Jun 15 2014

Guest post by Bruce Everett: Ideology is not just for other people

Dear “non political” people, entering into the lobbying arena to advocate for “non-ideological” policies,

When complaining that people only disagree with you because of their own “political ideology”; it’d be good if you could at least grasp the existence of the horizon of your spectacularly large bias blind spots. (Also, if you could ditch the vanity, which you also seem to have a problem with, that’d be great, thanks).

Just because you can’t spot a number of the inferred values, unspoken assumptions, knowledge gaps, political preferences and statistical biases presented by your lobbying actions, doesn’t mean they aren’t out there in the open for everyone else to see and/or discuss.

And pretending that your interlocutors are trying to put their “sacred cows” out of range of criticism, when they shift the focus to parts of your arguments that you aren’t addressing; please cut that shit out. Your interlocutors don’t want to talk about those “sacred cows” because they aren’t relevant in the context of the discussion they want to have, nor in the context of any discussion they may ever be interested in. We’re not dealing with “sacred cows”, we’re dealing with red herrings; your red herrings.

What is relevant, is dependent upon what it is exactly that is being discussed, and raises the question of who in a democracy, decides upon what is being discussed.

Here’s the kicker. When you get involved in lobbying government, your campaign and your organisation, and anything anyone can find out about it, are all topics of discussion for the public. The people you’re whining about, those with the “sacred cows” who are “silencing” you with mere criticism; they often don’t have the platform that you do – they don’t place their interests out there for the public the way that lobbyists do, because they can’t.

Instead, their interests are usually expressed in the smaller, more personal spaces that rightfully, they hold greater sway over, either by way of rights to privacy, or editorial control, or other equivalents. They decide in their personal space, what gets discussed, and hence ultimately, what is relevant in that setting.

You aren’t the editor of their blogs. You don’t get to demand what gets discussed in their personal, non-lobbyist space; it is their right to set the context of their own discussions, and it’s not your entitlement to expect otherwise.

They aren’t loyal foot-soldiers for self-appointed “thought leaders”; they are citizens.

Conversely, when you lobby governments, the public gets to take their interests, and their contexts, to the table, to discuss your “non-politics” accordingly – all without ceding control to you if they’re not using your political organs. That’s part and parcel of the business of lobbying in a democracy, irrespective of whether or not you are in fact, “non political”.

Yes, discursively this is one sided. You know what else is one-sided? The disparity in resources behind lobbyists and bloggers. Suck it up, lobbyists.

There are only a few ways, generally, that a lobbyist can act in this situation, and each carries its own set of implications.

Being a professor does not make you an elitist, and it never has. Lobbying without accountability, while expecting bloggers, journalists and private citizens to be just as, if not more open to being persuaded about what’s up for debate, does.

You can go down this road, but people rightly get to call you an elitist for doing so, and your complaints about this can be reasonably laughed at. In this case, you’re comedy material. Learn to live with it.

Alternatively, if you don’t like the realities of lobbying in a democracy (and I’ve noticed that you like calling yourself democratic), you can always go back to the academy where you rightly have a captive audience; your students. The electorate should value insight and intelligence, but the electorate is not, nor are its journalists, bloggers or activists, a captive audience.

Nor is the electorate your classroom, nor is it something that should remain passive when you use substantial lobbying influence to seek something from government.

If you don’t understand how your lobbying fits into a democracy, irrespective of what tack you take, you’re incompetent as a lobbyist, and quite possibly as a public intellectual as well. This in addition to potentially being an elitist jerk.

With all due respect,


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