Friday, March 4, 2016

Killing Donald Trump Part Two - Qualify and Attack

[Previous: Killing Donald Trump Part One -  Ultionem in Nigroque Cygno]

I took a jab at John Oliver in the last post, but his Last Week Tonight segment on Trump was one of the few bits of anti-Trump media to pick up significant footing in my personal slice of the Distributed Thoughtware. A quick search for "John Oliver" on YouTube or "Drumpf" on Google indicates that it probably gained traction in yours too.

You may or may not have viewed his attack as effective. But I'm guessing more than one person in your personal network went nuts for it.

I'm going to argue it's because he used a variant of the "Disqualify & Dismiss" tactic - the "Qualify & Attack."

"Disqualify & dismiss" works as such:

"That guy's a racist! Now I can say whatever I want about him while ignoring anything said in his defense because he is a racist!"

The exact nature of the disqualification differs from group to group ("That guy's a Socialist! Now I can..." "That guy's a heterosexual! Now I can..." etc.), but the tactic itself remains the same. It has been pointed out that the Left  in particular likes using this tactic, and has used it quite effectively up until recently.

Just think of the list of -ists and -phobes that have been minted in recent memory. We kept minting new cards because the tactic kept working. But overuse is diminishing their value, particularly outside of Leftist bubbles.

John Oliver took pains at the beginning of his assault, not to disqualify Trump, but to qualify him. 'Look, I get it, I get why Trump is popular and I find him personally very entertaining,' and so on. He doesn't start with the assumption that no right-thinking person would support Trump. This allowed him to bypass a lot of knee-jerk defenses.

Think of it as throwing your left arm around someone and pulling them in tight so that your right arm can come into gutting distance.

This, but more British

Usually you want to avoid stepping into your opponent's frame. If you can avoid it, absolutely avoid it. But when you're up against a frame that cannot be entirely avoided, step inside quickly and stab, stab, stab.

Now I doubt John Oliver is going to change the minds of any Trump supporters. But there's a good chance that he helped harden the opposition. The way people reacted to it - it's the first attack in a while that people perceived as landing.

There are still things to criticize here. Trump supporters were able to swing it around as evidence that John Oliver was anti-immigrant or immigration-shaming or whatever. Worse, it did nothing to shake Trump's hold on the Distributed Thoughtware. All things said, however, it was a solid move that will stick far longer than cries of "Racist! Sexist! Homophobe!"

Qualify and attack. Look for more of it in the future.

[Killing Donald Trump Part Two: The Rainbow Polka-Dot Flag Op]

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