Wednesday, January 08, 2003

CalPundit has tasked the liberal blogosphere to come up with a way to respond to the brilliant PR campaign the Bushies have put together for their boss' stimulus plan. Kieren Healy has a useful suggestion:
How to respond? Kevin's reaction --- "You mean seniors like Martha Stewart and Ken Lay?" --- is an excellent start. Another one springs to mind. Yesterday Kevin complained that statements which conflated the effects of variables or got their causal sequence backwards made him want to "just scream at the entire profession of sociology". (Bugs the living shite out of me, too, Kev.) The solution, for James Carville as for Sociologists, is to ask questions that separate the effects of those variables.
In this case, ask: If you wanted to maximize your chances of benefitting from the Bush plan, would you rather be old or rich? Take your pick. I know which I'd choose.
This is good. I can remember when I was heavily into the anti-drug-war movement a few years back that one of the most effective strategies I found for dealing with those who supported the drug war was to ask them questions about its effectiveness. For example, I would ask them how many people would have to be put in jail before we could consider the "drug war" to be "won". And, if they were strong Christians, I would ask them which they thought Jesus was more likely to do in response to drug use: build more prisons or more hospitals. In other words, engage people in a dialogue where you put the onus on them to explain why their position is the right one. So, if you encounter people who are buying into the Bush PR line, don't scoff at them or throw around negative comments about Bush. Ask them honestly to explain why Bush's proposal appeals to them. Then ask them to explain the details behind those parts of the proposal that appeal to them. Then ask them even more questions. Get them to start the digging into the details. I find that it is easier to convince people when you can make them think that it was they who came up with the idea. Lies are easy to hide under layers of obfuscation. Many people don't know how to navigate their way through those obfuscations. Many don't even realize that there is obfuscation involved. But, once you start trying to get them to explain what it is they support, the deficiencies in the proposal start to become apparent. The key here is to not be snide and insulting while doing this. Try to be as unthreatening as possible. Try to be as interested in the other person's point of view as you can be. Don't try to sell your point of view. Get them to convince you.

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