As Stella Morabito wisely pointed out recently, the Right must actively resist political correctness—more accurately “propaganda compliance”—which smothers all reasonable discussion. Many feel like we are already doing this. True, we have been active; just not effective.
Our biggest success has become a problem. We created a network of our own news and culture media. But success has bred complacency. Right-wing media has become so successful that it encourages us to retreat into it. We huddle together and cheer each other on, and in the activity and the noise, we rarely notice that no one else hears a thing we say.
The few who have worried about our preaching to the choir problem have tried two basic strategies. One, we’ve tried to see conservative stars break into established mainstream media. But the guardians of PC thought make sure our exceptional communicators remain isolated in Right media, to which the guardians have inoculated the non-right public. That’s why our media has limited reach. As long as it is labeled Right-wing, red, or anything conservative, it is easy for the PC guardians to get the public to dismiss it. (Actually, they can get supposedly thoughtful people to reflexively dismiss Right media while blaming that media for the stigma. It is an impressive accomplishment.)
The Right Can’t Use ‘Rules for Radicals’
Two, we’ve encouraged turnabout with Saul Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals.” For the unfamiliar, these are vicious rules of engagement for how to control public discourse. Alinsky published the rules in 1971 for progressive agitators and, as Stella’s discussion on saturation and suppression suggests, the rules have proven very successful for the Left.
But they will never be successful for the Right. To start, they are basically rules for how to be a jerk. Yes, sometimes that is effective—squeaky wheels get the grease and all—but if I may go a bit mother hen, two wrongs don’t make a right, or just because so-and-so got to do something dangerous and didn’t get hurt, that doesn’t mean you should.
Mostly, however, acting like a jerk simply is not an effective strategy for the group without the popular press and entertainment coverage. That’s how leftist Alinskites do jerk things without earning the reputation as jerks—others with a lot of popular reach cover for them. They make excuses and ridiculous or out-of-context comparisons. Or, if the story is bad enough, they just ignore it. Witness the latest media collusion over refusal to cover the Planned Parenthood videos. Alinsky’s rules can be used to achieve dominance, but are almost useless for breaking the dominance once established.
But if the Alinsky game does not work, placing supporters in established media has not worked, and building our own media has seen us effectively retreat, then what can we do?
1. Get Un-Busy and Talk to People
First, restore our villages; the Burkeian ones, not the Clintonian, appropriated African ones.
Women once connected our local communities, but we no longer have a common rhythm to our lives that allows us to connect outside of specific bubbles like work, school, and church. Even then, it is everyone to her separate corner: the stay-at-home moms meet during the day, the working moms evening and weekends. The twenty-something moms sit awkwardly in the back, regardless of when they can meet. At the office, bankers swap business cards at their networking events. There are other events for the doctors, lawyers, and such. Writers form email groups.
Couple all this faction formation with Do-It-All pressure—admitted or denied, it exists—that has everyone huddled in his or her own little family units because there isn’t time for anything but work and quality time, and we no longer interact much outside of work or school. On top of all of that, we have the communication changes. Voice mail, snail mail, email, text, DM, mobile, home phone. How does one consistently reach today’s household?
Luckily, there is one easy start to a fix. Instigate community. Meet. Face to face. Share meals and throw parties. When the women or the home dads start talking, then community will start to return outside of work and school realms, which will make it difficult for the PC assumptions about evil right wingers to hold.
2. Don’t Hide
Second, while restoring villages, don’t hide your ideas. Obviously, don’t be the insufferable topic hoarder who can’t talk about anything but the collapse of American foreign policy, but don’t hide.
Note: refusing to hide does not require engaging in prolonged debate. One doesn’t need to hijack a holiday dinner or spend two hours in a furious Facebook comment thread to speak out. One only needs to put a not-crazy face on an idea. A calm and brief statement of your position and its reasons is enough. A “but you seem so normal” kind of response marks a success.
3. Get On Social Media
Third—and don’t everyone groan at once—use social media. While I vigorously concur with Stella that personal connections will be essential to this work (see rules one and two) we can, and really must, use social media to help build or sustain those connections.
Shunning social media is like complaining that video killed the radio star and therefore refusing to transition from radio to TV. Or to draw on an old story that most Americans know, Kennedy and Nixon gave the first televised presidential debate. Among the Americans who listened to the debate the old way, on the radio, Nixon won. Among those who watched the debate on their TVs, Kennedy won. Kennedy had already been using TV coverage more than Nixon. He knew about the heat of the lights and the importance of makeup. Nixon got hot and sweaty and looked a little pale, the textbook tells of a liar.
Think of social media as Nixon’s missing makeup. Without it, we can say the same things, and we may even say them better than the opposition, but they won’t be as easily received as from the politician who has become familiar with the new modes of communication.
4. Speak Up Online
Social media is here. It is the new way of initial mass communication, and used properly, could be effective. We can use social media for blast PR (“My latest at…”), and sensational sparring, but those are not nearly as effective as the numbers or our sense of satisfaction suggest. For breaking the PC hold on culture, 500 hits from the choir are not so valuable as five hits from doubting newcomers. (For specifics on using social media to actually connect with others, see here or here.)
Plus, online commentary is even easier than in person. Online discussion is not about winning the argument. It is about inspiring doubt for all the things media and culture insists are obvious and settled. They reassure people to make them compliant. We must rattle them to inspire change. When reading or watching outside of Right sources, leave a comment to inspire doubt. Question one of the opposition’s essential propositions or lay out one reasoned argument. Add a share if the source is an article or video supporting your position. The whole thing can take less than five minutes.
