Yesterday at Daily Kos, Heresiarch514 posted a diary on Republican “domination tactics.” To which my reaction was, “hell yes.” Once you realize that Republicans use a set of identifiable “domination tactics” — that are not the “reasoned debate” they pretend to offer — you can start to counteract them.
And I’m just the guy to come up with the counter domination tactics.
Those tactics are summarized as follows:
The five techniques she mentions are these:
Withholding of information.
Heaping blame and putting to shame.
That sounds about right. Here is Heresiarch514′s solution.
Those are the five domination techniques that Berit Ås identifies, and how they are used against Democrats to keep them safely corraled. Remember, the most effective technique in fighting this is to talk about it–bring all these subtexts to the surface, where they can be analyzed intellectually and discarded for the cheap parlor tricks that they are.
Hmmm. Not much detail there. Well, the diarist has certainly done a service in identifying Republican domination tactics, by laying them out, and introducing the frame that such tactics exist. But I think we can do a lot better in coming up with some tactics to counter this.
Here is what “means are the ends” said in a comment — which is an excellent starting place. She is talking about how she learned how to deal with male academics in presenting her research.
The research part was interesting, but the interaction was a revelation. I literally learned how men really treat each other, in the rough and tumble of academia, and learned how to outshout and out-interupt everyone else–in a good-humoured, accurate, and professional way, of course. I learned that it wasn’t always personal, and that men are just as obnoxious to each other, too. It is critical to learn how to get in there and to talk out and talk back.
Exactly. Politics isn’t chess, and it isn’t contract bridge. Politics is football. Think about it, starting with understanding what “law” and “government” are all about. Government is the organized armed force of society. When the white folks in Little Rock, Arkansas rebelled against desegregating their school, Eisenhower sent in the National Guard — that’s the army — to shoot people, if necessary. The first test of the new constitution — way back in 1792 — was the Whiskey Rebellion. George Washington sent in the army. As we speak, 2 million Americans are sitting in jail or prison — as in armed people are holding them there, by force of arms and against their will. Forcing people to do things they don’t want to do — at gunpoint, when necessary — is a big part of what government does. Politics is about who controls this coercive apparatus, how that coercive apparatus functions, who it’s coercive force is directed against, and for what reasons. If you don’t expect answering these political questions to get messy, you simply don’t understand the business you’re in.
In our representative democracy, complete with safeguards of the rights of minorities, we had developed a certain level of decorum and respect necessary to a civilized resolution of these basic questions of political power. Until now, that is. Now, we find ourselves confronted with a governing coalition, whose ideology simply recognizes no legitimate interests in anyone other than their own constituents. They believe that their constituents — corporate America — should get everything they want. Period. All other interests are subordinate.
As a group, Republican cadres are well indoctrinated into the business of “power politics.” These are guys who read “The Prince” for entertainment. That’s no kidding, by the way. I got my first introduction to “The Prince” way back in 1976, from a friend in high school. He was a big shot in Teen Age Republicans — and actually showed me some of his secret training materials. This is why I’ve been way ahead of the rest of the progressive community, in realizing just how sophisticated Republican organization is. Not only was this friend familiar with Macchiavelli, he had his own copy. So when you see accounts of Karl Rove and Lee Atwater, re-reading “The Prince” once a year, they ALL read it — and put it into practice. This domination tactics are just applications of that cadre training. You will need to do more than just “talk about them.” In fact, you will need to do more than “assholes and elbows” as suggested by “means are the ends” — though that’s a good start.
Here are my counter domination tactics.
1) Making invisible. The first is in many ways the most obvious. “Making someone invisible means that a person chooses to treat an individual or a group as if the person or group were not there,” says Ås.
“This really should be a bipartisan amendment,” he says, as Linder[R] crosses his arms and frowns. “This gives powers to the secretary of defense to rewrite the rules governing civil service at the Department of Defense at any time!” Linder’s eyes dart impatiently around the room. “It does threaten to undermine the credibility of our civil service as a nonpartisan body,” Van Hollen[D] continues–but to little avail. Linder’s thoughts are clearly someplace else, someplace where there are no annoying Democrats like Van Hollen. If Linder has listened to a word, there’s no sign of it.
First of all, don’t get all knee-jerk and rigid in applying these “tactics.” Some of them aren’t really all that objectionable, if you think about it. “Making invisible” is an excellent tactic to use against hecklers and those who hurl epithets. Sometimes the best reaction to someone saying, “hey you lib fink commie rat,” is to just ignore the son of a bitch.
But of course, “making invisible” is more than merely ignoring some asshole. It is ignoring legitimate, reasonable arguments, worthy of consideration. In the case of the Republican congress — and conservatives everywhere — it means ignoring EVERYTHING anybody else has to offer. The way to eviscerate this tactic is simple.
