“Billion dollar corporations paying to organize people so they’ll complain about taxes also isn’t a revolution. It’s what billion dollar corporations do. They only pray they’ll find customers gullible enough to not realize they’re being used as pawns. But then, that’s why God created marketing departments…” — Robert J. Elisberg, The “Tea Party” Is Not Revolting
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We’re going to discuss some hot topics, but we are not going to be discussing the hot topics themselves but rather the reasons why certain tactics succeed and other tactics fail. Anyone attempting to steer the debate into discussion of yea-or-nay / pro-or-con ethics / morality will be ignored.
Go post your own blog.
It has been asked, “Why does the dentist who killed a lion receive more outrage than a video showing Planned Parenthood discussing what they do with aborted fetuses?”
The short answer is that in the case of the lion killer, we have not one but two names: Cecil, the grandfather patriarch of his pride, and Dr. X, the guy who thinks it’s big fun to use his human intellectual and technological advantage to track and kill animals for sport.
In short, we have a story with two characters in it, and it’s pretty easy for the average person to grasp the principles involved: Lion, minding own business, killed for fun by guy with money who has to cross an ocean to do it.
The story would gain no traction if
Cecil didn’t have a name and a backstory.
There have been dozens of photos posted on the Internet of people proudly smiling over their trophy kills (and we define a trophy kill as a kill where the prey will not be eaten by the hunter’s family, or a demonstrably dangerous animal stopped to keep it from harming others, but simply an animal death used as bragging rights). There have been attempts to gin up outrage against them, often identifying the hunters by name and in some cases causing no small amount of discomfort to them (there have been the occasional apologies and one or two examples of C-list celebrities losing a gig because of it).
But in those cases the animals were anonymous and therefore generic; there was no identity that people could glom onto.
Cecil, by mere fact of having a name,
immediately became a character.
That’s the short answer, but the longer answer builds off that: The case against Dr. X worked because it was possible to bring direct pressure to bear against a specific individual, and only because that individual depended on public good will to be able to afford his lethal hobby.
If Dr. X wasn’t a dentist but instead was a safari outfitter / hunting guide, no amount of public outrage would affect him directly for the simple reason that his business is based on customers who have already demonstrated a desire for his services.
to a professional hunting guide
does them no harm;
their client base will
keep coming back
regardless of your
Convincing the client base that there’s no honor
in big game trophy hunting, however…
There is where you have your leverage.
The case of Dr. X is going to impact big game trophy hunting to this degree: It’s going to dissuade more people who are on the fence regarding this issue than it will persuade.
Yeah, there will be some contrarians who had never given serious thought to big game trophy hunting before who will now support / participate in the sport, but they will be small in number to the group that thinks, “Y’know, it is kind of a punk thing to do…”
And again, let us draw a sharp distinction between those who hunt and fish to provide food for their family and those who do so just to brag they’ve done it.
Eventually, the anti-big game trophy hunting sentiment will succeed: As trophy hunting becomes less and less of a publicly admirable activity, fewer and fewer people will take up the sport. The fewer people who take it up, the less resources will be available to support it. The less resources available to support it, the fewer people will be able to enjoy it, etc., etc., and of course, etc.
Why then does the anti-big game trophy hunting sentiment gain traction while the anti-police brutality and anti-abortion sentiments apparently fail to do so?
In both cases the main factor is that it is extremely difficult to bring direct pressure to bear on those police who brutalize civilians and those people who provide abortions for the simple reason that they are providing a service to a client base that wants exactly those things.
Despite their motto, the police are not there to protect and serve citizens as a whole: They are there to protect and serve property owners.
When the property owners perceive
a particular group or individual to be
a threat to them and their property,
they have the police act against them.
Look at the history of unionization in this country, the brutal suppression of freedom of speech and assembly, the blatant murder of many and legal lynchings of others, the destruction of workers’ homes and families for the heinous crime of demanding fair working conditions.
Rarely are police held accountable for brutality today, and when they are it’s almost always the result of them being caught on video in a blatant misuse of authority, and even then the system that permits such things is protected while the individual officer is thrown to the wolves.
Look how the narratives are acted out: If it is at all possible for the brutalized citizen to be presented as in the wrong, they are. When it becomes impossible to hide the officer’s illegal brutality, their personnel records are leaked with emphasis drawn to all previous infractions.
