Guest Submission by: Rip Pauley
In the last two weeks we’ve witnessed the most synergistic and obscene eruption of political hatred in modern American history. In the aftermath of a nationally rending event, the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson, the Left, true to its ghoulishly opportunistic nature and as the international leader in ideological blood libel for more 200 years, deployed its oldest and most reliable tool – The Big Lie – to traduce and/or destroy both an individual and an entire political belief system shared by roughly half of America.
The eruption was significant on several counts:
• The degree to which it confirmed the Left’s morbid fear of Sarah Palin;
• How it reaffirmed the Left’s dominance and control over the mainstream media and the national narrative (despite increasing talk of media “disintermediation” via alternative conservative media);
• How it substantiated the political and moral pusillanimity of the establishment Republican party which, in the face of a bold new Leftist assault not only on the most dynamic and decent conservative leader of our time but on truth, free speech and civic good-faith, remained largely silent. Conservatives everywhere may now be confirmed on the essential worthlessness of the institutional GOP in our nation’s epochal struggle between freedom and the authoritarian Left.
The Left had been dreaming for more than a year of an opportunity such as Tucson, and it seized it. It couldn’t help itself. Leftism is a savage religion constituted of fear, grievance, rage, moral vanity and social superiority. And it is currently very scared.
Intoxicated with power for the last two years, in a race to “transform” the country before the actual radicalization caught up with the citizens it holds in such contempt, the Left has driven us all to the brink of financial ruin and national demoralization. Routed in the recent midterm elections, and envisioning more grim prospects for the Senate in 2012, it understands its moment of existential peril, chiefly represented by the invincibly joyful warrior Sarah Palin, and the tea party movement – the redoubtable grassroots insurgency that threatens the entire enterprise of Statism.
Bankrupt of new ideas, and incapable of adaptation or compromise, what is left to the Left? There is only scorched earth. Ruin and calumny are its only hopes. Only by razing the foundations of civic life and liberal capitalism in America, and eviscerating its stewards, does the Left stand a chance.
The wilding of lies in the aftermath of Tucson proved it.
The success of “the Big Lie” (in this case, that the hateful inflections of Sarah Palin and the “right-wing” incited the murder of six and wounding of 14 others by a mentally ill young man), is generally based on a fusion of three factors: immediacy, ferocity and totality. The more abominable the Lie, the more important it is to meet this criteria; the Big Lie works best as a unified blitzkrieg. The circumstances of atrocity are perfect for the Big Lie, as people stand shell-shocked in the echo of havoc, reeling, their emotions raw and exposed, craving explanations and assurances.
The Big Lie’s initial siege must be dizzyingly swift – no time or space for people to think or reflect or debate can be permitted. The space opened by shock must be filled instantly – and equally shockingly — by certainty of cause.
The siege must be ferocious – no equivocation, reservation or qualification. It is not even enough to name those responsible, but to confirm motive, intention and evil.
And totality – it is not enough for only designated accusers to make the case, an entire universe of authoritative “opinion”, i.e., sanctioned hatred, must swarm and overwhelm the moment. This all happens beyond the level of calculation and often even conscious awareness. The narrative is simply understood; indeed, it stays prepped and poised within the collective consciousness of the Left. The leftist journalistic enterprise, then, becomes one not of facts and corroboration but of fealty to the narrative, and of finding inventive new ways to advance it, expand it, hustle it.
The Left knows it cannot sustain the Big Lie indefinitely. Every second must be exploited. When the narrative is proved false, as this one was, the Left ignores the inconvenient facts, and finds new, subsidiary narratives to exploit for as long as they last. It understands it will not be held to account, not at least widely or in any way proportionate to the magnitude or obscenity of its lies.
The story, or narrative, finally, is preserved in formaldehyde as the poisonous conceit it was to begin with, placed in a propaganda vault for use as future corollary libels, i.e., references to Palin’s “connection to the Tucson shooting,” suggesting she had a role or that proof of her culpability was once clearly established. Meanwhile, all efforts by Palin (or her defenders) to respond and set events right are derided as poorly timed flailing (either crassly premature or heartlessly tardy), or signs of a deviant egomania and exculpatory desperation, impositions into national mourning, proof of a sick craving for attention or pity.
The objective of The Big Lie is a shock-and-awe assault of defamation from which there can be no escape and no defense. It works (or so the Left believes). Moreover, the Left finds it deeply gratifying and self-reinforcing. Happily for them, they seem now to have stumbled on a new and exciting formula for its prosecution. That is, they are in a position to play out a triangulation strategy whose template we saw formed in Tucson: the Left indulges and exhausts its savage adolescent spasms in the name of the Big Lie, with Barack Obama’s silent consent from the eaves.
