Thursday, October 11, 2012

The only political blog I will write all year

It is election season in America. That time of year when people start putting up posts and blogs about how candidates are horrible, evil, terrible, corrupt, and will ruin this country if, God forbid, they get elected. And that is just from the people I like and respect - don't get me started on what the politically over-invested are posting.

My position? I make most of my living training people how to build consensus and resolve conflict. So what may seem like political opinions to you are, to me, examples of how to do exactly the opposite of everything I teach. Let's break down what is happening linguistically in most of these posts:

The "doctor" technique: As in the old joke, "What do the call the person who graduated last in medical school? Doctor." The technique goes something like this: take any candidate. Find the stupidest person in their party. Find the stupidest thing the stupidest person says. Then link the candidate to it: "This candidate's party believes in (insert quoted stupidity here)! How horrible!"

"Hate" speech: Take a position. Any position. Then find whomever might not agree with it 100%, and make the candidate "hate" them. Everywhere I look, candidates apparently hate growth, hate women, hate small business, hate progress, hate freedom of choice ... or whatever. So, for example, whenever I wolf down a pizza I apparently "hate" fresh food.

Liar! Liar!: Someone backed something and then the legislation never passed? He lied! Someone laid out an economic plan and then the economy changed? They lied! Someone crossed party lines to build a bipartisan consensus on something? She lied! Try confronting your spouse with "You LIED!" the next time he or she is running a few minutes late sometime, and then let me know me how well it works.

(By the way, in case you are keeping track, the search phrases "Obama lies" and "Romney lies" actually have almost identical counts on Google - 155 million each, give or take.)

Did you know that so-and-so voted for (whatever)?: They say if you like laws or sausages, don't watch either being made. Any elected official who does their job and votes to keep the budget running, the government functioning, etcetera will vote regularly for huge bills with zillions of obscure things in them. Here, you take the stupidest ones and say your opponent voted for them. The classic example of this is "(S)he voted to raise taxes 87 times."

Bracketing: Do I want peace? Well, duh, yes. Do I think people should learn and speak English? Golly, my English teacher always thought so. Should we save the environment? Give me a break, of course we should. Am I in favor of family values? Last time I looked, I haven't seen anyone against them. What you are seeing here is a technique where people ask stupid questions with only one answer, and when you give the one answer, you are supposedly on their side.

When I see any of these techniques in play, especially in politics, I automatically shut down to whatever is being said. Both at a personal level, because I wasn't taught to talk about others this way, and at a political level, because I wish we wouldn't keep voting for polarized gridlock government every year. Meanwhile, I am looking forward to the second week in November, when it will hopefully be safe to go back on Facebook again.

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