Friday, December 24, 2004
It isn't a dirty word, people ...
For conservatives like me, "activism" has had a much different flavor in years past than it did for our counterparts on the Left.
To us, respected conservative activists were those who, while seeking change, did so within relatively tight bounds of civility, nearly always working within the systems of our society (instead of attempting to go around them or replace them outright).
OTOH, we looked upon those who utilized the incendiary rhetoric and shrill tactics of the 1960's protest movements with a significant degree of disdain -- a disdain that even crossed party lines. Even when we agreed with the principles behind the protest (such as those behind the more militant protests at abortion clinics), many of us on the Right were still uncomfortable with the stridency ... and the press for immediate, radical change ... of some of those movements.
We told ourselves that the way to persuade more citizens to adopt conservative principles was to keep ourselves not just out of, but well away from, the gutter of "in your face" stridency.
What we did, instead, was cede a major battlefield to our ideological opponents -- the battlefield of simple ideas, presented with passion in public -- a battlefield whose newsworthiness is not only evident, and not only renewable, but a major component of its very worth as a battlefield.
As a result, a media who was already biased against conservative principles repeatedly took notice of only one side of the debate -- and in its reporting of that single side, reinforced its own biases against sound principle -- because it was the only side that took the time to present things in a way that the media would "understand" and pay attention to.
Fortunately, many of us have seen the error of our ways, and (while avoiding the distortion of fact that has become characteristic of Leftist activism) are now increasing our (in your) face time with the American public -- and turning back the tide of creeping fallacies like relativism and wealthism.
ONE WORD AT A TIME
While the foundation of today's conservative activism has roots that reach back to such "in-system" movements as the Contract for America, the Christian Coalition, the Reagan Revolution, and even Barry Goldwater, the stridency level was built up through the 1990's ... one word at a time. Old-fashioned paper (in hardcover, paperback, and even occasionally newsprint), not-so-old-fashioned radio, and the new-fangled Internet were the platforms where a new generation of conservative writer/pundit I refer to as the "bad cop" made their appearance.
Unlike the "good cops" of conservatism -- those like William F. Buckley Jr. and George Will, who coupled deep insight with calm, precise erudition -- the "bad cops" were not afraid to hit the Donkey with a rhetorical 2x4 to get its attention. On occasion, they went where even Rush Limbaugh would not go; even becoming outright advocates for certain causes.
These are people who are not afraid to say what millions of conservatives really think deep down ... but normally would not express in polite company. People like Sean Hannity ... Jonah Goldberg ... Michelle Malkin ... Michael Savage (who's even too far "out there" for my taste!) ... and of course, the Iron Fox of punditry, Ann Coulter.
Others, like David Horowitz and Charles Krauthammer, stood astride the boundary between "good cop" and "bad cop" ... in David's case, not only with his own writing, but in opening his forum, Frontpage Magazine, to "cops" bad and good. Still others who I consider "good cops", like Walter Williams and Bill Kristol, are not afraid to "go bad" when they need to ... they just don't stay there long.
IMO, we need both the "good cops" and the "bad cops" above if we are to maintain a healthy civil discourse ... the "bad cops" to passionately challenge our complacency and motivate us to "think the unthinkable" (and act upon it) ... the "good cops" to logically encourage us to do the same, and to provide the calm analysis that keeps both their own rhetorical bullets and the "bad cops" shotgun blasts on target.
CITIZENS ON PATROL
The Internet also let millions of citizens directly add billions of words to the public discourse. The availability of e-mail, comment facilities, message boards -- and ultimately, blogs -- gave the ordinary person access to the discourse that left the letter-to-the-editor in the dust.
E-mail replaced the fax machine of the 1980's and 1990's as the preferred tool to bombard Congress with our wishes. Message boards like Free Republic blossomed into online political communities, with the ability to both get a message out with lightning speed, and get large numbers of people thinking "on the same page".
Online magazines not only gave many (who previously couldn't afford to get their viewpoint out en masse) the ability to change some minds and reinforce others ... they had the instant feedback of online comments. And, the comments sections themselves often became online communities in their own right, with the advantages noted above.
And, we all know how blogs -- and their ability to focus expertise and cross-checking (and the online communities that rise around them) upon the political landscape -- have reshaped that landscape like bulldozers, and also given us a cautiously-hopeful viewpoint on Iraq that the MSM just doesn't EVER seem to see ... a viewpoint that comes from many with the credibility that only comes from being "on the ground" there.
All these derivatives of Internet technology have increased the ability of ordinary citizens to go beyond just watching the news unfold ... they have made it far easier for them to take an active role in shaping events; i.e. become activists themselves, as much as their situation and inclination allows.
For those who were already highly motivated to activism ... like the SwiftVets ... the Internet gave them another advantage; the ability to go around an apathetic or hostile media, and get their clear message out to "we the people" like never before. The MSM monopoly on the flow of information has been thoroughly busted ... and the 2004 election results reflect this.
