It is idiotic but customary to declare a winner after a political debate. This time, WestonWeb declares a loser.
The loser: You.
The debates last week were more colosseum than agora. Shouting and strife trumped discussion and reason. This would be a shame in any riding, in any contest. It is a terrible shame in Weston.
Supporters of Laura Albanese and Paul Ferreira shouted and jeered when their opponent tried to speak. They applauded when their own candidate made a jab, and they reduced the already short time for answers into an unusable space too short for anything but insults or defense.
Frankly, the card-carriers made me angry. I’m sure I was not the only one; I saw many scowling, silent faces around me, faces of people who were there to listen, not shout. I certainly don’t ever want to see another ‘debate’, and I’m sure the other attendees felt the same. Perhaps that’s what the members want: a room full of only themselves, screaming at each other across an unbridgeable divide of their own making. That is what they will certainly soon get.
But if I never did return, I wouldn’t miss much. I did not see a debate. I saw two candidates unable or unwilling to actually discuss, explain, and reason. They were often only able to say what they would do, not why they would do it, before they were shouted over or at.
A cynic would say that this was all part of the plan, that the supporters were agents, not citizens. That seems likely given the buttons and shirts they were wearing. They seemed like loyalists—and loyalists are deplorable. Loyalists allow their ideas to be shaped by party ideology instead of testing the ideology by their ideas. But your humble correspondent has no evidence that this was a plan. Your humble correspondent cannot prove that the shouting mob was told to shout and to overwhelm debate. Your humble correspondent hopes that this was an accident.
It could be.
When one party overwhelms the voice of a debater, it must be difficult for supporters to remain silent. In time, of course, the shouters will embarrass themselves and show themselves to be an intolerant mob, but that time must seem interminable. It is easier to shout in turn and ensure, if one’s own representative cannot be heard, that no representative shall be heard.
Because they were democrats, not Caesars, the organizers of the debate could not restore order. They tried, but it ran against their nature. They would have had to force people to be silent—a repellent idea at a debate. When the moderator and organizer tried to restore order, the ideologues showed no shame at all.
The organizers could not, so the representatives needed to silence their own supporters. And they did not, to their disgrace. Ferreira and Albanese needed to step in and say, “Hey, lay off my friend here. Shut up and let our opponent speak.”
But, of course, they could not. If they had, they would have been admitting what we all knew already: That they could control this mob, and that this mob was not a spontaneous uprising of concerned citizens appalled by the ideas of their opponent. They would have had to take responsibility for their supporters, in other words, and nobody would have wanted to admit allegiance to that ugly group.
There is, though, another way. It is a way I have tried many times in my classes, and it works. It is judo and turns your opponent’s strength against him. But it can be done only once.
Paul, Laura, here’s my advice:
When your ugly mob starts getting ugly, say to them, “Hey. Shut up for a second. You know, I hate this yelling. It upsets me when you yell over me, but I can live with it. But I cannot live with you yelling over my opponent. So sure, go ahead, silence me if that’s what you want. But let my opponent speak.”
Laura, Paul, this can be transformative. If you deploy this technique first, you will show that you, not the other, is capable of discourse. You can do this while maintaining the fiction that they were not brought there to yell. And you will show that while you are tough enough to take being yelled at, you don’t want your opponent to have to endure it.
And you will have been a leader. That is what you say you want. Your followers will not disobey you, and your opponent’s followers, if they continue, will show themselves to be an unruly mob of malfeasants shouting down a reasonable person.
Which is, after all, what they are.
And Paul, Laura, you need to do this. You know that Weston needs to be united, not divided. We are divided enough already. Weston needs reason, not shouting. We have enough strife already. Weston needs peace, harmony, and a united effort to better our community.
And you: you need to lead, not win. Winning is easy. You can win through all sorts of wicked tricks. Leading, however, is hard.
A final word: Ferreira and Albanese saw fit to come and face the people in the colosseum. The Conservative and Greens did not. There is something worse than a leader who you can see but not hear. That’s a leader you can neither see nor hear.