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April 23, 2011

Fred Thompson Warns Candidates About "The Narrative"

I've meant to write about this since yesterday since Thompson's article granted me an actual insight. I think it's actually an obvious insight, and I don't blame you for not being impressed with it, but it impressed me, if you know what I mean.

Here's Thompson:

In the minds of some commentators, the candidate who enters the fray late (by media standards) is by definition a dark horse, and therefore suspect. That is, the candidate would not be a dark horse if his heart were truly in it. If he had the fire in the belly, he would not be late entering the field. Some writers will go to extremes to make the facts fit their thesis.

Kilgore writes that by the time I announced my candidacy for the 2008 nomination “it was already becoming clear that he lacked commitment. Even before his appearance on Leno [in September 2007], there were abundant signs that he was not running for president, so much as walking — or even riding a golf cart — with abundant stops for rest and ice cream. His first Iowa appearance, in August, was at the Iowa State Fair, a must-do for any candidate, and particularly one like Thompson, who had already skipped the official Straw Poll that serves as the major fundraiser for the state GOP. With the eyes of the first-in-the-nation-caucus state on him, Big Fred showed up at the sweaty, extremely informal event sporting Gucci loafers, and proceeded to spend the day tooling around the fairgrounds in the aforementioned cart — a very big no-no for anyone who wasn’t either disabled or a major fair donor.”

I'm going to admit here Thompson's factual challenge to this entire claim -- he's saying it's just false, and I believe him. He seems to have documented facts on his side.

That's important, and you should read it, but for the purposes of my insight, it's just important to know that these claims are factually false. Not about matters of opinion, mind you -- I'm talking about just accepting false facts uncritically because they make things easier on your brain. That's the thing I'm interested in.

None of [the actual facts in another story] mattered, because such facts got in the way of the media narrative of the dark horse, the reluctant armchair candidate, the candidate with no fire in the belly.

Now here's the thing, and here's a confession: As "someone" and other pro-Fred Thompson supporters can tell you, I actually bought into this Narrative a fair amount and was always getting pushed back on it, vigorously, by the Thompson supporters.

But here's some context: I myself was a Fred Thomspon supporter. After I realized that Giuliani couldn't win and his lead was just name recognition (I knew he couldn't win when he announced "I'm pro-choice"), I looked about for another horse to ride and chose Fred Thompson.

I thought Fred Thompson was ideal. I thought he was the Super Candidate and yes, something of a Savior. I thought he could unite both wings of the party, easily and enthusiastically, and had every important box checked in the Standard Mainstream Conservative policy list, and furthermore, had a hell of a superheroic Origin Story and would be an absolute Rock Star in the campaign.

So I want to say that I was actually a Fred Thompson supporter when I bought a bit into this narrative. My problem here was not that I was undersupportive of Thompson, but rather, I suppose, that I was too supportive, and my expectations were too high.

So the Fred Thompson candidacy was, for me, a frustrating thing, because I expected so much. I expected him to dominate the primaries and simply catch fire.

I had a lot of eggs in the Fred Thompson basket. Still do, in fact. If Fred Thompson announces tomorrow-- which I strongly urge him to do -- I'm on Team Fred, all the way to the RNC.

But, as I said, I was frustrated, because he didn't dominate. He didn't catch fire. I think he edged into a third-place finish in Iowa, which kept him alive, but it also marked him as an unlikely winner, and therefore he never got the huge advantage of the bandwagon effect.

Now here's the thing. Here's the important thing. Here's the whole basis for my insight:

I did not understand then, and still do not understand now, why Fred Thompson did not almost immediately become the front-runner and sweep virtually every single primary and caucus.

I still do not understand. I still don't get it. I can point at a few things -- he seemed to have a bit of stage fright and discomfort when announcing on Leno -- but these things are not enough, I don't think, to explain the failure of his candidacy.

So I didn't understand. And because I didn't understand, but needed some way of explaining it to myself (and, also, to readers, if they wanted me to shed light on this perplexing circumstance), I was prey to an easy answer cooked up by someone else.

This someone else, I think, was Roger Simon at Politico, I think. (Not the good Roger Simon at Pajamas Media, the bad, awful Roger Simon at Politico.) He put out an easy-peasy-lemon-squeezey narrative to explain to me what was hard to explain -- why isn't Fred! crushing the field like the 260 pounds of rompin'-stomplin' sex he is? -- and I bought into that, a little, just because I had no other way to explain it to myself.

Now I have a different theory about it, which I won't bore you with, because it's besides the point, and further, it's my own personal Narrative, also all guesswork and supposition.

But the point is that these Narratives are begun, and started, to disguise laziness, incompetence, and ignorance. If we don't know the reason, and if we are too lazy or not skilled enough to find a good answer, we are prey to simplistic little fakey make-'em-ups. Not because they're compelling, and not because they're true -- the media knows half of the shit they say isn't true, like forever claiming Scooter Libby "leaked" the identity of Valerie Plame without noting it was liberal-leaning-RINO in good standing Richard Armitage who actually leaked it first-- but because it's easy and simple.