ON THE STREETS
However, when it comes to on-the-streets activism, I consider the Miami-Dade County courthouse in Florida the launch pad for today's publically-expressed conservative stridency. There, a group of well-dressed young men raised their voices -- LOUDLY!! -- and demanded public access to the (disputed) vote-recount process of Election 2000 in that county, which was moved away from the public eye ... and was being dominated by political partisans loyal to Al Gore.
This level of stridency was virtually unheard of from conservatives outside the pro-life movement -- and it was coming from an unexpected source; men who (except perhaps for their youth) apparently had nothing in common with the moonbats normally associated with such protests. The MSM tried to use the normal disdain for such protesting against these people, painting them as crazies ... the Clinton-Gore administration threatened an investigation of the protesters (and people think that the Bush Administration is the one who actively suppresses dissent!). Neither attempt to smear these guys stuck to them. They are heroes to conservatives like me ... and legitimate in the eyes of many others.
On a more mainstream ... but still passionate ... level, we have seen another kind of "uprising" appear in the last four years -- an uprising based on loving concern, and not just repelling stupidity. The initiators for this kind of activism were two talk-radio hosts -- from Dallas, KLIF-AM's morning-drive host Darrell Ankarlo and the duct-taped "sick freak" of syndicated talk radio, Glenn Beck, who took what Darrell started locally, and spread it across the nation. Many others (including a LOT of ordinary people ... not just media celebrities) have carried on this effort.
This is the now-commonplace "support the troops" rally ... driven by the desire to see our soldiers, both on the field of battle and when they return home, treated with respect and supported (morally and materially) in their efforts to keep us safe and free ... and to pre-empt the disdain and loathing of our military that was seen at the end of Vietnam. People who previously would have considered taking the time for this an "unnecessary" distraction, now make a point of expressing their support for our troops and what they are trying to do through their presence and involvement in these.
Conservative activism has also progressed to the degree that, in 2004, an organization pried open the streets themselves, enabling conservatives to take on the Leftists at their own game ... in many cases, from inside the very events the Left organized. This is an organization that has leveraged the Internet to build support nationwide, that works smarter ... instead of harder. It replaces shrillness with wit, can be assertive and civil at the same time, and empowers conservatives who are otherwise uncomfortable with street activism by giving them the tools and guidance to successfuly hit the streets ... and force the MSM to report on their views, instead of just parrotting the Lefist viewpoint.
It has proven that we can beat the moonbats at their own game. I had a small part in proving that, by helping make the front lawn of Halliburton's Carrollton, TX facility so uncomfortable for the local Leftists' efforts to make that name a moonbat mantra, that they left that battlefield of their own accord ... ceding it to us! This was not done by force or violence, but by wit, innovation, persistence and assertiveness. This success was (and is still) repeated in many other venues, from its origins in San Francisco, all the way to NYC/Boston/DC ... and back through Texas all the way to San Diego.That organization is Protest Warrior. I encourage you to check it out.
OK ... IT'S OUR TURN
All these people have blazed the trail to where at least some of us, at some time, need to go.
On the one hand, we don't need to get down in the gutter that Leftist street activism dwells in. The truth is on our side (and if it is not, we had better change our thinking). We don't need to emulate their hypocricy:
> We don't need to threaten to destroy the property of others to make our point ...
> We don't need to be profanely belligerent ...
> We don't need to reject wholesale common decency and civility, even as we make our point ...
> Nor do we need to raise our middle fingers towards the fundamental principles and basic institutions that have served our society well.
What we DO need to do, however is ...
> Be assertive in making our viewpoint heard; one can still be respectful and civil while making their point loud and clear.
> Stand our ground. Never let our opponents intimidate us -- particularly when they start the name-calling and the simplistic insistence upon their "right" to present their views unchallenged. They will try to do so -- and even attempt to make it a legal matter -- but in nearly all cases, they don't have a leg to stand on ... for we have just as much right to be "out there" as they do. And, remind them that, while they (and we) have the right to say even the stupidest things, each of us has the RESPONSIBILITY to publically declare them stupid, when the facts support that assertion!
> Work smarter -- not harder. Simply matching the tactics of the opposition is insufficient ... if we appear just like them, the majority of Americans will tune us out ... just like them. We have many other "weapons" to utilize ... our ability to innovate, our individual initiative (in stark contrast to the collectivist predisposition of our opponents), our insistence upon logical justification for ideas, our respect for others, even civility itself ... that our opponents do not appreciate and/or have chosen not to use consistently or wisely. We can outhink them ... so we don't have to outshout them!
Activism is no longer a dirty word for conservatives ... for many, it needs to be a duty. Get involved ... add your voice to a comments community, or start your own blog (it's easy!). Support YOUR troops ... with your presence at support events, and with your donations of time and money. When an opportunity arises, hit the streets, and repel the useful idiots who would hijack our nation ... and the ideas and institutions that have served it well ... in the pursuit of relativist/collectivist/wealthist stupidity.
To borrow a line from Apollo 13, "let's work the problem, people" ... smarter, not harder!
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