Saturday, February 04, 2006

The Undead Defense

Disproven Clichés and the Art of Attack-Defense

Look at the message boards for any Yahoo News story regarding a GOP embarrassment or scandal, I dare you.  With few exceptions, every one of them will follow the same pattern.  You’ll have a quick rush of liberals denouncing Bush and/or the Republicans for the specific scandal, followed quickly by a bunch of attacks against Democrats and liberals by righties.  And if the story even remotely involves Hillary or Ted Kennedy or Gore/Kerry/Dean or any other big name Dem, there will be a veritable onslaught of tirades against them.  Tirades very specific to the individual Dem, but rarely changing over time.  And of course, there will be comparisons to Bill, and how he did the exact thing (but much worse) and how the hypocritical libs had been willing to give a pass to it all, back then.  And all of these tirades will have two things in common: They’ll all be the same basic attacks regardless of the story you’re reading, and they’ll never stop until everyone stops posting to that story.

And the next eventuality is that many of the liberals who had started out attacking the specific scandal will spend almost all of their time defending against these same tired attacks and allegations.  It’s as if a time-portal has opened up, and every political discussion involving a Democrat doing bad has suddenly merged into whatever current event you came to discuss.  You’ll suddenly find yourself struggling to recall the most intimate details of Travelgate or the supposed Silver Platter of Bin Laden; or if Teddy is involved, you’ll be expected to defend his “murder” of Mary Jo, and be treated as if you had been the one giving him the booze and the keys (it was actually me).  And if you didn’t know any better, you’d swear that these attackers had just emerged from a stasis box, with no knowledge outside the time period they’re discussing.  And perhaps they have.

Sure, there are Dems who will show up late and begin with the story at hand, but most of them will eventually take part in defending against the same tired, oft disproven and absurd allegations that the cons keep throwing out.  And there are a few Dems who will continue battering away at the current story, but what’s the point?  They’ll just be ignored and you’ll start to feel like a dope just repeating yourself to no avail.

And that’s what always happens.  Tens of thousands of messages may be posted for any given story, but they’ll all quickly turn into the same damn discussion you had the last two hundred times.  Before blogging, I cut my teeth on the Yahoo message boards, so I know exactly how this works.  Hell, that’s one reason I quit reading the damn things (though I will confess to still be drawn back sometimes).

And so any outrage we may have towards any GOP embarrassment quickly morphs into us defending Dem embarrassments.  Every damn time.  Like I said, it starts slowly, but will eventually build into this.  I’m not sure if this is simply because Dems just like defending shit or what, but it’s pretty damn aggravating.  Here we are, in a position to totally put the “Rethugs” on the ropes, and they’ve got us back in 1996, reliving Whitewater all over again.

And it never works.  They never listen.  If they were willing to listen to reality, they wouldn’t continue making the same tired, disproven attacks.  Like I said, it’s as if they’re the undead who awaken only to fight battles in Yahoo; and were completely unaware that any new information has been released.  They can remember the specific names of the dirty bastards who dragged Vince Foster’s murdered corpse to Fort Marcy Park, but have somehow failed to hear that Clinton was exonerated in every one of those invented scandals; or that he was no longer president.

Bashing Teddy

And worse are the entirely irrelevant personal attacks from decades past.  One time recently, I started harrassing some Ted Kennedy freaks for their freaky-ass Ted Kennedy hatred (It was a story on the Alito hearings, which Kennedy had spoken at, so naturally the topic of Mary Jo’s untimely death was of immense importance to the discussion).  

Now, I don’t care if they attack Kennedy.  Kennedy’s a big boy and I’m sure he couldn’t give a crap what these losers might possibly say about him; and that’s exactly what I was saying at the time.  So while I like Kennedy, I wasn’t going to defend him.  But I wanted to know what the hell was so wrong with them that they’d obsess over Ted so much.  I could understand somewhat regarding Clinton or something, but Ted Kennedy is no Bill Clinton.  He’s just one Senator of the minority party, and while he’s a relatively important Senator, the world does not hinge upon him.  

Yet these freaks absolutely HATE Ted.  They have user id’s mocking him and rant incessantly about him.  It’s freaky.  And there are tons of them.  Based on their vitriol and fury, you’d think Teddy had eaten their beloved dog while raping their father on Christmas Day…every single year of their lives.  And they’re so damn nasty that I really wish he had.

