A brawl with a liberal

Here were my impressions of my interview on the Alan Colmes program, which I e-mailed to a few readers after the show:

It was not an interview, but a 15 round fight, with him coming at me like Smoking Joe Frazier from the opening bell of the first round, and me not being able to develop a coherent point or come across in the way I’d like to come across but just counterpunching as fast as I could, at times getting as mean with him as he was with me. It felt pretty ragged to me, and certainly not my idea of an ideal interview, but I think I at least held my own.

Bob Vandervoort then managed to hear the interview on a delayed Internet broadcast from Fox in the Midwest, and wrote back with a more positive take on it:

I think it went extremely well for you, I must say. You held up extremely well. I think most conservatives would have frozen up when a Leftist slime would try to imply they’re racist, but you called him on it. He howled like a kid caught in the midst of mischief! That was great! The first was when he tried to say “you wrote the Mexicans are ant-like multitudes”—completely taking something out of context within your article. In the second half, he went completely nuts when you said there are rapists and violent criminals in the illegal alien midst as well.

What the Leftist doesn’t grasp is that the percentages of things should be at issue. You weren’t arguing that all immigrants are violent criminals, but rather that they are a disproportionate share for their population when compared to the native population. I picked up on this immediately, but that kind of subtle argument escapes Leftists completely.

I was also impressed, despite his often boorish behavior, by how much he was plugging your columns, website, and books. I suspect that many of his listeners are actually conservative, so hopefully some of them may seek out your stuff now. So being on the show was also very helpful that way.

And I can finally see why it is that liberal talk show hosts are struggling. I listened to the first hour of the show before you came on and it was so boring, with boring topics. The only thing that makes his show interesting, apparently, is when he has a conservative on to debate with him.

While I do not always agree with the conservative talk radio hosts such as Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Michael Savage, etc.—they are successful because their shows are fun and entertaining as well as informative. By contrast, Alan Colme’s program simply comes across as this pedantic Leftist nag and scold.

In any event, I hope that they have you back and I think you can be very proud of yourself for tenaciously defending the true immigration reform position.

I replied:

Thank you very much for this. It makes me feel better to hear this, since, as I told you, I had felt that with the “brawling” aspect of the program I did not come across well. But hearing your whole description of it makes me feel that it was better than I had thought.

On his liberalism, I had the same thought as you. Colmes seems to have just one idea in his head: that we must never, ever make a generalization that will treat a single individual anywhere in the universe unfairly. Better that the United States should crash and burn, better that the earth turn into a cinder, than that we make a generalization about a group that has the effect of unjustly discriminating against some individual.

Also, if anyone is wondering why I’m up at 3:30 a.m., I had to have some coffee at 10 p.m. to make myself sufficiently alert for the 11 p.m. interview—not exactly the optimum time of the day to discuss a complex, contentious topic before a live audience, especially with a guy who’s coming at you like a jackhammer. But as I said to Colmes at the end of the show, he was a “fun fighter.” Though I would much prefer a more thoughtful and civil discussion, there is a certain pleasure in mixing it up with the other side.

Also, there were some good points I only thought of after it was too late. For example, when he kept going after me about the “ant-like multitudes” quote from a Mexican writer, demanding that I dissociate myself from a remark made not by me but by our enemies, which kind of blew my mind, which was why I refused to answer, afterwards I thought of the response I would like to have given:

“Alan, it’s not me, it’s a Mexican writer and a Mexican newspaper that describe the Mexican people as an ant-like multitude coming to take over the United States. That’s the way the Mexican people see themselves. That’s the way they understand themselves. So, given that the Mexicans speak of themselves as an ant-like multitude invading the U.S., what do you think that we ought to do about that?”

I wish I had asked him that.

Here’s another reply I wish I had thought of at the time. After he kept badgering me about whether I believed the Mexicans are an ant-like multitude, I finaly said, “Of course the Mexicans are human beings, but they are human beings who don’t belong in our country, they belong in their own country.” That wasn’t bad, but here’s something that would have been better:

“Of course they are human beings, but they are human beings who are peons, and a population of millions of peons will turn us into a peon-like country.”

