Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Bring On The Angry Liberals

by Sara Robinson

(If you think you've seen this before, you have: I had this up briefly as a comment, but decided to expand on it, and move it to the main page.)

Two days after the Big Dog bit, the MSM is in full spin about how out-of-control and crazy he was. And Democrats everywhere are flinching and cowering under the onslaught of disapproval. "Yes, yes -- perhaps he did go a bit far. We're sooo sorry. It was wrong, and we won't even THINK of doing it again. Please, Mr. MSM, don't hurt us. We'll be good, we promise."


The truth of the matter is that we are never, ever going to make our message or delivery perfect enough that it can't be butchered by the MSM. Ever. Whatever we do, it will always be wrong. That's their storyline, and they are sticking to it to the end. Anybody who thinks we're going to change that status quo by simply having better manners or eating more cocktail weenies with them is delusional. These people are not our friends.

The first step in dealing with this situation is acknowledging that cold and immutable reality, accepting it, and deciding how we're going to respond to it.

When it comes to the left, the mainstream media have exactly two all-purpose storylines going. We will always be portrayed as either spineless wussies, or angry loonies. The only choice we have here is to decide which one we're going to play to.

Given that choice, I'll go for angry loony every day of the week.

I'm old enough to remember that back in the 70s, it was the Republicans who were the media's angry loonies. They dealt with it by not giving a damn. Any publicity was good publicity, they figured -- at least they were getting coverage.

But, over time, they also got respect.

Part of it was that they got strategic about focusing that anger, and putting it to work. That's what the whole "liberal media" bogeyman was created for in the first place -- as a focal point for that rage, and a quick shorthand slogan that encapsulated their entire critique of how they were being misportrayed. They gathered the troops and raged against this bogeyman so hard and so often that, within a few years, news editors across the country had learned (through the most blatant kind of operant conditioning) to flinch at the mere echo of their voices, and think twice before writing ill of them. Derision had turned into fear had turned into respect.

At the same time, though -- the opinions of the editorial elite notwithstanding -- a far more important constituency getting the real message. The folks at home watched these "loonies" on their TVs, and could not fail to notice: These people had the strength of their convictions. They had boundaries, and a moral center. They looked like leaders. Ignorance had turned into admiration had turned into respect.

The full trajectory of this change took something more than five years, something less than ten. But it's at the core of how the MSM became the mouthpiece of the Republican party. (Yes, a parallel push to build their own media and control the boards of existing media played a big role, too. But this is what changed the scene on the front lines in newsrooms, and on the ground.) The GOP was not afraid to look crazy -- or to hold the media accountable for how they were portrayed -- because they had their eyes on a longer-term prize.

I say it's high time we borrow this strategy, and put it to work. Let go of the fear. Accept that they're gonna say what theyre gonna say. Stop apologizing for anything. And let's bring on the angry Democrats.

Of course they're going to paint Clinton as an out-of-control loony. Being who they are, they cannot do otherwise; only a pluperfect fool would expect them to. They're following the storyline, and we have no choice but to let them.

But we also need to trust, privately, the Chris Wallaces of the world have just been handed their first lesson about asking questions based on stupid, badly-researched premises -- even as we make damn sure that it won't be the last. Careless and ignorant media talking heads need to be getting their fingers singed this same way a couple times a week for the foreseeable future. If this be loonitude, let's make the most of it.

(Before long, they'll realize that angry liberals actually make for damned good TV. That's not a bad rep to have, either.)

We also need to trust that the audience saw what it saw. There's an emotional appeal to strength and truth in Clinton's performance that transcends spin, and redounds to our benefit over the long haul. We're entering an era when people have less and less patience with the pomo excesses of fuzzy freelance create-your-own-reality spinning. People who can muster up some good rightous indignation -- and back it up with a focused presentation of history and fact -- are looking pretty good right about now.

The GOP itself showed us how this is done. All we have to do now is follow the Big Dog, and go thou and do likewise.

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