Brian Bailey Preface to the Revised Edition

How to Lose Friends and Not Influence People

David Weinberger is a talented writer who co-authored The Cluetrain Manifesto and wrote Small Pieces Loosely Joined, both great reads. He also has his own blog and writes for the new business magazine, Worthwhile. Additionally, he is a passionate advocate for the progressive wing of the Democratic Party.

I have followed Weinberger's blog for a long time, despite my disagreement with many of his political views. His love of democracy and this country was evident throughout his transparent descriptions of the Dean campaign. I respect different opinions as well as quality writing. This week, I ended my subscription to his blog. Why?

Following the election, Weinberger expressed his anger and frustration at the result in a post titled, The Honeymoon is Over.

Let's work against the force of intolerant fear-mongering that has swept this country. Speak truth to stupidity. Speak truth to thuggery.

We need to respect them [those who voted for Bush]. And then we need to thwart them. We need to fight their every effort to impose their small-minded god's views on us.

Wow. I simply will never understand how people on either side of the political divide find this approach effective. At some point, a reasonable person open to the perspectives of others will say, Enough.

Why would I read this? Why would I like to have a conversation with someone who thinks this way about me and nearly 60 million American citizens? Why would anyone? A fair-minded person is always open to disagreement, criticism, and debate;  no one will tolerate having their intelligence, patriotism, and deeply held political and spiritual beliefs ridiculed.

The only people who want to read that are the already converted. The irony is that the most persistent claim by the left is that Bush voters are close-minded and ignorant. Not only is Weinberger's post, and much of the left's election response, an accurate reflection of his own criticisms, but it explicitly drives away the few dissenters who may have been listening.

Why do we fall for this trap time after time? Because it is the path of least resistance. It is far easier to dismiss and denigrate those who disagree with you. The temptation is to use the tactics of your opponent. Are there those on the right who use the exact same methods (even words) as this post and the hundreds like it? Of course, each and every day. I have no time for them either. Am I tempted in my own anger and frustration to do the same? Of course, but I would immediately loose whatever credibility I have, and any hope of convincing the unconvinced.

Oddly enough, Weinberger himself sees this. On the very morning he wrote the above, he also wrote Business as Healer for Worthwhile.

There are two ways to overcome differences as deep as those that rend us politically. First, you can find common ground on political issues. Second, you can find other common grounds that put the political differences in perspective. [...] Engaged in a common task, I learn that you, with whom I disagree profoundly on politics, have virtues that provide a context for understanding your political "folly." [emphasis added]

Working together can help heal us.