Monday, November 08, 2004

Tapdancing around awful truths....

So much rage… Michael Moore’s “The Awful Truth” is so good; but so bad.

So brilliant. (See for yourself.)

Confrontation, unfortunately, even (perhaps especially) brilliant confrontation, will not work for us.

It should. One should be able to say “Look, Tobacco Company/Lobbyist/Security Guard, your product is killing people; shouldn’t you re-evaluate what you’re doing?”

But no one wants to be a killer. No one will engage you if they feel guilty (even if they ARE guilty). More proof of the moral relativism of the Right. (How’s that? Isn’t smoking about personal responsibility? Sure – as much the responsibility of tobacco companies for a) lying about the health problems for decades, as internal documents and common sense have shown, b) lying about the addictiveness of smoking, and c) marketing to children on purpose to generate lifetime addictees. Some measure of personal responsibility falls to the smoker who “chooses” to set foot on the road to addiction; but the argument that it’s all THEIR responsibility rests on one of three premises: 1) awwww, they should’ve known better than to believe what the companies told them, 2) well, companies always lie, so we can’t blame them for lying just like everyone else, and 3) well, bygones should be bygones. NONE of these is a responsible argument for why Tobacco should get away with lying without taking THEIR personal responsibility for it. They already have you say?... What about the tax breaks they’re getting this year, supposedly in exchange for “allowing” the FDA to regulate nicotine… except the nicotine regulation part of it was taken out of the bill…)

Just like it’s been found you can’t encourage safe sex by “scaring” people into it (USE CONDOMS OR YOU DIE! AIDS AIDS AIDS! doesn't work) because they people generally unconsciously push negativity out of their mind before sex, you can’t win an argument by demonizing, or often even lightly ridiculing your opponent.

Sarcasm is a sharp sword for the Left – it cuts both ways. (Interesting tidbit: an ex-girlfriend, when we were dating, asked me if the Right had comics like “Doonsebury” or “The Boondocks” – it occurred to me that they probably didn’t, because comics like those lie usually on the irony of some Right foibles because we find them intellectually inconsistent; the things “they” often find ironic about us is, for example, our concern for parenting yet our stereotypical parental permissiveness. I speculated that a Right Doonsebury would be something we think of as POSITIVE, like a mom coming home and seeing her 18 year old daughter with a piercing, or coming out as a lesbian, and the mom saying “Great! I’m glad you’re your own person” or something like that… turns out, this pretty much IS their version of it – the only Right “political” comic strip she could find was “The Leftersons”, about, natch, naively permissive parents too intent on useless social causes. Make your own judgements here.)

Oh, but back to “The Awful Truth” – after seeing 3 of them, I wonder if they do more harm than good? Yes, it feels REALLY GOOD to see those who’ve lost their vocal cords to smoking sing “Voicebox Christmas Carols” to smoking lobbyists and execs, but what do you bet that we not only won no points with them (to be expected), but lost points with those security guards, and secretaries, and police officers who had to push Michael Moore out? While we who agree with Michael see the humor, and get enraged (or at least, my blood was/is boiling), I bet those functionaries just saw it as a hassle, and perhaps even had their heart hardened to “the cause.” The banality of evil, if you will.

As tiresome and logically unnecessary, the Left must “validate” the starting point of the Right before we start; the internalization of post-modernism by the mainstream means before you can argue about who is correct, you have to acknowledge everyone’s right to their opinion, and reassure them you respect it, before arguing against it WITHOUT mocking them (I lost a high school debate that my team AND the other team thought we won; the judges thought we were too “snotty” and awarded it to the other team; when I asked them about why, they couldn’t think of a logical reason – “I guess I just felt that they won,”) (also, I’ve taught the class “Biology and Human Affairs” – believe you me, students hate the idea that they are factually wrong, and even those most stridently against moral relativism will unconsciously resort to it, saying that “they have a right to their opinion”, or “you don’t respect them”, or even “they get points taken off if they don’t agree with your [political] views” – all arguments that may be valid, but many treat them as if they are always valid whenever they are argued against; as someone said, everyone has a right to their own opinion; they don’t have the right to their own facts – the inobtainability of “realfact” being a whole ‘nother issue…)

Achem. So. Yes. My point here is, unless I’m wrong, I think we face a very real choice between having to, in soothing words and pliant tones, ease our fiercest opponents into debates, using the dulcet sounds of mutual relativistic respect, before we can engage in “winning hearts and minds.” Sadly, I think the only way “The Awful Truth”-style confrontationalism can work is if we start a violent uprising (and as Sally Forth said, “Revolutions can be messy”). Of course, it might also work if it creates more new activists than it turns off people on the other side. A balance of the equation I don’t think anyone’s done… especially Michael Moore. (Well, other caveat – the guy who got a pancreas, and the change in Humana’s policies (supposedly) to allow diabetics pancreatic transplants – if this kind of turn around on a small victory was common to “The Awful Truth” – that satisfying result offsets some additional enemies, imho.)

What to do? What to do?

”The truth is, folks, that jokes in actuality defuse criticism of a politician rather than erode his support.”

“…so maybe I’m punkin’ you all…”

--Jon Stewart (from a Rolling Stone interview -- full version not online)

1 comment:

Geoff said...

Mallard FillmoreIt's just about the unfunniest thing you can imagine, but has been around now for ten years or so and is widely read by Conservatives...