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Personal Power Dynamics- a Refresher

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.

16 Responses

  1. It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”
    ― Upton Sinclair, I, Candidate for Governor: And How I Got Licked

  2. The problem, of course, dates back for quite a while. David Broder was the first to real push tone as a substitute for policy judgement. The result was to effectively promote a whole group of people who quietly offered extreme positions that were presented by Broder and his ilk as moderate from George W. Bush on through Mitch McConnell and John Boehner.

    In fact, the positions of the Republican party have gotten far less moderate according to its voting records and policies while its spokesmen are presented as moderate and thoughtful.(See Rubio, Marco)

    Gore was less moderate than W because he sighed and got earnest despite the policy content. The much derided Social Security lock box looks brilliant in retrospect, huh media.

    Meanwhile, the progressives seem to gravitate to George Lakoff instead of Krugman. Bad move.

    On a quick basis I actually judge against tone. Those who sound more strident but seem correct are more likely to be so and they actually have a belief system.

    Most of the push back against the media has been from the right. Remember the slaughter of Dan Rather when, it turns out, he was procedurally wrong but factually correct.

    This is off topic but somewhat related. There is a school of politics that is content free but instead wants to fill slots according to racial and ethnic quotas. No, Obama is actually not a liberal. He’s more conservative than Eisenhower (who challenged the military industrial complex and the John Birch Society and started the interstate highway system and thought that only an extremist would want to eliminate or modify Social Security) and Nixon (SSI, the EPA, environmental programs, traded for a guaranteed annual income for everyone).

    One of the pillars of this movement is Congressman Jim Clyburn of South Carolina whose entire career is based on race: adviser to Sc Governor on race, head of states equal rights program, congressman from the racially gerrymandered black district in SC, attacked Bill Clinton for “playing the race card”. got a seat on a federal commission for his daughter from Obama as a reward Well, the latest rumor is that the leader for the vacant SC US Senate seat is a shiny clean newbie US House member who is both extremely conservative and black (Tim Scott). Like a better behaved Clarence Thomas.

    Glad to see him get his comeuppance.

    As the Black Agenda Report says, what is needed are representatives who serve the needs of the people who elect them, in this case poor, working class, and middle class blacks whether those politicians are black or white. Steve Cohen from Memphis or Beato O’Rourke from El Paso do a better job of that a black or Hispanic politician who represent the establishment money class. The Chicano pol O’Rourke defeated was proud of his long career as a supervisor with the Border Patrol and he saw much of his job as serving the interests of that group at whatever cost to the locals.

    Content is a big part of character. Lincoln sounded moderate but his programs were not. OTOH, FDR did not sound moderate but he was extremely effective. Forget the tone, look at the policy.

    • David, most of your comment I am in agreement with. But you lose me at the bit about quota politics. I look at your name and I guess you are a white male. Correct me if I am wrong. I want you to consider that there is something patronizing about saying black people and other minorities are better off with a beneficent white guy in office who will pass out the social spending that benefits them rather than actually allowing them to hold the seats of power themselves. As a white male you may not understand this. But as a woman I do. It reminds me of the MS magazine cover with Obama and the caption “this is what a feminist looks like”…….screw that.

      • This is not just my judgement. Look at Black Agenda Report. I am pretty much paraphrasing what they have to say on the issue. Cohen is the only white male or female to represent a majority black district. He replaced Harold Ford, a legacy “conservative Democrat” who was black and defeated several black candidates who were well to the right of him.

        Black people and minorities are better off with someone who serves their interests. Clarence Thomas, for example, is not someone seerving the interest of most working class and middle class people, black or white.

        The installation of Jim Crow in the 1890s substituted race based politics for class based politics. The only winners were wealthy rich people (who were white). Race based politics is still the thing in the Deep South. In the last election, 89% of Mississippi whites voted for Romney while 96% of Mississippi blacks voted for Obama. Do you really think that Romney is the best choice for 89% of Mississippi whites? That rigid raced based politics in the South is one of the major pillars that keeps Republicans in control of the House of Representatives and simultaneously threatens our Social Securioty and Medicare benefits in the long run.

