Archive for ‘Ransom Note Method’

April 8, 2009

If the GOP is pandering to right-wing extremists, why isn’t my phone ringing?

Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs:

This turn toward the extreme right on the part of Fox News is troubling, and will achieve nothing in the long run except further marginalization of the GOP — unless people start behaving like adults instead of angry kids throwing tantrums and ranting about conspiracies and revolution.

Christopher Orr of The New Republic:

I was trying to think of a framework that captured the no-enemies-on-the-right dynamic that seems to be pushing the GOP further and further into the political wilderness. . . .
Everyone tries to outflank everyone else to the right–zero votes on any Obama-supported bill! a hyperconservative budget with no numbers! a hyperconservative budget with made-up numbers!–because there’s no obvious, non-heretical way to establish yourself as a player otherwise. Denied the opportunity to govern (by their own intransigence as much as by the size of the Democratic majority), they have nothing to do but campaign 24/7.

So there seems to be a certain sort of bipartisan consensus that the GOP is now fully committed to pandering to Buchananites, Birchers, goldbugs, gun nuts, Paulistas and sundry fringe types, and yet . . . I dunno. I’m not feeling the love here.

Do any of my fellow right-wing extremists share this perception? You there — reloading your 7.62 ammo in the Idaho cabin while listening to the short-wave militia broadcast — do you feel as if you’re now part of the woof and weave of the GOP tapestry?

How is it that Charles Johnson and Christopher Orr both think Glenn Beck (whose Fox show I’ve never watched, BTW) represents the camel’s nose in the tent, a dangerous intrusion of crackpottery into the Republican mainstream, while the genuine wingnuts still feel as ostracized and alienated as ever? Is this a consensus or . . . a conspiracy?

Are Johnson and Orr just mouthpieces for the Council on Foreign Relations, the WTO and the Bavarian Illuminati?

I’m just askin’ questions. BTW, does this tinfoil hat make my butt look big?

UPDATE: Linked by Dan Collins at PW Pub and by Jimmie Bise at Sundries Shack, who supplies the quote of the day: “Dude, it ain’t the hat.”

UDATE II: Memeorandum has a thread, Donald Douglas has related thoughts, and Pam Geller is not a fan of the LGF “CounterJihad of One.” What we’re dealing with here is a basic problem of organizational dynamics in coalition politics. Absent strong leadership and mission-focused cohesion, schisms are inevitable, and you will always have self-appointed hall monitors who take it upon themselves to say to otherwise enthusiastic coalition supporters, “We don’t need your help!”

A successful movement cannot be built by a process of subtraction, and this “urge to purge” inevitably weakens the movement. There will always be grassroots elements whose motivations and beliefs would be embarrassing to discuss on “Meet the Press.” Yet the Democratic Party never bothers to apologize for the support they receive from, inter alia, MALDEF or Code Pink, while there are always Republicans denouncing and repudiating some grassroots constituency of their party.

I attended both the LGBT Caucus and the Women’s Caucus at the Democratic National Convention in Denver, and those kooks were by no means ready for prime-time. Yet the Democrats pander to them shamelessly, while the GOP is always snubbing its kook caucuses. Am I the only one who sees this difference as indicative of a want of confidence among some Republicans?

Don’t let your enemy define who you are. Kooks and wingnuts can vote, too, ya know.

As Ronald Reagan once said, for the Republican Party to win, it must have the full support of both its right wing and its far-right wing.

UPDATE III: Paleo Pat likes the big butt joke. (My wife liked it, too.) As I said in “How to Get a Million Hits,” the Right has to try to avoid become humorless assholes like those Democratic Underground moonbats.

Humor wins, and laughter is never so powerful as when you’re laughing in the face of disaster. It’s like Gen. McAuliffe replying to the German demand for surrender at Bastogne: “Nuts.”

Everybody in the GOP nowadays invokes Reagan, but none of them seems to have his knack for using humor to deflect charges of extremism. Reagan knew who he was. He knew he wasn’t a kook or a hatemonger, and so he always had confident good cheer when the smear merchants came after him. During the 1966 California governor’s race, there was some fringe group that endorsed Reagan, and the Democrats tried to make that an issue, but when the press asked Reagan about it, he just smiled and said, “They endorsed me. I didn’t endorse them.” Scandal over.

If Republicans would stop acting so defensive and guilty, like they’ve got something to hide, the “ransom note” hooligans wouldn’t be able to roll them like they rolled George Allen in 2006. Nobody ever credibly asserted — or ever could credibly assert — that Allen hated Indian-Americans. And yet his campaign manager, Dick Wadhams, hit the panic button and next thing you know, Allen’s on an “apology tour,” begging forgiveness from people who’d never even heard of a “macaca” before. (Final irony: Leading members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans actively campaigned for Democrat Jim Webb, who was far more “neo-Confederate” than Allen ever was.)

