Tokyo Damage Report

THE ONLY WAY PEOPLE SHOULD BE ALLOWED TO TALK ABOUT IDEOLOGY

If you ask anyone (from commies, anarchists, nazis, technocrats, to religious crazies [and even the Vanishing Endangered Liberals!]) to describe their ideal society, I guarantee they’ll all start off with abstractions:

You’ll first hear broad, ‘who-doesn’t-like THIS?’-style abstractions, such as FREEDOM! JUSTICE!  LIBERTY!  OPPORTUNITY!

Plus some more, uh, ominously specific ones like HERITAGE! or INTERNATIONAL STRUGGLE! Or, even more terrifying: INCREMENTAL METRICS-DRIVEN SOLUTIONS!

Only later (if at all!) will you get specifics.

This tendency towards putting the nice-sounding abstractions first is so universal, so common, we’re fooled into thinking that’s the only way to discuss ideology. Not only are there other, better ways, but the ‘abstractions first’ style of speechifying is one of the worst, most manipulative ones! That’s why it’s so common: ideologues of all stripes are basically advertisers.

 

THE BULLSHIT

If I’m trying to convince you the moon is made of green cheese, and I just say, “It’s made of green cheese!”, I sound like an idiot.

But if  I begin by saying, “Our great civilization is built on the ancient Greek principles of Democracy, Free Speech, and Equality. . . . which is why the moon is made of green cheese!”  Then I sound really smart (ancient Greeks!), plus when I pivot to green cheese, it sounds more convincing, because I’ve already got you on board by appealing to your love of equality, democracy, etc.

Abstractions have a hold on us: even decades after the results of trickle down economics became obvious, we still discuss it using the same optimistic abstractions, the same framing, that was used to sell it to us:  jobs, innovation, opportunity, freedom from big government, rising tides for all.  

It’s hard to win a debate on those terms, even if the results are clear to anyone who opens their window and looks out. Because, who doesn’t like innovation and opportunity?

 

 

THE SOLUTION TO THE BULLSHIT

Everyone with a political agenda should be required to FOCUS GROUP it. The government should pay for this. “Ideological Focus-Group Member” should replace Jury Duty as the #1 civic thing you get out of work for.  Here’s how the focus group would work:  An aspiring demagogue picks 4 adjectives which describe their ideal society (freedom, justice, ethnic cleansing, whatever the case may be), and writes them down on a card, for later.  Then they give a 10 minute speech to the focus group.

 

The rules:

1) NO MENTIONING THE 4 ADJECTIVES

2) OR ANY OTHER ADJECTIVES LIKE ‘FREEDOM’ , ‘DEMOCRACY’, ‘LIBERTY’, ETC.

3) The entire speech has to detail what everyday life would look like in the ideal society.  Not the everyday life of politicians, generals, etc. The everyday life specifically of everyone in the focus group.  If some people in your focus group would wind up in internment camps or ‘collective reeducation mines’ because of their backgrounds, you’d have to tell them that. Which specific people in your audience would be better off, and who would be worse off?

3a)  Start with getting out of bed, and work through everyone’s day until it’s bedtime. Do we sleep in private dwellings? Communal barracks? Medieval but environmentally sound lean-tos?

4) You can be as utopian as you want, as long as you follow the first 3 rules; we’re just measuring how well you can SHOW your abstractions as opposed to TELLING them. It’s up to the audience to judge if you’re too unrealistic or not.

 

After the speech, the audience has to write down the first 4 adjectives that come to their mind.  (“What kind of society did the speaker describe?”)

 

After THAT, government workers will see how much overlap there is between the abstractions which the speaker intended to convey, and the abstractions which the audience perceived from the speech.

This overlap (or lack of same!) will be tabulated as some neato chart, and made public for all to see (and laugh at !).

 

This should be the only way ideology is sold.  No short-cuts. No framing the issue in advance. “Show, don’t tell,” as your writing instructor said.

Plus it would be hilarious to see the dominant ideologies get housed by eccentric cranks, just because the dominant ideologies are so used to talking down to the audience, and hiding behind abstractions.

END OF FATWA

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