‘…why, I had no idea you could stack Talking Points that high’
By L Ron Brooks
‘MURCA—In the last few weeks we’ve discussed how we’ve arrived here as a society; ‘here’ being utterly dysfunctional and teetering on the brink of DON’T LOOK INTO THE ABYSS!
We’ve talked about being scared to death of the upcoming election. Note to younger readers: This is a brand-new Thing. One of you history majors will probably get to name it for posterity (unless there’s already a word for the phenomenon in German—in which case, I take no Schadenfreude in the fact).
• We talked about 30 years of Americans growing up in households where formerly-reliable news outlets had been replaced and had multiplied without the former reliability and become thieves in the temple of truth the minute money was allowed into the equation. Leading to now, where every self-proclaimed ‘news’ organization competes with the rest to tell the most outrageous, therefore profitable, package of Newsotainment. But are, hmmmm, somehow well-coordinated enough that their opposing poppycock interlocks with ‘the other side’s’ to create the absolute height of general chaos possible in the marketplace of ideas.
• We gave a name to this unsettling, conscience-free new business model: The Outrage Machine. The ultimate self-perpetuating revenue-generator; its fuel is the very product it produces. All it requires is for us to keep consuming the flaming bags of intellectual dog-poo they sell that keep us fighting amongst ourselves and it could last—just to pick a random number out of history—1,000 years.
• Then I put a Swiftian proposal on the table: Hey, if we just quit arguing over stuff we can’t affect anyhow—a choice we could make, that we used to make before outrage=income. The swine who have turned our cute-n-cuddly li’l country into their own personal pigpen will have neither a product nor a market to sell to anymore. If we just one day quit arguing about politics, the exploiters of Capitalism will be forced to move on to wherever the new rapacious financial action is. Presumably swindling orphans, grave-robbing or promoting crypto-currency.
Problem is, as relatively easy as it has been define the System and even divine a solution, executing on said solution is gonna be a son of a gun. (I give us a less than one percent chance, but I’ve been wrong about this stuff so much in the last 5 years I no longer consider myself a credible source.)
Happily, Systems don’t do the grunt work themselves; Systems require mechanisms to get the actual processes it initiates completed. And whereas the System is just objectively overwhelming, the mechanism that keeps it going has a soft, pink, vulnerable underbelly. The ‘mechanism’ to which I’m referring is the tactical deployment of what is commonly known as “The Talking Point,” the rhetorical sphincter the System uses to excrete and disseminate its bilious commercial by-product.
We all know what Talking Points are; red-button/red-flag words or phrases that due to deliberate overuse in any specifically targeted context that robs the words of their original, actual meaning and weaponizes them into very effective conversational cul-de-sacs to keep us rubes distracted, chasing our own tails.
And oh, so angry with each other. Grrrr! Ammi right? That darned other side…!
While every Johnny Punchclock without a dog in the fiscal hunt keeps busy fighting to the death with each other over the details of the au courant outrage, Big Advertising™ and social media bazillionaires were taking everybody’s money, revving their revenue streams up to previously unheard-of, levee-busting levels. When I consciously realized that was what was going on, and that all this anger, ill-will and ruined relationships were the result of some sociopathic bastards’ conscious design to line their own pockets, is when I lifted my foot off the accelerator of my own Perpetual Outrage Machine and dropped the gear-shift into neutral.
Like I always say, “Fool me once… hey, stop lying to me! You know I hate that.”
Talking Points, like all pyramid schemes, require the willing—sometimes complicit—participation of the victim; what a relief, all the answers already at our fingertips and from the same folks Mom and Dad trusted to get their nutty conspiracy theories.
But just like America’s freedoms are indeed being used to try to jeapordize her Freedom—an outcome long-predicted by her enemies—Talking Points have an equally exposed Achilles’ Heel.
Talking-Points need people to be talking about them, or they’re doomed. It’s right there in the name: Talking. What the heck ever happened to the Norse gods, anyway? Who stripped them of their power and banished them to the relative obscurity of the Marvel Avengers universe?
We did. Everyday people, in droves. When we stopped talking about them. Stopped praying to them. When we stopped believing and started thinking for ourselves.