Sometimes I think that the real problem with some Republicans is that they’re just not right with God. They’ve got a guilty conscience and that naturally makes them cowards. “Ask and it shall be given you.” Pray for courage, pray for wisdom and, above all, pray for faith. Even a tiny mustard seed of faith can move mountains.

BTW, how about some tip-jar hitters out there? My wife’s worried because the phone bill is past due. She’s a praying woman, but she’s also a worrying woman. She’s got lots of faith in God, but a little less in me.

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March 28, 2009

Thoughts on the ‘Ransom-Note Method’ and the Twelfth Commandment

Ed Driscoll says he doesn’t know whether it was me or Kathy Shaidle who coined the term “Ransom-Note Method” to describe the way the Left uses selective quotation to smear its targets.

It was me, but with a caveat: The Ransom-Note Method was actually first labeled such by another one of its victims, a friend of mine who hasn’t claimed credit for the coinage and whose name I therefore can’t reveal.

The term derives from the way the smear merchants typically assemble their smears by quoting a phrase here, two words there, and two sentences from something else, and then gluing it together with their own perjorative interpolations and a bit of guilt-by-association, much like a kidnapper cutting out words from a magazine to paste together a ransom note.

This was how Rush Limbaugh’s “I want him to fail” remark became such a scandalous thing. As Jeff Goldstein has pointed out, if you read Limbaugh’s remarks in context — I actually heard the whole monologue as Rush did it live on the radio — it is very clear the point he was making:

Obama is trying to implement a liberal agenda. I am not a liberal, and I think liberalism is bad for the country. Therefore, I hope Obama fails in his attempt to implement it.

The only thing really “controversial” in Rush’s monologue is the belief that liberalism is a bad thing, which is something that every real conservative ought to believe. And Limbaugh, as he made clear from the outset, was responding to a “major American print publication” which was “asking a handful of very prominent politicians, statesmen, scholars, businessmen, commentators, and economists to write 400 words on their hope for the Obama presidency.”

Stimuli and Responses
The fact that Limbaugh’s “I hope he fails” was a response to such an insipid inquiry — this newspaper was actually framing their inaugural commentary in terms of “Hope,” the Obama campaign’s own propaganda slogan — has received too little attention. One of the basic tactics of the Ransom-Note Method is to separate the stimulus from the response in this manner. In other words, someone sees or hears something outrageous, says or writes something outrageous in response, and the smear merchants then isolate the response, so that it is presented without adequate reference to whatever stimulus produced it.

BTW, sometimes conservatives are guilty of using the same technique, turning a 15-second audio clip into an hour’s worth of a talk-radio denunciation. Unfair rhetorical methods are unfair rhetorical methods, whoever employs them. (Where I come from, I never heard of a “fair fight.”) But the way the Left uses this tactic is wicked. What makes the Ransom-Note Method so lethally effective? Three things:

  • Liberal dominance in major media. Having worked more than two decades in the news business, I never had a real newsroom argument about politics until I stopped being a Democrat. The extent to which the Democratic hegemony among journalists actually produces bias, well, you can argue that with Bernie Goldberg if you want. My point is that journalists in general are more receptive to negative reports about Republicans, and therefore smears against Republicans get more traction in the media. George F. Allen’s “macaca” ran on the front page of the Washington Post for seven consecutive days. QED.
  • The imputation of bad faith. One of the tricks of effective propaganda is to connect a new accusation to what “everybody knows” — that is, to present new information in a way that reinforces the pre-existing beliefs of Conventional Wisdom. Liberals have labored mightily for decades to convince Americans that Republicans are evil racist sexist bigoted homophobes, and so when a conservative says something that can be construed as reinforcing that perception, the smear-mongers say, “A-ha! See? We told you so!” The issue then becomes not so much the specific facts of the latest accusation, but rather the larger question of bad faith (mala fides). No one ever credibly suggested that George Allen hated Indian-Americans, but “macaca” was contextualized as part of the “Republicans are racists” meme, an accusation of bad faith, so that nothing Allen said in his own defense could get a fair hearing.
  • Republican cowardice. Few things infuriate me so much as the cringing defensiveness of Republicans who think they can concede every premise of the liberal syllogism and yet expect voters to come to some other conclusion than “Vote Democrat.” Too many Republicans have that cowardly punk reflex where, whenever there’s a fight, their first concern is for their own safety, rather than trying to win the fight. So when they saw George Allen under assault for “macaca,” too many Republicans were silent and did not stand up to denounce the unfair and untrue accusations of racism against him.
You see this “punk factor” in the GOP all the time, but never so much as when unfair charges are leveled against a prominent conservative fighter like Limbaugh or Ann Coulter. A cowardly punk never admires or strives to emulate success, but always envies and resents it. The punk’s habitual modus operandi is to encourage others to join his efforts to undermine the prestige and authority of successful leadership. The punk assembles a coalition of losers, an army of naysayers who sit around griping and grumbling about everything, telling each other how unfairly they’ve been treated, and blaming all their woes on the successful people.

