Tuesday, March 31 2009

Let's Try This Again

There are some key concepts to keep in mind when playing a game, or looking at the world as a game:

1.  Theory always takes a backseat to reality.  In theory, one can sit down with the rules of the game and devise an ideal strategy.  In reality, this doesn't work, at least for most games.  Any game involving luck, interaction with other players, or information only available to one of the players, can't be won by sticking to the theory of how the game should be played.  Luck doesn't follow rules, and player interactions are player-specific knowledge are matters of psychology.

2.  Not every battle can be won, and not every battle is worth winning.  A major lesson of wargaming, is that you have to pick and choose your fights.  Sometimes, you will run into a battle where one of your forces meets an overwhelming enemy force that you cannot stop.  If you can recognize this, you can save some of your forces, or otherwise use the defeat to your advantage.  A more important distinction is recognizing a battle that you can win, but only at a cost that you can't effectively afford in the long run;  a Pyrric victory.  (Although I'm using wargaming analogies here, you can substitute money or influence or any limited and essential quantity for forces and the analogy still works).

3.  Don't let your emotions cloud your judgement.  The trap in number two is that if you are emotionally invested in winning, then you have more difficulty recognizing losing battles or too-expensive victories.  It's easy to fall for the flaw of emotionally investing in a bad strategy.  If one of your opponents scores an impressive victory over you, it's easy to get emotionally committed into getting back at them, even if it's a losing proposition, or a distraction from your ultimate objective, winning the game.  If you can recognize when other players in the game have switched over to emotional behaviors, you can use it to your advantage, such as tempting them into going for too-expensive victories.

4.    Always know your victory conditions, and know the different ways to achieve them.  Remember what your final goal is, and don't get fixated on one particular plan.  It's easy to get so focused on a particular plan for achieving victory that you don't notice that you don't have the resources to pull it off.  It's easy to fall into the trap of assuming that a particular battle is the only route to victory.

5.  The game isn't always fair.  Know that the game and the other players punish and reward certain behaviors, and plan accordingly.  Take advantage of it when you can, and don't waste your energy struggling against it when you can't change it.

Why did I call this "Let's Try This Again"?  Because, ultimately, I'm working on a more thoughtful look at the current conservative blogosphere slug match I alluded to down below, which is a microcosm of the conservative web presence as a whole.

We've got two prominent conservative bloggers and their readers after each other.  One's trying to be diplomatic with the left, and one's taking an aggressive tone.  The aggressive blogger has rightly pointed out that playing diplomatically cedes much of the terms of discourse to the progressive side, and hasn't helped in the past;  the progressives have won by being nasty and playing dirty with conservatives.  The diplomatic blogger has pointed out that aggressive rhetoric turns off many people we might be able to persuade, and serves only to rally those already on our side.  Which one's right?  Both are, or neither are.

Yes, the progressive media has unfairly demonized the right for years.  Yes, they've used every nasty trick in the book.  Yes, this isn't fair (Rule 5).  Responding in kind isn't going to work at this time.  The constant demonization of conservatives has already worked.  "Conservative" is now tied to "Evil" in many people's minds.  In theory, we're right (Rule 1), but this means nothing in reality, where things are shaped by people's perceptions, which have been carefully steered by the media.  We can't just say "Progressives are evil", because if we do, the people we're trying to reach are going to ignore us.  Yes, this isn't fair (5 Again).  We need to persuade people that we're in the right, and starting with emotional arguments that immediately turn them off to our message (like "[insert Progressive politician's name here] is Evil") won't work;  they voted for the guy, of course they're not going to accept our claim that his policies are harmful just on our say so!  Fighting the battle of language is a difficult proposition, and one that will take a lot of work.  Unless we give it our full effort, it's probably a losing battle.(Rule 2).

With regard to the Conservative bloggers, the policy disagreements have escalated into emotional disagreements (Rule 3), and the bloggers are spending time and effort to fight each other because they have an emotional stake in beating the other guy.  It's led both to make stupid mistakes which infuriate the other side even more, escalating the tensions further.  More importatntly, defeating the other conservative blogger doesn't help enact conservative policies and conservative politicians (Rule 4).

Posted by: Civilis at 09: 51 PM | No Comments | Add Comment
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