Wily winning: A manual of mutating political philosophy, Part two
By Joseph Randolph
Yes, we are trying to be more like our neighbors across the Atlantic, but we do not say so in as many words. To do so can court real disaster. One of our own slipped some time ago in lauding them as "so far ahead of us," and a savvy opponent asked if he meant the secularism or socialism. Of course our speaker meant both, but could not stand behind the word of either. One therefore has to watch this sort of thing, but if it gets too much, you can simply accuse the opponent of name calling.
Of course we are more prosperous than our Atlantic neighbors, but remember, we do not get ourselves elected by pointing to our successes, but to our failures. We must create work for ourselves. I don't mean our failures as a consequence of our political point of view, but our failures as a country, and then we rack up all these failures as the responsibility of our opponent's point of view. We don't have to do this alone, fortunately, we even have movie makers helping us with this these days, showing, for example, the deplorable state of how we attend to our sick, compared to the mothering instincts of our neighbors across the Atlantic, and even some to our south.
You want to portray our country as unfinished, in fact hugely unfinished, and indeed so much so that we, from our point of view, constructing a new country. You see if we applaud and laud successes, people have the notion that the work is in progress, that things are looking up, so we have to point out any and all gaps, cracks, crashes, and catastrophes as demanding our attention. We do not therefore congratulate ourselves, because the voter yearns to hear what we are going to do for him. This is why we are such busybodies, without giving that appearance. Remember, again, that all things are, or can be made political, therefore, until utopia comes, we will be in business.
My word man you must belong to our opponents. Did someone give you my name by accident. Are you a spy? We don't want "intelligent voters." We want them to be as herdable as possible, and heavens knows we have supported an educational system which has made supernatural gains in loss of knowledge. Do not underestimate the rank power of ignorance, especially when it comes with great numbers. The intelligent voter you want to avoid, but you will not have to avoid many because there are not many to avoid. And you can turn their presumed attack on you against them. The intelligent voter has a huge burden to bear these days, for he lacks something that we all tout: "compassion." Some of the intelligent voters actually fear the opposite charge, of not being "compassionate," and sometimes their party tries to look "compassionate," and their candidates will feebly try to look the part, holding, kissing babies, all the usual stuff. But we need not worry, for their every effort is in vain, for we have sufficient voters on our side to make any such claims look like an attempt to play catch up. If your opponent is using your slogans and your language you can be assured he is losing in his mind. Some of their own party have capitulated to the folly by trying to "out give" us, in terms of the money we promise voters. Truth is they can't do it, and they know it, because they know we are prepared to give it all.
Yes, I know that the posture of the opposition puts them at a great disadvantage. They have no spine. They are terrified of being branded without compassion, the party of the rich, disdainful of the poor and so on. Their fear of those labels is so great they exert most all their energy trying to present the opposite impression. It is amazing to me that they never once try on us what we do to them all the time. They never pin our tail on us. One wonders whether they lack a spine or a brain or both.
I will admit at times I have wished for a stronger opponent, one that would give us something of a fight at least once and a while, for sheer fun. They are, however, I am happy to say, adequate for our purposes.
If you must know, yes we have some ideas. "Ideology" we call it. I suspect you want more than this, however. What I think you want is for me, or someone like me, to tell you whether we actually believe in our own ideas, or whether we know the ideas are mistaken, but persist with them nonetheless. One of the most effective ways, though it takes quite a bit of political skill, is to posture yourself toward the potential voter in one way, but position yourself in the political real world another way.
Whether we believe in them or not is beside the fact, because the fact is that they work!! If you would promise each voter, that upon election, you will place $3,000.00 in their bank accounts, or create an account for them to put it in, you could go to sleep on election night and not rest on mere dreams of winning the next day, but the reality. In fact, one of our own tried something like this, though with a much larger sum. You see our world is a world where dreams and reality are one, because we will tell voters we will make the reality fit the dream. That is why I told you in my very first letter, there is virtually nothing to do when you run for office with this party. Perhaps attack your opponent a bit, or more, if he is particularly feisty, but your problem will be boredom. You see, instead of that old adage, mistakenly used by some of our ancestors, that we should ask what we can do for our country, we teach the people that there is no end to what the country can do for them. Man we are on a gold mine and it is us and our message. No opponent preaching "responsibility" or any other stodgy word has a chance against us. This is why we have every justification for saying we have a "new" message.
