Sunday, September 24, 2006

Listening: The Best Medicine

Digby reviewed the new movie Red State and wrote:
My favorite moment was when Mrs Gill, the Mississippi director of Concerend Women For America, gets upset that she's been "worked over" by this interviewer who had just asked her what she believed in. It's clear that when the totality of Mrs Gill's racism and intolerance became manifest in the few minutes that she spoke, she suddenly realized that she had given herself away as a white supremecist and Christian nationalist. Naturally she claimed victimhood and ended the interview.

And this is just too true.  Too often, these people never really express themselves in any depth and don’t realize how totally shallow and horrible their arguments really are.  Whether they’re arguing with us or talking amongst themselves, they never really get beyond the key phrases and soundbites which are immediately recognizable as being specific rightwing talking points.

And so when they talk amongst themselves, it’s merely to recite more of the talking points and to nod in agreement.  But there’s no effort to look beyond that, in order to get them to actually justify anything.  Or to further pursue any particular idea.  Why bother?  You’ve already got agreement, and that’s exactly what they expected: Like minded people, thinking alike.  And the fact that their rhetoric is entirely meaningless and devoid of specific context is irrelevant.  Because they never get beyond the surface level to realize there’s any disagreement.

Confronting the Enemy

But it’s no better when they talk to us.  They say some key word or phrase that we immediately recognize from a particular rightwing talking point, and we’re immediately all over them; questioning each soundbite as if it had been generated from the wingnut themself, yet never really penetrating beyond that to the individual’s actual belief system.  We just hear the same phrases uttered in the same way and we immediately stop listening and try to talk sense into them.  I know that’s what I do.  Someone repeats a specific Fox News moment, and I’m simply stunned that somebody actually bought it.  But they all do, and I’m stunned every time.  

But that’s not accidental.  That’s the way they’re taught.  Every thought on every important issue will be boobytrapped with positions you’ll find offensive and insulting.  Yet the meaning of the words will often not correspond with the speaker’s true opinion on the matter.  They’ll just be convinced that it does, because it sounds so good.  But more often than not, people are far more reasonable and nice than their arguments would lead you to believe.  But the rightwing talkers don’t want you to know that.  Because they want to make sure that their listeners don’t like you.

And it works.  You mention a recent news story.  They comment about how the Democrats are wrong for attacking Bush for it, and the race is on.  Or some other bullshit.  Just listen to all the rhetorical pitfalls spewing from their mouths and just remember what I said about these being intentional.  Fox, Limbaugh, and the rest of them are truly poisoning their minds; reprogramming them to make them useless in regular society.  It’s like a horrible virus and no one is immune.

But next time, just try letting them talk.  And asking them non-leading questions to get them to say more.  Not in an antagonizing way, but as if you were really interested.  And get them to keep talking.  Before long, they just might amaze themselves by what comes out of their mouths.  That’s the basis for psychoanalysis, and if anyone needs that kind of help, it’s these guys.

And if nothing else, you’re likely to get to some real core beliefs that you might be able to start working on.  But as long as they’re allowed to keep the discussion to meaningless clich├ęs and empty rhetoric, you’ll never be able to make any headway at all.  Because you’re only attacking their defenses, not their beliefs.


I saw the same thing last week on The Daily Show.  The topic was “humane” hunting, with a guy who runs a hunting grounds that uses darts instead of bullets, who said how it was actually more humane to hunt deer than to not hunt them.  Or something like that.  And it clearly sounded like a point he’s said a hundred times and found really convincing.  

And the Daily Show interviewer just asks him “How so?” or some other open question, and the dude was totally stumped.  I guess most people who heard him say that either nodded in agreement or were stunned into silence, and he had never been asked to explain that absurdity any further.  

Because he clearly couldn’t.  It was a stock phrase he used repeatedly, but even he couldn’t explain it.  And I don’t blame him.  I heard the phrase and it didn’t make a lick of sense to me either.

Let Them Talk

And that’s why you needn’t bother arguing with them.  Because they just won’t understand; nor will they even try to.  And if they’re going to talk anyway, just let them.  Don’t argue.  Just keep asking more questions.  And the more they talk, the more you’ll feel sorry for them.  And the more that you’ll wish that their demented little universe was somehow faithful to reality and that they’d never need to wake up from this horrible dream.  And with any luck, they’ll finally start reaching that point where their own words start bouncing back to the reasonable part hidden away in their minds, and they’ll begin to realize how totally jackass stupid they sound when they’re talking.  

That’s how I converted from being Republican, and I suspect that it’s the same with everyone else.  You can’t talk them out of it.  You can only let them talk themselves out of it.  Once they finally get all that shit out in the light of day, it’ll start to sound stupid.  They’ve got it all hidden away, and you need to bring it out.  

But don’t let them be shy or embarrassed.  Find out what they really believe.  Why not?  It’s not like they’ll convert you or anything.  Let them talk.  I mean, what’s the worst that can happen?  That their insanity would feed back in on itself and make them take their rage out on you by gouging out your eyes and raping your skull?  Sure.  But wouldn’t it be worth it?  Pain is transitory.  But ridding the world of another crazy conservative is forever.


whig said...

Partially a reply, or at least somewhat inspired by your post: How pot makes you feel stupid

Doctor Biobrain said...

Whig, are you trying to suggest that I was high when I wrote this? And is that an insult or a compliment?

whig said...

I make no implication, but from me it would not be an insult. I'm a medical marijuana user in a jurisdiction where that is considered legal by everyone except the Federal government, and I'd rather speak openly about it than pretend to be otherwise and be unable to advocate for the end of cannabis prohibition without seeming like I was concealing something very important, which I would be if I didn't disclose that.

So smoke pot if you like or better, vaporize, if you can, if you like that kind of thing and if it does some good for you. I won't hold it against you, I'd think it would inspire you to new heights of written creativity. It sure does for me.

And if that isn't you and you don't like it personally for some reason, it's still cool. As long as you aren't hurting me I have no argument with you.

I want to keep cannabis in the conversation, though. The blogosphere or blogtopia (as skippy prefers, and I like it) is pretty important, and cannabis needs to be part of the dialogue. We aren't going to get a better government if we don't fix this war against ourselves.