        LA, MS, AL, and SC have just one Democratic House member per state in a specifically drawn “majority minority” district. Georgia has three black Democrats, one white Democrat and 9 white Republicans. Ever drive through some of these districts? They meander all over the place. The same is true with Bobby Scott’s district in Virginia.

        The result is a bunch of 70% + Democratic districts and enough 55-59% Republican districts to keep them in power even when Democrats get a majority of the House vote.

        And remember, Clyburn played the race card hard. Really hard. South Carolina in the not distant past had both black and white Democrats elected to office. Not so anymore. Not so for the House anyway in those other states.

        Most of the black politicians in this country, btw, are not content free. The few who are, and Obama is one of them, need to be called out. The same is true of white politicians or Hispanic politicians.Most of them are not sitting in districts drawn by Republicans designed to make them super safe. The white Blue Dogs have gone down hard of late, and deservedly so.

        The Civil Rights movement in this country was a successful long standing co-operation between both white politicians and black and white activists. Martin Luther King recognized that and so did LBJ and yes, Everett Dirksen. Hillary and Bill Clinton lived it, too and saying so is hardly racist. In fact, saying it is racist (like Obama and Clyburn did) is racist and a distortion of one of the few high points in semi-recent American history. Saying that for personal political and economic advantage is just sad.

        I remember Martin Luther King. I know who he was and what he stood for. The re-invention of King as Stokely Carmichael or a better spoken Rap Brown is wrong.

        • OT somewhat: My district NJ-07 was redrawn to cut out the eastern cities of NJ where the more Democratic population is. Now, my district is solidly Republican. Anyone who is left of center doesn’t really have a voice here. We’re stuck with DC golfer Leonard Lance for as long as he wants the seat.

          • Perfect example of a gerrymander.A safe but not excessive margin in NJ for all Republicans. LoBiondo, 57.7%; Runyan. 53.7%; Smith 63.7%; Garrett, 55.0%; Lance, 57.2%; and Frelinghuysen, 58.8%.Look for the 55-59 landing spot as a sign of gerrymander. Also look for oddly shaped, even irrationally shaped districts.

            By comparison, note the Democratic percentages: Andrews, 68.2%; Pallone, 63.3%; Sires (majority Hispanic district), 78.0%; Pascrell, 74.0%; Payne,(majority black district) 87.6%; Holt, 69.2%.

            Andrews district adjoins Runyan’s. Obviously, the lines were drawn to stuff democrats into Andrews’ district to protect Runyan. If split like the Presidential vote (58% D) the result would be 6.96 Democratic seats or 7-5. PA was far more gerrymandered at 13-5 Republican.

            In my own case, Frelinghuysen was easily elected. I live in a sliver of Essex County represented by a Republican in DC. Moving Payne’s district a bit to create more even districts would be easy and almost obvious.

            Back in my childhood days, I used to look through the electiuon results in the Almanac to look for extreme one-sided totals. They were there but they were far, far, fewer. For some reason we had an ancient 1937 Almanac that had the FDR landslide. Now that was one-sided!

            If Corzine had won, btw, the scuttle butt was that Frelinghuysen and Garrett would face off and the seven Democrats would be preserved. Garret is a terrible representative and a terible candidate. Before his congressional days he was the single most “conservative” legislator in either the NJ Senate or Assembly. he opposed disaster relief for Katrina and for Irene and will presumably also oppose it for Sandy.

      • Obama is “technically black”. Will genuinely black people benefit more from having a “technically black” President get away with destroying their SS/Mcare/Mcaide survival benefits (along with my own) then they would have benefited from having a white female President working to prevent that destruction of their survival benefits
        (along with my own)?

  3. Don’t know whether you’ve read this RD, but there’s a terrific article by William Black over at Naked Capitalism. Black manages to focus and funnel exactly what you’re talking about here through a single example at the NY Times, comparing the paper’s assessment of the economic directions of Italy vs Ecuador [Monti vs Correa].

    We really have reached Orwellian levels of propaganda.

