The squeeze is here. The outgoing hardasses among our elected officials have a limited time only to solidify the 1%’s stranglehold on the money stream. They’ve been busy the last couple of years on the cocktail weenie circuit. Witness this exchange between Gwen Ifil and Paul Krugman from last week’s Noose Hour:
THAT, ladies and gentleman, is what happens to a journalist when all they ever hear is people all around them telling them that cutting “entitlements” is unavoidable.
Every time I see crap like this, I shake my head. To me, it looks like Ifil is very sincere. She truly believes that people who do not have wealth *must* give up some little piece of whatever they have. She doesn’t question why or whether this is the best solution or what will happen down the road. She has “thought stoppers” carefully positioned in her mind by the people who she hangs out with. Her attitude is religious, not rational.
I’ll give her a hint as to why we shouldn’t go down this path. Back in the mid 2000′s, the pharma industry was full of Gwen Ifils. Those over educated, technically proficient college graduates were doing Ok. No one was getting rich but we weren’t living in public housing. And many of my friends didn’t think they would need social security or medicare when they retired. Those days are gone. We are now the new precariats.
But I digress.
Gwen Ifil is not the worst of the bad actors on news hour programs. She seems to be more earnest than some of her counterparts on shows like This Week with George Stephanopolous. Yesterday, George Will got his bow tie in a twist and did his best “I shall not be mocked, sir!” at Krugman, while his syrupy, cynical side kick Mary Matalin opportunistically joined in. (What was it, Carville? Was the sex *that* good??) It is impolite to point out that people who insist that the working and middle class eat their poison mushrooms are not being honest or mathematically correct on cost savings.
Ahhh, the old “civility defense”. Let’s call this what it is, shall we? It’s the best bullying tactic on TV. Call your opponent impolite and have your gang join in. We have seen how this works in religion as well. NO ONE is allowed to question a religious person’s beliefs. It’s impolite. That’s why we have faith based initiatives, red beanie dudes monitoring women’s fallopian tubes and pious and extremely tedious church ladies who know much more about gay sex than we do tut-tutting over the “homosexual agenda”. The minute you tell them you don’t believe their shtick because it’s irrational and cruel, they get all up in your grill about how rude you are to them and how polite society does not question others’ belief systems.
In personal power dynamics, one of those 3 day courses that are given to corporate management and salesmen and which the scientists were encouraged to try out on their colleagues, we learned about the passive-aggressive scale. This scale goes from 1 to 10 with the lower end representing passive communication and pressure while the upper end represented aggressive communication and pressure. The optimal sweet spot for communication and negotiation is between 5-7. That represents assertiveness without aggression. People who communicate in a passive style, that is 1-4, are at a distinct disadvantage in getting what they want. In order to be more productive, they need to step it up into the 5-7 zone. Conversely, if you are a fucking abrasive asshole, you need to tone it down or you will jeopardize your ability to get things done in the future.
HOWEVER, if you’re in the sweet spot and your opponent starts ratcheting up the scale, getting more aggressive, YOU need to get more aggressive in order to hold your ground. If you’re at 5 and he goes to 7, you need to go to 7. If he goes to 8, you need to go to 8. He needs to see that you are not going to back down and that your committment is as strong as theirs. This will force him to come down or disengage.
The call for civility and the “no-mockery” zone thing is a pre-emptive strike that is intended to keep the true aggressor from looking truly aggressive. George Will with his stupid bow tie and nerdly glasses looks all refined and low key but he’s been very successful at bludgeoning his opponents. Paul Krugman has just enough Princeton ego and mocking amusement to push Will and force him to invoke his civility strategy. The civility strategy is deployed to prevent people like Krugman from getting too assertive and meeting aggression with aggression.
It’s almost impossible for one guy like Krugman to do battle against this almost impenetrable wall of irrational belief. Oh sure, Will and his gang know that what they’re saying isn’t true and that they’re working for the bad guys. But I think we give the Gwen Ifils and David Gregory types more credit for their intellects than they deserve. You can bet that they got to their present positions by being bright politicians, not by sticking to the facts and reasoning things through. They are experts at navigating the rungs of media power. They aren’t economists and they don’t have to actually experience the real world the way the ex-pharma worker does- well, not yet anyway.
But they *have* been somewhat protected from the effects of their belief system on their wider audience. We send a lot of emails to our congressmen. But do Ifil and Gregory have any idea how their brainless acquiescence to the dominant dogma is received by the average American? Maybe it’s time they found out just how unpopular it is to the 300 million of us who don’t live inside the beltway.
When was the last time you contacted the News Hour? When was the last time that any media personality heard from someone other than their own little circle? When was the last time that Gwen Ifil felt uncomfortable? When was the last time that George Will or Mary Matalin was called mendacious?
It’s time we stepped it up to at least an 8. Paul Krugman needs some help.