Monday, January 17, 2011

The Rules of the Game

The sign of a skilled chess player is his ability to anticipate moves -- his own, obviously, but more importantly those of his opponent. I imagine that this ability is highly correlated with success in the game… but it’s also highly correlated with success in politics. The essence of political activity is to promote one’s own position while at the same time being fully prepared for any and all reactions that might lead to… but also to be able to estimate the various probabilities of all the different probable reactions. The more probable reactions take planning and anticipation; the less probable can usually be written off. But all good politicians, no matter what their positions are, are quick on their feet. The ones who wind up like "a deer in the headlights" are almost bound to lose.

A successful politician, in other words, is seldom if ever taken by surprise. When someone reacts to something he says or does, he already has the next move prepared and hanging out of his back pocket, all ready to be snatched out and tossed down like a referee’s flag in football. A truly masterful politician, even when he seems to be surprised or set back by events, is able to turn things around in his favor -- as witness what Bill Clinton was able to do any number of times, even when the odds seemed to be against him. He was, you might say, a genius as making lemonade out of political lemons… or stone soup out of the stones that were tossed his way. (Of course, it also helped that he had no conscience or sense of shame.) Barack Obama, on the other hand, does not show as much innate skill -- which is why he likes to turn press conferences over to Bill Clinton -- but he does have a vast army of handlers, facilitators, and supporters ready to fill in at a moment’s notice. So while the Democratic Party seems to have its ups and downs, Obama really doesn’t, and that’s a testimony not only to his studied aloofness but to the skill of the
people who put him in office and want him to stay there. When you have the mainstream media cheering your every move, and hanging on your every word, it’s hard to make any mistakes -- or at least hard to appear to be making any. People will cover your tracks for you the way dog owners will come along behind their incontinent companions with paper towels and baggies.

So when it came to the recent shootings in Tucson, the least surprising response was that of the mainstream media, which took about one nanosecond to start blaming Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, the “tea partiers”, conservatives in general, “rhetoric”, “divisiveness”, and what not. They were primed to do this… quivering in anticipation of the next disaster, and fully prepared with “talking points”. Of course, the disaster had to have certain features in order to serve the purpose. An everyday drive-by shooting in the inner city over a drug deal gone bad would not have qualified, for example… nor a killing resulting from a “domestic altercation”. But to have a Democratic congresswoman shot? Well, that was made to order. The, what I call “latent meme”, is as follows: Any violent act against a Democratic and/or liberal politician (not a total redundancy), or against a known liberal media type or operative, or against someone who promotes the liberal agenda in any way, is, by definition, an act of domestic terrorism on the part of the “extreme right”. In other words, there is no such thing as individual responsibility -- a hallowed principle of liberalism, by the way -- and there is no such thing as criminal insanity -- another hallowed principle. (There is such a thing as political insanity, however -- as Stalin could have told you.) Every act, in other words, is political -- and they really believe this! And if every act is political, then any act against a liberal or Democrat is political with names attached -- Republican, conservative, tea party, Palin, Limbaugh, etc.

Consider, for a moment, the language that had already started to permeate the mainstream press the day after the shooting. It “left Americans questioning whether divisive politics had pushed the suspect over the edge.” Really? You mean the survey of Americans on this issue was conducted, and the data analyzed, in roughly twelve hours? And then we have Sheriff Dupnik, who “pointed to the vitriolic political rhetoric that has consumed the country”. Again, really? “Consumed?” And where does a sheriff get off commenting on this sort of thing? See… whenever the words “divisive”, “vitriolic”, and “rhetoric” appear, you can be certain that it’s liberals talking about conservatives -- because liberals, of course, never indulge in “rhetoric” or anything else that is “divisive” or “vitriolic”. Which is to say, the only way to avoid being condemned by liberals and the MSM for being divisive, vitriolic, and engaging in rhetoric, is to just shut up and quit protesting against ObamaCare, socialism in general, illegal immigration, and anything else the liberals/Democrats come up with. Because, you see, in the ultimate reckoning, protest is un-American and treasonous… a position which the liberals share with, among others, Hitler and Stalin. (And by the way, one definition of the word “rhetoric” is “the art of speaking or writing effectively” -- clearly something liberals have no use for.)

