Thursday, May 17, 2012

Boycotts of Ideological Leaders

Originally posted to this entry in the politics subreddit.

On the subject of boycotting Rush Limbaugh for his comments about Sandra Fluke.

As righteous a cause as this might be, I don't think this will achieve as much of an impact as it could if there was another approach taken. There are those who can keep their cool and draw commonality with these hosts' audiences. Why does that matter? Oh they're just stupid southern racist elderly white rich men? Maybe some are, but there's millions of people who listen to Limbaugh's program and the countless other talking heads. They are, in my view, no more robots and parrots than we are, but what they get from these programs are effective means to frustrate or shut up liberals and progressives in their own lives. Push the 'libs' into making a statement that questions how compassionate they are, how intelligent they are. Then it is an issue of assuming bad faith and self-righteous shouting wins the day.

This boycott will be seen as a symbolic victory, but not just for people 'on the left' or for 'people in the middle'. It will be seen as a symbolic silencing of one of the conservative vanguard, and it will be trumpeted as proof that conservatives are the victims of an oppressive liberal fascist communist statist plot to crush dissent. No, it doesn't matter that this isn't a freedom of speech issue.  Remember this? Responded to like that? And that?(Read the comments to see it's not just 'leaders') No, it doesn't matter that consumer boycotts are utilized by people like Limbaugh and Beck and Hannity and O'Reilly to attempt to impress their views via their audiences on other organizations and businesses.

The point is that while there will be a smaller and smaller minority of people who will stick by the Limbaughs and and Schlessingers and Becks as these statements go forward, those who do stick with them will become a more and more inflamed and potentially radicalized element in our own society, lurching away from the civilized discourse, reviling what is considered the 'other' even more, and despising those they see as traitors. It'll be more appealing to people who are in a precarious place in their life or perhaps less able to comprehend what is going on politically and are more prone to take action, even violent means to do what they feel is 'necessary'. Or maybe they won't and it'll be yet another festering wound in our country like the unfortunate way that the Civil Rights Movement is seen by some. Like the way revisionists cast 'The War Between the States' and glorify antebellum life.

We don't need to play their market games with boycotts to defeat the opinion and outlook of a person like Limbaugh. We don't need to actively splinter and divide his audience and constituency the way he does ours with fear, uncertainty and doubt. We don't need to compete. That's their values and tactics and methods. We can go on his turf, play by his rules, with half our brain tied behind our back and still win in rhetorical sport. Because we really are the ones that are right, and it's a matter of putting it in words and values and principles more people can understand and relate to. When there's someone who says "Well if not loving our socialist president makes me a racist, then I'm a proud racist" be the one to say "If being willing to talk with you about your actual views deeper than what you don't like(the president) makes me a hippie, then I'm a proud hippie". Instead of boycotting these shows we can find the best representatives, the most flexible and witty and relatable people that can not just stand their own with communicating a liberal point of view, but do it in a way that doesn't stoop to shouting matches. Exercise disciplined decorum that is so sorely lacking in our public square these days because the talk radio, the Fox, the ideologues on our own side as well lower our aptitude for greatness. Instead of competing with them, offer cooperation(though always keep our own ideals and principles at the heart of such cooperation. Instead of offering the FUD of 'the other', demonstrate that everyone is an other, even those we mostly agree with, but we can do better only together.