Don’t Watch the Cheerleaders
The other day I was having a conversation with a reader about – what else — politics. It was not the usual anti-everything discussion; more along the lines of “I know I should be paying more attention but I don’t know how.” Motivation was also an issue and there was an undertone of the people appearing in political stories resembling the creatures generally found in the moist earth under heavy stones.
The reader seemed to be looking for something more than “here’s what you need to read to be interesting during happy hour,” as might be found in The Skimm, and something less than my daily reading list. Avoidance of moist earth dwellers was another goal.
I did not sense that a single source of information was wanted. It sounded like a rule of thumb would best resolve the problem.
Having no ready answer, I tried one of my staples: pay no attention to pictures of politicians walking. If they are walking, they are trying to look like they are going somewhere of great importance to think weighty thoughts and make momentous decisions. They are not. It is a photo op. The interesting question is why photographers have not caught on to this timesaving rule that enables thoughtful readers to avoid their work.
Campaign speeches, reports of campaign speeches and analyses of campaign speeches can safely be avoided until the actual calendar year of the election and even then a gradual ramping up strategy can safely be followed until Labor Day.
Should you begin to read or watch a story, ask yourself one question as soon as you have the gist: “Will I remember this tomorrow?” If not, move on.
Stories including the word “blame” can be skipped as can those that include the word “fault,” especially if preceded by the words “his,” “her,” or “their.”
These four simple rules should insulate you from the vast majority of political writing at infinitesimal cost of missing out on anything of importance.
But they were not helping and I asked: “Have you ever been to a football game?”
With the easily anticipated affirmative answer, I offered this rule of thumb.
Don’t watch the cheerleaders.
The real players are on the field trying to move the ball up or down the field or trying to keep the others from doing so. They are oblivious to your presence in the stands.
There are coaches on the sidelines offering advice on both ball moving and its avoidance. They have their backs to you and they care little about what you think.
The useless people are the cheerleaders whose only role is to excite the fans who by choosing the location of their seats have already expressed their undying support for the ball movers or their opponents. Unlike the players and coaches, the cheerleaders are facing the fans, which should be a tipoff as to their role.
This is a useless activity known in politics as playing to the base. The political cheerleader’s responsibility is to anger his supporters and, if possible, make them feel wronged and aggrieved. Once these feelings are established, requests for contributions can be made.
All of this activity is wisely ignored.
Now comes the tricky part.
In football, the cheerleaders are easily identified by their perky uniforms, pompoms and tumbling routines.
In politics, the cheerleaders are often elected officials, advisors and spokespeople who masquerade as real players, while merely pretending to move the ball or stop it from moving and not actually spending much time doing so.
If politicians would be kind enough to dress like cheerleaders when engaged in that activity, it would be a significant time saver for us all.
We will leave requests that they advance the ball for another day.