Another reader writes:

He behaved like a man possessed; a rabid idiot, who, as my husband noted, had amplified his volume, and lowered your feed. He kept speaking over you in that mindless monotone of his. Because Hannity intimidates him on TV, he isn’t as nasty. On radio, he is mean.

You did really well considering his unfair, uncivil habits.

Paul K writes:

I was impressed with your performance on the Alan Colmes Show, but I was not impressed with that of the host. Like many schooled in the TV “debate” format, Colmes focused almost entirely on mischaracterizing your views and attempting to browbeat you. You held your own admirably, but unfortunately, his determination to trick you into describing Mexicans as ant-like wasted time that could have been spent on more important points. That was Mr. Colmes choice, not yours, as was clear to any listener.

Many years ago, when I worked nights, I listened regularly to the Larry King radio show. For all his flaws, when King had a controversial guest on he gave him a full hour to lay out his position, and then one or two hours to answer questions from listeners. I feel that’s the way to do it. I have to give some credit to Mr. Colmes for having you on, but I’d like him to invite you back for a lengthier, more thoughtful discussion. I would be interesting to find out if he’s capable of the latter.

My reply:

Thank you. As to your last question, my impression would be that Colmes would not be interested in or capable of the type of discussion you speak of. He strikes me as a person with what I would call a one-note, liberal mind, that is, when any idea is presented to him, all he can do is look for the element of “discrimination” in that idea and try to shoot it down on that basis. I hope I’m wrong.

Peter G. writes:

Colmes pulled the classic liberal stunt of attempting to interject high emotion, as there’s no other way to defend the irrational liberal worldview. One thing the interview made clear to me, virtually any effort to engage the left will degenerate into an anti-intellectual confrontation.

Lawrence, as you’ve observed, the left always wants to measure debates according to their standards. They always resort to cheap epithets to unbalance adversaries to take the role of prosecutor, judge and jury. I simply say to them now, “Hold on, are you assuming we’re going to measure reality according to your values? Have you already decided my right is your wrong?”

It bodes ill for the future. The display of emotional intolerence to contradictory perspectives should alert rational minds. Colmes mistakes principle for prejudice, so there’s no likelihood of dissuading his form of bigotry. The discussion made me uncomfortable as his fanaticism percolated into the debate’s dialog. Any challenge to his totalitarian worldview provoked a level of irrationality better measured by psychiatry than philosophy. Throughout history, when emotions become values, conflict and chaos aren’t far behind.

The substantive issue; how shall we live, was completely ignored.

My reply:

Thank you. Very interesting thoughts. I hadn’t seen his performance in quite so dire terms, but now that I read your angle on it, what you say makes sense.

As I’ve said earlier, I felt discouraged after the interview because his aggression had prevented me from developing my ideas in a coherent or useful way and sort of forced me to become just as aggressive and nasty as he was. But now reading your e-mail it occurs to me, that that result may be partly intended. By his aggression and interruptions, and the effect that had on my presentation, he prevented the audience from realizing that I’m a thoughtful person with a thought-out view on a serious issue, not just a “hot” ideological combattant like himself.

Peter replies:

I’d say you dignified yourself and position, by replying to him with measured indignance. If anything, it’s clear you’re writings are penetrating into elite circles. Colmes’s format of dialog has become the end, not the means for establishing truth. It betrays a premature terminal point in intellectual maturation, creating a neotinized brat. I tend to hyperbolize a bit is because the stakes are so high. Losing our way of life or having cities literally wiped out is not the lesson anyone wants to alter the left’s way of thinking.

Regarding the debate, consider the old proverb, “a mild word can break a bone” or for comic relief, “an empty barrel makes the most noise”. Just one other note, I’ve had to stop reading the National Review, your assessment of it as Animal House conservatism is correct. They’re just a bunch of paused liberals screaming stop.