    I didn’t see the Stephanopolous smack down of Krugman but I read the transcript. Matalin’s attitude was typical and really disgraceful. But it follows the pattern of dismissing anything or anyone disagreeing with the ideology, particularly when the naysayer is considered an intellectual, a must-be-silenced expert in any field. We’re suppose to rely on the political operative’s ‘gut’ reaction rather than the professor’s knowledge.

    And Stephanopolous? Like so many of these talking heads, he pretends objectivity by allowing these know-nothings flood the airways with disinformation.

    ‘Mendacious” appears to be the GOP’s new best word.

  4. Emailing, phoning, writing Gwen Ifil and numerous other useful media idiots could be useful and only costs a little time and money.
    It seems worth doing, on principle.

    Writing officeholders might be worthwhile even if it doesn’t seem like it. It costs very little time and money compared to the money at stake.
    Perhaps writing ambitious state level officeholders to let them know that we will never vote D for national office ever again if SS/Mcare/Mcaide are even mentioned in any legislation might make them fear for their upwardly mobile national office seeker ambitions. Perhaps they might direct pain against their FedGov seniors to vote against any changes to SS/Mcare/Mcaide if they feel such votes at the FedGov level might threaten to abort their own cynical national level office seeking ambitions.

  5. They are not only going for total income stream capture and wealth buildup roundup. They are also going for spite and vengeance.

    The MI Legislature voted its Right To Freeload ( so called “Right To Work” ) law through and Snyder will sign it as he always meant to do right from the start anyway. He has lied in our face about why and what for . . . just to show he has the power to lie to people who know he is lying.

    What I wonder is . . . did the Dem legislators have a big enough minority that they could have denied quorum by fleeing the state and going into hiding? Thereby preventing that bill or any other bill from moving through the lame duck? If they had the needed numbers to deny quorum and kill bussiness by their absence, the question arises:
    why didn’t they do that? If they did not have the numbers anyway, then the question is moot and pointless.

    The Dem Legislators don’t believe in spite and vengeance and they don’t believe in winning zero sum victories which are the only victories that anyone will win going forward. Can Michigan’s D-voters raise up a new crop of D officeholders who believe in spite, vengeance, and winning zero sum victories against the conservatives and their upper class comrades? In the meantime I will of course take part in any recall petitions and counter Right To Freeload ballot initiatives that I can get my carless self to.

    • Just today in the paper I think I read that a “referrendum” is different than an “initiative”. An “initiative” requires far more petition signatures to get on the ballot, but I believe an “initiative” can beat down an “approprations” gimmick-loaded law where a “referrendum” can’t. If so, then a “repeal Right To Freeload” would best be pursued as an “initiative” and people will be trying to get signatures for one.

      I also read that the MI House passed Right To Freeload by 58-51. That makes me think that those 51 would have to be Democrats. The rest of us could foresee the Lame Duck Rs moving to fast track Right To Freeload. If the Ds couldn’t see it, then they are clearly too dumm to live, and probably too dumm and undeserving to win a Legislative Majority. If the COULD see it, and deCIDed to NOT flee the state and go into hiding to prevent any Lame Duck bussiness from moving at all,
      then they are the kind of snivelling surrender monkeys that people have learned to associate with the word “liberal” . . . and it is doubtful
      they will get a majority from people who want to see zero sum victories
      crammed down the enemy’s throat.

  6. I left a comment but it did not show up. Technical difficulties?

    • Not sure what the problem was but I liberated it from the spam filter.

      • Thank you. Part of the problem may be the second rate publik liberry computer I was at last night and tonight too. But the hotel computer I was at several days ago was so much worse than this is that I have learned how “just much worse” things can be.

  7. I commented several days ago and had to once again sign in to wordpress. Why do they do that? It’s so annoying. I couldn’t remember the password and the one I have saved was wrong, I changed it and then used the new one and that was wrong too…even though it was the one I JUST CREATED.
    I think that is why people give up and don’t comment. You should bitch at word press.

    Now here I go to create yet again another new password so I can make this pissy comment, so that next time when I have something pertinent to say I can do so.

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