Because Talking-Points need an intellectually scorched-earth, terraformed environment in which to thrive, which after three-plus decades of Discord-Sowing For Dollars, is solidly in place. Today, the outrage industry is a foundational element of our cultural DNA. It’s (ahem) ‘baked into the cake.’ It’s a pre-existing (mental health) condition.
It would be nice if we could count on our elected officials to have our backs—but we can’t. Politics have been kicked around like a late-night punchline or a no-stakes reality show for so long that that’s what it’s been reduced to, with the perfectly predictable consequence of wreck and ruination come the first indisputable crisis that can’t be obfuscated away from scrutiny by Talking Points or ‘vanished’ by prevarications. It turns out that piles of lies are way easier to distract public attention away from than piles of dead bodies. Lies don’t have families and co-workers grieving them and running off to the local press, COVID victims do.
Until the elected officials-situation improves—which decision, by the way, is also up to us—we’re on our own. But we could be on our own together. And we don’t have to filth-up our souls smack-talking other people to do it.
What we need are new words—fresher words, without baggage yet—language that communicates the same ideas while side-stepping the implanted ‘triggers’ Talking Points are designed to set off. A Talking Point Exchange is like tossing a live grenade back and forth with a friend, knowing from the start that real soon it’s gonna blow up in at least one party’s face.
What the huh? When did we all start talking Crazy Pills?
Anyone overheard repeating Talking-Points at this point in our national moment—including ourselves; man it’s fun to argue!—ought to be taken aside privately and asked if they could please identify for you whose second-hand wisdom they’re passing along so you can look into it in more detail. Chances are better than 50/50 they’ll either have no idea, or admit, and I’m paraphrasing here, “The same broadcast bullies whose bellicose litanies of imagined victimhood and ‘unfair’ treatment formed the background soundtrack of my entire life.”
You know. Honest brokers.
My generation grew up on classic pop; this last generation and a half was raised on agitprop.
People need to be made to understand that when one repeats what is a recognizable talking point, they’re either buying somebody else’s dubious, dangerous work-product, or they’re selling it to the next sucker for them for free.
The Talking-Pointer® needs to be privately advised, in the nicest, most courteous way possible that they are objectively not moving the conversation forward, nor even making the most compelling argument for their own beliefs. Without criticizing said actual ideas, encourage your Pointer™ friend to find new words to express them.
Perhaps hint that next time, they’ll want to take a breath and compose a thought before they yell back the requisite rhetorical thrust to their next-door neighbor’s witty parry. Explain that a win in this forum is defined by ‘leaving the other party without a comeback and/or silent, the squirrels behind their eyes obviously working overtime, processing hitherto unconsidered information.”
If you return a Talking Point with an original idea—or what even sounds like an original idea, because you’re using untainted vernacular—you bypass the always-on deck “RETURN FIRE” quip and often as not, transform what was boiling up to be an ugly fight into a virgin philosophical terrain, where cautious, carefully-worded compromises can be discussed openly instead of killed in the crib on general principle.
Yes, it’s more work. It requires a degree of self-discipline that can be a pain in the patoot. But man, there is no rush like shutting down a dunderhead peaceably, Left or Right. Suddenly, you’re a reasonable-sounding person and your ideas become worth listening to by both ‘sides’ and a civil conversation threatens to erupt. Right here in America, in 2020. God help our enemies, foreign and domestic, if an actual free exchange of ideas follows, or a ruined relationship gets bumped back into a friendlier lane without anyone having to give up any ground, lose face or agree on anything contentious.
(And if you’re just hard-wired to really need a solid ‘win’ to hang your hat on; every fight you cause to not occur by poking all the air out of it before it draws its first breath, you go home with the satisfaction of secretly reveling in the fact that you won the aborted brawl by default!)
And not for nothing, you threw a tiny wrench into the cogs of the Outrage Machine. How many tiny wrenches in the cogs of the Big Machine does it take to gum up the works? I don’t know. I suggest we ask John Galt, or failing that, we find out for ourselves.
Next week: The long-promised, eagerly-anticipated final chapter of my accidental epistle. Just a simple, modest proposal, nothing more.
L Ron Brooks is an author, old-school newspaperman and dues-paying member in good standing of the Peoria, IL local Illuminati chapter.