Finally Obama inserts himself, but with a lofty and generalized moral reproof, “condemning” intemperate political discourse across the board. He does not of course single out his shock troops who ran wild for five days blood libeling Sarah Palin, but rather, conflates all regrettable political rhetoric and bad manners. The Left, cathartically satisfied that its raging narrative hit home, tolerates the sham scolding. The media, of course, provide full encouragement and coverage of this farce.
The long-term costs? Who knows anymore in our modern media age of endless stimuli, short-term memories and civic and moral dysfunction. In any case, the Left doesn’t care. Whether the Big Lie worked or not, it’s all they know. The Left is historically monomaniacal and unimaginative; given its limitations, and its current predicament and state of panic, it will do what it has done since the days of Robespierre.
However and ironically, it is indeed true that, as the Left says, crisis is an opportunity – only not as they understand it. Not for selfish or ideological aggrandizement, but for national remembrance, reaffirmation and revitalization of our chartered purposes. As the Left has pulled out all stops of decency this moment, we should see it as a point of departure with the past. We should view the Left’s recent actions as liberating, as cause to renew our commitment to truth, our country and ourselves, and, not least, as clarifying as to who is best suited to take up a new effort and cause of radical truth to defeat the Left at last.
The Left has committed a sordid crime against the American essence of fairness and truth. Are we to accept this? Are we even to consider their terms of political coexistence, i.e., muzzled and intimidated marginalization, which is in fact the path to non-existence? There can be no going back to illusions of an entente with this deeply sick ideology. We can no longer tolerate the abuses to our country, never mind to good, honorable individuals who stand in for us in the fight for country, freedom and opportunity.
So what is the answer, and who can manifest it, give it life, embody it as a leader?
There has only ever been, and can only be, one answer to a lie, big or small. The truth. And there is only one person in the contemporary political ambit capable of finally and effectively embodying and enunciating a Big Truth to compete with the culture of the Big Lie, of leading a contrapuntal “shock-and-awe” strategy, and turning the Medusa glare of the Left back upon itself. This would be the same person the Left itself has, without knowing it, nominated – Sarah Palin.
The Left senses that the profound and protean joy which animates Palin is neither affectation nor ephemera. What they sense, but cannot exactly know (such are the imaginative and noetic limitations of the Left), is that it both serves, and is continuously renewed by, something greater, something which Palin embodies and is deeply excited and determined to restore – a rejoicing love for America, a belief in its historic meaning, and a faith in its future possibilities.
Though this faith can only be abstractly classified and observed by the Left, as a clinician might a virus, they feel and dread the power of its appeal. That a natural and outspoken love of America, not seen in a politician since Ronald Reagan, abounds in such a dynamic and appealing political figure (and a woman!) terrifies them. Their nightmare vision of it, consecrated in high office, and loosened upon the body politic from a bully pulpit, represents their definitive existential threat. This is the chief reason they despise and are driven to vanquish Sarah Palin.
The Left’s clear intention to pulverize Palin, along with the meaning and reality of truth, free speech and what is left of civic comity from our republic, suggests that a crusade of the Big Truth, championed by her, is the single best hope for America. Justice and our nation’s survival demand that the Left not only faces the music of its perfidy and libel, but do so at the hands of the person it has chosen as the figuration of their contempt for the American people and America itself.
Sarah Palin is qualified by experience, record, character and temperament (partly shaped in the crucible of her battles with the Left over the past two years, and by the equanimity she has shown facing assaults that would have forced most politicians into abject retreat), to take up this cause.
Now is the moment to define a new way of engaging the Left, commit to a new determination to defeat them, and both to enjoin Sarah Palin to formally assume this challenge and to commit our support to her on behalf of America.
The post-Reagan American Left has no experience with anything close to a competing force of ferocity and totality. It has grown fat off the flesh of a cowed “opposition.” For at least a generation, the Right has yielded the rhetorical field to the Left, preferring accommodation to confrontation, fearful of inciting the ire of the NY Times editorial board or the derision of Jon Stewart. The Right has deluded itself into believing that self-abnegating decorum is the better part of political valor, and that high-minded “civility” either inoculates them from Leftist calumny or will be rewarded by a discerning and fair-minded public. Each assumption has proved disastrously false. Yet the delusion persists.
By now, establishment Republicans have seemingly lost the gene for conflict, the will and wit for war. Republicans also remain shockingly ignorant of the Left. Our educational system no longer teaches the history of Leftism, or even honest comparative moral critique of freedom vs. totalitarianism models. From grade school to graduate school, an American student may never hear or learn of the ruinous legacies of Leftist rule (though they’ll hear no end of American “hegemony” and “patriarchy”).