Do not worry about replies calling you out. Do not worry if others read the material or if the replies show understanding of your point. You will not usually get the satisfaction of knowing when you’ve reached someone because the people who reply on public comment threads are typically more set and confident in their opinion. You are not commenting to reach them, but to reach the lurkers, those who read the thread but do not comment. They are more open-minded. Every once in a while you will get a personal contact and a thanks, but most of the time you will feel like you are writing into the ether.
5. Spread, Don’t Echo
Coordinate to spread, not simply to echo. We on the Right are great at cross-posting our big stories inside the Right news bubble. We watch our ideas ricochet around us in these enclaves of our own and mistake the movement and noise for progress.
We need to do more sharing outside of the Right. Conservative women in particular don’t like to share in mixed company. Our media, however, does not have the baseline reach of the mainstream media. See Eric Erickson on the new Apple News curation, read about Google’s election influence potential, or try to set up the very popular Gmail app and find all your conservative news bundled into the “promotions” tab with your free shipping offers from Old Navy while HuffPo newsletters stay in the “primary” inbox, which comes preset to alert you to new messages. Without coordination, our ideas will never begin to break though the SEO (search engine optimization) blockade that makes HuffPo the arbitrator of right and wrong thinking.
Furthermore, we need to share more of the smaller stuff, the lesser-known authors, the story-tellings, and the ideas-without-labels pieces. The PC guardians of ideas watch for our big players and can easily discredit them. But they can’t guard against the entire Army of Davids, especially if we seem to be talking about something else.
6. Embrace New Media
Then we have new media. In an interesting twist, as federal government has grown more powerful and more centralized, pop culture has become more diffuse.
In a generally funny piece from Emily Zanotti on the dull Video Music Awards’s, she wrote, “people who made inane YouTube videos now constitute a ‘red carpet star.’” She’s right in the sense that these YouTubers are nothing like the stars of old—everyone knew their names and faces—but in some of the nooks and valleys of modern life they are quite popular. But our political powers that be have hardly noticed the change from centralized pop culture much less the potential.
The Democrats have recognized this potential. They know that a simple comment on a popular blog can humanize a politician with the followers of that blog. For a moment, the president of the United States was in the room with them, reading the same story they were. They felt a connection and couldn’t care less whether any seasoned pundits think it was a publicity stunt.
For some unfathomable reason, Republican politicians wait for established media to dictate how they connect with the populace.
Why do candidates provide only white papers on their sites? Why not add white-paper videos, three-minute explainers of their basic positions? It isn’t hard. The production values do not need to be high. How much traction has Christian Hoff Sommers gotten off of her Factual Feminist videos of short explainers filmed in her office? She looks in the camera, seems to talk directly to the viewer.
This option is available to all of the candidates, yet they do not use it. They’ve taken the old get-a-soundbite game and put it on their websites. They have sites full of news, debate, and stump-speech clips—because Americans love being lectured by politicians.
7. Go Where the People Are
When will one of the spouses of a candidate or Carly Fiorina open a Pinterest account? Or a shop on Etsy? Women use those sites, and Hillary has both. While our candidates are still glad-handing in roadside diners and hotel convention rooms (in early primary states, of course) they haven’t thought of joining an online gaming tournament, where young men hang out. Not one of them has gone for a video tour on YouTube with the popular in niches YouTube stars, nor has anyone done a blog tour, nor have their spouses, or children. The Obama White House made their case to Internet-connected people. Why can’t Republicans?
Worse, everyone’s campaign book costs $15, even at Costco. Nobody is doing $2.99 electronic books, even while reading is moving to tablets, especially for the young, who increasingly use them at school. An almost free and wide audience medium exists, and our candidates are still sending out mailers…in envelopes. Postcards are cheap and have decent reply success. Envelopes are expensive, require volunteer hours to stuff, and get tossed.
I hold little hope that the campaigns might turn out some effective campaign outreach. The consultants are used to doing what they know—yard signs, bumper stickers, mailers, and roadside photo ops. But each of these avenues is available to us, the individual members of the Right. Depending on expertise, we can do something with the YouTube star—heck, we can become a YouTube star. We can write stories and e-publish. Opportunities to insert Right ideas into conversations about something else abound.
8. Understand How to Label
The overall mistake we have made lately is labeling. We have underestimated how effectively the PC guardians have inoculated the public against Right vocabulary. The ideas are harder to kill. We need to spread our ideas without labels. They are timeless, perpetually reaching toward liberty. Against them, the PC guardians have no defense.
Remember G.K. Chesterton’s defense of Tennyson:
When critics like Matthew Arnold, for example, suggest that [Tennyson’s] poetry is deficient in elaborate thought, they only prove, as Matthew Arnold proved, that they themselves could never be great poets. It is no valid accusation against a poet that the sentiment he expresses is commonplace. Poetry is always commonplace; it is vulgar in the noblest sense of that noble word. Unless a man can make the same kind of ringing appeal to absolute and admitted sentiments that is made by a popular orator, he has lost touch with emotional literature….Tennyson’s work, disencumbered of all that uninteresting accretion about which he had inherited or copied, resolves itself, like that of any other man of genius, into those things which he really inaugurated. Underneath all his exterior of polished and polite rectitude there was in him a genuine fire of novelty; only that, like all the able men of his period, he disguised revolution under the name of evolution. He is only a very shallow critic who cannot see an eternal rebel in the heart of the Conservative.