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January 2, 2005 - Never play cards with a man named 'Doc'

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World’s Laziest Journalist

Sunday, January 2, 2005

By Bob Patterson


People, who heed Nelson Algren’s advice and avoid playing cards with a fellow who has a reputation for being slick, feel no reluctance about tuning in to a conservative talk show. 


Who wants to be an equal cog in a mass of humanity when you can listen in to the talk show where you will be soothed with the reassuring message that you and the host are much better than the schmucks who cram the streets of New York City during lunch break hour?


He will use some tricks of the trade.  Knowing gamblers always insist that the cards never be dealt from the bottom of the deck, but radio listeners are not quite as discerning.  If a caller seems to be making a valid liberal point, odds are they will have to end the call for a commercial, but if the caller seems to be about to conclusively prove that Bill Clinton is directly responsible for the massive tsunami destruction in Asia, then they are sweetly asked if they can wait on hold during the commercial. 


Recently, while filling in for Bill O’Reilly, Judge Napolitano was taking calls concerning the subject of Donald Rumsfeld’s fitness to be the head of the Defense Department.  When a caller started to refer to Rumsfeld’s lack of service during the Vietnam conflict, Nappy, wished the fellow a Merry Christmas and proceeded along to the next caller. 


It’s sound good to say that the Secretary of Defense doesn’t have to know such low level esoteric matters such as “M-1 thumb” to oversee the entire operation of the Armed Forces, but is it really a good idea for someone with no experience to be in charge?  Folks with management degrees promulgate the idea that the workers perform the task and the supervisors regulate the workflow.  How can someone manage work that they can’t do?


Once, many moons ago, this columnist was involved in a discussion where a manager explained certain procedures in the preparation of material for the printing press.  The representative of management was very sincere in his explanation about the process and why and how certain mistakes were made.  He was unaware or had momentarily forgotten that part of my work history had involved performing the very process he was describing and I knew form personal experience that he had been bamboozled by the workers because his information was totally incorrect.  The workers had used doubletalk to rationalize their goof and cover their tracks.  The verbal double shuffle worked as long as you didn’t know what the actual procedures did or did not involve.  I could have easily demonstrated for him how to intentionally (or accidentally) make the mistake he said couldn’t happen.  It just gave me an unforgettable insight into the philosophy of management and I acted duly impressed with his understanding of the esoteric intricacies of the process.


So when the judge was blithely dismissing Rummy’s lack of military experience (at any rank) for his current position, the question becomes: If a civilian can run the Department of Defense, what qualifications should a good candidate have, other than experience?  Can he draw cartoons?  Can he spot evidence of embezzlement in the accounting books?  Can he improve the profit ratio of the Marine Corps?  Will he give the account to the most qualified advertising agency?


The judge was using some flashy shortcuts which would not work in a structured debate format - and listeners, who weren’t aware of being manipulated, might be impressed with the program.


It’s like watching a magician.  When you are a kid and you see someone (Blackstone on the stage of the Capital theater in Scranton Pa., for example) do something you know is impossible (“How can he cut the box in half without killing that girl?”) the big question is “How did he do it?”  If another magician, who knew how the illusion was produced, were witnessing the feat, he would use different standards for judging the performer.  What was the degree of difficulty?  How well was the trick executed? 


What is circular logic?  Is using an ad hominem argument a valid way to refute a point?


People who don’t know the answer to those questions listen to talk radio at their own (and the country’s?) peril.


So these clever fellows at the helm of the conservative talk shows work to convince the audience that the host and the legion of listeners, who are willing to scream “ditto” on command (their most fanatical listeners could easily fill a stadium in Nuremberg), are above average and special.  Listeners with other allegiances, such as membership in the National Association of Gals, might occasionally tune in to get an adrenaline rush when they become sufficiently outraged, but, the hosts would have us believe, the audience is mostly like minded individuals who like what they hear.  What would happen if all the Democratic listeners suddenly disappeared from the conservative talk show audiences?


In the esoteric world of survey work, it is necessary for a certain percentage of respondents, who initially declined the honor of participating in the study, to be re-contacted and convinced that they should change their mind and answer the questions.  The process of helping the reluctant to reverse their opposition falls to a group who specialize in  “refusal conversion.”


[Liberal minded folks who are good at that might wind up having some fun with the conservative talk shows if they follow some suggestions from the freeway blogger.]


If peoples’ minds can be changed about participating in a survey, is it too much to expect that they can also be manipulated into accepting a political point of view that they did not previously maintain? 


Obviously, a confirmed liberal listener will occasionally tune in just for the experience of becoming even more firm in their long held beliefs, but some, who are not well schooled in debate tactics and logic, might fall into a trap.  (Did Blackstone actually cut those beauties in half?) 


The liberal point of view has to struggle to be aired.  The liberal talk show alliance called Air America was broadcast briefly in the Los Angeles market.  Then it was pulled in favor of a Spanish language format.  It seems it was a business maneuver similar to cutting a liberal caller off to go to a commercial break. 


So what if the conservative talk show hosts play a verbal three-card monte on the listeners?  What’s the worst that can happen? 


[Al Franken, if you are reading this, why not take a page from the Wolfman Jack playbook and broadcast from a transmitter in Mexico with a signal that could reach thirty-eight states on a clear night?  It would have a certain youth oriented “Rebel with a Good Cause” cache and have a “beans in your ear” appeal.  It would also subtly make the point that true free speech is being suppressed in a country that lauds the right to free speech.  That aspect would rankle the conservatives in much the same way that the pill popping daddy irritates the liberal listeners when he denigrates the tree hugging, dope smoking, gays.]


Robert Louis Stevenson said (in his essay Talk and Talkers [Note for the fact checker the complete essays of RLS  area available at this URL - the particular essay cited is the forth one in the online collection.]): “It is not eloquence, not fairness, not obstinacy, but a certain proportion of all these that I love to encounter in my amicable adversaries.”  Louie, we’re going to have to stop you right there, because it’s time for us to go to the closing ceremonies part of our weekly column.


Now, if the disk jockey will reach way back into the oldies file, he can play Iggy Pop’s song, I Want To Be Your Dog.  We will be back next week for more infallible columnist hijinks.   Until then treat yourself well and pretend that you are in a Texas Air National Guard champagne unit, who knows if you get good at it, you could wind up being President.



Copyright 2004 – Robert Patterson




Editors Notes:


Bob also send along these quotes for you to consider –


"We know what happens to people who stay in the middle of the road.  They get run over."  - Aneurin Bevan


"The partisan, when he is engaged in a dispute, cares nothing about the rights of the question, but is anxious only to convince his hearers of his own assertions."  - Plato


"Biting comment is the chief part, whether for profit or amusement, in this business."  - Robert Louis Stevenson


"War talk by men who have been in a war is always interesting; whereas moon talk by a poet who has not been in the moon is likely to be dull." - Mark Twain


"Human beings are perhaps never more frightening than when they are convinced beyond doubt that they are right."  - Laurens Van der Post


Note also Nelson Algren (1909-1981) is discussed in detail in these pages here. 


"Never play cards with a man called Doc.  Never eat at a place called Mom's.  Never sleep with a woman whose troubles are worse than your own."   

 - Nelson Algren


Copyright 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
The inclusion of any text from others is quotation
for the purpose of illustration and commentary,
as permitted by the fair use doctrine of U.S. copyright law. 
See the Details page for the relevant citation.

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