1) “Don’t make statements, ask questions.” Looking at the above example, turn it into a question. “Do you really want to give the Sec. Def. the power to rewrite civil service rules whenever he bloody well wants to? What are we doing, turning the civil service into the next variant of ‘K’ Street?” Notice that those are accusatory questions — as in “hard to ignore” questions. The prefereable venue is some forum where the target is hard pressed to ignore them. Will he ignore the question? Ask it again. Will he give an evasive nonanswer? “That’s very nice, but you didn’t answer my question,” and repeat it. Ask it again and again and again, until he answers it, or until his refusal to answer it is so patently obvious no one watching will fail to understand the answer he doesn’t want to say out loud.
I guarantee, you will not have to do this for very long before your opponent figures out the best way to avoid the vice you’re putting his tit in. The easiest way is to give you the time of day — in private, out of site of spectators, or even better, cameras. In other words, the way is to cut you in on the decision making — which is what you want [I think].
Ridiculing Democrats has become a cottage industry on the right, so popular that even some Democrats join in. From the unrelenting attack on “politically correct”–a stalking horse for the right-wing from the very beginning–to the derision heaped on any Democrat foolish enough to back silly, utopian ideas like “universal healthcare,” a laugh and a sneer has become an easy alternative to genuine engagement. Ås’ critique can be seen just in the example of the Clintons: Bill is too sexual and uncontrolled, while Hillary is practically the dictionary definition of frigid–if you believe what you hear of the news, of course.
Again, as a threshold question, are we really ready to call this a “domination tactic” which is disreputable, and never to be engaged in. Because if that’s the case, 90% of the progressive blogosphere will need to close up shop. I say . . .
2) Ridicule is a two way street. Did you notice that the description of “ridicule” contained some ridicule? It was in that little bit about “the derision heaped on any Democrat foolish enough to back silly, utopian ideas like ‘universal healthcare.’” Is that particular use of ridicule disreputable? I don’t think so.
Come to think of it, ridiculing the ridicule has real potential. Consider Ann Coulter, who specializes in a uniquely corrosive brand of sneering dismissal. One of my favorites is her statement that if “liberals had any facts, they would cease to be liberals.” In that connection, I once saw where she predicted that Democrats would turn America into a “job free zone.” Isn’t she a hoot? Let’s see if we can take her sneering abuse and shove it right up her ass.
Did you know that no Democratic President since the Great Depression has left office with higher employment, than when he came into office? Even Jimmy Carter’s closing unemployment figure for January, 1981 showed unemployment unchanged from January, 1977. Every Republican except Ronald Reagan, has left office with higher unemployment. No Republican President since the Great Depression — and including Herbert Hoover — has ever left office with unemployment under five percent. Not one. Even Reagan’s “miracle economy” only managed a low unemployment figure of 5.3%. That compares with Clinton’s low of 3.8%, LBJ’s low of 3.5%, and Harry Truman’s low of 2.5%. Eisenhower left office at 6.5%, Nixon/Ford at 7.5%, Reagan at 5.5%, and Bush I at 7.5% — after 12 years of Republicans in the White House. Bush II has actually done the best, in terms of raw unemployment statistics. His current unemployment rate is an unimpressive 4.6%. Of course, he hasn’t left office yet, and if you look at “job creation” he’s actually one of the worst. Why the seeming discrepancy? Dubya’s unemployment figures are down because of large numbers of people who have simply given up looking. The workforce is actually smaller than it was when Clinton left office — with an increase in population since then.
Who is it who creates jobs, and who doesn’t? What was that Ann, about “not having any facts?” And why are you walking like John Wayne?
3) Withholding of information. The Republican party apparatus is a system built to exclude Democrats in every way possible. From the K Street Project, to lying about WMD, to keeping Democrats in the dark about warrantless wiretapping and who knows what else, to the mysterious Fellowship, GOP control is maintained by a careful curtailing of the spread of information and power. Ask yourself if this sounds familiar:
Withholding information occurs when men automatically take up matters only with other men. This way, they deny women access to information about important issues at work or in politics. Particularly in political spheres we know that information is exchanged, opinions formed and decisions taken in restricted circles, like for example, when the boys go for a beer/drink after a meeting, are out for a “business dinner”, play football or quite frankly, pass information to one another before meetings. Women are not invited into these restricted circles or, purely and simply; women just do not have the same opportunities to join in.
I can’t speak to the trials and tribulations of women in the corporate workplace. Hell, I can’t speak to the trials and tribulations of men in the corporate environment. I can speak to “witholding information” in the context of contemporary politics. Yes, they want to do it, but they haven’t been very successful. You’re staring at one of the reasons. In fact, there were legions of bloggers who saw through the put-up job on the Iraq war — before it became apparent to everybody else. Come to think of it, some prominent Democrats — can you say “Howard Dean” — who didn’t go along.