Of course the press is on our side! Why do you think our rich opponents have to and do raise so much more money that we; simply because we have a huge campaign waged for us by the media and for not a nickel from us. You see that is why we were so energetic a short time ago to reform the laws on campaign contributions. If we can tighten the noose around these contributors to our opponents we will strangle them, meanwhile our campaign goes on unabated, unchecked in the compliant obedient press which plugs our cause without fail. Without them, we might well be worse off than we have been in recent elections. I presume you watch the networks where the "side" they are on is not just apparent, but blatant. Of course they provide some token criticism of our candidates on occasion, but it is rare occasion. The press are masters of persuasion because they are masters of pessimism. They are always raising "questions," of course grounded in that most helpful of democratic doctrines: the right of the people to know. So you see, you can make the free press notion of our country work with our political notions about everything.
However, and thank goodness, the press in fact decides what the people will be told and what the people will therefore know. God help us the day the people take the press in their own hands. The people, God bless them, know what they are told to know. Most citizens never imagine that the media might have a side on the issues they spin, or leave out a bit of the news that find inimical to their political proclivities. That is why the so-called independent presses and talk-radio are our thorns in the flesh. They tell different stories. You see our press, though not by any means run without brains, is living in a bygone era by persisting in the archaic belief that they are objective with regard to their reporting of the news. There is no such thing!!! At least some of the other press admits it, and I suspect in time so will our willing accomplishes in the press., and forced into admitting it. But that day is far away and probably not even during your young lifetime. Meanwhile you have an election to win. Remember, optimism for us, pessimism for the voter.
You ask for examples of how the press pads our party. Do you watch your television, or more likely given your apparent ignorance, I would ask if you own one. If not, go to a store, where they have them on for potential buyers to watch. You need to have your eyes checked after a glance or two at the screen, unless your hearing is also wanting. There are not enough trees or paper in this town for me to give you all the examples, but I will give some, since apparently you are unable to see--yes I said see, not detect, since it is so forthcoming. Some years ago one of them ran a story of fear of aids transmission among the population and entitled it "A disease called fear." This cast it of course in the unfounded fear category. Now suppose they had run a story by the same name, with the subject however being fear of nuclear war. This is a sound fear, a fear we are supposed to have, so you see, the press gets to decide what is and what is to be feared and not feared. What more could you ask for? They no more report "just the news," than I just live where I live.
Another example comes to mind. I remember one of ours interviewing a group of silent majority gurus some years ago. Before our reporter was through with them, they looked like ignoramuses. They were lamenting how the country had degenerated and so on and on without end. Finally the interviewer had asked what "form" this degeneration had taken, but the facial expression and voice tone of the questioner provided the real rope for lynching them. When he asked the question it was done with facial contortions befitting asking a bunch of people claiming to have been kidnapped by aliens the day and time they had been taken up. You see the trick is to presume by the words and intonation of your question that there is nothing wrong at all, but because we are "objective," we will ask you who live in your bird-brain world what are your imaginings.
Have you not heard our political opponents decry the fact that we have the press in our hands? I fear you have been apolitical, and this is not a trait that will contribute to your success as a candidate of our political persuasion. That aside, the moaning of our opponents is constant about this press relationship we have, so of late, as I said earlier, they have created some of their own news outlets, whereby we can throw some of their criticism of us back at them. Still, however, we never admit our relationship, only criticize theirs. And as I said, I suppose the time will come when our press will have to admit their perspective is our perspective, but until they do, we can go on doing what we are doing.
Of course we tell everybody how bad off they are and who has put them in this predicament. Fear is our noblest weapon. In the old days people were told how far they were from God, so they would flee to God for mercy. We tell them how bad off they are and how we can save them if they flee to us. We care nothing for religion, but will use the proclivity toward it for our gain when we can. Marx would not be pleased with us. Furthermore, we do no worse than the wretched capitalist who told his workers the more they slaved for him, the more crowns they would have in capitalist heaven.
We of course being intelligent people have no heaven to offer, so we offer all its riches right here on earth. To speak seriously, we are materialists through and through. We do not, like the religious, worry as to whether our name is written in the book of life, but whether our name is on the government check. That piece of paper is a lot more sure than any heaven that keeps out people whose God is money.
When our opponent interjects their brand of religion into their campaign we can stifle it by mention of a few convenient phrases, like "Dark Ages or Inquisition", but of late our best, fear that the separation of church and state in our country is being compromised. We of course have our own men and women of the cloth to preach our message. We never worry about their religious ideas, because they are as committed to earth as we are, and more doubtful of heaven than we. Their heaven is on earth, and so is ours, so working together presents few problems. Their god is as vaporous as ours. Therefore, we can create all kind of religious posturing simply by our associations with these select men and women of the cloth.
