Tuesday, August 11, 2009

News Talk Online August 11, 2009: How Social Discourse Keeps Bottoming Out

Alinsky's Rule 12 lives on

We all hope that the economy has bottomed out and will rebound. I'm hoping that the debate over the political and social issues of the day has as well - but I fear that it has not and will not.

I recently received a missive from one of my conservative friends breathlessly "revealing" that a letter written by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid stated that anyone opposed to President Obama's proposed policies is "un-American" I, of course, read the letter - concerned that the Democratic Party leadership might make such an outrageous claim.

When I read it, I saw that that's not exactly what was said. They were saying that the organized disrupting of town hall meetings on the president's proposed health reform bill is un-American because it goes against the grain of our tradition to drown out one's political opponent.

Perhaps the term un-American was a bit strong. But Pelosi and Reid make good points. We saw it during the presidential campaign and I had hoped that it would end after the election. The vilification of the individual rather than an attack on ideas. Sadly, it carries on today.

Now, every time I raise this issue, my Republican friends correctly point out that the Democrats don't exactly have clean hands when it comes to this issue. Of course, they are right. One only has to look at the attacks on Sarah Palin - and to a lesser degree on John McCain during the presidential campaign to see that this is true. But two wrongs, as my mother taught my sister and me, don't make a right. And since I am not only non-partisan but anti-partisan it wouldn't be fair to discount my observations based on the grounds of political ideology.

The tactic of attacking the person rather than the issue actually comes from the father of community organizing, Saul Alinsky, a person who President Obama studied and perhaps followed when he was a community organizer in Chicago.

Alinksy's 12th rule for radicals:

Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it. Cut

off the support network and isolate the target from sympathy. Go after people

and not institutions; people hurt faster than institutions. (This is cruel, but

very effective. Direct, personalized criticism and ridicule works.)

Unfortunately, we see this tactic best deployed on Paltalk. When you don't have a good argument to counter one made by someone with whom you disagree, you can always call him "stupid." During yesterday's News Talk Online a whole lot of people who disagreed with one chatter were dismissed as "stupid" in text.

You can't hardly blame the person for disrupting the discourse in such a rude manner. He was only following the lead of partisan proponents in Washington. But, again, as Mother would say: two wrongs ...


Anonymous said...

This happens on both sides and constantly, I may even be guilty of the practise at times but it is much more interesting and educational to debate an issue than to see/listen to name calling and insults. There are times a great debate will be going when someone has to start the insults......Everyone has a different view or opinion this does not mean they are stupid, ignorant, or dumb. It is what has always kept the world interesting. Accept that there are different views and ideas and try to comprimise on them instead of "butting heads" and going into a childish illogical rant and saying things that might be regretted later. To quote a phrase (and I forget who orininally said it) "It is better to keep quiet and considered a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt". Not to mention my dads one main teaching really does work for learning... "Keep ur mouth shut and your eyes and ears open and you can learn alot"

Anonymous said...

you are EXACTLY right. My conservative friend sent me an angry e-mail saying that Pelosi had accused her (and other hard-working concerned Americans) of being a Nazi. When I attempted to point out she might be taking the comments out of context, she would have none of it.

One of the problems - oh, there are SO many - is that while two wrongs don't make a right, this is the only way people know to respond. Because fear and drama, anger and emotion, trump the process of critical thinking (unless it's regularly employed to the point of its becoming automatic), people believe and hold to the first thing they hear, particularly if it conforms to something they either believe or WANT to believe.

TheAssignedMod said...

This is about the toe hold of "Socialism" and the fear it will become communism.

You have a President who was elected to make "CHANGE" and the middle swing vote bought into the lie that it was all about GEORGE BUSH.

Now the ugly truth has revealed itself. A LARGE POWER GRAB!

"Czars" with power unrivaled in American history with no accountability to the American people other than the President who appointed them.

A president who promised openess and transparency; yet he refuses to give up any documents in his past, and he has refused to disclose the list of overnight White House visitors.

Some will argue that he has every right to deny us his past records, and I will coounter that they spent more time looking under the hood of their new car purchase than they did looking at this unqualified candidate.

Your mother is right; two wrongs don't make it right... but it was this president who made an off the cuff comment about my Down's child and I fear her living in a nation where she is dismissed as unnecessary and a drain on our society. If this is the case I'd rather die standing up in a Revolution than take bent over a court room desk.

Democrats are fighting this healthcare legislation too... not just ConservaPukes as touted on PALtalk. That should be a loud hint that something is wrong with it.

Alan Jasie said...

The system is broken and needs reform...period. I love the people at these town halls who say "no" to the government running healthcare and then scream "and they better not touch my Medicare." They don't even know that their healthcare is already administered by the US government. The sad thing is that hearing people of the caliber of Newt Gingrich who knows that what he is saying is nonsense yet he repeats it for sheer political gain is the most dissapointing aspect of the debate. It is easy to dismiss a Glen Beck or Limbaugh but when elected officials, current and former are involved in spreading these lies it is astounding to me. That they would resort to evoking "death panels" as an argument against reform is a tragedy. Are people so ignorant to believe that this country would ever allow that to happen? Do they not know that those on the Left would be standing toe to toe with gun in hand with those on the Right to oppose a government that would do that. This is the USA. It will not happen here nor has it been proposed. It is a LIE. PERIOD. END OF STORY.