But to return to our heroic sheriff, who speaks of “vitriol that comes out of certain mouths about tearing down the government” -- but who, pray tell, is actually advocating that? Some libertarians and anarchists, for sure… but surely not Sarah Palin, or Rush Limbaugh, “talk radio” in general, or the “tea partiers”. I mean, without government, how could we keep going to war? And those folks are, if anything, consistently pro-war. But he goes on: “Arizona, I think, has become the capital. We have become the Mecca for prejudice and bigotry.” Gee, you think the office of sheriff in Arizona is an elective office? I sure hope so. But you have to admire the swift work of whoever supplied him with his talking points. After all, they have everything to gain, and nothing to lose if some Arizona sheriff makes a flaming ass of himself.

Moving back to the more generic level, the article (now remember, this had to go to press no more than 12 hours after the shooting) says “some politicians expressed hope that the killing spree serves as a wakeup call at a time when the political climate has become so emotionally charged.” Again, who is supposed to “wake up”? It’s more likely they want people to go to sleep… or simply disappear. I mean, the act of a lone nut with a gun should be a wakeup call for law enforcement in Arizona… but why for anyone else? And as to "emotionally charged" -- that's practically the definition of politics. And likewise: “the suspect’s exact motivation was not clear” -- well right, that tends to be true of psychotics. And here’s another gem: “It’s still not clear if the gunman had the health care debate in mind.” Oh, right -- he was clearly engaged in intense analytical labor over the health care bill for the months prior to the shooting; anyone can see that.

So much for the day after the shooting. But the next day, the media continued to pile on. Again, a very small sample: A headline -- “Do violent political images, rhetoric incite the unstable?” And: “There’s no evidence that Palin’s ad contributed to a gunman’s decision”, etc. (But we know it did, right?) And “the shooting is sparking an intense debate over whether incendiary [wow -- another scare word] political talk across the country… is a real danger, or merely vivid political rhetoric.” And -- “Many liberals… say it fuels anger and could help push some who seethe with rage over the line into violence.” In other words, conservatives had better just shut up, because there are all sorts of nut cases out there listening to them (but they never listen to liberals, right?). And -- “Images of bloody violence have been rising in political debate in recent years.” Really? Where? When? I have yet to see any. You mean the major parties have actually used “images of bloody violence” in campaigns? Or maybe it’s just the conservatives, but still… where is the evidence? And speaking of evidence, what evidence is there that the shooter was the least bit motivated by any sort of coherent political beliefs, from anywhere along the spectrum? I have yet to hear of any. But it’s still “a wakeup call”, yadda yadda. So crazy people can send a “wakeup call” to sane people. Since when? According to this view, all political debate and dialogue should be held in secret, behind closed doors, lest an unbalanced person hears something and decides to act on it. And I guess the next version of "campaign reform" will be "no campaigning at all, because of the dangers involved" -- which, I confess, would be a great blessing.

But this is what the liberals and the mainstream media really believe, and they also have a variety of more subtle ways of expressing it. How many times in the past few days have you heard the phrase, “Although there is no direct evidence of…” when applied to the killer? (I’m glad this is only a blog and I don’t have to go through the ritual of saying “suspect”.) Well, if there is “no direct evidence” then why bring it up at all? For the same reason a politician on the campaign trail might say, “Although there is no direct evidence that my opponent raped his own grandmother…” But once you say that, you plant the seeds of suspicion in everyone’s mind. If it’s being discussed, there must be something to it. If the Air Force says that UFOs don’t exist, then they must. Right? And so on. Call it what you will -- paranoia, distrust of authority, plain human perversity, “itchy ears”, whatever -- the media are expert at taking advantage of it.

Likewise, although the killer’s motives seem to have had nothing to do with any coherent political position, it’s nonetheless “a good time” to discuss the corrosive effects of “rhetoric”, “hostility”, “extremism”, and so on -- in other words to further alienate (if that’s even possible) the “radical right” from any position of influence or respect in American politics. And in this sense, it resembles nothing more than the classic “false flag” or provocateur action -- the classic example being the Reichstag fire, which Hitler used as an excuse to suppress communists and other opposing political groups. Now, not all “Reichstag fires” are intentionally set by the government -- but there is always the suspicion that many are, just based on what happens next. The Oklahoma City bombing occurs, and Bill Clinton proceeds to blame Rush Limbaugh, and the Democrats try to pass a law banning “talk radio”, or at least reviving the “fairness doctrine”, which would amount to the same thing. The 9-11 attacks occur, and we wind up invading two countries and turning our own into a police state. And now we have “Tucson” -- a name that will live in infamy, along with other alleged right-wing attacks on “the heart of America”. But it’s funny how things like the Waco massacre, which are overtly state terrorism against its own citizens, never seem to wind up in the same category. It’s good to be king -- and it’s good to be on the winning side in the culture wars.