Easy and simple. Scooter Libby leaked that name; Fred Thompson doesn't have fire in his belly.

So this is my insight. I did warn you it was sort of obvious, didn't I? Yes, it's obvious, but for me, my own personal glomming on to an easy, simple narrative to explain that which is difficult to explain really brought this home: We all -- but especially the media -- make up The Narrative to paper over our insufficient knowledge.

If a Narrative has a strong through-line, as they say about scripts and fictions, then the momentum of that through-line, that main driving plot, will tend to carry the story over any plot-holes or weakly-motivated actions. If the through-line is strong enough, it will carry you over such logical gaps and Deleted Scenes and and Scenes Scripted But Never Shot because you're getting the big picture well enough to miss the fact that the little details are either absent or a muddle.

Which is why the media so heavily depends on The Narrative -- 90% of the time, their reportage is weak and incomplete. It is riddled through with missing details and unknown motivations.

But if you can affix to that set of incomplete facts a strong enough story that links together the few facts you have and, most importantly of all, suggests by inference what the missing details could be or should be, then what you have just done is turned an incomplete story without a much value or relevance into a "context-rich" story that helps people "understand their world."

But importantly -- the "context" you're providing, and the "understanding of the world" you're supplying, are not in fact facts you've verified. It's just some crap you just made up (through insinuation) that fills in the gaps of fact and logic in the meager reportage element of your story.

The liberal media resorts to this often due to laziness or partisanship. But they also do so because sometimes they themselves really just don't understand.

Let me propose a thought experiment. Imagine ten liberals and ten of us. We're each asked a series of political questions. Our task is not to answer as we ourselves would answer, but instead to guess at what our liberal counterparts will say, and not just as far as conclusions, but also as far as reasoning and assumptions and secondary premises.

Who do you think would do better at this task-- we or they? We would. Because while we are fed a steady litany of liberal assumptions and assertions on a daily basis, a liberal is entirely free to ignore the conservative movement's beliefs altogether by simply never consuming any conservative media.

And 95% of them, of course, choose to do just that.

We on the right would probably make that choice, too, if it were allowed to us -- but it's not. We can't escape the liberal media, even when we try.

And we wouldn't just win this experiment on points; we'd destroy them, three knockdowns and then one knockout (and there'd be more knockouts if the ref let us keep pounding on their unconscious heads).

Even the most pro-life among us could, if asked why liberals are so strong pro-choice, trot out the reasons the liberals would give: an embryo is not a life unless it can exist independently of the mother, a woman shouldn't be punished by unwanted pregnancies, a woman shouldn't be economically disadvantaged by unplanned babies, a woman's personal decisions are sacrosanct, there is a right to privacy between woman and doctor, etc.

I'm not saying the pro-lifers would agree with those premises: But they could name them.

On the other hand, the liberals' guesses about our beliefs would be, once you got past the fifteen synonyms for "Because they're stupid" (more on that in a bit), would be the vaguest guesswork about words they've barely heard us say. "Because, um, it's in the Constitution? Or something? I hear them talk about that a lot. They probably think something in it says something about something." That would be a rather good guess on their part.

Now, liberals, therefore, have an abject lack of competence in describing the conservative mindset. They don't understand how we think, and they don't even care to find out -- they never bother asking us, you'll notice. They tend to inform us of what we think and then tell us why those thoughts they just claimed we have are in fact wrong, ignorant, and evil.

I'm always asking liberals, "Why do you think that? What is the assumption you're starting with?" They tell me. I already knew the range of options from the media, but when they tell me, I know the particular bits of liberal assumptions they're specifically relying on.

And because I've asked, and they've answered: I know.

They never ask. They don't care, because they think we're ignorant and therefore no question asked of us can ever yield useful information.

So the media not only has a failure of perspective when it comes to conservatives, but a failure of curiosity, and, ultimately, because of those two failures, they suffer a third failure: A failure of imagination. They cannot even guess the reasons why we think what we think on any particular issue because they never asked, not even once, about why we think what we think on other, similar issues.

I can predict what a liberal will say on any issue. I will not only guess his position, I will accurately guess his reasoning. The latter, most of the time, anyway: I will either guess his primary reason, or his secondary reason, or a reason he's actually contrarian on (and thus departs from the liberal mainstream) but which he will at least recognize as a legitimate reason offered by may other liberals.

He won't be able to do that with me. He doesn't know and doesn't care to find out.

But if called upon to supply an explanation, he'll guess.

And he'll resort to The Narrative. Devoid of facts or accurate guesses based on close questioning on other matters, he'll take his best guess at a logical Narrative about my beliefs and motivations.

