What happened to Salon?
It used to be a mildly amusing news website, with a decidedly liberal elan, reflecting a broad range of topics. I used to read it primarily to get my dose of Camille Paglia, who I enjoy even when I disagree with her.
A brief visit today revealed a kind of bug-eyed paranoia over Glenn Beck. Rush Limbaugh is often the topic of conversation as well, but regardless of the target, the new Salon seems to be all about demonizing and discrediting the conservative provocateurs.
I found this particularly amusing as it concerns Beck, who is famous for acknowledging his moral and intellectual failures, which when you hear them, sound curiously "liberal" in character and thus eminently forgiveable had his politics turned out differently.
I personally don't find Beck all that interesting, and come to think of it, I've never caught more than a few minutes of his show. Its not my kind of humor, but in fairness, I don't much go for any talk show anymore except for Dennis Miller and the occasional tete-a-tete with Rush Limbaugh. A talk show host's job is to provoke a response, and I don't enjoy being manipulated--by anyone.
Yet, Salon's obsession with conservative talk show hosts is something I find fascinating.
The first question that occurs to me is to ask who Salon is talking to? Well, I've taken to calling them neo-contras because regardless of education, regional and cultural background, the one thing they have in common is that they are all "against". They define their lives as a struggle "against" the institutions and cultures from which they feel outcast.
You wouldn't expect to find a lot of Glenn Beck listeners reading Salon, and that's what makes Salon's publishing agenda so curious. Aren't they in fact adopting the very tactics that they allegedly decry? Isn't the whole point of a series on Glenn Beck to provoke anger, hatred and fear?
Yes it is.
I'm not making a moral judgment here--this kind of provocation works politically, so I expect I'll see it until my eyes close for the final time. The larger question is what can we learn from the dynamic? Beck and Limbaugh are allegedly provoking hatred against an administration and a political party, and while it might seem that Salon is targeting Beck personally, the reality is that their readers are focusing their ire on Beck listeners, on Mormons--on their fellow Americans. You don't have to take my word for it--read the letters to the editor.
That seems to be to be a flawed strategy and Alinksy agrees.
RULE 13: Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it." Cut off the support network and isolate the target from sympathy. Go after people and not institutions; people hurt faster than institutions. (This is cruel, but very effective. Direct, personalized criticism and ridicule works.)
Is Salon cutting off Beck from sympathy, or enhancing it? Let me submit what I think is an interesting insight--Beck, Limbaugh, Hannity, etc... aren't personalities, they are reflections. Why am I tepid on Hannity and bullish on Miller? Simple really--I identify with Miller and his style of conversation. Dennis Miller is a reflection of my own tastes in humor and politics, just as Glenn Beck attracts an audience attuned to his own style. In attacking these guys, you attack their audiences, who metaphorically circle the wagons--exactly the opposite of what rule 13 is supposed to accomplish.
Salon, like the Obama administration and it coterie of former community activists and other devotees of Alinksy's rules for radicals, have instincts honed from careers spent as outsiders fighting institutional power. Now they find themselves as custodians of those institutions or its defenders and they simply have the wrong instincts.
I spooked a mule deer the other day, while hiking and the deer did what mule deer do when the flight instinct kicks in--she "stotted" up the mountain side. Stotting is a kind of four-legged jump that allows the deer to cover a lot of vertical terrain very quickly, and mule deer instinctly move to higher ground when startled. Whitetailed deer live in very different terrain--essentially flat land and river bottoms. Scare a Whitetail and it will head down, because down is where the cover is. The different types of deer maintain their respective territories because their instincts are well-suited to one kind of terrain, but not the other.
The left finds itself with well-developed reflexes for the wrong kind of terrain. The right seems to be adapting to its new environment rather better (been to a tea-party lately?).
Recommended reading: Five-thirty-eight has some interesting insights into Glenn Beck's appeal to the new post-modern-conservative. I think he's right on the money with this.