So the bottom line (so far) -- and the one the liberals and Democrats, and their media facilitators, will adhere to in their interminable discussions of, and references to, this event -- is that even though the killer was not clearly and demonstrably under the influence of the “radical right”, his deed was nonetheless performed in the same spirit… or under some vague influence. He might have just overheard a “right-wing” speech on the radio… but that was enough, because unstable people are like that. They’re just helpless victims of their environment (another article of liberal faith). And besides, don’t forget that every human act is political, and any act against a liberal is, by definition, the political work of a conservative -- either a card-carrying one or one in spirit. And in any case, this is something that the radical right would do if it could get away with it. Yes, they are just itching to gun down as many Democrats and liberals as they can -- no doubt about it! And what’s more, they are probably cheering, and giving each other high fives, in their knotty-pine rec rooms and mobile homes scattered across fly-over country, and reveling in what happened. This notion is also on the media menu… their abundant feast of propaganda that gets trotted out at times like these.

So much for what I call the first stage -- the first move in this dreary chess game, and the most predictable. The second stage, which has also already occurred, consists of the reactions of conservative politicians and commentators to having been painted with this brush. They, believing in individual responsibility and also in the reality of insanity, contend that this guy really and truly acted on his own, according to his own delusional system and world view, and that his act was not political and not inspired in any way by “heated rhetoric”, the recent elections, the health-care debate, illegal immigration and the reaction thereto, or anything else that might make at least some sense. And they become highly indignant, and point out the Democrats’ and the media’s perfidy in even hinting at such a thing for political gain, etc. But of course none of it could have come as any sort of shock; as Limbaugh said last Monday, they simply applied a pre-existing template to the event. Fairness and objectivity don’t enter in, any more than they ever do.

But here’s where it gets a bit more interesting -- more chess-like. The Democrats/liberals and the mainstream media are betting that the American people will buy their arguments, and immediately turn against conservatives, tea partiers, Sarah Palin, talk radio, etc. Which means that those elements will be isolated and left high and dry by the process, and the liberals can then claim total victory (while honoring the shooting victims as martyrs for their cause). The irony being that this comes just a couple of months after many Democrats were thrown out of Congress on their ear -- and can you imagine if this had happened prior to the elections? The Democrats would have won in a landslide -- or so they must think. But it’s not too late! They can declare the election null and void, and demand that it be done over -- unlikely, but don't you know they fantasize about this? But they can at least isolate, intimidate, disenfranchise, and silence all opposition in Congress and elsewhere across the political scene. After this, no one on the right will dare to speak up or even show their face again for years, if ever. This is their devout hope.

And as an aside, I suspect that there are not a few mainstream Republicans who are almost as happy about all of this as the Democrats. After all, this unwashed rabble called the “tea party” managed to unseat a lot of the insiders, and then proceeded to win some elections and descend on Washington, and to be sworn in… but all to no avail, because again, they will have to stifle themselves and defer to the mainstream Republicans, who will present themselves, as always, as the voice of reason and moderation… and compromise to the point of losing their identity, or what little they had left.

So everything appears to be going the liberals/Democrats’ and mainstream Republicans’ way in all of this -- and just in the nick of time! Now the American people will see what those hateful right-wingers and radicals, and tea partiers, are really made of. They’re killers! Terrorists! And their facilitators on Fox News and talk radio have to be suppressed, banned, forced to yield “equal time”, and so on.

But this would be to underestimate two things: One, the ability of the right, or conservatives, to strike back against all of the calumny and character assassination, and two, the ability of the American people -- some of them, at least -- to see through it all. And thus we enter upon the second stage, which is the conservative reaction to the liberal reaction to, and “spin” on, the shootings -- and what do you know, Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh are in the lead on this, along with Beck, Hannity, and some other of the “usual suspects”. Well, this too was predictable up to a point -- I mean, didn’t Limbaugh fight back against Clinton’s blaming him for Oklahoma City? And didn’t he manage to stay on the air through it all? And wasn’t it all more or less forgotten by the time the election of 2000 rolled around? (Either that or it was counterbalanced by Waco.) So it’s just conceivable that the second-stage reaction can neutralize the first-stage reaction… or even that the conservatives et al can come out better than before… again, depending on how the public reacts to the controversy. And by “the public”, I mean that portion whose opinions are actually subject to events rather than purely to “ideas” and theories. Those latter won’t change their minds no matter what -- they are the solid core constituency of any politician on the national level. But there is the great, gray middle that can be influenced by events, by arguments, by the media, etc. -- not that they’re all that intelligent or wise, by any means, but they do have a certain degree of flexibility. They are, in fact, despised by all true believers as being gullible, impulsive, superficial, etc. -- but let’s face it, these are the people who determine how elections come out, not the true believers on either side.