The Right by now has developed an equally conditioned fear of the media. There are few if any Republicans who, even if they could summon a critique of the Left, would have the fortitude to do so openly, or to implicate the media for what they clearly are: Myrmidons of the Left. Few Republicans would point out or dare to challenge the media’s narratives, its right and authority to set those narratives, its moral authority as inquisitor, or its risible presumptions of impartiality. The single greatest politically distortive force in the free world right now is the mainstream media. The Left sets its clock by its confidence in this supreme cultural power.
What would a campaign of Big Truth look like, what would this commitment to confront the Left entail for Sarah Palin? The first step in any crusade of truth would be a straightforward and unsparing assault on the media.
Confronting the Media
A series of high-profile speeches in scholarly settings would establish the context and substance of the issue — media decadence and its cost to American democracy: that is, the media’s decline and fall from its original noble function as tribunes of free speech and vigilant skepticism, to its current role as a veritable phalanx around elitist State authority.
The speeches would be both concretely critical and constructively exhortative. They would cite cases and patterns of lies, omissions and false narratives that undermined the media’s mission of truth, rational discourse, civic good faith and the wellspring of their profession – the First Amendment. They would bring to the attention of the people the national peril of an irresponsible media, and call for a return to journalistic standards of fairness and thoroughness in the interest of our republic and of the media profession itself.
Citizens, politicians and the media all require confidence in a fair media dedicated to the pursuit of objective facts, one that would leave final judgments to the people. The extent of the media’s corruption is astonishing, and such a series of speeches would be eye-opening to Americans.
Media critique is the cornerstone of the campaign for the Big Truth, and would cut to the quick of the Left. The ideologically driven media is the propagandist and central pillar of leftist power, the chief reason for leftist ascendancy (and cause for apologetic conservatism). Their power shadows and chills the entire Republican political class. Because of its historic vocational identity as “truth-seekers” and social advocates charged with “afflicting the comfortable and comforting the afflicted” (a maxim which, as many things today, has seen a radical inversion of meaning), the media imagines itself impervious to critique within its elitist eco-system.
Conservatives by and large are terrified of such critique, knowing they’ll be singled out as whiners or worse, as people with something to hide. Such an audacious, relentless, frontal assault would ultimately force the media to cover itself, putting it on the unfamiliar defensive – a shocking and necessary reversal.
The political value of such a presentation is clear. Americans by a huge margin distrust and dislike the media. They too sense its bias, deceptions and malice. Americans would deeply appreciate an open call for an accountable media.
The reaction by the media and Left would, of course, be instantaneous and violent. At this point it would be essential not to waver, not to pull back and wait or hope for some opening for a “national conversation” on the role of the media. This is when the Left always wins – its initial outraged blowback freezes any forward movement by the Right. The Left instinctually and expertly plays on the Right’s fears that it will be seen as bullies – i.e., characterized as bullies by the Left. Only by doubling down, by pressing the case with the same immediacy, ferocity and totality as the Big Lie, albeit in more dignified form and tone, can the Big Truth have a chance.
The reasonable, rational, assiduous and fact-based counter-assault must be continuous. Given the spectacle of the past few weeks, indeed of the 2008 election, and further, of the eight previous years of torrential hate aimed at Republicans, consider it political survival. The Left must be forced to play defense. The debate must turn back on them; it must become above all a debate about the media’s corruption and malfeasance.
Conservatives, given a model to follow and a leadership example, must seize every opportunity to engage the media, to challenge the basis of its questions. Slant and bias must not be shrugged off as the norm, but confronted. Conservatives must expose and reject media double-standards to the media’s face.
The targets of biased interviews, when faced with presumptive or leading or loaded questions clearly based on either lazy or determined bias, must calmly turn the tables on their inquisitors, must challenge the cant of the questions, probe their premises, ask for clarification, and demand to know how public interest and edification are being served. A new set of reflexes and counter-interrogative muscles must be developed in conservatives, just as a new awareness and fear of conservatives must be established in the Left.
The Left’s initial shrieking will exceed anything we’ve seen so far. It simply cannot endure the truth. But it has never been forced into the corner by conservatives. It must be. We can no longer tolerate the lies. We must stop acting as if we have no choice or power and are compelled to play by their cruel rules. We do have power, and are not compelled. These rules can be shattered at any instant, and need to be.
Naming the Left
The Big Truth would include an educational primer on the Left. This wouldn’t be so much a series of speeches as a commitment, manifest through all speeches and comments, to identify the Left in word and action (Ronald Reagan did this consistently and with brilliant subtlety). It would mean defining the Left and educating America as to its goals and methods. It would mean naming it whenever it appeared, and explaining why it does it what it does.
