Thursday, January 20, 2005

Laughter: The Best Rebuttal

In response to guest blogger Eric's post at "Legal Fiction" on Iraq democratization, which included a rebuttal of the right-wing's charges of liberal racism, our fine host says:

To comment on a small part of a big post, I don't think we should take the right-wing accusations of us being "racist" in this "brown-skin democracy" issue seriously at all. I want to call it a red herring, but that's not the right term. A red herring is something that distracts from the real issue. But, in this case, they're not necessarily distracting from the problems of democratizing Iraq; they're shifting the issue into an attack on us, and pretending Bush has the moral high ground. And how do we typically respond? By wasting time rebutting the charges.

But that's exactly what they want. Bush knows that racism isn't the cause of our disagreement with him. If anything, he might believe that it's because we hate him and want to see him fuck up, but not because we're racist. Anyone with a brain knows that bringing democracy to Iraq and the middle-east will be very difficult; and in Bush's case, his handlers finally got around to telling him. Bush doesn't really believe this garbage, he's just trying to get us on the defensive. And it works every time.

The secret is to stay alert and understand when an issue has conversion power or not. By "conversion power", I mean the ability to convert a moderate or uninterested party to a particular point of view. Right-wingers can rant about it all they want, but nobody will be converted to their side because they think that liberals are anti-Muslim racists. And the worst thing we can do is take absurd charges seriously; thus giving them at least a small level of credibility. If someone calls you a "momma's boy", the worst thing you can do is act upset about it and try to deny it.

Another case in point is the Swift Boat issue that helped sink Kerry. The charges against him were crap. Anyone who knew the details knew they were crap. And even if we didn't, Kerry's accusers were complete unknowns who did not deserve the credibility. Credibility is something that's supposed to be earned over time, not handed out like fliers to anyone who wants it. And our biggest mistake was in not fully and completely laughing it off. As it was, we ignored it at first, and then tried to rationally rebut it later. But it was too late, and doubts set in for many moderates and uninterested people. They didn't necessarily believe the accusations, but they thought it made Kerry look untrustworthy. What we should have done is had Kerry aides and Kerry's old war buddies on the talk shows laughing at the Swift Boaters and making jokes about their claims. By ignoring the charges or taking them seriously, we allowed them to fester. Laughter would have put them back where they deserved; in their local VFW, wallowing in their beer about the liberal traitor in the White House.

I should also add that even legitimate charges can often be dealt with by laughing them off. Republicans do this all the time. We now know that Iraq was severely damaged by the post-war looting, which was preventable. The Iraqis were already wary of our intentions, and the rampant looting made good intentions look bad and greatly undermined our authority. Allowing the looting looked bad, both in hindsight and foresight. But how did the Bush Admin deal with it: mockery. Journalists and commentators laughed with Secretary Rumsfeld when he expressed disbelief that Iraq could have so many vases. Even now, many right-wingers refuse to even contemplate that looting was a problem. They addressed a very legitimate, very serious concern by mocking it. Yet, we seriously defend against ludicrous charges of racism.

The moral: We shouldn't waste breath and bandwidth defending charges that are clearly absurd. And the "liberal racist" thing is so bad that it seriously deserves the laughter. They do the same thing on Affirmative Action and welfare programs, and it's as laughable then too. The right-wing's motto seems to be "Don't be attacked for something you can attack the other side for." And our reaction should be mockery of the hypocrites, not reasoned rebuttals.


Eric said...

Hey, you might be right on this one, but I wanted to throw it out there to set the record straight. Probably the lawyer in me. He's bossy, nagging, and persistent, but he also pays the bills.

Doctor Biobrain said...

I don't think it's a lawyer thing at all. I'm not a lawyer, but I always feel the need to defend myself, explain myself, and set the record straight about everything. Not only that, but I always feel that when I write anything that I have to respond to rebuttals that haven't even been made yet. And I feel that if I can't explain/defend myself adequately that I must not understand the issue well enough. I think that's what makes us liberals; that we're willing to understand ourselves and others, while wishing for them to understand us. That's just natural to any thinking person. But that is a tendency that we must fight against when dealing with these people.

That's how the Repubs keep beating us. They're leading us by the nose by taunting us with crazy stuff and keep us second-guessing ourselves and running on with one endless explanation after another. And I find their non-reponses to be maddening and idiotic. I'll make a valid point against Bush, and they respond with idiotic mockery. I hate that, and am loathe to use such tactics. But it's utterly necessary.

We want to explain ourselves and they don't give a shit. We go for nuance, and they mock nuance. I'm not at all suggesting that we always keep to such immature tactics, especially as we debate amongst ourselves. But some things never need to be explained or defended against, even amongst ourselves. Lefties, righties, moderates, and the apathetic in-between know that liberals aren't racist. Even Bush knows it, and he's an idiot. It's such bullshit that every second we waste on it is another second that they laugh at us. Bush wasn't accusing us of anything, he was distrasting America and mocking us. We call him a dummy, but he seems to understand how to manipulate us better than we know how to stop it.

Again, I understand the need to explain everything (as evidenced by this long post), but it's something that we should firmly fight against. If Rumsfeld can dismiss rampant looting with mockery, we should at least learn to use it when they throw fake attacks at us.

Eric said...

Points well taken. I think you're right, and I think that for some, the tactics you described are deliberate and intentional. The "troll" phenomenon. Even still, I know I'll be caught in the web in the future at some point. The liberal's affliction.

And by the way, I appreciate your ability to list Chet Baker alongside Radiohead, Beck, and Stereolab. For the record, Mutations was Beck's finest effort, and for Stereolab, I am torn between Emperor Tomato Ketchup and Mars Audiac Quintet.

Doctor Biobrain said...

Chet Baker is the best. As for Beck, I'm still undecided. Mutations was my favorite before Sea Change, but Sea Change has better songs and more mature (whatever that means). But it doesn't have enough variety and is kind of a downer. Mutations is a more complete album, so I guess I still lean towards that as my favorite.

As for Stereolab, I've got almost everything but I've never heard Mars Audiac, so maybe I should get that one. My favorite is a toss-up between Sound Dust and Dots & Loops. I like the songs on Dots & Loops better, but Sound Dust has more on it. Of course, more often than not, I play all the Stereolabs at once on shuffle. I do the same with Beck.

But lately I haven't even been listening to any of my cd's. I've got a big collection, but get bored easily and I don't like becoming over familiar with music. So now I've only been listening to internet radio. Last week, I discovered LuxuriaMusic on iTunes (it's listed under Eclectic) and they play all kinds of great stuff. Some of it is clearly Stereolab-influenced, some of it probably influenced Stereolab, and some of it is just cornball wacko stuff from the 50's and 60's. But overall it's great. I haven't gotten bored yet. You can also find a stream at their website. Good stuff.

Oh well, back to telling everyone why they're wrong. It's a dirty job, but I enjoy it.

Eric said...

Sea Change is great, but for the astute reasons you listed, I prefer Mutations, or would if I could only keep one. Luckily I have both, and thus can enjoy the merits of each. As much as I like Odelay and Vultures, those two stand out as his best.

Dots and Loops and Dust are both solid. Can't really argue there. But I do recommend Audiac. If you like Stereolab there is no reason you wouldn't really like that one.

I wasn't listening to my CDs much either, but then I got an iPod for X-Mas. It's all over now. By the way, the most recent find that I would recommend (unless you know already):

Group: Broken Social Scene
CD: You Forgot It In People

Top notch.