Why the hell are we even talking about arming teachers?

For the bureaucrat, the world is a mere object to be manipulated by him.”
-Karl Marx

This article is neither for nor against gun control.

Kindergarten Cop

WHY are we even talking about this???

This is an article about propaganda strategy and how the conservative political machine has been scamming America for years and how liberals have been falling for it time and again, resulting in a political spectrum that is constantly shifting farther and farther to the right.

I’ve discussed the concept of the Overton Window and the Door in the Face strategy at length on YouTube (you can watch that video here), but here’s how it works in brief:

  • The Overton Window is the window is the range of ideas that the public will accept in discussion and in public policy.
  • The Door in the Face strategy relies on proposing an intentionally inflammatory idea that goes well beyond the Overton Window and enrages the opposition. The opposition become so angry about the proposed idea that they don’t realize they’ve lost when a scaled-back version of the idea is pushed through.
  • As an example, let’s say you go to a restaurant expecting to buy a steak for $25. You’re presented with a menu and horrified to discover that every item on the menu is over $100. You get angry and start to leave. The manager stops you and informs you there’s a special tonight: a steak dinner for only $50. You stay, satisfied that you’ve gotten a good deal, even though you’ve paid twice as much as you initially intended.

I work in marketing, and we have a similar term called “Anchoring.” Anchoring refers to a flaw in human thinking: whatever information is presented to us first will dominate our thought processes as we make decisions. Once an anchor is set, all following decisions are based on adjustments away from that anchor.

Once an anchor is set, all following decisions are based on adjustments away from that anchor.

Say you walk into a shoe store looking for a pair of sneakers. The first pair you try on is incredibly uncomfortable. The second pair you try on is slightly uncomfortable, but you’re likely to consider them better than they actually are because you’ve been “anchored” to the experience of trying on that first pair of terrible shoes.

Political strategists know about Anchoring and the Door in the Face Strategy and they use them to try to reshape the Overton Window and shove through policies or to maintain the status quo in the face of shifting public sentiment.

The Alt Right: Masters of Manipulation

Richard Spencer Getting Punched in the Face

American Nazi Richard Spencer was trying to shift the dialog to free speech when he famously got his Nazi face punched

A famous example of a successful Door in the Face Strategy was Donald Trump’s “Muslim ban” initiative. Initially nobody would have considered banning entry into the USA based on religion or country of origin. That was well outside of our Overton Window and nobody was discussing anything so extreme.

When Donald Trump made a campaign promise to “ban all Muslims from entering the United States” during his election campaign, liberals were infuriated. Pundits, politicians, and the media railed against Trump for his radical and extremist idea. Liberals across the USA took to Facebook and Twitter to denounce Trump’s remarks. Everyone was talking about how much they hated the idea of a total Muslim ban.

But look what happened: suddenly everyone was talking about a total Muslim ban — something which was, before Trump’s remarks, not even on the table in mainstream political discourse. This was before Trump even took office.

Our Overton window had been cracked open to the idea of a Muslim ban and now we were discussing it. We became anchored by the concept of a total ban on Muslims entering the country.

Trump’s Door in the Face gambit had anchored us, stretched our Overton Window to include discussion of banning Muslims, and lead to a net success for the fascism in the United States of America.

Fast forward to Trump taking office. He quickly pushed through a ban on — well, not all Muslims, but on citizens from a large number of Muslim countries. Liberals weren’t happy with the ban, but they swallowed the bitter pill. At least it wasn’t as bad as a total ban on all Muslims, right?

Trump’s Door in the Face gambit had anchored us, stretched our Overton Window to include discussion of banning Muslims, and lead to a net success for the fascism in the United States of America.

I’ve written here before about how modern day fascists will always try to manipulate public discourse. At every turn they will attempt to transform conversations about white supremacism into a discussion about “free speech.” The intent is to anchor the conversation with the concept of freedom of speech so that nobody will hold them accountable for their Nazi agenda. Trump and his people have proven to be masters of manipulating the public discourse using anchoring, Door in the Face, and other such strategies that culminate in the “tail wagging the dog.”

Why the Hell are we all suddenly talking about arming teachers?

Sam Jackson Tweet

What kind of alternate reality hellscape are we in where Sam Jackson is Tweeting about arming teachers?

Now let’s look at what’s happened in our public discourse since the Florida shooting on Valentine’s Day

  • A student walks into a Florida high school with an AR-15 and murders 17 victims.
  • American mass and social media quickly spin into the same old routine of debating gun control that flares up every time we have a high-profile mass shooting.
  • This time something unusual happens. Student survivors become ad hoc activists and begin speaking out against gun control. Students across America pledge solidarity and plan walkouts and school shutdowns. Public sentiment seems like it might just be shifting truly towards gun control.
  • Suddenly Trump and conservative pundits raise the idea of arming teachers. This idea comes completely out of nowhere but quickly gains steam with alt right meme farms which begin churning out memes in favor of arming teachers.
  • The media and liberals across the internet begin blasting Trump’s idea about arming teachers. Suddenly the raging debate of arming teachers completely dominates the public discourse about gun control.

