Preaching to the Choir
At PJ Media — the online media company where I am CEO — we preach to the conservative choir quite a bit.
It’s not our fault for the most part. It’s the way of the world these days. The left talks to the left and the right talks to the right.
Sure, we have some internal differences (gay marriage is one area), but PJM writers and readers largely agree on the big issues of the economy (stop spending), size of government (less is more) and, mostly anyway, on foreign policy (be strong).
The vast majority of us will vote for Mitt Romney — some grumpily, some not.
So we’re not changing anyone’s mind — or hardly anyone. At best, we’re giving people arguments and nuggets of information with which to regale their liberal friends at the water cooler, ammunition for a possible conversion or two. We’re also deepening our readers’ understanding of the issues and, we hope, entertaining them a bit.
Nothing wrong with any of that — but alas, it doesn’t move the meter much. And in this election year — universally acknowledged the most important since the invention of the secret ballot or maybe since drawing straws — we’d like to do better than that.
The question is how. Should we engage liberals in respectful discussion? Back in the early days of what was then called Pajamas Media, we attempted to do just that. It didn’t last long. Neither side “worked or played well with others,” as it used to say on our grammar school report cards, though I like to think it was the libs who were the more dysfunctional.
What you see now in mainstream media is a form of faux opposition installed for appearance’s sake or, even more, entertainment value (like Bob Beckel on Fox or, let’s be honest, David Brooks in The New York Times).
We don’t have any faux opposition on PJM, not that we want that. What we really want is a way to get our message out to the other side so that they actually read and consider it.
The tragedy of democracy in our times is that this may no longer be possible. People do not want to be disturbed by opposing views. They don’t even want to think about them. Too much — life, careers, family, friends — is at stake.
Humans are the most traditional of species. And for no one is this truer than liberals. They are the ultimate creatures of habit, marooned on Atoll 1968 with a giant Do Not Disturb sign blocking all approaching boats, even submarines.
They say the same of us, I suppose. But as someone who has crossed that line, I don’t agree. Although far from unanimous, from my observation, a significantly greater portion of the right exhibits tolerance of opposing ideas.
That puts the onus of reaching out in our camp. But again, how to do it?
One tactic might be to take a more psychoanalytic/emotional rather than a logical/ideological tack. Look for areas where there is unconscious agreement.
In some Hollywood movies, as my colleague Lionel Chetwynd pointed out on PJTV’s “Poliwood” show, the film’s message is conservative even though its creators believe it to be liberal. (Lionel was speaking of “The Hunger Games,” in which the masses are ruled by oppressive know-it-all elites who seem much like progressives taken to the next level.)
This approach argues for abandoning buzzwords (conservative, liberal, progressive, libertarian) and focusing on issues. Hollywood filmmakers aren’t the only ones who espouse conservative ideas when they don’t identify them with the “c” word.
But even if this is a good idea, it’s not easy to execute and does not necessarily translate into votes. And votes are what are necessary for change in this epoch.