Basically, it’s a race to see which story gains traction first: The “they were a thug so they deserved it” story or the “he was a rogue cop” story, and generally the thug story is given a lengthy head start.
If anything is to be done about police brutality, it has to be through indirect pressure: The property owners must become aware there are far greater risks to authorizing excessive force than in reducing use of excessive force.
Same thing with the failed coup
against Planned Parenthood.
Planned Parenthood is in the business of providing health services to women; abortion procedures accounts for only 3% of their case load. They don’t promote the procedure, but they do make it available to a client base that is actively seeking it.
Now, the great irony is that Planned Parenthood and other providers of comprehensive sex education have done far more to reduce the number of abortions that the anti-abortionists.
By providing comprehensive sex education and making safe and reliable forms of birth control easily available, they have greatly reduced the number of unwanted pregnancies and as a result have greatly reduced the number of abortions.
They’ve also greatly reduced STD rates, infant mortality rates, domestic and child abuse rates, and divorce in those states where comprehensive sex education and family planning are available, all of which also contribute to the overall drop in abortions by removing or lessening the factors that contribute to people seeing abortion as a viable alternative.
Trying to bring direct pressure to bear
on Planned Parenthood is futile.
First off, there is no narrative involving “characters” as we used the term above re Cecil the lion and Dr. X.
Without names, without specific backstories, it becomes extremely difficult for people to identify with either the fetuses or the mothers seeking to terminate their pregnancies.
It’s like outrage over photos of anonymous big game hunters posing over dead zebras and giraffes: Yeah, the majority of people aren’t impressed by that and may even find it petty and distasteful, but they’re not going to be moved to action because of it.
Attach a name and the narrative now becomes a story about a character, and the unfortunate truth for the anti-abortionists is that while their opponents can point to real living / breathing / thinking / feeling women with names who have made a desperate choice, the anti-abortion side cannot do the same regarding fetuses without their narrative looking ridiculous.
The only way to reduce the number of abortions
is to convince those people who are on the fence
about the issue not to do it.
But the big difference between women seeking to terminate their pregnancies and big game trophy hunters who spend a lot of time and money engaging in their lethal hobby as often as possible, is that it’s the rare case where a woman seeks multiple abortions.
And most multiple abortion cases are the result of medical complications that threaten the life of both mother and fetus unless the pregnancy is terminated to save the mother.
So Planned Parenthood’s client base for abortion is not a group of people who think it’s a really cool thing to do and are happy to brag about it, but desperate once-in-a-lifetime cases who would just as soon not have their decision broadcast to the world.
You see the difference in motivations? You see why the big game hunters, many of who need public approval in order to fund their hobby, are much more susceptible to shaming than women who are in a desperate personal situation?
Do you see why pressure against Planned Parenthood directly will always fail, and attempts to shame women seeking abortions will ultimately backfire?
As stated above, this post is not to debate the right or wrong of any particular situation but rather to examine what strategies and tactics work (i.e., produce the desired stated result) and which do not work (i.e., either fail to produce the desired result or create blowback).
Choose your path accordingly.
Calvin And Hobbes © Bill Watterson
“In recent years and elections one would have thought that homosexuality and abortion were the new litmus tests of authentic Christianity. Where did this come from? They never were the criteria of proper membership for the first 2000 years, but reflect very recent culture wars instead. And largely from people who think of themselves as ‘traditionalists’! (The fundamentals were already resolved in the early Apostles’ Creed and Nicene Creed. Note that none of the core beliefs are about morality at all. The Creeds are more mystical, cosmological, and about aligning our lives inside of a huge sacred story.) When you lose the great mystical level of religion, you always become moralistic about this or that as a cheap substitute. It gives you a false sense of being on higher spiritual ground than others.