The fact of the matter is that the ability to control information is a function of how small and cohesive the organization is controlling it. In the case of the “vast rightwing conspiracy,” they are not a particular small, or tightly enough disciplined organization. One of the reasons many of us knew that the war in Iraq was a war in search of a justification is because the people behind it — the Project For A New American Century — talked about it, in public. All you had to do was listen in. Straussian neocons? They have websites, and you can even read Strauss like I did,. Dominionists got you worried? They have websites. White Supremacists, neo-Nazi’s, etc.? Google ‘em. You’ll find all you can stand.
By the way, understanding these tactics, and also, understanding rightwing ideology, gives a start in figuring out what they’re up to. What’s this tactic again? “Withholding information?” Hmmm. Well let’s see if we can find a piece of legislation floating around on this theme. I’ve got it. Abolishing “net neutrality.” You see, we bloggers have become a big pain in the ass to the Republican/corporate power structure. It seems we’re sharing entirely too much information about what they’re up to. Their solution? Create some corporate gate keepers to pull the plug on all this information sharing.
Oh, and I hope you understand that this is exactly what is going on. It isn’t AT&T worrying about not making enough money for what they charge to use their “pipes.” That’s just the facial justification. Because they can’t say “the internet is making it impossible for us to loot the country.” I’m willing to bet a little investigation will reveal that the telecoms did not come to Congress asking to change “net neutrality.” I’ll just bet it was the other way around. Someone inside of the Republican power structure — maybe Karl Rove, himself — went to the telecoms to get them to shill for this change, all in the name of “profit” doncha know. Because after all, the progressive blogosphere is absolutely savaging those bastards — and they need to do something about it.
4) Double Punishment. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.
Whatever you do, it’s wrong. Double punishment occurs when it’s wrong if a woman does something – and wrong if she doesn’t. This domination technique is used against the victims of prejudices and stereotypes.
There are several stereotypes that the Republicans use to put the Democrats in a double bind. Race is one–if the Democrats say anything negative about a black Republican, they are accused of racism. If they protest the Republican’s racist statements, they are accused of playing the race-card. However, the biggest double-bind the Democrats find themselves in is regarding the military, and military service in particular. We all thought that Kerry’s sterling war record would be an advantage for him–certainly the Democratic Party did, the way they played it up at his nomination. But in the Republican’s hands, it became a weapon against him. If the Democrats protest pumping billions into the Defense Department, they are a bunch of hippies. If they support the military, they are just pale imitations of the Republicans. It’s lose-lose.
Once again, turn about is fair play. Remember tactic number one, “ask questions?” Here is where you make maximum use of it by coming up with questions they can’t answer. Let’s take the “race-card” example. Actually, that particular example is where the Republicans are counter-attacking. You see, they are the party of bigotry — which they have shamelessly used since the “Southern Strategy” was hatched almost forty years ago. It’s classic “accuse your accuser.”
Just the other day, I came up with a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” counter tactic, designed to corner Republicans over their bigotry. I resigned from the white race. Why? They say they believe in a “color blind society,” oh and they deny mining bigotry for votes, as for example in the debate over economic refugess from Mexico. No problem. Prove it. Sign the resignation. They won’t do it. A substantial part of the Republican constituency are bigots, if not outright white supremacists. They can’t possibly sign on to the notion that race is a bogus sociological construct, devoid of any real scientific significance — which is exactly what it is. They can’t refuse, either. If they really believe in “color blind,” they will lay aside their self-identification based on color. But they don’t really believe that. Meanwhile this challenge unmasks them. Everybody will understand what should already be obvious. Of course, they’re the party of bigotry. This puts them in a vice where they can no longer deny it.
5) Heaping of Shame and Putting to Blame. “It’s those damn liberals that are making us lose in Iraq, by not supporting the troops enough!” “It’s the media’s fault, always reporting the BAD news from Iraq, damn their liberal bias!” Sound familiar? Of course it does; the only refrain that one hears more often is–oh wait, there isn’t one. This is it. Anonymous Liberal at Unclaimed Territory caught a great example of this rhetoric at its most transparently ludicrous. Berit Ås explains how the other domination techniques are used to inflict guilt:
Blame and shame are inflicted through ridicule and double punishment. It occurs when women are told that they are not good enough – even if the reason for not being “not good enough” may be: (1) that they think they behave differently from men and in novel ways, or (2) that they haven’t had access to the information that men have controlled.
Once again, shame cuts both ways. The real problem with this “domination tactic” is its improper use — heaping shame on behavior that no one should be ashamed of.
On the other hand, some behavior actually is shameful, as a matter of fact — including a lot of Republican behavior. See, the discussion of bigotry, above. Which by the way, puts your opponent in a delightful vice, especially when he denies it. Find that test to put them on the ropes, and give them that “put up or shut up” moment. Then watch them twist in the wind.
By the way, I would be remiss if I didn’t remind you of my original “shame and blame” label. Republicans are “cheap labor conservatives.”