No, you do not have to lose your religion to side with us, but you do have to find a new one. As you can see on any clear day, we have men and women of the cloth with us, and visibly so, and when you listen to them, you know they are well nigh one of us. Oh yes, the other side has its holy men too, but they are they type prepared to leave the party they cozy up to, for their religious principles. Our clergy have no such choice to make; we, and what we stand for, are their religion. Remember the old time religion that said, that shalt have no other gods before me, well, we still take that as a commandment.
You intimate that we have all the marks of the religious and you are right. The reason is simple. Our political ideas are our religion, that is why we don't want religion in politics, because then we would have a competitor. We don't like, no, more, we loathe competition. That is why we always prefer the public to the private; it is not without reason that we grudgingly concede the power of the free market to feed and clothe the world. The more we take from the private sphere, the sooner we will have it all. But with our atheocracy in place we are powerful.
Of course our opponents are a different kind of religious, but you can use it against them. Throw a word or two I suggested at them and they will see their poll numbers descend so rapidly, that their belief that there is a God will become a matter of doubt to them. Better yet, fasten onto the decisive nature of religion, and portray your opponent as dividing rather than conquering the people. But be careful with that conquering thing, because remember that is what you are after. Except remove the violent and military association of that word by thinking of yourself as a pied piper rather than a Napoleon. Indeed as the piper the job is much easier. Remember, if going down the sliding board is getting harder, you're doing something not quite right.
My word, thing of some of our dearest causes, and how they ring with the reminder of religion to anyone watching. Talk as example, our support for the rights of a child. To those with only the briefest acquaintance with the Gospel stories, this simply looks like a modern version of Jesus chastising the disciples who would shoo children away from him.
About your other worry. You need not worry about wrongdoing that befalls us on occasion. We have developed a response that brings no retort. We simply say that we are all sinners, and most of the religious think we must be saints by using such words. The fact of the matter is that all the sinners are not sinning all the time, but our opposition never realizes that, because they are trying to come down off their holier than thou mountain after their accusation against us. We, meanwhile, appear as humble as the dog on the hearth, though we stole dinner.
Yes, don't use too much, probably no inflammatory language, unless the occasion calls for it. On the other hand, there are plenty of occasions ripe for such language--and the best thing about it is the votes it brings in. Outrage is indeed one of our best vote-getters, because we are best when we are in our fiery prophetic mode; the people, that is, the voters, are spell-bound by the daring accusations we make, and soon, by hearing us make them often enough, they start to make them because they now believe them, and soon the whole country is doing what we taught them to do. Yes, we are really teachers, and effective ones at that. Anyone who does what we have done with a population that now eats out of our hand is to be commended.
The way you do it is you appeal to their tawdry side, the complaining side that sees in their every misfortune someone to blame. You see we are really trying to reeducate adults to be the worst of children again.
What I meant is simply that you let people know how little they are in charge of their lives. In other words, there are these huge malevolent forces who are conniving every waking moment how to oppress them. One has to be very very careful here, because what you want to do is convince them that if we can only get these people out of the way, they can make their lives as they wish, without them noticing that we are still hanging around after they have thrown off their albatross. No, we don't want them to see that it is us.
Yes, our whole program lives off of promoting fear--get used to it, and better yet, like it. And best, manufacture a few new types for us to use. It works this way. No matter how good anything and everything is going for anybody and everybody, go and find someone--the compliant press is always good for this--who is not. Such people are always to be found, because we are a big country. When you find them, however much time and energy it took, cast them as the norm, and not the exception, so that all who hear you, imagine that what you are saying is much larger than it is. Then bring the compassion thing in. It works without fail.
Yes, you need to become familiar and also skillful in using our stock phrases. You know them already because they have become part of our culture. "Where do you draw the line?" Another one is "gray areas." "Compassion" I have already alluded to. For those of religious bent, "Who am I to judge?" Any sin committed, to use the religious jargon, is nullified by the fact that we are all sinners. Thus, to punish the sinner, and to be "just" about it, we must punish ourselves. To avoid that we don't punish the sinner.
You really can have your cake and eat it too with us. For example, some of our best, and across the sea too, asserted that our brand of government, particularly the compassion thing is Christian. Thus, in the same breath, some have dared use the words Christian socialism together. Not of course in this country, except at the very local level. Of course this makes some of our own nervous, until they notice that where the two have blended, one was left with only one, and the religion simply went by the way side. Oh what a world we live in. One would almost think it had been made for us. Maybe there is a God.
You ask where are we going as a party? Man you need to cleanse your soul of what is eating at it. We are going to . . . be elected! Elected for the sake of being elected. Of course we don't say this to the electorate. There we call ourselves public "servants." Even I will admit that it completely stymies me how the public can think of us as servants. Tell me, what servants do you know who make more than their "masters?" On the other hand, if the discrepancy is noticed we simply point out that unless we continue to garner exorbitant servant wages, no public servant will desire to serve anymore. You see there is an answer for any and every question, no matter how damaging it may look in the beginning.