“Jesus is clearly much more concerned about issues of pride, injustice, hypocrisy, blindness, and what I have often called ‘The Three Ps’ of power, prestige, and possessions, which are probably 95 percent of Jesus’ written teaching. We conveniently ignore this 95 percent to concentrate on a morality that usually has to do with human embodiment. That’s where people get righteous, judgmental, and upset, for some reason. The body seems to be where we carry our sense of shame and inferiority, and early-stage religion has never gotten much beyond these ‘pelvic’ issues. As Jesus put it, ‘You ignore the weightier matters of the law—justice, mercy, and good faith . . . and instead you strain out gnats and swallow camels’. We worry about what people are doing in bed much more than making sure everybody has a bed to begin with. There certainly is a need for a life-giving sexual morality, and true pro-life morality, but one could sincerely question whether Christian nations and people have found it yet.” — Fr. Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditations (Sunday, June 16, 2013): “New Fundamentals” Are a Contradiction in Terms
No individual action in and of itself is either moral or immoral, ethical or unethical. They are moral and ethical only in context.
In the latter part of the twentieth century, a woman was pinned down in the rubble of her home following a devastating earthquake. A fire started, and not only was there no water flowing in the broken water mains, but the fire departments and paramedics were all swamped with horrendous casualties in their immediate vicinity.
Though neighbors were able to rescue the woman’s husband and children from the rubble, they could not save her. As the fire grew closer and closer it became obvious the woman would die a slow and horribly agonizing death.
The husband stayed with her as long as he could, comforting her as best as possible, reassuring her that he loved her and would take care of the children…
…then as the flames grew too intense
for him to stay he shot her in the head.
If you do not see that as a kind and just and moral and ethical and loving act, you are a monster incapable of differentiating between good and evil.
A woman who willingly submits to invading soldiers to spare her child from being raped has committed no sin, has done nothing dishonorable, has not betrayed her husband, has not committed adultery. She sacrificed herself to save an innocent: She did a just and moral and ethical act; if you cannot see that, you are a monster incapable of differentiating between good and evil.
While millions were being marched off to gas chambers during WWII, some were saved by the khassidey umot ha-olam who looked the Nazis in the face and flat out lied, “No, no Jewish people here” while hiding them in their own homes.
Had their lie been discovered, they would have suffered for protecting Jews, up to and including going to the gas chambers with them.
If you think they committed a sin by lying to murderous anti-Semites in order to save innocent lives, you are a monster incapable of differentiating between good and evil.
Earlier this year I paid one last visit to a friend dying from cancer.
He was heavily sedated; I’m not at all certain he was even aware we were there.
But his wife was by his side, and though she was wracked with anguish she was determined to be as uplifting as possible for her husband even as he lay dying.
She tended to him and talked cheerfully to him and made sure his breathing tube was clear and did everything she could to look after him as he slowly slipped away.
She loved him, and if there is one joy any of us could take away from his passing, it’s that he went with his good and loving mate by his side, staying with him and supporting him as best she could under the most adverse conditions.
Do you think God smiles on their relationship
while condemning another of
equal strength and integrity and compassion
just because it’s between
two members of the same gender?
“Equality always wins. And when it does, the victory is in a very real sense a triumph for the moral teachings of Jesus Christ, whether or not the reformers view their efforts in religious terms. No institution — not even a church founded in Christ’s name— can withstand the subversive power of his message.” — Damon Linker, How Ireland’s gay marriage vote exposes the catch-22 of modern Christianity
“If you had asked me what causes drug addiction at the start, I would have looked at you as if you were an idiot, and said: ‘Drugs. Duh.’ It’s not difficult to grasp. I thought I had seen it in my own life. We can all explain it. Imagine if you and I and the next twenty people to pass us on the street take a really potent drug for twenty days. There are strong chemical hooks in these drugs, so if we stopped on day twenty-one, our bodies would need the chemical. We would have a ferocious craving. We would be addicted. That’s what addiction means.
“One of the ways this theory was first established is through rat experiments — ones that were injected into the American psyche in the 1980s, in a famous advert by the Partnership for a Drug-Free America. You may remember it. The experiment is simple. Put a rat in a cage, alone, with two water bottles. One is just water. The other is water laced with heroin or cocaine. Almost every time you run this experiment, the rat will become obsessed with the drugged water, and keep coming back for more and more, until it kills itself.
“But in the 1970s, a professor of Psychology in Vancouver called Bruce Alexander noticed something odd about this experiment. The rat is put in the cage all alone. It has nothing to do but take the drugs. What would happen, he wondered, if we tried this differently? So Professor Alexander built Rat Park. It is a lush cage where the rats would have colored balls and the best rat-food and tunnels to scamper down and plenty of friends: everything a rat about town could want. What, Alexander wanted to know, will happen then?
