Use the Rules of the Other Guy

I recently posted a sarcastic response to an episode of “True Blood.” The post wasn’t intended to persuade anyone, to raise your conscientiousness, to bring you over to my side of policy. It was meant to be a joking slap back at the infantile lefties who glory in insult and slander.

One comment took me to task for being too incendiary, for engaging in rhetoric that would be unlikely to win folks over. I’m sure the poster believes that. But my experience indicates that he is wrong.

I worked in the nuclear power industry for 20 years. In that time I was frequently the face of our company, speaking to groups, schools, even journalists, about our industry. Now most of these were hostile crowds, but I was a pretty good extemporaneous speaker and I knew my subject.

My presentations were invariably well received and I got many nice reviews, but to the best of my knowledge, I altered not one anti-nuke stance.

One of the groups was a local–very liberal–private school, led by a crunchy-granola science teacher with the ever to be expected smirk. The session went pretty well, all-in-all, and resulted in a request for an on-campus debate between him and me. Though there was some consternation among upper managers, I accepted the invitation and went into the lion’s den.

I was to take the affirmative in the proposition that nuclear power was a viable and safe form of electrical generation. The much revered teacher–who was met with wild applause–took the negative. The start was pleasant enough, though the crowd cheered at the pedestrian–and standard–exaggerations of the teacher. I tried to make clear and truthful refutations to his claims…that approach won me nothing. Finally–out of frustration–I took the offensive, stating the usual myths (“one pound of plutonium”, false carcinogenic effects at 3-mile, etc) and then killing them with both facts and sarcasm. The cheers for smirking boy died, though none came for me.

Still by the end, smirk-boy was stuttering, which was some mild victory. The vote on who won went to him of course, but miracle upon miracles, by only a small margin (the arrangement wasn’t as a standard debate where votes were taken both before and after). And some students came to me and admitted–albeit, quietly–that I had punctured their religious belief in the anti-nuke movement.

The point is, you have to fight the fight that exists, by the rules the other guy accepts. If he climbs into the ring with 12 ounce gloves, wear 12-ounce gloves. If he brings a ball bat, grab a ball bat. Do NOT leave the field to the son-of-a-bitch.

And ridicule is not hate speech.

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