Then we come to the third stage, which has already begun but, at this writing, seems still to be in progress… and that stage involves the reaction of the establishment to the reaction of the conservatives to the reaction of liberals to the shooting. You follow that? In other words, what does the mainstream press and the commentariat make of the indignation of prominent conservative politicians and spokesmen at the knee-jerk, meme-driven, politically-motivated response of the mainstream media and liberal politicians to the shooting? And this is where things start to get a bit fuzzy, in chess terms -- this is where the possibilities start to branch out and multiply. And, as usual, it is not epitomized by anything Obama has said or may say, but by his toadies and facilitators in the mainstream media, most of whom have not yet gotten the “message” that Obama supposedly communicated the other day in Tucson -- the message of coming together in peace and without rancor or "rhetoric" (or dissent, opposition, skepticism, or any other nasty things).

Given that the initial reaction to the shooting was totally predictable… and that it happened, sure enough, just as anyone would have predicted… and that the reaction to that was largely predictable… then what is the reaction to that likely to be? In the case of Oklahoma City/Clinton/Limbaugh, it seemed to involve a slight cooling of the rhetoric. In other words, the Clinton administration pulled back a bit from direct accusations, but -- as I recall -- persisted in pushing the “Hush Rush” bill until it died an obscure death somewhere on Capitol Hill… along with the drive to reinstate the “fairness doctrine” (which had been an earlier manifestation of liberals’ attempt to control the broadcast media -- as if they didn’t already do so, by and large). In other words, the reaction to the pushback -- both from Limbaugh and the public at large -- forced the administration to rethink its strategy somewhat, and pursue it in somewhat less inflammatory terms. Of course, as far as they were concerned, the damage had been done… but even that turned out not to be the case. Limbaugh came through relatively unscathed in the long run -- for better or worse, since he became one of George W. Bush’s most ardent supporters in his (Bush’s) drive to become a war president. And when it comes to the mainstream Republican agenda, Limbaugh is basically the last man standing… aside from actual Republican elected officials, that is… most of whom probably believe in the party platform less fervently than Limbaugh does.

The question then becomes, will something comparable happen in this instance? Is it already happening? So far we have a mixed message -- a “healing” message from Obama and a more insidious, “deep thought” message from the liberal brain trust. America really is sick, and conservatism is the sickness. It’s possible that the bared fangs and claws of the liberal establishment will wind up being drawn back somewhat -- but certainly not because they have newfound respect for the conservatives, the “tea partiers”, Palin, Limbaugh, or anyone else. It will be because they have found themselves once again slightly tone-deaf when it comes to judging the mind and attitudes of the American people -- whom they still depend on, like it or not (and they don’t), for votes and for at least implicit support. It is hard, obviously, for people who believe that the East and West Coasts (and the East Coast only as far south as Washington, except for Florida) are the only parts of the U.S. that “count”. (Throw in Chicago too, if you like -- at least as long as Obama stays in office.) The rest of the country is a blighted land where it is always night, and where ignorance and “hate” reign. It is a land of blind, lurching, ape-like knuckle-draggers who feel naked without their KKK outfits, pickup trucks, guns, and Bibles. And so on. Yet, inexplicably, these people (if one can even call them that) are still allowed to cast votes -- in elections which are ultimately meaningless but which can still have an impact on the careers of individual politicians. And because of this, a certain price must be paid, and that is to pay lip service to -- or at least not show continuous hostility toward -- the backward attitudes and beliefs of these “folks”, as Obama would say. And who exemplifies these attitudes and beliefs better than the conservatives, and people like Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh? Sad but true -- they have to be allowed to remain at large a little bit longer… until the revolution is almost complete, at which point they can be snuffed out like guttering candles.

