Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Big Gains

     The great military leaders have had many divergent “styles,” if it’s legitimate to use that term in speaking of mortal combat, but they’ve had one thing in common:

They cut their losses and reinforced their successes.

     It seems simple to me: Do more of what works and less of what doesn’t. There are some exceptions, of course: If the enemy is about to take your capital, whether he’s currently pressing you backward is less important than saving the collection of imbeciles and poltroons that run your country. But in the main, recognizing that progress is to be emulated and regress renounced is the heart of any successful campaign.

     As with combat, so also with politics.

     We in the Right have fumbled about, strategically and tactically, for far too long. We’ve been in a reactive mode – “on the back foot,” as our English cousins might say – for nearly the whole of the Trump Administration. Yet the great majority of our explicitly political tactics have failed to serve us. It’s time we took a hard look at what we’ve been doing, that we might stop doing what’s not working and striven to better understand where we’ve made gains.

     The emphasized insight above is highly important, perhaps even critical. Yet there is another, more relevant than ever before, that we should join to it: Our adversary, the political Left, does what it does always for strategic or tactical reasons. Continuous awareness of that core precept is vital if we’re to triumph over it.

     The multitudinous, unending “accusations” Leftists have leveled at Trump Administration officials have had little to do with the facts, and far more with the prospect of gain for the Left. Their allies in the media march in lockstep with their tactics. (Why that’s so is a subject for another screed. That it’s so should be obvious by now, if you’ll allow me the use of two of my “favorite” words.) That makes it important to note those occasions where their approach is working and where it fails them.

     Allow me to repeat an old parable that has great relevance to media relations:

     Some years ago, a theater impresario whom we shall call Smith, whose current production Hoity-Toity was, shall we say, not repaying its production costs received a phone call from Jones, a well-known reporter for the prestigious publication Theater Life. Their conversation ran as follows:

     "Mr. Smith," Jones said, "I'm calling to ask a few questions about Hoity-Toity."

     "Go right ahead," Smith said.

     "Well, first of all," Jones said, "the talk is that Hoity-Toity is falling deeply into arrears and will soon be closed. Is that the case?"

     Smith, a careful and experienced man, counted to ten before answering. "I would imagine that if I were to say no, your story in tomorrow's edition would be headlined 'Smith Denies Hoity-Toity Near To Closing.' Am I correct?"

     "Well, yes," Jones said. "Something like that, anyway."

     "Well, then," Smith said, "I'll answer your question if you'll answer one for me. How's that sound?"

     "Fair enough," Jones said warily. "What's your question?"

     "Mr. Jones, is it true that your wife has syphilis?"

     "What?" Jones shrieked. "Why are you asking me that? What put such an idea into your head?"

     "Oh, you know how the rumor mill churns," Smith said breezily. "But, as it happens, you're on speakerphone and Davis is here from Variety. If you were to answer no, he might have a story in tomorrow's edition headlined 'Jones Denies Wife Has Syphilis.' What would you think of a story like that?"

     There was a long silence on the line. Finally, Jones said, "All right, Smith. I take your point."

     What would be the effect of a story headlined “Smith Denies Hoity-Toity Near To Closing” – ? It would be to reinforce in the reader’s mind two key elements: “Hoity-Toity” and “closing.” It would suggest that the show is a failure. It would discourage potential patrons of the show. There’s a strong presumption in the human mind that “my fellow humans, when they move or act en masse, are usually right.” We might deplore it. We might call it “the behavior of lemmings,” but it’s there...and you respond to it too.

     That suggests that it’s a mistake to reply to, or to attempt to refute, those “accusations.” Every time we do so, we reinforce the key elements of the accusation and thus compound the losses it inflicts on us. Worse, we give the Left a particle of respectability it doesn’t deserve and should not get. Note that this does not imply answering with Left-like vitriol, but rather ignoring them, including their media handmaidens.

     There are no gains to be had by responding. Not even minor ones.

     One seeming implication of the above is that “what works for the Left might work for us.” I must admit that I once thought so. I don’t any longer. Here’s why.

     I don’t know who originated it, but a rather clever saying runs that you should “Never wrestle with a pig. You both get dirty, and the pig enjoys it.” There’s a huge nugget of insight in there. The “audience” to such a wrestling match will be unable to tell you from the pig. Those who pay attention to the event will be doing so to laugh at you. Not at the pig. The pig will merely be doing what comes naturally. You, on the other hand, will have debased yourself – not a clever way to inspire emulation.

