diet coke for breakfast

Friday, November 07, 2003

Posted by Jake
I was sitting in a bar last night (or was it standing, never can tell) while speaking to some friends of friends. All of them were literary, working in magazines or writing or some such nonsense. People who write for a living never seem to have a job description. Talking to them you would think is they feed on air and red vermouth and sit around contemplating things. It is confusing because I am pretty sure that the reality is that they sit around eating ramen noodles, looking for work. Well, at least the ramen noodles are made by someone with a job description.

Someone mentioned Conde Nast -- who I understand from their website is a publisher of the highest order: "Each magazine features world-renowned editors, writers and photographers -- an incredible stable of talent unmatched by any other publishing company. They demand excellence. They put a premium on truth. They refuse to compromise." While Conde Nast publishes excellent publications with a premium on truth like New Yorker (not going there) they also publish Modern Bride. I have difficulty assimilating how Modern Bride would refuse to compromise. All marriage is about compromise -- actually less compromise and more surrender.

We started talking about the Matrix. I thought I would peddle out the big guns so as not to make an ass of myself, so I start using words like "camp" -- which is really a 5 dollar word where the word "overacting" would do nicely. Things going well. They can smell fear so don't screw it up. Bring up how I thought the movie passed the fine line between funny and ridiculous that it had tread cautiously in the first and significantly less cautiously in the second. Commented that I thought most of the speeches -- and speeches they were -- were just plain ridiculous.

"Like George Bush," someone says. Screech to a halt. I issue more of a "ummm" with face scrunching that could be interpreted either way. I can never think of witty retorts when the moment presents itself. I should plan them ahead of time. If I had half a clue -- or any urge to pick a fight because I like a lot of these people -- I would have responded: "Hey, no more ridiculous than that horse and pony show, you got going over in the Democratic primaries. Seeing Kucinich and Sharpton being handed a microphone when in any reasonable country they would have both be subjugated to the outer darkness of local talk radio by now, makes me want to switch sides and start rooting for the machines."

New York is like a bizarro world where all the people are so inundated with hegemony that they actually believe that hegemony exists. I met this person two seconds before. This is the first comment out of her mouth other than name, rank, and serial number. How should I respond? Dissent is apparently a democratic value now even when it is poorly informed and irresponsible, so perhaps I should encourage this type of behavior.

I didn't pick a fight, but for another reason. Politeness is a good habit, and for it to work you have to practice. Perfect practice makes perfect.

James: I've gotten tired of hiding my political beliefs amongst the "educated" class. I don't usually swing my ideology around like a club, and depending on the atmosphere, I often react in the same way that you did. The way I probably would have reacted in this particular situation would have been to completely school her in terms of what she knows about Bush's speeches, but to build into this "education" gradually. I would have started with a throw-away comment about how at least his speech-writing staff has gotten much better than during the 2000 election. I then could have discussed one of his SotU speeches, his speech to the UN, or his "Why We're in Iraq" speech from the other day. She would have countered that he's scripted and can't hold his own when questioned. Which would have brought me then to the 45 minute press conference he gave 1 month after Sept. 11th, in which he handled questions deftly. The beauty is that there's no way your friend-ofa-friend watched it and could not have disagreed with my assessment of his performance. From here we probably could have discussed any number of aspects of this administration. I would have defended most of his policies, but criticized a few, throwing her completely off guard, and making any blind hatred apparent for what it is. My favorite targets in these situations are the supposed environmental evils (I'll discuss those in another post, some other time). All of this can be done subtley and in a manner that gets the member of the "angry left" confused and questioning not only her beliefs but her grasp of the facts. Of course the self-doubt won't last more than the hour that you're at the bar, but it can still be fun. And, if she's at all polite, she won't trash the President in front of you again.

Brian: Well said, James. Jake, it sounds like you handled yourself well, especialy since you're not quite as accustomed to defending your conservative tendencies from irrational liberal hatred as James and I are. The one difference I'd point out between the response you wish you'd thought of then and the response James just described is the tendency to lash out. I find myself often wanting to rip into the libs when they attack conservatives in general, or Bush in specific, but it's less effective. Defending Bush is far more powerful than attacking the Dems, because these friends of a friend, as James said, are very unlikely to know anything real about Bush, and instead simply repeat the propaganda they hear around them every day. And, since they support Dems over Bush without exception, attacking one or two of W's policies, as James said, will leave their heads spinning. They truly believe that we are selfish, blind, ignorant followers of a Hitler-esque leader and there is very little more fun than slapping a little reality on a liberal.


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