Opportunities for Opportunists
Success is attractive. But any successful effort also attracts cowardly punks, who desire to benefit parasitically from the vision and hard work of others. And so during what we might call The Golden Age of Conservatism — the 25 years from Reagan’s 1981 inauguration to the GOP debacle of the 2006 election — the conservative movement attracted a lot of shrewd self-interested people who saw the “conservative” label as a vehicle for their own personal ambition. Hello, David Brooks.

American Spectator publisher Al Regnery was born and raised in the conservative movement and worked in the Reagan administration. His father, Henry Regnery, published many of the classic works of conservatism, including William F. Buckley Jr.’s God and Man at Yale. Last spring, I interviewed Regnery about his book Upstream: The Ascendance of American Conservatism. I asked Regnery for his thoughts on how the movement had seemed to lose its way in recent years, and his reply was memorable:

“You look back in the earlier times, there were no opportunities, so there were no opportunists,” Regnery says, noting how liberals heaped abusive epithets on Buckley, Goldwater, and other early conservative leaders. “Later on, you have all these people who figure it’s probably a pretty good political thing to do. And so they start talking about being conservative when they’re running [for office], but they really aren’t. So when they get to Congress or wherever they go, they’re pretty easily dissuaded.”

Regnery was speaking specifically about Republican politicians, but what he said could be applied with equal truth to “conservative” intellectuals like David Brooks — parasites who latched onto The Movement for the opportunities it offered, rather than from any courageous conviction of the need to stand athwart history and yell, “Stop!”

The Crapweasel Coalition
When the chips are down, when the GOP is hurting from electoral disaster, when the conservative movement is discordant and demoralized, nothing helpful or constructive can be expected from the David Brookses, the parasitical opportunists, the pathetic fleas who ride on the elephant’s ass.

Brooks revealed himself as a worthless punk with his “National Greatness” nonsense in 1997, which ought to have resulted in his immediate disfellowship as a heretic to the faith. Yet because he was deemed useful to the ambitions of others — having kissed all the right asses in his sycophantic ascent — Brooks was allowed to remain in the congregation, sowing discontent and promoting heresy among fellow congregants, which brought him to the attention of the New York Times.

Here’s a clue for the youngsters: If the New York Times ever offers to publish you, you’re doing something wrong.

It is cowardly punks like David Brooks, and all their sorry crapweasel imitators, who make the Ransom Note Method such an effective weapon for liberals. What has become known as “the 11th Commandment” — Thou shalt speak no ill of a fellow Republican — is usually, and wrongly, attributed to Ronald Reagan, and it is also widely misunderstood.

The 11th Commandment was actually coined by California state Republican Party chairman Gaylord Parkinson during the 1966 GOP gubernatorial primary. Parkinson had seen how, during the fight for the 1964 Republican presidential nomination, the milquetoast moderate opponents of Barry Goldwater had done the Democrats’ dirty work for them, by labeling Goldwater a radical warmongering demagogue. Thus, once Goldwater won the nomination, all LBJ’s henchmen had to do was to repeat the accusation: “Barry Goldwater is a paranoid wacko extremist — as even his fellow Republicans agree!”

David Brooks is not a candidate for public office and is therefore not covered by the 11th Commandment. Thus to denounce him is no sin and, as a neutral objective professional journalist, my first obligation is to the write The Truth: David Brooks is a crapweasel.

Furthermore, the next time some genuine conservative who’s trying to accomplish something useful says something subject to misinterpretation and thus finds himself under attack by the Ransom Note Method, I will invoke what I call the 12th Commandment:

Thou shalt have no mercy on a crapweasel.

Don’t say you weren’t warned, punks.

UPDATE: “Read the whole thing,” says Kathy Shaidle, and aren’t you glad you did? Think about it: Would any wise man risk The Wrath of Kathy by disobeying her?

UPDATE II: Another woman whose righteous wrathfulness reminds me of my wife, Monique Stuart advises, “It’s well worth a thorough read!”

UPDATE III:If you don’t read it, my Irish wife will hunt you down and kill you.”

UPDATE IV: “The Other McCain once again enlightens on the nuts-and-bolts of the manipulation of thought through the manipulation of language.”

UPDATE V: Dad29 praises “this perceptive observation.”

UPDATE VI: James Fulford links and comments.

UPDATE VII: WELCOME, INSTAPUNDIT READERS! Please leave a comment, buy a book, check out Britney Spears, or watch this inspirational video.

UPDATE VIII: Now a Memeorandum thread (Rule 3), we’re linked by Pat at So It Goes In Shreveport and Chris at Point of a Gun. Meanwhile, No Sheeples Here came up with this artwork:

UPDATE IX: Speaking of artwork, Lady Godiva invokes Commandment XII, even if she’s a little confused as to the Seventh Day.