     Just about everyone prefers the society of high achievers. We prefer to keep company with them if they’ll have us. We certainly prefer to do business with them, for success in business arises from giving the customer what he wants at a price he can afford, and leaving him with the conviction that he’s been well served , not taken for a mark or a fool. And we tend to emulate the characteristics and behavior of those who have achieved something we’d like to achieve ourselves. There are big gains to be had from emulation.

     Just now, for example, the Trump Administration is racking up the successes in economics and international relations. Those who are paying attention are aware of this – Right and Left. The Left’s denigrations, accusations, and insults are intended to distract the public from Trump’s successes. To the extent that it’s making any gains in that fashion, the credit must go to those who’ve managed to obstruct the real news – that is, reportage about what’s really happening. For among Americans aware of the gains the Administration is accumulating, Trump’s popularity and overall approval are advancing. Therefore it behooves the Left that those gains either go unreported, or are displaced from public attention by its attacks.

     The only countermeasure is to keep our focus on what the Administration has achieved, and to talk it up without pausing to respond to the Left’s stream of distractive emissions.

     One last observation and I’ll close for the morning. This one deserves emphasis:

A divided focus is always less effective than a unitary one.

     Herbert Spencer made the point brilliantly:

     A blade which is designed both to shave and to carve, will certainly not shave so well as a razor or carve so well as a carving-knife. An academy of painting, which should also be a bank, would in all probability exhibit very bad pictures and discount very bad bills. A gas company, which should also be an infant-school society, would, we apprehend, light the streets ill and teach the children ill. -- Herbert Spencer, "Over-Legislation"

     If we resolve to ignore those things we find annoying and to concentrate on those measures which redound to our advantage, we will reap gains. In the nature of things, those gains will tend to compound, as they build upon their predecessors. A unitary focus is therefore strategically the one to adopt, rather than a focus that devotes part of our attention to responding to Leftist detractors.

     This came home to me, in part, because of the following exchange:

Miscellaneous Leftist: You’re a [racist / sexist / homophobe / fascist] (insert one or more)!
FWP: So what?
ML: So what? So what?? Don’t you care?
FWP: Why should I care what you think? I’ve got other things to do. You know, people to oppress for material gain and countries to topple out of sheer spite.
ML: But—but—!
FWP: (smiles) Have a nice life.

     Now, that’s an abstraction from other exchanges that were more personal and more detailed. But it does express the pattern. It’s spared me more agita, and saved me more time, than attempting to refute the insincere accusations that follow the pattern.

     It might not work for everyone. It might take more resolve and confidence than some folks can muster. But my experience has been wholly positive. Besides, it does allow me to focus on oppressing the weak and overthrowing foreign governments. Do what you do best, I always say!

     Your gains are likely to be largest, most satisfying, and most likely to earn admiration and engender emulation, if you focus on one thing: whatever you do best. Isn’t that what makes you happiest? And isn’t it the reason for the division of labor?

     Cut your losses.
     Reinforce your successes.
     Do what you do best and ignore the rest.

     Time for me to get on the tractor. Enjoy your Wednesday.


Manu said...

I am unsure on whether or not getting into the mud with the pig is a good idea or not. But what I can say is that the only two options on the table are to fight back in kind, or to do as you say and ignore their screeching.

Either tactic may work. Or it may be that one is appropriate for some things, and the other appropriate in different situations.

Most Conservatives I see, however, do neither of these things. They answer Leftist insults and Ad Homs with carefully reasoned, polite debate. Hell, even I did this up until pretty recently. Slinging mud or ignoring - I don't know which to endorse at this juncture, but I can definitely say that reason doesn't work with them. They will continue to sling mud-filled rhetoric no matter how much dialectic you use. And they will be seen as WINNING if we do that.

That, at least, has definitely failed.

Francis W. Porretto said...

There are two points of importance here:

1. You cannot reason a Leftist out of his hatred of us. His position is faith-based, and is therefore immune to logic and evidence.

2. If there are third parties listening to the exchange, our best chance of impressing them as superior to our attacker appears to lie in acting superior to our attacker: not in reasoning, nor in "civility," but in demonstrated disdain for the attacker and his slanders.

I could be wrong. It's happened before. But this seems right.

furball said...

Yes. Continue to act, Not talk. Doing matters.

I've been wondering what to say to Fran and the left. I have not figured it out. I really don't know what to say in one erudite sentence that would put the left down and make me proud for what I said to my daughter.

But, continue doing the right thing as you understand it.

Malcolm Smith said...

Personally, I would never say, "I've done nothing wrong." That automatically leaves the impression that your behaviour is at least suspect. Instead, I would answer the question with an angry, "That's an outrageous question! I've done everything right." I would certainly defend my actions, but I would do it in terms that implied that they don't need defending, and that the person who's clearly at fault is my critic.