I was recently looking for new podcasts on iTunes and I perused the News and Politics category. I was looking at News and Politics because I’m old and cranky and when we, as old cranky people, reach a certain age and begin to have that “old People Smell” we start doing things to make younger people roll their eyes. Its one of the few pleasures left to us that doesn’t hurt or cost money or require a prescription.
Several podcasts stood out, like BBC Global News and NPR Talk of the Nation but one in particular caught my imagination. One made me start clenching my jaw and thinking of long arguments that just had to be writ elsewise my brain would explode.
“Best of the Left” The description on the title page includes the phrase, “…the absolute best in left-leaning news, commentary and comedy..”
Left leaning news… really? Isn’t that what we scream about on the right with FOX and Clear Channel Radio, The “News” in that neck of the woods leans to the right; which is to say, it is colored, edited, positioned, filled in, made up and obfuscated in such a way as to present the impression that the right wants to have shown to the people. FOX becomes essentially the public relations arm of the Republican Party. We hate it. We, the left, decry it every day. We piss and moan about how unfair and stupid and ultimately wasteful it is and how it will be the death of this country that we love so much and yet, there is enough of that sort of thing lying around on the left side of the aisle to edit together a weekly best of compilation show.
I’m a leftist. I’m on the team. I hate the right, etc. I’m there. But news should be news and should not lean one way or the other. What leans is the POV, the perspective, the filter and the spin. All of the news people highlighted in the compilation show Best of the Left are, as far as I can tell, good news people first. But they’ve been led to believe that in order to have a voice on the national stage (and they want that voice) they have to pick a side to rep like a salesperson. I’m saying that they don’t need to sell me the news. They need to tell me the news and let me decide whether or not it has left or right implications. They can tell me how it affects me, them, the other side, the world, etc. and then move on to the next piece of news. News informs, it doesn’t sway.
The argument that the right does it and the left needs to in order to create a stasis or stalemate is specious. Firstly, the right is much better at it because they organize as a single unit and take orders from the top. The term “rank and file” fits the right. They like to line up. They like having a strong leader and they like to be told what to think. As such they can organize and execute a plan complete with talking points, smoke screens, evasions and distractions already in the can and ready to use for the national newscape. The left on the other hand is not organized. They never have been. Part of what makes them the left, the free thinking part of it, is also what makes it difficult to get them all lined up in a row and functioning as one. Will Rogers was famously quoted as saying, “I’m not a member of any organized political party; I’m a democrat.” If the left fights the right with the weapon that best suits the right, the left loses. It’s like dueling with somebody and the guns are identical but the other guy has practiced with the guns for 25 years and this is your first time to try. You might surprise everybody and get off a winning shot, but the odds are that you’re going down bloody.
Another point against that argument, the one that says, they’re doing it so we need to as well, is the example of the couples training exercise where you make the couple push against each other in equal force. The first effect is that a lot of effort is used and no progress is made and then the instructor says, “Now this time don’t push back. Just move out of the way.” This is the Bend like the Willow argument. Absorb the force and let it pass. When the force is expended, the willow is still there. With this method, the left would allow the right to push and push and push and spend energy and effort and bludgeon the left in the press with hot button issues and the left would essentially ignore it. Just go about your business, Left. Just do the thing you’re doing. Treat them like a conservative ghost swinging a ghost ax. You don’t’ see them. You don’t hear them. You don’t feel them. They don’t affect you in any way.
I’m reminded of the fight scenes in the old TV show Kung-Fu with David Carradine. The antagonist would try to destroy Cain starting with a standard attack and then a more energetic attack and then a somewhat frantic attack and then a full on manic attack. Each attack was deflected by Cain almost without effort and completely without concern or becoming what he was fighting. Cain was not fighting the same fight; was not playing the same game or even existing in the same universe. He was responsible only for himself and his mindset and he could defend himself without anger or malice and in most cases without a great deal of effort or attention. The attacker’s efforts could not affect Cain or his journey. Further, the attacker, more often than not, defeated himself physically, emotionally and more importantly socially/politically. They were shown as bullies; failed bullies. The townsfolk didn’t have to be afraid anymore. The bully’s power was gone. It was only ever real because the people treated it as real.
The winning strategy for the underdog in nearly any contest is not to fight the other team’s fight; not to play into their game plan, not to play to their strengths. To beat chess players who seem to be able to think 12 moves ahead, don’t play chess. At the very least if you must play chess, don’t play it the way they do. Don’t be bound to the conventions that they’ve studied for the last bazillion years. If they plan 12 moves ahead and each time you make a move they have to re-plan the next twelve because they hadn’t anticipated move one correctly (because you’re not playing by doctrine), they have to waste a lot of time and energy redoing the plan every single move. At a certain point they stop planning so far down the road because you’re not on the same road and their game is all about you. Their plan is to thwart you, frustrate you, stop you. But you’ve stopped them…. and kept on moving yourself down your own road.
A last part of the strategy is to use their strength against them like a Judo master or a football team. In football, if you face an extremely aggressive defense that blitzes all the time, you let the blitzing linebackers through the line and then when they’re out of position you throw it over them in a screen play. Their strength and aggressiveness is their undoing. If they defend the run really well, you pass. If they defend the pass, you run. But if you try to match them move for move and just beat them on sheer strength, you need to be bigger and stronger than them. The left is neither of those things. The left is a junior varsity football team with homework left to do and the right is the Pittsburgh Steelers on a steroid fueled blood rage.
Coloring the news with single-minded purpose and cohesion is not a contest that the left has any hope of winning. We’re never going to be good at it and certainly not as good at it as the right. It is a core value of the people on the left that we aren’t like that… and that’s a good thing. Spinology is a game that the left shouldn’t even be in. Leave it alone. Walk away. Be better than the other side.
If you need to label and spin this as a “strategy” because it’s hard to let go of old ways, you can call it “the high road”.
So, bottom line, we don’t have to fight the fight their way. We don’t have to engage in the combat form that they know best and we know least. They’re always going to be better at the lock step form of party unity and we’re always going to be bad at it so why would we want to engage in it. We don’t have to color the news. All we have to do is report the news… accurately. Hyper accurately. We have to call them out when they lie and hold their feet to the fire when they obfuscate. We have to press them after they give the pat answer and the party line. Make them answer the questions with answers not prepared statements. And if they won’t come back on our shows because we won’t play their game, they won’t get the precious air time that they require for political life. The only air time that they’ll get is on right leaning programs and in those cases, they’ll only be preaching to the choir. Eventually, they’ll have to come back because one half of one third of the voting population is not enough to run the game and they need to run the game if they want to survive.
The news is the truth of what happened and why. The news isn’t left or right, it’s just the news and you can give it to me straight.