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For All You Bellichick/"Cheatriots" Haters.... | Main | Slate: Damn That Marco Rubio For Being Such An Anti-Science Wackadoodle
November 20, 2012

Why I Post Non-Political Stuff (And Why The Right Should Engage the Culture In Non-Explicitly Political Ways)

I was going to post a non-political thread, and then started writing the following justification/explanation. I realized at that point I was writing a political thread, which defeated the purpose of branding a thread "Non-Political."

Let me explain why I do these threads. First some personal reasons you can easily ignore, and then a broad and important point I think you shouldn't.

1. First of all, I'm a human being, and I have interests besides politics. Now, you could argue, "Hey, this is your job, keep the non-political stuff elsewhere," but let me explain why that makes no sense.

Let's say I wanted to talk about Prometheus (as I did last week) but was observing a Can't Post Non-Political Things on the Blog. What would I do? Well, I would post on another blog. Let's say a sci-fi blog, or a tech blog, or a movie blog.

And I'd join the conversation about my post on another blog. Thus, instead of discussing this with the people on the internet I know best, I would be off on another blog discussing it with people I know less.

Either way, you wouldn't be getting a political post in exchange. I would just leave this blog blank while I went over to someone else's blog and had what I considered to be an interesting discussion.

This is why I sometimes go on Twitter (though rarely anymore). Sometimes I just don't want to deal with the crap about "I don't watch this/read this/care about this" grief, so I go on Twitter where no one can say I'm obligated to write relentlessly about politics.

By the way, I really don't understand that whole urge to post things like "I'm not interested in this topic." So? It's a strange thing to say. People rarely, if ever, say that in real life. What they usually do is just drift away from a conversation that doesn't interest them to find one that better suits them. They usually don't explain to a group of people having a conversation, "I am not interested in the topic you are discussing and I would strongly suggest you change it to better suit my current interests."

Now, about going to other blogs or Twitter, I hate doing that, actually, because I have long believed if you have a blog you should be posting almost exclusively on your own blog. Any content you're putting on other fora is essentially wasted. Money and time out the door, essentially.

So, I post here. Not everyone is going to be interested in a thread in which I talk about James Bond, but some are, and importantly, I am.

Which leads to the next point.

2. I'm not being selfish when I say this: It is more important that the writer be interested in his writing than any particular reader. Think about it. Not every writer might like a book by, say, Raymond Chandler, but Chandler only needs to please 10,000 people and he's got a hit (a small one, but a hit.)

Now what if Raymond Chandler isn't interested in the book he's writing? Then you get something like his last finished novel, Playback, and it's awful, and no one else likes it at all. No one.

This is just a rule: It is nearly impossible to write something interesting if you yourself are not interested in what you're writing about. It can be done; professionalism and muscle memory can compensate. But by and large you just get Thomas Friedman -- clearly bored with his life and his column -- writing the same stupid shit week after week.

3. Sometimes I don't have anything interesting to say about a political topic which is admittedly important, but I do have something interesting (I think) about a non-political topic, which is less important, but I actually have something to add.

Blogs come in different forms; some are just straight-up news aggregators. A link and an excerpt and a place to comment.

I can do that -- I often do that -- but I don't feel like I'm doing my job if I do that. If all I do is link stuff, what am I actually adding?

This is why I sometimes write about more trivial concerns-- not because I think the trivial concern is more important, but because I have something, anything small to add to the trivial topic, while I have nothing to add about the bigger topic.

I haven't done a post on Israel today. Or yesterday. Obviously, the Israel conflict is very important. I should do a link-and-a-quote, just to give people a space to comment. (I will do this, actually.) But I have nothing to add. I have no added value. It's just going to be a link and quote.

I could say something like "I hope Israel wins" and "I hope this is resolved without too many deaths" and "this will never end until the Palestinians understand the connection between bad action and bad outcome, but they're currently being infantilized politically, sheltered (to a large extent) from the consequences of their actions" but those are obvious things and I've already said them anyway, sixty six times.

I can go twenty, thirty times repeating the same stuff. Around the fortieth time, though, it starts to feel a little repetitive.

If you compare that with the Prometheus post: No, the Prometheus post was not important. But it was at least interesting to some (including me). Writing the same three things about Israel would not have been interesting. Commenters might have had some interesting points (which is the reason I'll put up a quote and link post), but me, not so much.

Okay those are the personal reasons. Now here are the more important reasons, including the political reason for non-political posts:

4. Community building/humanization. Sometimes there are some pretty mean fights that break out. I think that seeing someone in more human terms -- not as a political adversary or rival -- helps defuse that.

