Tuesday, August 27, 2013

A Dirty Shame

It is hard to overstate how important the practice of shaming is to the left. It is the foundation of everything they do, to themselves and to their opponents.

Shaming is distinct from attacking. Shaming an opponent is a practice unique to the left. When conservatives attack people, they attack things about the person, things the person did or didn't do, say or didn't say, or things the person believes. Those on the left do all this and more, but they also attack feelings in addition to more tangible things. They think that by making people feel bad about themselves, they can make them do things more easily, and they are absolutely  right.

Conservatives do not try to make liberals feel bad about themselves. Instead they want to talk about scandals, or waste, or jobs, or other abstract things, forgetting that there are people who do not care about scandals, waste, or jobs. But everyone has feelings.

Shaming is a deliberate practice. This is not just some reactive hitting out. Leftists love making conservatives feel guilty. Leftists know that if they use certain words and phrases, we will back down and apologize. It is so deliberate that they can configure Twitter bots to do it for them.

One time, I was sitting in a pub in the midst of a gathering of Liberal and Conservative partisans. I was talking to a woman who has recently been promoted from oft-quoted ministerial spokesperson up to the Premier's Office. Somehow the subject turned to women in politics. We had been speaking in reasonably calm tones of voice when- as if she had just remembered to do this- she fixed me with a terrible look and belted out, "I CANNOT BELIEVE YOU DON'T WANT MORE WOMEN IN POLITICS". I was so stunned by this outburst that I forgot, temporarily, that the candidate I was working for at the time was herself female. This was an attempt at shaming, and it worked to the extent that I could have had a ready reply for her, but because I was surprised, I didn't. The thing I remember most was how it seemed like a practiced movement- like a golf swing. It more than likely was, and it was not the last time a Liberal has tried this with me.

Liberals know that even though we supposedly reject the liberal consensus, we want to be liked by others. We don't like being thought of as racist, sexist, homophobic, and all the rest of it. So we try to demonstrate that we are not, and the Liberals declare that we have a hidden agenda.

Hidden Agenda, as a strategy, is old and boring, but it still works. It works because it puts us on our back foot, and it puts us on our back foot because we don't like having to prove that we are not racist, sexist, and homophobic. You cannot stay on message when you have to constantly prove that you are not racist, sexist, and homophobic.

Some conservatives make the mistake of thinking that all they have to do is try really hard to not say anything that is socially unacceptable. For example, John Tory hates being shamed so much that he does more than any other person I know to prevent himself from saying or doing things that are offensive to others. This doesn't help him at all, though. During the 2007 election, the OLP sold Ontario voters the patently ridiculous notion that John Tory was a secret social conservative, and the Ontario voters bought it.

By contrast, Rob Ford is immune to being shamed. He does not appear to feel the emotion at all. I do not know if Ford is just not capable of being shamed, or if he's figured out a way to not feel it. The how is not as important. So long as Ford isn't shamed by anything, whatever his opponents try to tar him with just bounces off. The Toronto Star in full outrage combined with rabid media attention and former Ford loyalists running for cover does not matter worth a damn as far as Ford is concerned because Ford is not concerned. And because the left has no other tricks in their bag besides trying to shame Ford out of office, he's not going anywhere.

Fortunately or unfortunately, we are not Rob Ford. Don't deny that you cringe inwardly, if even just a little, every time that the Star reports that Ford Did A Thing. And even if we were composed entirely of Rob Fords, that might not get us very far either. The Alberta Wild Rose found out to their dismay some time ago that if you don't condemn some obscure blog post made by a candidate to the effect that gay people will- through magical procedures that are unclear- end up in a lake of fire, you very well might lose an election.

Because, even if the party leadership decides that the idea of there being a lake of fire in hell (a place which may or may not exist, depending on whom you ask) reserved exclusively for gay people is too ridiculous to require condemnation, the voters will be too ashamed to be seen voting for that party. Even if nobody knows how they voted, the people voting for the party with unacceptable social views would be too ashamed of themselves for having voted the way they did.

So because trying to avoid doing shameworthy things doesn't work, and because we can't all be Rob Fords, and because the voting public certainly can't all be Rob Fords, the solution is to develop our own methods of shaming those on the left. But as I've documented more times than I care to count, we don't want to put those on the left on their back foot. We don't want to hurt their feelings. We just aren't capable of living with ourselves for having ideas that aren't popular with people. When people say we are "mean-spirited", it hurts our feelings and we have to make the sad feels stop.

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