How To Be Right: The Art of Being Persuasively Correct (2015)

8

DON’T BE A PROFESSIONAL

WIN IN THREE

How Pretending to Be Stupid Makes You a Winner

1.People like helping out those they think are slower than them. Be that slow person.

2.People like pretending to be experts—your dumb questions turn them into experts

3.When you destroy them, they never see it coming.

As our very few viewers first observed, I had no idea what I was doing when I began Red Eye. But the best thing I ever did was make that clear. If I had pretended to understand the medium, I would have died. Instead, I treated the show like a basement bar in an Allentown house, where five people sat on sofas and talked shit for an hour, not knowing about the bodies in the concrete. I was fat, sweaty, and nervous—but never drunk.

OBLIGATORY TIP ABOUT ALCOHOL

It was one thing I learned quickly: never work drunk. Because if you end up doing better than you did sober, you will never work sober again. Performance in sport and entertainment relies heavily on superstition. If you end up doing, say, a great show while high on mescaline and poppers, then you will do mescaline and poppers every day and end up talking like Elmer Fudd. So I never walked onto a set drunk. Perhaps I had a drink or two at lunch, but I was too terrified that I would love the idea of doing Red Eye buzzed. Better to be nervous and incompetent than overconfident and incompetent. You also won’t throw up on your guests.

Red Eye was the weirdest show on TV. It was on a news network, but it wasn’t news. It was funny, but it wasn’t comedy. It was subversive, strange, anarchic—precisely because, get this, it was moral. It was an hour long, but only on this planet. The most rebellious, careless creature on TV was not a “cool” lefty in a necktie, like Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert, who rarely strayed from the media’s sanctioned opinions. It was the precise opposite. It was an uncool, sloppy, truth-talking dope (me).

There was a method to this. While you have Bill Maher, Henry Rollins, and Janeane Garofalo there to cast in the rebel role as the edgy leftist, in reality they are always surrounded by applause. People applaud them for being just like them, but smarter (or at least better scripted). But nobody wanted to be like the people on Red Eye. And people starting applauding us because they honestly never knew what we’d do. None of us did. Red Eye had no safety net—we were hated from the get-go, and had to earn every fan based on how well we could walk the wire. In fact, we were hated not only by leftists but by everyone. The hate mail from the network faithful was brutal and relentless. I know, because at times I would call up the most vicious complainers to plead with them to come on the show. Most hated me so much, they refused. It was years later that they called, apologized, and had a number of my children.

THE RED EYE PROCESS

To many, Red Eye seemed frivolous and nonsensical. But I had spent years in Clutterers Anonymous, so I explain it this way: Red Eye is a three-step process (or the first three steps of a twelve-step process): first it’s repulsion, then confusion, finally obsession. It might take a week to get the show, but like HPV, once you get it, it’s almost impossible to shake. You pretty much have to freeze it off with a mix of volatile chemicals. It’s sort of like a showbiz carbuncle.

Why was Red Eye important? Because it sought to persuade apolitical types that you can have a political opinion without joining a team. You didn’t have to be a hard-core righty or lefty. You could eschew all ideology but still engage in “the battle of ideas” or “the kerfuffle of notions.” I’m conservative on the economy, but okay with things like drugs, prostitution, and gambling. I’m pro-life but also pro–gay marriage. I can’t stand Al Sharpton but I also have a problem with Cliven Bundy. I didn’t think Trayvon Martin was an innocent, but the dude who shot him was a full-on creep. Not everything is ideologically pure. Red Eye was about that: the idea that tribalism—or belonging to a team—was secondary to following your gut instinct.

I never trusted anyone who was ideologically pure. It made me flee the left when I was young (and caused many in lockstep to flee from me), and it creeps me out on the right. There is no possible way a conservative commentator can be right 100 percent of the time. Yet I often run into people on my side who maintain that it’s possible. As much as I admire my righty pals, they’ve been wrong. As much as I think I’m pretty smart, I’ve screwed up plenty. But ideological purity forbids you from even contemplating that. I had a coworker once tell me that he wouldn’t disagree with a conservative, and the reason? Strictly because he was a conservative. Even when the conservative was telling him to remember the cardinal rules of social liberalism: don’t sit on your lunch and never leave your pants in the taxi. Stupid, blind bias.