We all know -- or should know, by now -- the internet does not allow a human view of one's opponent. One finds oneself (I am as guilty as any) saying things to strangers one would never, ever say in real life, and I don't just mean due to fear of being punched in the mouth. (Though the threat of violence does tend to make social interactions more polite--as Conan observed, savages tend to be more polite than civilized men. The prospect of getting your head lopped off over an ill-considered remark tends to encourage politeness.)

It's more just that you can't see the face, the other human being, on the other side of an internet nastygram, and that encourages all sorts of asocial behavior. Human beings have built-in empathy receptors keyed to the faces of other human beings. We lay off each other, in real life, because we don't like to see each other hurt. We don't like the sight of tears.

The interent doesn't have anything like that. There is no brake pedal in an internet dispute, as there would be in a real-life one. In real life, seeing someone mortified and hurt would make us stop pretty darned quickly.

So, I like the non-political threads for that aspect-- because, in a way, you get to see someone's humanity. Maybe empathy is just one shared recipe away.

5. On that point, threads like this are good for the right, politically. In fact, there should be blogs like this -- that is, center-right blogs that have little to do with politics.

I know that sounds odd, but that's how the left wins the culture. They dominate the culture with entertainment/news stuff that, supposedly, is apolitical, and thus attracts people who aren't interested in politics, but who are interested in LOLcats or Twilight or science fiction or whatever. But they will slip in their political beliefs, and thereby create two extremely useful effects:

First Major Effect: Convincing people that this political culture (liberalism) is ubiquitous and therefore the choice to pick any another culture would be swimming upstream and socially disfavored and create all sorts of problems.

One of the problems with the right's attempts at media is that it is always -- or almost always -- expliclity political, and ergo argumentative (argumentative in the "good" meaning, but also often in the bad one). We're always trying to persuade in conservative media. Thus, conversion can only happen when people tune into us when they're in the mood to be persuaded that everything they used to think is wrong, and these other people have been right all along.

You know how all often people tune in to discover how wrong they've been about everything? Rounding off to the nearest integer, zero. Zero percent of the people tune in zero percent of the time to be told how very wrong they are about everything.

Taking it to three significant digits like Nate Silver, The Model projects that zero point zero zero percent of the populace searches for websites and magazines to tell them they are 100% wrong about everything zero point zero zero percent of the time.

The left doesn't do it like this. The left infiltrates non-political media and stuffs them full of political assumptions.

We say on the right we have better arguments. We do. Guess what? It doesn't matter. Because an assumption -- something you've grown to believe without even realize you've been programmed, by dint of repetition, to believe -- will beat an argument every time.

Soft liberalism is the default setting for the American mind, generally. Why? Because to make a contrary choice requires three things:

1. A conscious choice.

2. A decision to do some work and do the investigation necessary to make that choice.

3. An admirable bravery regarding the likely social consequences of making a socially-disfavored choice.

Yes, we will still have our arguments. And they will win, assuming the target of persuasion is amenable on those three grounds -- he's willing to make a conscious choice, he's willing to do some philsophical/political homework, and he's willing to face the consequences of social disapproval and outright mockery for that choice.

If not, we lose, and John Q. Public goes back to thinking Democrats are awesome because they stand "for the common man."

Like I said: It would be better to have the assumption than the argument. You cannot reason someone out of a position they were never reasoned into in the first place, the saying goes.

Second Major Effect: That liberals are fun guys full of wit and interesting things to say and don't drone on and on about politics all the damn time.

The reason the right must do this is that 90% of political belief is not rational per se. It's pre-rational, to coin a term. It's not irrational per se, but it's often not examined on strictly rational, faculties-of-higher-thinking-fully-engaged level, either.

It's who you like.

If you liked and respected your parents, and they were traditionalists and conservative-leaning, I'll bet real money you're a traditionalist and conservative too.

If you didn't like your parents, and they were traditionalists and conservatives, I'll bet real money you are now a progressive and general "rebel" against society, throwing the finger to the Tomb of the Unknown Solider, who is really your dad.

(This also works the other way-- a liberal who loves his liberal parents will be liberal, and one who thinks they're foolish and lazy, like Adam Carolla, will wind up believing the exact opposite of them.)

Liberals understand this. Or at least they behave in a fashion which suggests they understand this. It is quite possible they are simply attracted to media positions because they just have that skill set and don't have other skill sets. But either way, it works out nicely for them.

