Winning the Narrative

     Jim Geraghty of the National Review recently opined about “what impedes conservative efforts to shape the culture?”  Rod Dreher over at the American Conservative puts the blame squarely on conservatives’ lack of narrative and the offloading of storytelling to the far left:

“Argument has its place, but story is what truly moves the hearts and minds of men. The power of myth—which is to say, of storytelling—is the power to form and enlighten the moral imagination, which is how we learn right from wrong, the proper ordering of our souls, and what it means to be human.”

     It doesn’t matter how logical or sane an idea is.  If people don’t understand the narrative it embodies, the whole human experience as it were, then people won’t connect.  To put it another way:

“The best art imitates life in a compelling way.  If it imitates a dream, it must be a dream of life.  Otherwise, there is no place where we can connect.  Our plugs don’t fit.”
     —Darwi Odrade (from Chapterhouse: Dune)

     Have conservatives forgotten that “[s]ocieties governed strongly by tradition keep their collective wisdom alive through storytelling… So why are contemporary conservatives so lousy at telling stories?

     Conservatives no longer do this, nor do libertarians typically catch on to it as well.  They assume that politics is just a reflection of society, and that they are representing society as they know it… or knew it.  The problem with this approach is that for conservatives, politics and policy ought to reflect society and our common heritage.  Thus they are happy and willing to leave the story telling to others.

     In contrast, the Progressive left is all about reconstructing society and “shaping the mentality of the population as a whole in accordance with a predetermined model and instilling the ideas and sentiments they though desirable in the minds of all.”  The narratives of the left are not meant to reflect how things are, but how things ought to be.  By presenting, repeatedly, their favored narratives, people connect with the narratives, and internalize them.  Thus, society is reconstructed along Progressive lines.

     The Progressive left does not even have to be explicit about it, but only has to push things gently in their direction until people have accepted the arguments without the arguments even having to be made yet.

     As Andrew Breitbart said, “Politics is downstream from culture.”  Fight for the culture.  Do not assume that a society mutated over decades towards the Progressive line can suddenly be jolted “back to its senses” by a well crafted agrument, reality, or by shouting “liberty” ever more loudly.  Instead, they must put into practice the Bene Gesserit Panoplia Propheticus to heart: “We do not teach history; we recreate the experience.  We follow the chain of consequences–the tracks of the beast in the forest.”

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2 Responses to Winning the Narrative

  1. avatar Cato says:

    So we need a narrative? Time to invent one then. What did the Soviet Union, Nazi Germany, China, Cuba, Venezuela, and every other failed or failing regime have in common? Governments invested with unlimited power over people and economy, ostensibly for the betterment of the people, which deliver none of the promise. They have in common a small intellectual elite that thinks it has all the answers to every one of life’s questions, with the full machinery of a large and muscular government behind them, yet the result of their interventions is always the stuff of nightmares. Why is this?

    Because small intellectual elites understand theories and not realities, and a nation is larger than any small cabal’s ability to steer. The governments of the world have given us institutions like the Department of Motor Vehicles and the Environmental Protection Agency, which do nothing but bury simple activities in mountains of paperwork and studies until those activities grind to a halt, like the line at the DMV, or anyone who had part of their property declared protected knows. The left tells us that more government is always the solution, but in our experience, more government gets less done. Private enterprise may not be flashy, pretty, or even nice, but for examples of its success throughout the ages, one needs only look at the USA vs. Russia, North Korea and South Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Japan against China. Even China has seen the writing on the wall, and in loosening government control, propelled themselves to the edge of superpower status. So now it’s time to pick, the utopian dream that always ends up a totalitarian nightmare, or economic and political freedom and the bounty of everyday miracles it’s given us.

    Where’s the Cuban smart phone? It was made in China, by American and Japanese companies. Freedom. It works.

  2. avatar Diogenes' Lamp says:

    Firstly, I would like to say, good commentary. I think it is on the mark. Liberals have been pushing their narrative by telling stories with liberal “moral” lessons.

    Television, movies, books, magazines, and so on are filled with entertainment that produces emotional reactions in the recipient which reinforce the liberal world view.

    Emotional arguments bypass higher level logic, and they impact people on a more primitive visceral level. As a result, emotional arguments generally win the debate because they pull at the heart.

    If you can move the heart, the mind and the will generally follows.

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