I must point out, however, that this sort of lockstep is far more common on the left, because (1) leftism is the domi nant media narrative, and (2) the left believes the right is evil, so anything, including lockstep, is permissible.

However, Red Eye was also pretty clear in the world of morality: it rejected the scourge of relativism, the epidemic of faux outrage, the wasteful energy of identity politics. Red Eye maintained that all behaviors are not equal—and that denying superiority over destructive cultures and ideas prevalent in the world spells the death of truth, and ends in destruction. In the early days of Red Eye, we had segments that jokingly advocated bestiality. It was a mockery of moral relativism, where everything is permitted once objective truth is obliterated. However, the uninitiated viewer, initially anyway, never saw it that way. I got a ton of shit. Literally—I measured it. It was two thousand pounds’ worth of angry, steaming crap lumped on my head. I sold it all on eBay.

I learned that if you’re conservative and make jokes, you’re on a hit list that my liberal counterparts never have to worry about. Your peers do not afford you any slack.

Lefty types can make jokes about women, and it’s okay. But when I made a comment about the infamous pregnant man (Remember him? He was a she, actually, who was pregnant, and now likely divorced and living with Andy Dick.), I ended up on an ABC News clip, to be chastised by Barbara Walters (it broke my heart). The lesson: I had to learn to be funny and persuasive—without giving liberal jackasses too much ammo. However, you cannot guide your life based on those who wish to bring you down. What you must do is make their job far harder. Because they’re always waiting for you to slip.

That is my occupational hazard. When you’re a conservative, in the media, you’re not just a leper (a leper gets sympathy); you’re a leper by choice. You will be hated and vilified and your life will be threatened. These days, truth is no longer necessary. Your adversaries will determine and then pronounce your intent when it comes to issues involving race or gender—which means you will be even a greater target when you expose their phony bullshit in those particular areas. If you call them on the debunked study on campus rape, they will say you are pro-rape. That’s how they work.

The Smear

What Will Be Said About You, the Moment You Break from the Herd

WHEN YOU SAY

THEY WILL SAY

Sexual assaults on campus are exaggerated.

You condone rape.

Police are only reacting to volatile situations the best they can.

You condone brutality.

I think the I in ISIS stands for Islam.

You hate Muslims.

I watch Fox News.

I can’t talk to you anymore.

In the effort to be persuasively right, Red Eye challenged you to test an audience who might be unfamiliar with you, and to be unafraid of trafficking in absurdity. We were, and still are, unsophisticated—and letting our rawness unfold urged others to do the same thing. Not all of us had twenty writers, great suits, and cushy expense accounts. We had no writers, no suits, and we probably owed you money. We took what Jon Stewart had for a budget for one show, and stretched it over a month. And it showed.

But like Red Eye, all righties arguing for conservatism need to be “better” than the left. They need to be thick-skinned and brave. For you will be afforded no mercy by the preening cowards of establishment media. They are a vengeful mob: they see you are different, and they will come for you, because your difference sparks insecurity. It’s the biggest hypocrisy of the fawning press that followed Jon Stewart’s exit. Sure, he was funny, smart, and good at what he did. But there was little rebellion in his telecasts, little or no risk in what he did. Who was he pissing off? Anyone?

What you plan on doing takes more balls. You’re not just thinking your ideas; you’re now trying to establish a plan to articulate them in a winning manner, which will bring you more ridicule than accolades. In fact, you will be mocked for buying this book; you will be mocked for asserting an alternative road to this nauseating, sanctioned hipness. And that mockery will make you the truly radical in this sea of lockstep lemmings. Just be prepared, my friends. Once you reject the assumptions of the mob, the mob gets scared. And what does a scared mob do? Plenty.