Sunday, March 11, 2018

Harming the Opponent

As you may know, I have two sons from Romania, both of whom spent time in a state orphanage (read:Mouth of Hell) before going to a private Christian orphanage and then here. Both were well able to fight. Fortunately little of that happened here.  Didn't need to.  Chris did describe for me once what the preferred strategy is when one is outnumbered, outclassed, or otherwise has no hope of winning: Hurt the opponent as badly as you can, whatever it costs you.  It does nothing for your chances of victory, but reduces the chance they will pick on you again.  My grandfather described something similar about a school bully when he was a boy. Tired of being beaten up every week or so, he resolved to attack him from behind or by surprise every day until it stopped. He was beaten mercilessly the first three days, but on the fourth day he warned the other boy in the morning it would happen again until he agreed to stop. The bully shrugged in mild agreement, but never picked on him again.

Trump did something like that during the election.  He would do things that everyone assured us would doom his chances of being nominated, but he eliminated his rivals one at a time by hurting them, regardless of the cost to himself.  It worked.

David Brooks's editorial about progressivess winning the culture war drew a lot of criticism, and there is much to disagree with in it.  Yet he makes the solid point that progressives are using exactly this tactic in a few places.  They cannot win anything other than minor tweaks on gun control at present, and perhaps not ever. Many conservatives have pointed out the number of legislative victories they would have to win at the state and federal level to change things, and noted that massive gun confiscation, including African-American neighborhoods, is going to be very costly in more than one way. Yet this may not be the point. The ability to call people nazis and child-killers may in fact be the point. (There is a mirrored point of virtue signalling as well, but lets leave that out for the moment.) Looking back over the last few decades, painting gun owners as paranoid, violent, and ignorant may have represented as much of the strategy as any cosmetic legislative victories.

I don't think it has worked as universally as they hoped, but it has been remarkably successful at elite universities and those that hope to imitate the intellectuals, those who are more NPR than PhD. A young friend who recently graduated from Worcester Polytech posted a FB comment that gun control laws "don't work."  I agree, and have said much the same.  Yet if you look at it another way, they work fine.  If your goal was to call your opponents names and show what a caring person you are, they work a treat.

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