The Conservative had a Republican President and both branches of Congress for 6 years and did no health care reform other than the unfunded senior prescription drug plan.

You want to speak out, great this America. Do it for the right reasons and don't be duped into doing the dirty work for Big Pharma and the HC insurance companies.

Here is a little factoid to ponder:

2000 $2.4 Billion in profits for HCI's
2007 $12.7 Billion in profits

Average salary of HCI CEO's - $11.9
million per year

One last factoid; those who oppose the reform keep referring to the Lewin Group for a source as to how HC reform will screw things up. The Lewin Group is owned by United Healthcare so can their impartiallity really be trusted?

Anonymous said...

I don't believe it's fair to say this activity is a 'conservative' trait either. Juan Cole, for instance, only moved away from that 'neighbourhood' when the pervasiveness of Rovian cant and character assassination became unbearable.
Historically, mainstream media have avoided overdoing criticism past the point where it was patently and obviously unfair : that practice became unsustainable only when programmed lies and a narrative based on organized deception left any pretense of objectivity behind.
There was a time when 'jounalistic standards' had meaning : today they are a good way to get fired. Craig Murray is an excellent example of an honest man blinded by wishful compliance with the lead of his education and experience pushed 'over the edge'.
I have noted a number of stories online which form a collection worthy of any wild-eyed parannoyed ( punning) semi-literate...except I fancy I exercise better discretion than that.
The author of Last Left Turn B4 Hooterville has a book out for over a year now on 'framing' and its destruction of fair commentary.

John Farnham

Anonymous said...

Gary, conservatives have put up with the crap from the leftists for decades. There's an old bit of wisdom that tells us the best way to fight fire is with fire. At some point people get very tired of the ill-informed spewing their venom. I have said for the past several elections that the Republicans don't know how to fight. They are still operating like we are in the America of the 1950s when things were civil and no one would underhandedly attempt to install a communist government in this country. Those days are gone. The people who care about freedom and individual liberties are finally speaking their minds. And this is very important to note, they are doing it without the Republican party. Don't expect the genie to be put back in the bottle. And, Gary, nobody believes these episodes at the townhall meetings are organized. The only organizing being done is by whack-job outfits like the SEIU.

James Raymond Reese

Anonymous said...

Gary, I don't know how many of the protestors on the right are "organized" but rather just very frustrated, even moreso when they see a black man in Mehlville, Mo., roughed up by union members (at least they were wearing union T-shirts), or the contrived townhall meetings where the president feigns asking people out of the crowd when he knows darn well who to ask for which softball question. It's phony and people know it and they're just getting p!ssed off. They're tired of being call the equivalent of the KKK.

And yes, Gary, when what you do is being called "un-American," that translates into you being called "un-American." Or at least there isn't enough difference to make a difference.

John Matras

Anonymous said...

Sometimes I think adult conversation is three-fourths "stupid," one-fourth "lame." These seem to be the new catch-all words, convenient for dismissing anything that makes one uncomfortable.

In our house, we've instituted an "Oops Jar"--anyone who says an insult word like "stupid" or "jerk" has to deposit five cents. Our seven-year-old son caught on fast, but the adults in the house still have to toss in pennies from time to time. My husband calls it the "Adult Vocabulary Enhancement Program." Being the woman of the house, I'm more about the ethical pedagogy involved, but it adds up to the same thing: sticks and stones may break my bones--and names will dumb down the discourse.

Martha Nichols

Anonymous said...

"When I read it, I saw that that's not exactly what was said. They were saying that the organized disrupting of town hall meetings on the president's proposed health reform bill is un-American because it goes against the grain of our tradition to drown out one's political opponent.

Perhaps the term un-American was a bit strong. But Pelosi and Reid make good points. We saw it during the presidential campaign and I had hoped that it would end after the election. The vilification of the individual rather than an attack on ideas. Sadly, it carries on today."

Perhaps you don't know the difference between a TOWN HALL MEETING and the disruptions seen by groups like CODE PINK and the other war protest groups. But I shall attempt to enlighten.

A town hall meeting is for the entire TOWN (or locals) to attend. In such meetings, people used to be allowed to freely speak. In fact, nobody was denied entry.

However, the leftist radicals didn't merely disrupt town hall meetings (were there ever any?) No, they assaulted at the RNC, they yelled and screamed at wounded vets outside Bethesda Naval Hospital, they stripped and yelled at General Petraus' hearing. You know- those things that are not generally "for the public" but were they may be allowed as a courtesy?

Unlike TOWN hall meetings, where the people of the TOWN are supposed to be allowed.

Really, I'm appauled that anyone excuses the comments of pelosi or even downplays them by comparing the two types if "disruption".