The secret to succeeding on Fox or any other hostile "interview" environment is to have one simple main point you want to make and keep making it no matter what the question is.
Keep repeating your main point until you have had a chance to say it in its entirety at least three times. Rephrase slightly if you have to so it is not as obvious that you are repeating yourself:
- These personal risk accounts proposed by the Republicans endanger the future financial security of workers in their 30s.
- Workers in their 20s and 30s should not gamble their future on these Republican-sponsored personal risk accounts.
- Younger workers want a system of guaranteed benefits, they will not take a chance on these personal risk accounts the Republicans are pushing on everyone.
When constructing your ten second responses:
- the verb is the most memorable part of the statement. make it a word that the average middle school student would know.
- speak in active verbs rather than passive constructions that require more mental processing.
- whenever possible say what we are for rather than what we are against.
- when that is not possible, state what the Republicans are for, using verbs with negative connotations (this comes straight from the Newt Gingrich's 1996 GOPAC memo: Language: A Key Mechanism of Control. Memorize that document. It contains a wealth of information).
When the host notices you are not answering his question (and he will, because his question was designed to trap you and he will notice that you sidestepped the trap) and draws the audience's attention to the fact that you have not answered the question, that's all to the good, because that also encourages the audience to pay very close attention to whatever you say next:
[now everyone is listening even more closely to decide for themselves whether your answer is responsive or not. But you still only get ten seconds...]
TBM: That is my answer, Sean: Democrats are offering the guaranteed benefits of the present system, not the gamble of personal risk accounts.
- finish saying your prepared ten-second phrase. NEVER stop talking just because they are talking over you. Make them take your mike down in order to quiet you. And if your mike gets taken down, wear that as a badge of honor. You struck a nerve and they couldn't think of any other way to shut you up.
- become a broken record if you have to. repeat your ten second phrase a second time, calmly and forcefully as though people were still listening to you. some people are listening to you. it is hard to listen to two people at once and not everyone's attention will jump to the person who interrupted you.
- after this then look right into the camera and throw in this magic phrase: "You're not letting me answer because you know I'm telling the truth." Don't scream, just say it with firm conviction (it helps that it is true). You are saying this to the viewers/listeners, not the host. The magic phrase gets the listener's attention and they will start mentally evaluating for themselves whether what you just said was the truth or not. Not just whether you are telling the truth about them not letting you talk, but whether you are telling the truth in your main point about personal risk accounts. If the host starts justifying why he isn't letting you talk, that only draws more attention to the fact that he isn't letting you talk. Suddenly you have become a proven truth teller and have gained a tiny bit of credibility in the listener/viewer's mind.
- hold the thought in your mind that we're right and they're wrong and someday this will get through to the people. use that or some similar thought to calm yourself so that you do not get frustrated or yell back. this is just one battle in a longer engagement--we can't win them all and we don't have to win them all. we are simply trying to lay bricks in the credibility wall for 2006 and 2008. it is already beginning to get through to some segments of Red America that we were right about the war. Soon they will begin to wonder what else we are right about. Every little bit of truth telling helps.
- If possible, smile, knowing that you have the host rattled and on the run. Both the smile and the rattled host help our side in the long run.
- If they give you any opening at all, go back to your main ten-second summary with a very brief lead-in like: "All I'm trying to say is" or "I just want to make this one point" or "It's really very simple".
Joe and Jane Redvoter respond best to repetition of simple arguments. Blue voters are in a bind because we prefer our leaders to be smart if not intellectual, and we shoot ourselves in the foot by asking such leaders to communicate with people who are neither. It is as unnatural as learning to speak a foreign language. But it is learnable. Some people are naturally gifted at it, like the Big Dog. It was one of Dean's strengths, too: I want my country back!
People only remember arguments that are short enough for them to remember. To this day can anyone give a ten second answer to Kerry's position on the war? Kerry's public speaking skills were appalling by the standards of modern political communication; run-on sentences full of dependent clauses and parenthetical statements and by the time he got to the verb you couldn't remember the subject. That style may be very persuasive to people who are capable of following complex arguments, and it probably wowed Rollin Osterweis and the Yale debate team, but it is one of the many obvious things that cost us the election.
A simple lie will be believed by more people than a complex truth. Iraq War. Need I say more?
We have yet to determine whether a simple truth will be believed by more people than a simple lie. We haven't tried it yet!
This diary and its title were inspired by Georgia10's earlier diary about resisting the temptation to boycott Fox. It does no good to keep complaining about an uneven playing field. For better or worse, we must learn how to engage Rs in the venues where red and purple voters are getting their information. This means we can not simply boycott Fox Political Entertainment Channel and all the other "news" outlets where Rs have been so successful at shaping public opinion. It is way past time to turn their own strategy against them.
There is some evidence that Dems are beginning to come down off the high horse of claiming we are "above" such tactics. We used to find the entire strategy distasteful and claim we would rather lose than engage in underhanded psychological tactics. And we lost and felt self-righteous about it. But now we are using minimalist charts and repetitive backdrops and memorable visuals and simplified arguments. I believe this is a big part of the reason why we have managed to score a few points lately on Social Security and the nuclear option and the excommunicated Dems in North Carolina. As we get better and more consistent we will continue to build on these victories.
From Ender's Game: "You will learn to defeat the enemy. He will teach you how." I believe we can teach ourselves to use aggressively simple communication tactics in support of the truth more effectively than Rs can use those same tactics to deceive and destroy. But first we must accept the fact that this strategy works and study it until we can thoroughly understand and adapt it.
All of us should be working on this until we have a critical mass of people who are capable of doing it at all media levels: from live appearances on Fox all the way down to calling in to your local wingnut drive time talk show. Every blue warrior here who has not yet read "Don't Think of an Elephant" needs to order a copy from Powell's today.
The tactics themselves are only dishonorable when they are used in the service of lies. It's time we redeemed these tactics by using them in order to tell the truth. There is no shame in communicating with people at a level they can comprehend, using words and concepts they can easily understand. Anyone who wants to be a leader in the inclusive justice movement has got to practice doing this until it becomes second nature. Our political future as Democrats, and indeed the future of our beloved country and the entire world depend on it.
We will learn to defeat the Republicans. They are already teaching us how.