Tuesday, April 30, 2013

A Minor Musing On Star Trek And Poltical Writing

I have never been fond of Star Trek TNG's Captain Jean Luc Picard's catchphrase, "Engage." Spock's "Fascinating" has always seemed preferable.

Today's David Brooks column contrasts the two catchphrases as they relate to political writing. Brooks asserts that the "engaged" writer "closely and intimately aligns with a team," "provides arguments for the party faithful," builds community by reminding everyone of the errors and villainy of the opposing side," in order to energize and  mobilize "the people who already agree with [them]."

According to Brooks a "detached" writer "wants to be a few steps away from the partisans," "fears the team mentality will blinker her views," "wants to remain mentally independent," "sees politics as a competition between partial truths," and "wants the liberty to find the proper balance between them, issue by issue."

The whole column is worth a read, but Brooks avoids one key issue as urges political writers to become more detached: those writers he calls "engaged" have more readers. 

In this regard, South Dakota's blogosphere seems a useful microcosm. The two biggest kids on the block, The Madville Times and Dakota War College exemplify what Brooks would classify as engaged writers. Those blogs also have the widest readership. Most political readers desire powerful confirmation of their own worldviews and strong condemnation of opposing views. Others seem to enjoy being angry, and few things promote anger more than reading someone who promulgates the "wrong" political view.

Maybe that emotion is why Picard and Kirk made captain while Spock was the first officer


caheidelberger said...

Spock said on numerous occasions he had no ambition to take the Captain's chair. Even as he grew older and recognized that logic is only the beginning of wisdom, he seemed uninterested in command. He preferred the role of detached advisor and problem-solver.

Does engagement necessarily mean closely aligning with one team? Can one be an engaged observer and advocate but try to work closely with anyone from any team willing to play ball?

Kal Lis said...

I should have pointed out that Brooks considers these categories as polls on a continuum.

If one looks at the RINO/DINO charges that are being leveled, it seems that that both sides are being pulled to extremes of the spectrum.

Spock seemed to have avoided command because he avoided passion. POV doesn't seem to be enough.People want passion

caheidelberger said...

I'm just spitballing amidst analogies, but maybe we need more viable teams, so there's more room for more leaders with passion who don't want to play with either of the current two big teams. It is hard to sustain one's passion without the sense that one supports and is supported by a team.

Kal Lis said...

Some of this seems to come down to place as well.

Since Gingrich instituted a de facto parlimentary system, I'm more and more open to having extra parties, although I do fear the fringes will go nuts.

As far as this discussion applies writing goes, if one is convinced that truth seeking is worth doing and that there are some principles that should never be altered, I would guess one can keep pounding the keyboard.