It’s not about facts. It’s not about reason. It’s about a caricature of the enemy. And you’re the enemy.
Our friend Jennie just shared this one: How to Culture Jam a Populist in Four Easy Steps. It walks through several really important bits of advice and concludes thusly:
But if you want to be part of the solution, the road ahead is clear: Recognize you’re the enemy they need;
show concern, not contempt, for the wounds of those that brought Trump to power; by all means be patient with democracy and struggle relentlessly to free yourself from the shackles of the caricature the populists have drawn of you.
It’s a tall order. But the alternative is worse. Believe me, I know: I’m from Venezuela.
Again: “free yourself from the shackles of the caricature the populists have drawn of you.”
Understand, you can’t tell, you can only show.
It’s must reading. And I’ll warn you, it’s a serious bitch to think about. Parts of it I absolutely know in my DNA, but it’s still hard. Especially, if you’re me, item #2. It’s like when a troll insults me. I know the smart thing to do is ignore it, but man, my instinct is to stomp it bloody.
Still, if it were easy we wouldn’t be in this mess. So read this and think about it.
And think about joining the American Civic Debate Union, especially if you’re in the Denver area.
UPDATED: I think the underlying lesson here is “everything you know is wrong.” We want to counter ignorance with education. We want to counter lies with facts. This doesn’t work, although in the end countering hate with love and ugliness with beauty might.
If you provide facts, they’re dismissed by a fact-resistant audience that’s not interested in facts. Your reliance on facts only proves them right about your smarmy, arrogant elitism. There is no objective reality to refer to – they, like the man they elected, judge your rightness or wrongness on one, and only one criterion: do you agree with them.
What the author is suggesting is akin to a lesson I began learning as a kid when I studied martial arts (for a few weeks – at no point did I have to register my hands as deadly weapons). But styles can be hard or soft. Hard is where you punch and kick your opponent into oblivion. Soft is when you use his or her aggression to your advantage.
I sparred a guy who studied one of those soft styles once. Drove me nuts. I stood a foot away from him and could not land a punch. He just calmly blocked, trapped and deflected my every foray. Effortlessly. He won because a) I couldn’t touch him, and b) after a while you get tired.
Nothing is harder, or more exhausting, than punching the sea, except perhaps punching the air. And it is this soft style of political battle that I think is being recommended in so many words. Give them nothing to swing at, and if they swing, simply don’t be where the punch lands. Let the would-be tyranny of populism punch itself out.
These are hard days. They will get worse before they get better.