How To Win Friends And Influence People, The Liberal Way

Over the years, the right has learned quite a few lessons on dealing with a hostile press. And while they haven’t quite figured out how to do it right consistently, bu there are a few tricks that seem to work. Newt Gingrich is showing one way that you have to be brilliant, combative, and glib — i.e., you have to be Newt Gingrich — to pull off, and I recall one Tea Partier that held up a sign that said “IT DOESN’T MATTER WHAT MY SIGN SAYS, YOU’LL CALL ME A RACIST ANYWAY.” And more importantly, they’ve learned a few things that never work — and always hurt. One of the biggest is that physically attacking the folks with cameras is never a good idea.


This is a lesson that the #Occupy mobs could stand to learn — as witnessed in these three examples captured by Gateway Pundit. And don’t attack the police — that’s never a good idea. If you don’t understand why, let Chris Rock explain it to you.


We’ve seen this attitude before — in the #Occupy-supporting unions, for one.


Why do they do this? I’ve got my theory. They aren’t interested in getting their message out — attacking the people who can relay your message isn’t overly conducive to that goal. It isn’t about persuading folks of the rightness of their cause. It isn’t about winning the public’s support or sympathy.


No, it’s about making a show of strength. It’s about demonstrating that the group is strong, that it possesses power, that it can — and will — use force, whatever force is necessary, to achieve its goals.


It isn’t persuasion, it’s intimidation. They aren’t interested in proving the other side is wrong, it’s about shutting them down. It’s about beating them into submission.


And here’s where it gets dangerous.


Remember that talk a few weeks ago, about the “social contract?” The idea that we’re all in this together, that there are certain unstated, underlying agreements and obligations that tie us all together and require us to all to abide by them? Earlier, this was applied to economics — the wealthy got their wealth through the “social contract,” that we all contributed to the underlying social and economic structure that allowed them to prosper.
That’s unquestionably true, but it’s debatable just how much obligation it imposes on us. And I’m not interested in debating that right now. I bring it up to discuss another aspect of that social contract that ought to come into play here.


In the nascent days of human society, just surviving was tough. The family unit formed because we just couldn’t cut it as individuals. We needed each other to reproduce, and women couldn’t conceive, carry, and raise children without assistance. So men went out and hunted the dinosaurs to feed his family while the women stayed to protect the children and gather food. When that proved insufficient, families started banding together — some would go hunt the dinosaurs, others would stay back and protect the non-hunters from predators and other humans who might want to take what the others had (food, water, shelter, women, whatever).


This was a very early form of the social contract: “You dinosaur hunters don’t have to worry about protecting your family and possessions while you’re hunting; we’ll protect them in exchange for a share of the Bronto-burgers and Stego-steaks you bring back.”


This eventually led to the social structure we have today — in particular, the role of violence in society. We have a social contract with our governing bodies when it comes to violence: we give up our choice of using violence in exchange for their guaranteeing our physical safety. We grant them a monopoly on the use of force in exchange for their pledge to use it only in our defense.


This applies both externally and internally. As upset as any of us get with a foreign nation, we simply don’t have the right to raise arms and do war upon them on our own. We have laws against that sort of thing — we have ceded to our government the right to declare and wage war on our behalf.


Domestically, it’s a similar situation. We don’t fight crime on our own. We don’t get together to form our own vigilante groups, we don’t enforce the laws, we don’t try and punish people who break them. We’ve delegated that to our government — we let them set up and control the laws, the police, the courts, the penal systems.


(Yes, I’m aware that we actually do this on our own in our democratic republic — but we do this through the government. That we have chosen this freely is irrelevant here. It’s still the same basic setup as most every other nation on earth. I’d argue that we do it better than a lot of them, but it’s still the same basic structure.)


Of course, we reserve the right to defend ourselves and our property in cases where the state fails us. The right to self-defense is one of those inalienable rights like those cited in our Declaration of Independence. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”


But while it’s our right, it’s not our only option. In most cases, it’s the last resort. We first expect the state to protect us — to live up to that social contract that says “we cede to you, the government, the right to use force in exchange for you using that force to protect us from those who violate the laws and the social contract.”


And it is that part of the social contract that the government is violating right now, with the #Occupy mobs. Those mobs are declaring that they have the right to use force to achieve their goals — and are doing just that.  They are declaring that they no longer consider themselves bound by the social contract regarding the use of force.


If the government does not enforce its rights under the social contract, then the obvious answer is that that aspect is no longer applicable to anyone.


And that thought, quite frankly, scares the hell out of me. Because there’s a huge overlap between “those who are disgusted and angered by the #Occupy mobs” and “those who keep arms, and are well-versed in their use.” One of the main factors that keeps those people from using those arms is their moral obligation to that aspect of the social contract — the part the #Occupy mob is attacking.


Update: Mike Riggs of Reason Magazine has complementary thoughts.

Obama says no to 20,000 jobs
(Revised) 11/11/11: Veterans Day