“The rats with good lives didn’t like the drugged water. They mostly shunned it, consuming less than a quarter of the drugs the isolated rats used. None of them died. While all the rats who were alone and unhappy became heavy users, none of the rats who had a happy environment did.” — Johann Hari, “The Likely Cause of Addiction Has Been Discovered, and It Is Not What You Think”
“In June, Jerad and Amanda Miller shot two police officers and another person dead in Las Vegas. They had come from the standoff at the ranch of Cliven Bundy, where a bunch of white shitheels actually pointed guns at federal agents and everyone went home without a shot being fired or anyone being arrested, despite Bundy being guilty of essentially the same crime as Eric Garner, except Bundy owed the government more than a million bucks in grazing fees and not a few coins on single cigarettes. The Millers were anti-government nutzoids who thought cops were oppressors who were gonna git their guns or some such shit. They left a note on the scene saying they wanted to start a revolution.
“You know what didn’t happen after the shooting? Police associations didn’t say that Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman had blood on her hands. The cops didn’t condemn the armed numbskulls at Bundy ranch, who were, you know, protesters. And the Vegas police unions most definitely did not say they were now a ‘wartime’ department, as the New York City PBA supposedly did.
“Imagine the shitstorm that’d happen if the cops said that violent white people were the problem and they needed to be stopped. It would have actually made sense. The Millers were directly connected with the Bundy ranch uprising. The guy who shot Liu and Ramos was a solo dickhead with a Facebook page.” — Lee Papa, “Random Thoughts on Spreading the Blame for a Cop Killing”
“We love America just as much as they do. But in a different way. You see, they love America like a 4-year-old loves his mommy. Liberals love America like grown-ups. To a 4-year-old, everything Mommy does is wonderful and anyone who criticizes Mommy is bad. Grown-up love means actually understanding what you love, taking the good with the bad and helping your loved one grow. Love takes attention and work and is the best thing in the world.
“Here in the United States when you pull the thread on ‘the country has lost its moral compass’ what follows, clanking and banging like a string of tin cans tied to a dog’s tail, is thinly disguised racism, misogyny, homophobia, hate, fear, bigotry, and nostalgia for the ‘good old days’ when people who looked and thought just like you owned everything.
“And every single time you protest and tell me I’m wrong, as soon as you attempt to explain how ‘the country has lost its moral compass’ you always plow through thinly disguised racism, misogyny, homophobia, hate, fear, bigotry, and the good old days on the way to your religion. EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.
“[T]he useful way to understand fascism, at least for the purposes of [redacted], is as an aesthetic – as a particular mix of fetishes and paranoias that always crops up in culture, occasionally seizing some measure of power, essentially always with poor results. It can basically be reduced to a particular sort of story. The fascist narrative comes, in effect, in two parts. The first involves a nostalgic belief in a past golden age – a historical moment in which things were good. In the fascist narrative, this golden age was ended because of an act of disingenuous betrayal – what’s called the ‘stab in the back myth.’ (The most famous form, and the one that gave the myth its name, being the idea that German Jews had betrayed the German army, leading to the nation’s defeat in World War I.) Since then, the present and sorry state of affairs has been maintained by the backstabbers, generally through conspiratorial means.
“The second part is a vision of what should happen, which centers on a heroic figure who speaks the truth of the conspiracy and leads a populist restoration of the old order. The usual root of this figure is (a bad misreading of) Nietzsche’s idea of the ubermensch – a figure of such strength that morality does not really apply to him. He’s at once a fiercely individualistic figure – a man unencumbered by the degenerate culture in which he lives – and a collectivist figure who is to be followed passionately and absolutely. A great leader, as it were. (This is, counterintuitively, something of a libertarian figure. Ayn Rand’s heroes – the great and worthy men who deserve their freedom – are archetypal fascist heroes, because they rise up over the pettiness of their society and become great leaders.) It is not, to be clear, that all cults of personality are fascist, any more than all conspiracy theories are. Rather, it is the combination – the stab-in-the-back conspiracy theory coupled with the great leader that all men must follow – that defines the fascist aesthetic.” – Philip Sandifer, Guided by the Beauty of Their Weapons