If you’ve read much about the WinSome strategy, and instead of agreeing with the approach, you’ve become more frustrated with my naïveté, stupidity or cowardice, perhaps I can comfort you with the following.
There are things worth fighting for. Nothing about WinSome conflicts with that.
The values and principles I treasure — ideas which have made these United States the greatest country on Earth — require a defense from time-to-time. So relax: I’m not always sunshine and lollipops.
After all, I made my initial reputation online writing a news satire site that treated my opponents’ ideas with ridicule. My stuff got read on-air by Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin, Glenn Beck, Mike Gallagher and others on the Right who love to fight.
Have I done an about-face, repenting of my contentious ways, and adopting a kinder, gentler method?
Not entirely. I still do political commentary videos online, but frankly, I’ve lost my stomach for losing strategies. Notice, I didn’t say that I’d lost my passion for the principles we treasure. What’s worn out its welcome for me is the idea that we can keep doing the same thing over-and-over, and expect different results.
On social media and in the news media, we’re like a gerbil on a wheel. People on various sides of nearly every argument use the same techniques. We shout our talking points. We insult and mock the opponent. We salute our own cleverness. We crow about how someone on our side really “destroyed” someone on theirs.
Despite all of the combat, I don’t see much victory — unless you define victory as feeling good about hearing your own arguments and snark.
That said, I do think there’s a place for talk radio and video and other types of what I’ll characterize as “entertainment with a purpose.”
Rush Limbaugh has understood his role from the beginning. He has always described himself as an entertainer. He, and others like him, can get away with outrageous statements, satirical jabs and other techniques that would not work if you and I tried them face-to-face with a colleague or family member.
The reason may be obvious, but deserves restating. When you and I engage in personal dialogue it is just that — personal. But a guy on the radio, like Limbaugh, doesn’t go nose-to-nose with his opponents. Radio is intimate, one-to-one, but impersonal. I listened to Limbaugh well before I became politically conservative. Even though I disagreed with him on most topics, I found the show entertaining. He was funny as he mocked people who shared my beliefs. I’ve always enjoyed a laugh at my own expense. However, I don’t think I would have enjoyed it as much if he had mocked me to my face, especially in front of others.
There’s a distinct difference between entertaining an audience, and discussing issues with another person alone, or among a group (that includes on social media). People don’t like to look stupid, especially in a crowd.
So, guys like Rush get a pass when it comes to WinSome strategy.
It remains to be seen whether WinSome strategy could work on radio or video. As I survey the talkradio and TV landscape, I often wonder whether combat is essential to the formula. People love a fight. Even in positive “reality” shows where people shed excess weight, find love, or win a talent contest, it seems that we must have losers in order to enjoy the show.
Some day, I plan to test the theory, and stage a show where people are treated with dignity, respect and even love, regardless of their ideas. I want to see if I can do that in a way that entertains without humiliating anyone.
In the meantime, when it comes to personal communication, I avoid fighting, not because I’m a coward, because I don’t think it’s an effective persuasion technique. I’m also confident enough in my beliefs that I don’t feel the need to defend them against spurious attacks, or mischaracterization. I can address lies about my principles with gentleness and respect.
About the only time I feel justified in “fighting” is on behalf of someone who cannot defend himself. I’ll speak up vigorously for those who cannot speak for themselves. This is extraordinarily rare. Even in those circumstances, I need to start at the finish, and consider whether my tone and demeanor will accomplish my objective.
Ultimately, I want the rhetorical assailant to join me, rather than to slink away with a red keister from a verbal spanking.