And what will his guess be? Well, since he never bothered to ask, and never bothered to read a conservative writing his beliefs out, and since, even when he ambushes a conservative (as Martin Bashir did yesterday with Andrew Breitbart) he doesn't actually bother listening to the answers but instead simply follows up with a re-worded restatement of the accusation, he'll resort to the very easy, very natural, very simple Narrative that explains it all.

He'll choose from the following list:

1) Because they're stupid

2) Because they're uneducated

3) Because they're superstitious and credulous and think that God told them to believe this

4) Because they have weak minds and Rush Limbaugh told them to think this

and, of course, for those who aren't clearly in the above categories:

5) Because they're racists and they hate

6) Because they literally -- as the Simpsons' parody went -- because they very literally "Want What's Worse For Everybody," i.e., they are not only villains, but self-aware villains of deliberate and knowing choice, villains because they've decided to Choose Villainy

Sometimes, the media actually has better answers than that -- they could at least offer up "because of the Constitution, or something?" -- but they find repeating our beliefs so hateful and so beyond credibility they refuse to.

Our black lies cannot pass their fair lips. Even in the few cases where they could accurately describe our reasoning and beliefs, they won't, because our reasoning and beliefs are so disgusting and transparently dishonest they cannot abide propagating them.

And thus The Narrative. Where facts are either missing, or unknown, or too hateful to actually be repeated in polite company, the Narrative fills in any and all blanks.

It's all worse now, of course, because the most unbelievable thing has happened to liberals. Ten times more mystifying than Fred Thompson's failure to catch fire is conservatives' failure to worship Barack Obama.

If I was mystified by Fred Thompson's failure to charm conservatives, liberals are stunned and apoplectic over Barack Obama's failure to charm conservatives.

They don't get it. Their imagination fails. How can such a clean, articulate (and I'm not kidding) genius be rejected by so many, beautiful in form, in voice, in mind, and spirit?

How can someone who quite literally is alike a Second Christ be rejected?

They can't explain it. Not just to the public, but to themselves. I sometimes wonder, slightly, why Fred Thompson didn't win; but they -- they! -- are almost dazed by distraction over the central mystery: "How can the world reject a God?"

Since this is so inexplicable to them, so beyond their experience and even beyond their capacity to imagine, the normal power of the Narrative is increased by a full order of magnitude.

How could so many fail to be "enchanted" (remember that word?) by Obama? Well, let's see: Fear, ignorance, lack of education, God told them not to be, Limbaugh told them not be, and, of course, hate and racism.

How could so many turn their backs on this wonderful man's determination to bring to the country the Democratic dream of ObamaCare? Well, obviously, ignorance, fear, lack of education, Gold told them it was bad, Limbaugh said it was bad, that stupid Wasilla Witch said the magic words "death panels," and, of course, hatred of minorities and/or the poor.

Now, by the way, on that point, the liberal media loves discussing how the Ryan plan will probably alienate many older voters who are hellbent to that their FDR-era bureaucracy of health delivery not be modified in any way.

But, when casting about for reasons that people might oppose ObamaCare, does it ever pass their lips that ObamaCare stole a HALF A TRILLION DOLLARS from older voters to give it to other voters?

If oldsters don't like Ryan's plan because it might cut half a trillion, how come Obama's plan, which definitely cut half a trillion (it's in the law and everything) cannot similarly be explained by the same desire to not lose the same half a trillion dollars?

Nope, let's not even discuss that. Let's go with fear, ignorance, hate, God, Limbaugh, Beck...

Liberals do not understand. They are literally -- literally -- in love with a man named Barack Obama, and cannot understand how anyone on earth could possibly fail to fall in love with him as well.

Only a black and cold heart, devoid of normal human warmth, could possibly find fault with the apple of the collective media eyes.

I understand this syndrome when it comes to political partisans and true believers. And many of the media are just that, of course. But they're something else besides: They're supposed to be professional fact-gatherers and fact-disseminators.

It's not as if these facts are kept secret from them. This is not a conspiracy to keep the truth from the liberals. We conservatives are not shy about our beliefs.

If they asked us why we didn't like Obama, we would tell them. Eagerly.

But they don't ask. They don't even listen when we tell them, unasked.

These are facts in plain sight. This is low-hanging fruit.

Easiest thing in the world if a liberal is bewildered by a conservative's position is to write him an email and ask him.

But they don't.

They've got their Narrative.

And they're sticking to it.

The Narrative answers all questions -- or, at least, all questions that matter.

Why are conservatives doing x? Because they're evil and stupid and crazy.

Why are conservatives saying y? Because they're evil and stupid and crazy.

God forbid you should pick up the phone, ask a question, write down someone's actual words, and then report that.

No, by all means -- keep telling me what I really think.

Because you're the ones to know, right?

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posted by Ace at 11:43 AM

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