James R. writes:

Alan Colmes performed as I expected, one of his strategies being to interrupt you often. This is not Colmes’s strategy alone, but rather the strategy of all liberals when debating conservatives or traditionalists. Sam and Cokie made George Will ineffective by interrupting and always getting the last word. Bob Novak has been worse than useless on CNN for years as they put him on with four or five liberals and he gets (got) worked over, but I guess the money was good as he kept coming back. I had noticed this for years, no great insight here, but was really surprised to read that a liberal had actually admitted that interruption was a strategy, which is exactly what Chris Matthews did several years ago:

Before a broadcast of his “Hardball” show at the U.S. Air Force Academy, Matthews said that whether you’re the interviewer or interviewee, it’s important to constantly interrupt people.

You can see him do it on his talk show all the time. Poor Jennifer Baker from KOAA, trying to get a sound bite or two for her 6 p.m. report last week, got cut off by Matthews four times.

“It’s the key,” said Matthews, a former speech writer for President Jimmy Carter. “If you let somebody else set the pace of the show, it’ll be their show.”

That said, you came across very well, made your points well and speak as well as you write. In fact, I think that Colmes agrees with you, but his greater loyalty is to liberalism. He knows he derives his bread and butter by “virtue” of throwing red meat to the lunatic fringe of the left. He has been roundly criticized by the left for letting Hannity get the best of him on Fox News and his radio show allows him to be himself, assuming he always behaves as he did last night.

My reply:

Thanks. He certainty did interrupt, especially in the first segment when he literally wouldn’t let me develop my idea. What he could and should have done was let me do so, and then attack me.

Gerald writes:

I was the third caller (Beau from Dallas) last night.

Generally speaking, I agree with the other listener comments at VFR. I too, was disappointed that it developed into a pissing contest, but I suppose it’s the price for getting on at all with a hostile host. I hope you will also be on shows with hosts who are more willing to have a conversation.

However, in contrast to another listener, I think Colmes’ belligerence was fake. He’s received a huge amount of criticism from the Left for being a milquetoast compared to Hannity. His behavior was at least in part a reaction to that. I do think it might be possible to have a more enlightening session with him on-air. He has had a number of fairly reasonable debates on FoxNews. I’m going to email him, thanking him for having you on, regretting it turned into a brawl, and asking for an encore, with a special request to avoid interruptions, etc. I will also post in a couple of forums, asking other members to do the same.

The main thing is: you got on. You reached a lot of people, however imperfectly. I listened to the rest of the show after your segment ended and several callers expressed support for your views.

You did good work for our side last night.

Cindy writes:

I agree with the comments that you have posted from your various readers. I think you came across extremely well, despite the emotional barrage from Alan Colmes. Colmes came across to me as afraid—afraid that you might make too much sense and make statements too painful for him to bear because deep-down he suspects you are right. Even some of the callers who purportedly disagreed with you seemed to be at a slight loss for words upon hearing your views expressed so logically and without apology, as though they were awakening to the realization that they were making rote statements that they don’t necessarily believe. To me, the average citizens of this country are the equivalent of an inarticulate and abused spouse who has been in denial for years but who suddenly, after having someone come to their defense against the bullying partner, regains their self-esteem and starts thinking for themselves again. I hope you’re on more shows and ones that allow for a true debate of ideas, because you will embolden the average citizen to start resisting the political correctness that has been forced on us for the past several decades.

My reply:

Thank you for this. I love your comparison of average Americans to a beaten-down and demoralized person who just needs to realize it doesn’t have to be this way. This is absolutely true. Everyone has accepted, as though it were their mother’s milk, such liberal slogans as “We’re a nation of immigrants,” or, “Family values don’t stop at the Rio Grande,” or, “Illegal aliens are just coming here to work, therefore we must allow them to do so,” or “We can’t defend our country if it means discriminating against a single Mexican anywhere.” These ideas and their implications are false, and cannot stand up to scrutiny, but so far everyone has kind of unconsciously accepted them, and so, as you point out, everyone is depressed and demoralized, often without realizing it. But when we realize that these demoralizing, liberal slogans (these slogans that must lead to national suicide) are NOT TRUE, then we realize that we can stand up for ourselves and live and not die.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at April 15, 2006 03:16 AM | Send

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