So you are still brooding over my assertion that the press is in bed with us? And you say what happened to a "free" press. They're still free, just freely associating with us. They are scarcely any better, at least most of them, at separating their opinion from a fact than any of us are. If you doubt this, watch for slips over the years as Freud would have us do, and you will detect it.
Ah the military. It serves as one of our best political weapons. We are constantly telling voters how much more we could be giving them if we did not give to the military. Rarely will one ever ask you what the function of the military is, because you have reminded him that the spigot of government money is diverted away from him to kill people. None wants to see people get killed, so there you have it. Better water than wailing.
If the people we want to see killed is for the reason that he is trying to kill us, of course that is a weightier problem. Of course once in a while a dastardly enemy shows up who hates us, and we have to rattle the saber a bit to scare them away. Some of them will go away, or you can put them off long enough, that, heaven forbid, a person of the opposition gets elected, and he must deal with the problem. But most problems are not that severe. You might remember that one of our opponents advocated a shield of some sort that would keep enemy projectiles from ripping into our country, but we mocked at it enough that we got the people to believe something more absurd. This was the idea that holding up a shield to them would provoke them to throw a spear, and therefore if we removed the shield they would throw down their spear.
Ah yes, patriotism. One must know how to play this card skillfully with the people. Our intellectuals of course hate the mere idea because it connotes the parochial mind that thinks their country can never be wrong, simply because they have never seen another country. Furthermore, advocates of patriotism tend to advocate demonization of their enemies. We, by a plan of genius, demonize ourselves, to show that we leave no stone unturned, even our own. Therefore, we have been so scrupulous with our self-examination, that no one else bothers to examine us, for we have already examined ourselves. Socrates would be proud of us until he probed further. You see, we get to police ourselves!!! Of course you ask to what advantage? Simply this. We present ourselves as the party that is so self-scrutinizing that we will not allow ourselves to exempt ourselves from the same sort of scrutiny with which we inflict our enemies. In a word, we are open-minded.
I will admit this is a bit difficult when we have an enemy that really is evil, like the empire one of our worst opponents once mentioned. I mean there really are some lines it is very hard to cross. One cannot, for example, maintain that conditions in our country are worse than where the majority of citizens stood in lines for hours for a few ounces of meat.
But with that difficulty out of the way, we can really go to work now, and really look closely at ours own sins, and where there chance to be none, invent some. The trick is not complex. Complex and sophisticated people such as we must always portray ourselves as open minded, by beating ourselves as did that undeserving publican before the righteous Pharisee. No one ever figures that we are really the Pharisee because we do such a good job of portraying our enemy as one.
Yes, you should play our current unpopularity in the world as reason to reject our opponent. One need ever pretend or bother with any depth on such a charge; one can simply point out how unpopular we are in the world, and none will ever dare ask, if there is a good reason, in fact reason that we can be proud of, for not being popular in the world. You see, the impetus, the pressure to go along with the crowd these days is generally sufficient to disallow any position to the contrary of the crowd. Yes, the world is ripe because it is as sheep waiting to bleat approval of what all else say, and if they say it loud enough, the solitary voices will be drowned. We can hardly imagine a better state of affairs, because by sheer shrillness, forget reason, we can win. If you have ever watched a football game in a stadium full of fans, when the home team calls upon those fans to make so much noise that the opponent team cannot even hear the play being called for, then you have the idea. Don't let them be heard, but not by gagging them, but by drowning them in a sea of voices that make them unhearable. Oh life is good.
Yes, the international community is our ultimate court of appeal because we must project the image of our party as seeking the good of all; therefore we must never ever be thought of as loners and not team players. Dialogue is our toy. We toss it around as always preferential to violence and war with of course the contention that anyone for the international community could never favor war.
The opposition is always trying to justify the overthrow of despots with force. There is one response that will silence an opponent, and it is this:" One does not export democracy down the barrel of a gun." You see how it works. Democracy and guns don't seem to go together. The fact of the matter, however, which the opposition never brings as counter response is that virtually any and every democracy has been birthed with guns, because few are willing to give it without a fight. You see despots are so opposed to democracy that the people must take up an armed rebellion to secure it. We, however, want to distance ourselves from violence of any sort. Remember, peace is our ultimate goal, and not freedom as that other party would have it. This is why the equality and fraternity talk is being used by us all the time.
Joseph Randolph is a writer and academic who lives in Wisconsin.
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