And some of their attacks are unfathomably absurd.  When I asked about their hatred (which they ALL insist is NOT hatred, before insisting that I was a freak for having suggested that it was hatred), many of them cited the fact that Kennedy was a richie-rich spoiled brat with an overbearing sense of entitlement, who always acted as if he had earned what he clearly had been given.  And call me crazy, but I really think that this description fits somebody else equally well.  Especially as one of these guys has spent his career trying to help the working man and the less fortunate, while the other has not.  And yet the bashing of the presidential one is considered irrational and unpatriotic, while the thrashing of Kennedy is the least we should do.

And I never could get an answer.  The best they did was to continue attacking Ted and to attack me for defending Ted.  Yet I never once said anything in defense of Ted.  Never once.  Again, I like the guy, but I knew that any defense would be pointless.  I just wanted to know what their big beef was with the guy.  But it turned out that this too was pointless, as they just couldn’t stop attacking him long enough to give an answer.  They all acted as if they had been behaving rationally and logically, and couldn’t understand why I wasn’t accepting their logical argument that Ted is a murdering traitor who deserved nothing less than to be ripped apart by rabid wolves and eaten by terrorists.  Oh, and heaven forfend, he’s a fat drunk too.  I had no idea that conservatives were such health freaks, until now that is.

And did I mention that he’s a loser?  An insignificant loser that nobody cares about or listens to?  Naturally, you might be wondering why so many people would spend all their waking hours personally attacking an insignificant loser who they never met and who never did anything wrong to them.  But they don’t wonder this at all.  It makes perfect sense.  It’s because Teddy’s a spoiled brat loser.  Even Plato himself would find such logic unassailable.

Radio Parrots

But these attacks serve one very good purpose, they distract from the GOP embarrassment that we were supposed to be discussing.  It takes us off of the offensive and puts us back defending ourselves.  And that’s exactly where we don’t want to be.  And what’s weird is that they don’t seem to have any idea that this is what’s going on.  They act as if it’s perfectly natural for them to attack decades old wrong-doing by Dems in a story about current Repub wrong-doing.  

And they don’t seem to notice that all of them seem to have the exact same talking points as all the others.  Not that it’s a coincident, but it just makes sense that they’re all saying the exact same things.  Because they all have the same source material: The Truth.  And just so you understand, that Truth most certainly does not come from the rightwing radio talkshows that they may or may not listen to (a fact that they’ll rarely ever admit).  

Sure, maybe there was a rightwing talkshow host or two (or all of them) who made similar arguments to these, but they were merely confirming everything that these people already know to be true; and these people are not merely parroting talking points that were fed to them…by every single rightwing talkshow host on and off of radio.  But again, it’s often easier to get an admission of monkey molestation from these people than for them to admit that they’re repeating what their talkshow told them.

But the fact that these attacks reverberate back to us is merely a side-effect to the real motive.  In psy-ops propaganda terms, it’s referred to as “blowback”, I believe.  The real motive is for these hosts to give some angle whereby the heat is taken off of the GOP and onto the Dems, without making it appear to be as such.  Because if you give a lengthy defense of your side, it becomes obvious that a defense was necessary.  And that’s not anywhere they want to be.  Because if Bush needs a defense, it doesn’t take too much more thinking to wonder if the defense is wrong.  So instead, they’re distracted with attacks against Clinton, Kennedy, Kerry, and Dean; as well as the real reason why the Dems are doing this.  But it’s always about the evil Dems inventing attacks, and why we shouldn’t pay any notice to the man behind the curtain.

And that’s why we can never make any headway with these people.  They’ve been given their marching orders and they just can’t hear any criticism.  They know that the real story is with the Dems.  It wasn’t about Alito; it’s about Kennedy and how he left that poor girl to die.  It’s not about Bush’s spying; it’s about how Clinton did the same thing and those damn Dems didn’t make a peep about it.  It’s never about whatever it’s supposed to be about; it’s always about the Dems and what the blasted Dems are doing to fuck shit up.  

What To Do

But again, the intent of this isn’t for them to beat us at arguments.  The point is for them to make their listeners entirely impervious to anything we could say.  Because they already know us to be the enemy, and they just need to be told how it applies in this particular case.  And if they can’t find some specific part of the story that puts the onus back onto the Dems, then they’ll just dig into that bag of tricks and toss out an old one.

