Saturday, August 4, 2012

Memo: Keep Up the Good Work

To: Ministry of Communication

Dear Colleagues:

The Director has been following your recent work, and is very pleased with the quality of public debate you've helped promote in the United States. Social networking sites have been a godsend to us (if you'll pardon the expression). However, we've become aware of a small but troubling movement calling for “civil public debate.” As this yawn-inducing phrase indicates, the movement isn't exactly capturing the public imagination. Indeed, its commitment to restraint, modesty, and rationality should insure its failure. It doesn't appeal to the more primal emotions, and should therefore be no match for our more robust methods.

Still, the Director feels that if the civility advocates learn to spread their message effectively, they could be a thorn in our side. As a countermeasure, we have prepared a message to be funneled to our contacts in both American political parties.
Dear friends,

With all the progress we've made against our opponents, we have good reasons to congratulate ourselves. Our courage and zeal have paid off--just look how mad the other guys are! They're really starting to hate out guts.
But there are people questioning our success.  They claim the rhetoric is getting too heated, and they're calling for “civility." Folks, we can't let this kind of thinking slow us down. Our progress so far has been based on untempered passion and self-assurance. Now these civility advocates are bleating about how “complex” reality is, and how we need to be more “reasonable.” Well, when have our opponents ever been reasonable with us? This talk of moderation will only let them get the upper hand. Our country is like a house on fire, and we have to fight fire with fire.
So forget this stuff about reality being complex. What we need are simple, catchy slogans. We need punchy one-liners. We need talking points we can repeat until we don't even need to think about them anymore. Logic and science are fine when they tell us what we want to hear, but they just don't light a fire under people. We also need good, solid denunciations. We need boogiemen. That's why we have to get out there on Facebook and Twitter and keep the fear and loathing hot. If you're going to snipe at someone, don't just say it; say it with feeling. Use multiple exclamation marks; and don't be afraid of the caps lock button. A SENTENCE LIKE THIS SHOWS HOW PASSIONATE YOU ARE, AND IF YOU'RE PASSIONATE, YOU MUST BE RIGHT!!!!!
Try to make converts if you can. As soon as someone changes their mind and joins us, they become one of the Good Guys.  So get out there and argue. Everybody knows there's no better way to convince someone than saying what an idiot they are in front of as many people as possible. If it didn't work, why would so many people try it? If your opponent hasn't seen the light, a few more good insults will usually bring them around.

Of course, some people are hard-headed, and won't believe you no matter how stupid you say they are. If they absolutely won't listen, just ask yourself this: were you really trying to convince them anyway? Of course not. You were trying to make US look smart, and THEM look bad. And that's OK, because we are smart and they are bad. Otherwise they would agree with us!

Most people aren't going to change their minds about anything, regardless of the evidence. Do we? Absolutely not! Still, we can't let our friends be lured to the dark side. That's why we need more preaching to the choir. We need more bandwagons; more strength in numbers. It takes real courage to stand up for something when all your friends do, too.

Some will claim we should be fair-minded and truthful, but how can we, if the other side won't? This is like a nuclear arms race, and some things you have to see through to the bitter end. We have to embrace vital rhetorical tools like hyperbole, rumor, and wild accusation. It's amazing what people will believe. They'll even spread the message if you phrase the email correctly. Don't worry...most people have never even heard of
If you run into one of those irritating people who make calm, thoughtful points, just throw up a straw-man caricature of their argument and kick the stuffing out of it. And never underestimate the power of simpler forms of ridicule. A good horse laugh has stopped many an argument in its tracks. Finally, never attack someone's argument if you can just attack them. Do they look funny? Point it out. Some say ad hominem attacks like that are fallacies. Maybe, but a good fallacy can get you a long way in today's world.

Finally, don't worry about making people so mad they'll get violent. It's not like you're looking them in the eye. This is the age of the internet--just insult the ones that live far away from you; that's the safest thing. They probably won't take it out on anyone else. The bottom line is, there may be risks associated with the kind of robust public debate we're advocating, but they're worth it. Our side has everything to gain, and our opponents have everything to lose. People who say we should find common ground have their heads in the clouds. Besides, it's not like Americans would ever actually go to war against each other.
Feel free to modify this message as you see fit.  However, this may not be necessary, as it was written by the Director himself.  He has thousands of years of experience at this sort of thing, and his track record speaks for itself.

From:  Office of the Director
One Ninth Circle