Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Brand Damage At The Border

The Immigration Crisis

In case you have somehow missed it, right now record numbers of children are streaming across our southern border and it's a big-ass complicated problem. Apparently, due to some Bush-era law, Obama is not just able to load the four-year-olds into a catapult and fire them back to 'Mehico.' It's troubling.

The Omnivore was surprised to see an article on Hot Air (a great conservative blog) by Noah Rothman titled thusly:
Glenn Beck, the border crisis, and the Republican Party’s empathy gap
The first rule of 'Empathy Gap' is you do not talk about 'Empathy Gap.'

Beck's plan is to ask for charitable donations, fill trailers with food, water, blankets, and toys, and take them to the children. Noah Rothman writes:
It is a small step, but a welcome one. The conservative movement needs a bigger tent, and addressing the perception that conservatives are hard-hearted will be a step in that direction. The good news is that this condition is merely perceived, not real, and it only takes a few gestures like the one Beck has embraced in order to bury it.
Let's go to the comments:
There is a thing as to much empathy.
sorrowen on July 9, 2014 at 10:44 AM
This is garbage. Empathy is useless without teaching responsibility. Having empathy without reason paralyzes the individual and makes them unable to act. 
We are being invaded and our government refuses to do anything about it because of optics. Invasion is an act of war. Reality will intrude upon your life whether you want it to or not.  
njrob on July 9, 2014 at 10:57 AM
So the HotGas amnesty shills are opening their homes to illegal invaders, correct? Out of empathy, correct? For the children, correct?
Jedditelol on July 9, 2014 at 11:08 AM
Illegals steal resources that should be used for American children.Flange on July 9, 2014 at 11:20 AM
And so on ... This is just the first page. There are hundreds more. A few posters do agree with Beck (and Noah)--the vast majority do not.

Maybe it's just Hot Air--let's check out's comments on the same story:
wlrpaul12 minutes ago
brain dead mongrel is what he is. ef this didactic psycho two faced dry drunk.
Janet Munro Hilltex11 minutes ago
Never listened to him that much anyway. I never knew what he was going to come up with next. Never did forgive him for ridiculing birthers. Then he went soft on gays. Now this. He is toast.
Glenda Price31 minutes ago
I am done with Glen Beck. These people came here to get free stuff, that is their sole purpose. They are welfare breeding criminal invaders and should be treated as such. Now he is giving free them free stuff right away, makes no sense. They should be shot on sight at our border. I canceled his newsletters and will never again hear him on radio.
And so on--Nope: It's not just Hot Air.

The Branding Problem: Policing
The Omnivore is pretty sure that what guys like Noah and many black conservatives tell themselves when confronted with 'the comments section' is something like this: "Oh, it's just a tiny if vocal minority of Internet trolls ... probably mostly actually Democrats or, at very least, a totally non-representational subset of the party itself."

Then they go get another drink because, well, they read the comments section.

The fact is that we don't have shared definitions of what 'heartless' or even 'racist' means outside of an extremely narrow dead-center-of-the-bellcurve circumstance (just ask Rick Perry who called people heartless in the 2012 presidential primary). We can certainly argue about whether those comments up there are 'heartless' or not all day long (uh, sure we can).

We can also argue about whether or not those comments represent .00001% of the GOP, 1% of the GOP, the 18% hard-core base of the GOP--or what? Without solid polling we don't know--and the positions, if polled, are still different from the language use anyway.

What we can't argue about, though, is the brand damage.

What is that? Well, consider this: the movie Toy Story was mostly able to use every toy they asked for except, notably, one: GI Joe. As the action figure was going to get blown up by the evil kid next door, Hasbro said "No Joe" and Pixar created 'Combat Carl.'

This was savvy on Hasbro's part: Even if it would have been a good move to get a Toy Story boost in their sales, the fact is that on their watch? GI Joe don't get blown up. They know that--they live it. Every word that comes out of a spokes-character's mouth has to be approved by its owner and anything that isn't 100% positive? That's brand-damage.

Obviously with an imaginary character you have total control. With a political party of millions of people, though, it isn't that simple: how do you control what gets said in the comments section? The answer is "Policing." Right now there is a comparatively tiny amount of push-back against 'the comments section.' Beck isn't a meaningless voice--and he'll be joined by Louie Gohmert who is also significant--but these people are not calling out the folks saying the kids are illegal invaders--they're just talking up their own personal charity.

Positive talk is well and good--but it isn't push back. There is no major voice--much less a set of major voices in the Republican party speaking against the description of these kids as parasites. That's the lever that would need to be pulled to start changing the public perception of the GOP.

So here's the question: Why don't they (the GOP Establishment) pull it?


  1. It's because, regardless of their personal beliefs or lack thereof, they're first and foremost politicians and thus slaves to the sick 21st-century realpolitik they've helped to create. I think it's a stretch, but let's say, arguendo, that Beck's proposal is meant sincerely. The GOP establishment is well aware that to reveal the unappetizing truth about its identity - that its true, natural constituency is nothing like its implied constituency (its brand identity, in your words), and that the public revelation of that truth would drive many of its crucial far-right members straight into the Tea Party or something even more extreme. To flirt with this truth is to play with fire and they know it.

    They're in a feedback loop of political extremism and there's no sane way out for them except to burn down the whole edifice and start over. But I see no reformers in their ranks, no one with the requisite courage and vision. So they'll double down on the crazy until they get hijacked by their own lunatic fringe, as most political movements do sooner or later. The process is already well underway.

    You know your politics is unhealthy when there are subjects (entitlements reform, budget balancing, amnesty / 'path to citizenship' for illegals, climate science, gun rights, abortion) which are so radioactive to you that you dare not even talk about them, even with your friends. The litany of such issues for Americans, particularly for self-identified conservatives, is already dishearteningly long. And it's only going to get longer - for a while.

    Then it won't matter how many cute stick figures you've got on the rear window of your minivan.

    Me, I've got something better than a write-in ballot for a bug-eyed tentacled alien slime monster. I've been touched by His noodly appendage...

    -- Ω

  2. I'm trying to avoid the conclusion that American-style conservatism is founded upon evil. I don't like calling people evil, and I'd like to believe that both sides of any given debate have valid points.

    But it really seems like the core driving forces of the Republican party are corporate greed and reactionary hatred.

  3. I see the hatred as more symptom than cause. It was Master Yoda who said something like "Fear is the path to the Dark Side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.".

    And the source of that fear? Ironically, it's almost too frightening for most of us to talk about, but I think it comes down to fear of not having enough. Of being left standing when the music stops.

    I think people at least subconsciously realize that the last century and a half was a truly exceptional one-time fiesta founded on cheap energy, and that that era is ending with no coherent plan to continue living in the manner we're accustomed to. The terrible reality is that our species is dangerously overextended in many ways, and has expanded far beyond the Earth's solar carrying capacity because the fossil-fuel benefit of effectively millions of years' worth of stored, concentrated solar energy allowed us to bend the usual rules - for a while.

    Most of our species - some estimate as much as 90% - won't make it. There's the genesis of much of that hatred, whatever name you care to give it.

    -- Ω