Monday, December 08, 2008

Moving the Center

Read an article about Naomi Klein in the New Yorker. One thing she said that struck me as interesting was advocating the strategy of taking outrageously radical positions in order to "move the center". Meaning, by making outrageous statements, the "left" will move the center to the left by making previously "radical" positions seem mainstream by comparison.

I guess the thing that bothered me about this is that it confirms to me that everything that is said and done these days in the public forum is just demagoguery and strategy. Nobody says what they think any more. It is all a game.


Blogger Ezzie said...

This is true to the point that now, even when someone speaks truthfully about their positions, they are assumed to not mean what they say but rather something either more extreme or more moderate (depending on who they are supposedly trying to convince). It's a dumb, endless game.

December 08, 2008 9:12 AM  
Blogger Jewish Atheist said...

People do that not just for strategic reasons, but for popularity as well. I often find myself tempted to be more belligerent or controversial just because I know it will attract more readers and more discussion and I'm not even being paid for what I do! Imagine if I knew my salary depended on the number of readers I got. I'm pretty good at resisting that urge now, but if I could double my salary or further my career just by amping up the rhetoric a bit? And that if I didn't, someone else would, and they'd get my job? It'd be tough.

AM radio is made up almost entirely of people who are dishonest more for profit than for strategic political reasons, although the latter reasons are not insignificant. Remember Limbaugh's comment about being glad to not have to "carry water" for Bush any more?

For some reason, newspaper columnists seem to be more about the political reasons than the profits, perhaps because it's hard to track readers/subscribers to particular columnists. Bill Kristol is a national disgrace, but I've never seen him say anything just to be controversial -- it's always political strategy. He's always telling what he thinks are noble lies.

December 08, 2008 11:28 AM  
Blogger e-kvetcher said...


The state of the radio talk shows is unbelievable. It is amazing what you can hear on both sides. It frustrates the crap out of me, but mostly it just saddens me because it is just another example of the sheep being led by unscrupulous demagogues.

December 08, 2008 12:03 PM  
Blogger Tobie said...

I think that this strategy does backfire to some degree. At some point, people start dismissing you as exactly as radical as you sound. you become, at some point, Rush Limbaugh, and I don't think that many moderates want to hear anything you say. Heck, at some point, they start dismissing your opinions by virtue of the fact that you were the one who said them (I found this happening last time I tried to listen to Rush).

December 09, 2008 12:01 AM  
Blogger -suitepotato- said...

This is new in what way?

You'd think if the governor arrested were a Republican it would have been mentioned. That he was a Democrat, not at all, and it almost wasn't.

The media has been unabashedly left of center for decades and it only gets worse, largely because that field is dominated by college journalism grads who themselves are overwhelmingly on the left, and academe itself is overwhelmingly left. (Largely because beautiful theories need not worry about being slain by ugly facts in the private game preserve of academe.)

Their worldview is totally normal to them, they report it as such, and over time if you tell someone something enough, especially in a nonthinking fast paced superficial world, it becomes accepted fact.

They're extremist not because they're trying to drag the center, because they ain't that brilliant, but rather because they are often angry resentful people who see a nation that doesn't match their mentality and they think they are smarter and everyone should believe what they believe and if they don't, they're dumb and need to be re-educated to believe what the left believes. (Jerry Rubin's grasp of the obvious revelation that the left generally demands the addressing of the impossible and keeps changing the impossible notwithstanding.)

On the other hand, when have you not seen it among true religious believers? Anyone who believes they know something special or that they are smarter will present it as the facts and other people as the radicals and probably beneath contempt, misled at best and morons or worse on the other hand.

Always been this way. Asking yourself what the other person has riding on something should always be in the back of your mind or you're ignoring that human nature involves acting from perceived self-interest.

December 09, 2008 3:48 PM  

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