (10+ / 0-)

    I'd add just one more thing: Liberals need to promote their ideas in plain English using less complex sentences that are easier to understand and to repeat.

    Obama's use of the language is a perfect example. Bill Clinton is another master of the art of simple, effective speech. And it sure doesn't hurt that they know how to make us laugh while they're at it.

    I was a peripheral visionary. I could see the future, but only way off to the side. ~ Steven Wright

    by Bugsby on Thu Apr 04, 2013 at 05:30:42 PM PDT

    •  Agreed. I've written about that too: (3+ / 0-)

      Speak for Victory: Terminology for Winners

      My main points were "syllabic parsimony" (use smaller words and punchier statements in talking to the general public), "no jargon," and "never accept the other side's loaded terminology" (e.g., "Pro-Life").

      Going faster miles an hour, with the radio on.

      by Troubadour on Thu Apr 04, 2013 at 05:45:22 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Absolutely (3+ / 0-)

      All too often we fall into the trap of trying to educate when we should be trying to persuade. The problem with that is that education is a process that requires the student to work. As such, it's only effective if the recipient of our messages is either willing to work at understanding them (and has the time to put in the effort) or is forced to listen to them (which may be the case for K-12 students, but nobody else).

      The Republicans, and conservatives in general, didn't get where they are by giving their audience homework assignments. They simply told their audience what they wanted to hear, in a gradually escalating way that actually changed what the audience wanted to hear. Sure, they were pretty dishonest about it, but the fact that persuasive rhetoric can be done dishonestly doesn't mean it can't be done honestly.

      We need to get over our fear of selling.

      Writing in all lower-case letters should be a capital offense

      by ebohlman on Thu Apr 04, 2013 at 07:11:51 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Very interesting (4+ / 0-)

    Thank you for this thought-provoking diary. I'm going to try to construct similar examples using the current gun legislation debate as an exercise to see if I understand the approaches correctly and to see if they make as much sense to me then as they do in your examples. Thanks again.

    If we are going to live at the speed of code, we need to remember the stillness of eternity. -- dharmasyd

    by Darryl House on Thu Apr 04, 2013 at 05:43:20 PM PDT

  •  We need more positive policy discussion. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Troubadour, radical simplicity

    Democratic politicians have to be willing to push for new and better policies with positive proposals, not just reacting to conservative craziness.

    We desperately need new economic ideas, and we need promotion of the value of social democracy in a changing high tech world.  But very few politicians will promote new ideas, or even strongly promote the idea of social democracy.  Few are looking for real innovative solutions to inequality and the rising plutocratic oligarchy.  We are drifting into corporate feudalism and there is no mainstream movement to go in another direction.

    We need to at least try.

    "The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt." Bertrand Russell

    by Thutmose V on Thu Apr 04, 2013 at 08:02:24 PM PDT

    •  Change begins at home. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      radical simplicity

      Some of my diaries where I've outlined that other direction have invoked shocking responses from people even here on Daily Kos.  When I suggested that public transit should actually be public (i.e., free to users), many of the comments were not merely skeptical, but outraged at the idea that they might have to pay higher taxes so that everyone would have a public benefit.  Basically, even here the scourge of right-wing ideology is pervasive.

      Going faster miles an hour, with the radio on.

      by Troubadour on Thu Apr 04, 2013 at 08:07:42 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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