A week or so ago I posted an article entitled Conservative Contradictions And The Price Of Victory. Here is the money quote from that article.
They say they want “victory.” In fact, Bill O’Reilly has taken to asking progressives point blank whether want “victory.” Some think that question is rude. I don’t. Here’s the answer. “Why Bill, I want victory just as much as you do. How about it, Bill? Do you want victory bad enough to pay for it?” When he balks — and he will — “like I said, I want victory as much as you do.”
It’s real simple. Real “wartime” is a time of sacrifice — for everybody. In World War II, Americans paid a high marginal tax rate of 94%. You couldn’t buy a new car, because there weren’t any new cars. Detroit assembly lines were diverted to making tanks, jeeps, and B-17′s. Gasoline, sugar, and other commodities were rationed. There were scrap metal and rubber drives. Oh, and we financed our own war through the endless campaign to “buy bonds.” So far, no American who is not in uniform has sacrificed a goddamn thing. These conservatives who tell us about the Muslim boogieman who wants a “global Islamic empire” haven’t sacrificed a goddamn thing. More to the point, they will refuse if you put the question to them, straight up. Then everyone will see the scam for what it is.
And make no mistake, Americans will not be clamoring to make any sacrifices for the war in Iraq, or any other corporate imperialist adventure. That is the ultimate weakness of corporate imperialism. It requires the support of American taxpayers, only they don’t really have much stomach for paying taxes to finance Abu Ghraib or our own Gulag at Gitmo.
So the next time you are confronted with — or even see — some conservative braying about “victory,” and scaremongering about the Islamic devils, here’s what you do. Counterattack. “Really? Are willing to pay for this ‘clash of civilizations?’ No? Then the shut the fuck up.”
You like it? Let me tell you what I think. I don’t generally indulge in rank self-promotion, not because I’m above that sort of thing, but because it doesn’t usually work. That said, that little rhetorical attack is damn good. I used to be a criminal defense lawyer, with a .400 batting average — clean acquittals — on the defense side. That’s HUGE. I know how to win an argument. I know how to find the holes in the other side’s case. I know how to build a winning “theory of the case.” I know how to develop the evidence so the twelve in the box don’t forget it. I know how to turn my weakesses into strengths, and their strengths into weaknesses. In short, I know the business of persuasion using the tools of reason — and other tools too.
Here is what happened to that little article — with that powerful attack on this neocon appeal to “victory.” Nothing. It got a few hundred reads at my site, a few hundred more at Kos, and it sank into oblivion. But it wouldn’t have mattered, if a million people had read it. My site has received 400,000 visits since I launched it. My signature essay — Defeat The Right In Three Minutes has been viewed some 75,000 times — 35,000 in a single day. Google the phrase “cheap labor conservative.” The day I lauched the article, those three words as a phrase could not be found on the Google search engine. Today, you will see in excess of 7000 references.
What has been the net result of this? I hasn’t amounted to a hill of beans. The other side comes up with slogans, buzz words, images, and frames. They feed those memes into their progaganda machine, and before you know it, Chris Matthews is repeating them. He doesn’t even know where they came from. We simply don’t have any organization to push our memes and frames into the public discussion in any meaningful way. I don’t just mean me, either. Kos came up with delightful description of the last Congress. He called them “rubber stamp Republicans.” I used that phrase from time to time, where appropriate. I’ve never seen it used anywhere other than Daily Kos, and the times I’ve used it. There is no coordination of message among progressive bloggers, and there is no organization to move the message from blog pages to the general public consciousness. It is isn’t really part of the discussion, and that needs to change.
So let me return to my most recent exercise in framing, namely asking the question, “do you want victory bad enough to pay for it?” That is dynamite, folks. Americans will not pay for this war — and the Bush administration has gone out of its way to ensure that no American not in uniform makes any sacrifice. Cheap victory is what they want — while they bankrupt the government. As for opposition to the war, they like it. They like asking progressives whether they want “victory,” so that they can put you on the other side of the American “victory culture” — a culture that seeks victory without sacrifice. Asking that question — “do you want victory bad enough to pay for it?” — exposes the manipulation for what it is. It bursts the bubble, and brings rational people back to their senses. It also puts the other side on the defensive — taking the initiative away from them. Any tactic that does that is valuable.
I don’t want you to read that, nod your head, leave me a nice comment, throw a little “mojo” in my tip jar, and go on to the next “good read.” I want to take that phrase — and any other phrase, coined by anybody else that is effective — and use it in the public discussion. Stop being a sink for good ideas — anybody’s good ideas. Stop being the place where good ideas go to fade into obscurity. Instead, you need to become the place where good ideas are amplified and repeated — which means you need to use my site, Kos, Hullabaloo, Truthout, and all of the rest of them as sources for your own activism.
So, I am returning to my original niche as an online activist. I am returning to the message boards and blog comments, where I will be using the memes and frames I have developed — and many that others have developed — in the place where the actual public discussion is taking place. Tomorrow, in this space, I will have a “play by play” of my most recent foray into enemy territory.
I will also be adding a feature — informal for now, but I will probably create a widget at the site. I am occasionally asked for advice in online debate tactics. I usually beg off, because I’m “too busy.” Well, I’m not too busy anymore. If you are a message board activist, and you would like my input into a discussion you are currently involved in. I will drop whatever else I’m doing, and give you any assistance I can. Doing what I can to develop the tactics of progressive keyboard warriors will henceforth be my first priority.