Tell me the truth: You can knock celebrities all you like -- Big Dummies, Stupid Liberal Fatcats, etc. -- but admit it. When a celebrity you like -- writer, actor, director, musician -- slams your political beliefs, it hurts.

I wasn't happy to find out Captain Mal Reynolds of Firefly was a big Obama guy. Didn't ruin my day or anything, but still. Minor bummer.

Politics, for most, is less about argument and logic and rational underpinnings and grandly conceived ideology than it is a simple human choice: Do I feel more affinity with this group over here, or that one over there? And once you've chosen a tribe you're more comfortable with, you begin adopting their attitudes and mores.

Did you have a group you hung out with in eighth grade? Did you sort of dress like others in the group? Listen to the same music?

Same thing. People are complicated in many ways but in some of the most important they're brutally simple.

And this is why I do think there is a strong political rationale for my non-political posts. I still get hits, for example, on my Guide to the Best Episodes of Dr. Who. Those are not political junkies coming here; they're Dr. Who fans.

Now, if they like the guide, if I've provided them a service, then they slightly like me (at least to the extent one "likes" a waitress at a restaurant who does a good service for you).

And this tends to make Team Red seem a little more human and accessible and really Not So Strange At All.

We don't do enough of this. We say we're the people With Real Lives Apart From Government and Liberals are the ones who are obsessed with politics because They've Got Nothing Else In Their Lives, that government for them is their church, their community, even their softball league.

And I think there's truth in that. But consider this: Whenever someone meets or sees a conservative in the public square, we're the ones talking about politics, we're the ones trying to convert them, we're the ones trying to make an ideological sale.

Liberals explicitly try to make ideological sales, too. Liberal blogs do. But think about BuzzFeed, which attracts people mostly with LOLcats, sideboob, and Funny Gifs but then hits them with subtle political messaging every fifth post. I don't mean BuzzFeed Politics, either. I mean BuzzFeed LOLcats.

Subtle -- just a joke here or there. But it's enough to make the point who the Popular Kids are and who the hopelessly unfashionable, crazy smelly kids are.

Early last century, a Communist named Gramsci declared that the only way to prepare a populace for revolutionary communist change was the Long March Through the Institutions, a slow but persistent process of infiltration and then complete capture of the most important information- and opinion-transmitting institutions in the nation.

He was right. And also, his plan is now almost fully completed. Can you even doubt that?

I just saw a movie in which someone said something like "There are two things that will bring down any mountain in the world-- time, and patience." The left has shown they have both.

The "conservative media," as it stands, is doomed to failure, because, as it stands, it is explicitly an alternative -- thus conceding the liberal media is the dominant one -- and is parasitic on the liberal media. While there are right-media ventures doing original work, by and large we're a Shadow Media, rebutting and critiquing the liberal media.

But a critique is just a critique. I can write a great review of Skyfall but you will never once wonder to yourself which is more important, my critique or the actual film I'm critiquing.

This may seem counter-intuitive, but if conservatives want to change the culture, change the media culture, more of us need to stop critiquing the culture from the outside. We need to join it -- and not as conservatives, either. Not conservatives, Named and Shamed as conservatives. Not as critics. Not as a Shadow Media. Not as people trying to ring up an ideological sale.

Just people are who are in positions to influence things, should they need some influencing.

Although we scream about media bias, they're actually not biased 90% of the time. 90% of media has no bias, because it's not about stuff that's really that political.

But ah, that last 10%... the 10% where it is political... that 10% where a decision to send lots of resources to a story or bury it... that 10% where the choice of Narrative becomes critical in shaping the public's reaction to a story.

It's that 10% that swings elections, and swings the fate of nations.

I can't really do much about all that, except to express my opinion that if conservatives want to win elections, they have to start competing in the arena of culture. Billionaires should buy some newspapers. Venture capitalists should fund new media ventures which will not be conservative as their main identity, but about various general interest things, but may have a conservative-leaning political/editorial board attached.

And younger conservatives should start getting jobs in the media, and I mean the straight liberal media, and not so much in the conservative Shadow Media. Take it over from the inside, as the left did in the Long March Through the Institutions.

But meanwhile, on this blog, I'll continue posting things I think are funny and interesting, like the Greatest Event In Television History, the Remake of the Simon & Simon opening credits sequence.

And not just because I'm being lazy and silly -- though I am that. But because there is a value to being lazy and silly sometimes. Sometimes, strangers on Google aren't looking for an Argument, but are instead looking for Lazy and Silly.

And who knows, maybe one in a thousand of those sticks around.

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posted by Ace at 06:24 PM

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