People need to understand what motivates all political actions and reactions, and the confident conservative should not hesitate to explain and cite her motives and their civic and philosophical roots, just as she would challenge the Left to do the same, and make her own reasonable deductions if it didn’t. Unlike the Left, she has nothing to fear in disclosure and honesty. The Left, as we saw through Barack Obama’s candidacy, must always hide its true intentions, pretend to be what it isn’t and once in power inflict its unpopular ideology on those it duped until they no longer have the will and means to resist.
New Format for Debates
The Big Truth would be about strengthening free speech and discourse in new ways invigorating to democracy. One such way would be a new forum for political debates, i.e., absent media interlocutors. This could be done in two formats: debates via C-Span, and around the country in a Lincoln-Douglas format from various venues, studios, or other stages. For one, the MSM must be pushed aside. C-Span is an authentically non-partisan venue. Otherwise, if the American people haven’t trusted their two presidential candidates to comport themselves fairly in a two-person debate without media proctors, they must start. These debates would be conducted around the country leading up to the presidential elections.
The “Death panels” flap may be the perfect microcosm of the Big Truth. Sarah Palin’s simple assertion was based on the manifest history of an ideology and the simple laws of economic cause and effect. But it took a certain knowledge, wit and courage to declare. In turn, the Left’s reaction was entirely paradigmatic and predictable: death panels were a scalding truth, and they recoiled and fired back in fusillades of slander. Many conservative elites also accused Palin of over-reacting. But in time, all conceded, or could no longer scumble, the inexorable truth of Death Panels.
This is what true leaders do – take the blows on behalf of truth. It is what Sarah Palin does, can do, and will do. Conservatives must understand the rarity of this kind of leadership, and the exigent need for it now in America. (America is slouching toward its own metaphoric “death panel.”) At the very least, conservatives must attempt to understand and assimilate both the lessons of the Big Lie, and the need for the Big Truth.
But we can no longer afford occasional skirmishes and isolated victories. A consolidated effort must be established – a total commitment to challenge the Left. It must take place not in the friendly margins of our own culture, within our choir. It must be taken straight into the maw of the mainstream media, from where the lies spring and spread.
The Big Truth cannot be circumscribed within a single plan or series of steps. It is a commitment, a spirit, a work-in-progress of the collective imagination and will of conservatives, of all freedom-pledged Americans, to resist mainstream authoritarian lies.
It is defending free speech, on all sides, and calling out those who degrade and threaten it. It is fearless and non-partisan in this defense, even taking the sides of the name-callers and their rights of expression. It is calling for more speech, not less.
It is determination to take the message to all ideological platforms and formats. It is bold in its reach into the political fray. No champion of the Big Truth should resist debate or discussion with any opponent. Only by reaching and informing those who hold preconceptions or uninformed or bigoted notions can the Big Truth hope to spread.
It is exposing the decay of our political system and those who collude in it – no matter what party or political loyalty.
It is robust and fearless honesty and civility.
It is reminding people of our country’s purpose – the supreme value of freedom and our founders’ clear-eyed, rigorous understanding of our obligations and sacrifices to sustain it.
The Left itself is a Big Lie, an illusion, a political chimera, a seductive fallacy, sustainable only through the manipulations of falsehood and fear. It is, on one hand, utopian promises appealing to adolescent vanity and wish-fulfillment, on the other hand, terror for “the other” who will despoil or take away its dreamland of an enlightened class imposing its “perfection” on the rest of us. With this terror, comes the imperative to terrorize – to isolate and destroy “the other”, the opponent, any who dares to challenge it.
This is what they are doing to Sarah Palin. It is what they will do to any true conservative who would remind Americans of, and rally them around, faith in our founding muniments, legacy and future – all those things anathema to the Left and its hopes for power through a subordinated citizenry. In a sense, all of us who believe in this America and who believe in this truth are Sarah Palins.
She is the first leader since Ronald Reagan who is one of us – an ordinary American in her own mind. That she is also extraordinary is true, but this truth only sharpens and strengthens our understanding of her, and leads her closer to us – we have seen this already in her trials. We have seen that she does not lose herself in her ordeals, but grows clearer, more identifiable and inspiring. And we see in her persecution the representation of what the Left plans for all us.
We should be living the same Big Truth she is already living for us, and enjoin her and help her to carry this truth to the White House.
Rip Pauley is a former speechwriter for a Boston politician and now a screenwriter in Hollywood. His most recent project, THE DIVIDED, is a feature drama on the Iraq war and homefront political clashes. It premiered at the GI Film Fesival in Washington, DC in 2009 and won an Excellence Award this past summer at the Los Angeles Movie Awards. Previous submission to C4P here.