This isn’t about winning. This is about not losing ground.

See what happened? Suddenly we are no longer talking about gun control and having less guns around — the conversation has pivoted completely and now we are talking about arming teachers and having more guns around.

Trump doesn’t care about arming teachers. No serious gun rights advocate really cares about arming teachers. They don’t care if they win. This isn’t about winning. This is about not losing ground.

If Trump wins and we arm teachers, there are more guns around. If Trump loses and we don’t arm teachers, liberals will be able to pat themselves on the back and congratulate themselves for… doing nothing at all! The status quo will either shift in favor of Republican gun rights advocates or not shift at all. A net victory for Trump and his people either way.

This entire discussion of whether or not we should arm teachers is a master class in political strategy and propaganda and it’s important for all of us to understand just how methods like these are used to manipulate and dominate our public discourse with every news cycle.

What SHOULD Liberals be doing?

Pennywise the Clown in the Sewer

If that kid just ignored that clown the movie would have been over in the first 10 minutes and everything would have been fine

So, what’s the proper defense against the Door in the Face strategy? How could liberals resist Donald Trump’s attempt to anchor the conversation to the notion of arming teachers?

It’s really quite simple: STAY ON TOPIC! Don’t get distracted!

As a teacher, I’ve taught classrooms full of children (which, it turns out, are not so different from politicians). It’s a really common tactic for kids to try to derail classroom discussions by asking silly questions or making ridiculous statements. The only way to deal with this kind of class clowning is to ignore the nonsense, stay on topic, and engage the other kids with the material in an interesting and dynamic way. If you acknowledge the silly distraction, on the other hand, your class will quickly spiral into chaos and your lesson plan will be done for.

If you want to win, stop reacting and start acting boldly!

If liberals truly want to push the idea of gun control they simply need to stop making memes and writing articles and making speeches about how bad it would be to arm teachers! They should just keep railing on the idea of gun control and pushing that agenda through. Giving attention to the idea of arming teachers will only feed into Trump’s desire to stretch the Overton Window towards looser gun control and more gun proliferation.

LIberals: the only thing you should say in response to Trump’s “arm the teachers” rhetoric is “that’s absurd. Stop trying to distract us from the real discussion.” Keep it simple and brief and dismissive, then just keep hammering away at *your position* and try to anchor the conversation to a platform of ideas that will result in a net victory for your side. If you want to win, stop reacting and start acting boldly! Sop allowing Trump and his cronies to set the agenda for public discourse or else prepare for an embarrassing defeat in 2020.

Should leftists use these strategies?

Bernie Sanders was able to slip the word “socialism” into the Overton Window of the USA by anchoring the conversation and driving his messaging strongly and consistently.

We as leftists can use these examples of propaganda and social manipulation as the foundation for a discussion that goes beyond the narrow scope of gun control. Specifically, let’s consider the question of whether or not we as leftists should use the Door in the Face Strategy and Anchoring in our own communication campaigns.

I would advise against the use of the Door in the Face Strategy – it’s essentially a manipulation strategy that relies on dishonesty and bad faith when it comes to dealing with the public. We as leftists do not need to rely on manipulation and deceit when our core ideas are demonstrably good for the vast majority of society and for those who are oppressed by capitalism and by America’s culture of violence.

Anchoring, on the other hand, is fair game. Bernie Sanders may not be a true leftist, but he did demonstrate the power of anchoring in his 2016 presidential campaign.

Before Sanders ran for office, the word “socialism” was a dirty word in USA politics. Most liberals tiptoed around the word and tried to distance themselves from the word even when they were trying to push for socialist policies.

Before Sanders ran for office, the word “socialism” was a dirty word in USA politics.

Bernie blew the doors open for that word and by proudly and repeatedly using the word “socialist” to describe himself and his policies he was able to anchor the public discourse and stretch the Overton Window so that today thousands of American liberals are much more comfortable with describing themselves as socialists.

I believe we can and should do the same thing with words like “communism” and “anarchism” and “leftism.” When dealing with liberals, I believe it’s detrimental to our cause to shy away from these words or to try to be cagey and shy about what we believe. We need to anchor the conversation and shove our platform into the mainstream Overton Window and we can only achieve this by being forthright, honest, and proud of our ideology.

2 Responses to “Why the hell are we even talking about arming teachers?

  • “Most liberals tiptoed around the word and tried to distance themselves from the word even when they were trying to push for socialist policies.”
    Wealth distribution is not “socialist policies”, socialism is about the workers destroying capitalism through collective means. Sure wealth distribution might be consider leftist but it is not socialist. What do you think?

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