So far, the liberals/Democrats have played their cards masterfully. They started making outrageous accusations immediately after the shooting, and thus inciting all sorts of indignation and howls of protest from the conservatives… at which point, they immediately shifted -- or at least Obama did -- into peacemaking mode. Saith our saintly president: “None of us can know exactly what triggered this vicious attack.” Except that all of his supporters seem to know… so what’s going on? “None of us can know… what might have stopped those shots from being fired…” Well, let’s start by taking “talk radio” off the air. And, “… or what thoughts lurked in the inner recesses of a violent man’s mind.” Other than resentment about ObamaCare, that is. So… the MSM keep up their propaganda campaign, on a “cruise” level (as opposed to the “fast acceleration” level the first two days) while the president is all about reasoning together… which makes the conservatives, who are still indignant and furiously jumping up and down, look like a bunch of paranoid, hysterical ninnies. It’s truly a masterpiece of political maneuvering, and I say “hats off!” The question remains, however, will it work with the American public, and I don’t think anyone knows as yet.

So the next stage of this chess match -- stage four -- which is coming up soon, if we’re not already in it -- will be interesting to watch, and I suppose we won't have the final answer until the 2012 elections. It is, in my scheme, the American people’s reaction to the whiplash tactics of the liberals: accuse, wait for the reaction, then pretend to be peacemakers (and make your opponents look more hateful than ever). It is not as predictable as the previous stages; there are more subtleties involved… more nuances. It's partly a matter of economics, for one thing -- is what motivated the shooter more important than me having a job? Will the dialogue still be going on on Election Day of 2012, or will it already have been tossed down the memory hole? Or will some new crisis have taken its place? And in the meantime, has this event dealt a death blow to the “tea party”, courtesy of the mainstream media… or will they survive, and perhaps come back stronger? I doubt if the mainstream Republicans will suffer at all, because the propaganda is not directed at them; they are safely in the hands of the Regime, just as the Democrats/liberals are (except perhaps the far left and “progressives”, who are simply frustrated and impotent). Libertarians won’t be harmed, because they’re on the outer margins anyway. And paleocons? Well, since very few politicians and very few commentators represent the pure type -- and the Regime seems to have counted them out anyway -- I can’t see them being impacted all that much. No, it’s most definitely the “tea partiers”, talk radio personalities, and Sarah Palin and her ilk that have the most to lose. They’re the ones being targeted because they’re perceived as the real threat. The paleocons are too far to the right to be a threat, and the libertarians are on another wave length altogether. And as for the Neocons -- well, they have joined forces with Obama when it comes to fighting the twin wars, which is their primary agenda anyway… so there is no threat from that quarter. In fact, when one says “Neocon” one might as well say “mainstream Republicans plus blue-dog Democrats” because the two groupings are more or less identical.

And what if these events constitute a death blow to the “tea party”? I’ve said that it’s short-lived anyway… and even if it isn’t, this might actually be a blessing in disguise -- a way for the tea party to maintain its (relative) purity and independence. Because one thing’s certain to come out of all this -- namely that the Republican mainstream will shun the tea party from here on out. You can forget all about the “Tea Party Caucus” and the other efforts on the part of the Republican blob to reach out and envelop the tea partiers for its own nefarious purposes. They won’t want anything to do with them after this -- and that, at least in the philosophical sense, is a good thing. The tea party will, in other words, be protected from “politics as usual” by being ejected from the political arena and from polite company. Of course, some of the tea partiers may find that they can’t stand being shunned, and will willingly be co-opted anyway… which means they will have to turn against all their supporters and those who voted for them… which means that their time in office will be brief indeed.

Will the “talk radio” crowd be impacted? If so, can you imagine a more fitting end for a group that has unquestioningly supported all of George Bush’s follies? I sure can’t. And as for Sarah Palin -- personally I consider her one of the most dangerous people in the country… but not for the reasons usually offered. So an end, or at least a severe blow, to her political career cannot help but be a good thing. Of course, she is fighting back against the MSM attacks, which is commendable... but politically, she's dead meat. At least that's my assessment.

“Blessed are the peacemakers”… but blessed also are those who are willing to take a stand, and draw a bright line between the truth and propaganda. If this incident helps to show up the Regime for the monstrosity that it is, and helps those of good will retain their integrity, it could be a very good thing -- in that respect at least, although one would wish that the disaster had never occurred at all. A good crisis really is a terrible thing to waste, if it cannot teach us a few things… a few truths… about politics in this country in our time.

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