And so we can either choose to ignore these attacks and make our own, which will most surely be ignored; or we can defend against the attacks and allow the GOP’s embarrassment to not embarrass them so much.  Or you can try to do what I did, which was to expose the whole proceedings and embarrass them personally.  

I have no idea how successful I possibly could have been, but I’m sure that it worked better than any of Teddy’s defenders might have done.  I most certainly angered them (though I was never rude about it), and might have sent a few neuron sparks flying in directions that they hadn’t flown before; so maybe that’s good, I don’t know.  But the main thing was to engage them directly, but without putting myself into a defensive spot.  

It’s sort of like a hacker looking for a backdoor into the mainframe (in case you can’t tell, my hacker knowledge is pretty much limited to the movie WarGames).  They’ve already been programmed with the appropriate counter-attack to anything you might say, but if you try to work directly against that programming, you have a better chance at getting through.  And one sore spot to work is on the talkradio influence itself.  Like I said, they will almost always insist that they are not parroting their radio’s talking points, and will often even pretend as if maybe they don’t even listen to talkradio.  It’s a load of crap, of course; as you can spot the tell-tales in their arguments which match all the others.

But under no condition should you move onto the defensive.  They’re so used to putting people there, that they all insisted that I was defending Kennedy; though I was only attacking them personally.  Because it’s not about defending out side.  It’s about pushing our story.  Or pushing them back.  Or hell, I’ve almost kind of forgotten what the point is.  Just do it.  That’s all I can say: Just do it.  Fight those damn zombies, and keep sticking it to them.  They might act like they never got hurt, but it’s just an act.


neuralgourmet said...

You will often hear me quoting the movie Wargames in regards to those kinds of situations: "A strange game. The only winning move is not to play. How about a nice
game of chess?"

There is no winning move with those zombies. We need to change the game. They're impervious to reason, logic or facts because that is not how they think about sociopolitical issues. They're thinking in such matters is bound by emotion and a fantatical world view. Sadly, we have our fair share on the left too though I would venture that lefty zombies our far outnumbered by right wing zombies. So, there is no reasoning with them. Instead, we must change how they think.

And while I can think of ways how one can move from emotion bound fanatical thinking, I'm not sure how one engineers this on a culture-wide level and I'm not sure I want the answer to that known.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not trying to sound defeatist. I just think we have to write off a large number of people as a total loss and concentrate on the ones that aren't too far gone and the children.

Doctor Biobrain said...

I actually had a different ending in mind for this post, but only knocked off a quickie ending as I had almost finished this last week, but hadn't posted it and had lost my train of thought. But while I agree that some people are hopeless, I don't really believe it. I believe that everyone can be saved, if we can just find the right backdoor. I am a sucker for the futile cause and believe that I can always win everything.

But this post was originally supposed to be about how we should copy their offense-only tactics; and not that we should try to change them. I probably should have stuck with that message.

Doctor Biobrain said...

BTW, I win at tic-tac-toe more than anyone has any right to. I'm not saying I win a lot (I don't play a lot) but I do win. I think it's because people get so used to the idea that it's unwinnable that they aren't paying attention to my set-up. Or maybe they're just letting me win to get me to stop bugging them. But sometimes, the unwinnable game really is winnable.

neuralgourmet said...

I too win far more often than you would think is possible at TicTacToe, but the trick is to choose a person to play against who doesn't understand the game (or doesn't care) and to get the first move. If both people are playing using an optimal strategy, you can't win. Every game will result in a tie. Computer science students (at least the ones from my era) tend to make excellent tic tac toe players since (like Towers of Hanoi) it's one of those classic games that are always assigned as a programming exercise because they also happen to illustrate some important concepts.

And that's where my approach differs from yours. I truly do think that once a person adopts certain particular styles of thinking about the world, they're pretty much a lost cause unless there's some powerful emotional event that shakes their worldview.

What I'm trying to do for myself, and one reason why I haven't been writing as much, is trying to understand why they think or believe as they do. That doesn't repudiate your approach, since I think that we need to attack on multiple fronts with multiple methods if we're to overcome that style of thinking you illustrate so well in this post.