I’m a huge fan of Mike Rowe. Admittedly, not as huge of a fan as my wife (for some reason), but every time I’m flipping through the cable guide and I see that Dirty Jobs is on, I inevitably stop and watch the whole episode, due primarily to Rowe’s obvious and genuine enthusiasm for the salt-of-the-earth people who make this country go (not to mention his manifold corny dad jokes, which I’m a huge fan of). Rowe is, among Hollywood types, a hard line conservative and has been over the years an occasional booster of various Republicans (although he studiously avoids politics of any sort on his shows). Predictably, this means that he has attracted a cottage industry of leftist Internet trolls who stalk his social media presence and consistently rail at his audacity for not parroting the liberal Hollywood line.
Recently, Rowe was apparently on board a plane when he decided to take action against one of these trolls who was spamming his facebook with insane rants that were apparently supposed to encourage other readers of Rowe’s facebook page to buy the commenter’s book. Rowe’s epic response has been circulating the Internet because people enjoy Rowe giving a troll what-for in his own inimitable style. But Rowe’s advice, which I will reproduce here, is just as important – if not more so – for our side of the aisle as well:
Hi there, Jim
Greetings, from somewhere over Colorado. It appears you’re still trying to sell some books on my Facebook page. Personally, I haven’t read them, and based on your marketing strategy, I suspect I’m probably not alone. Since part of your approach seems to involve me, I thought perhaps I might offer you some unsolicited marketing advice. I hope it’s not too presumptuous, but these tips have served me well over the years, and I can’t help but think you and your marketing team might benefit from their immediate implementation.
1. Consider starting off each blurb with a friendly salutation. In my experience, a little cordiality goes a long way, especially when you’re trying to persuade someone to give you money.
2. Think about addressing your audience as something other than “racists,” “reptiles,” and “toads.” I get that you want to be provocative, but if your goal is to sell your book, a number of well-known studies have proven it’s best not to insult your potential customers.
3. Reconsider your commitment to caps and exclamation points. These are excellent choices when warning people about a fire, a volcanic eruption, an ebola outbreak, or a looming tsunami. But I’m afraid their use in the context of a book sale implies a level of urgency that may exist only in your mind. If you really want to persuade thoughtful people that Christians can’t vote for Republicans and remain Christian, you’ll need to appear credible – not hysterical. Lower case should work just fine.
4. Consider limiting each blurb to a single entry. When you post the identical screed four times in a row, it looks very much like a broken record sounds. This will lead people to conclude that you’re either a) inept at posting, or b) deliberately obnoxious. Neither conclusion is likely to lead to a sale. Remember, most people see posts like yours as small piles of vomit that they can quickly step around. But when the same vomitus post appears multiple times, you force my friends here to slosh through a virtual lake of spew. Ironically, this will not only make more people like you even less, it will decrease the odds that someone who might actually share your world view will feel inclined to purchase your book. (I’ve deleted all of your redundant posts from this morning, but left the original. You’re welcome.)
5. Regarding your overall claim, I’m not an authority on Republicans or Christians, but last I checked, America is still populated by plenty of both. Unless you wish to alienate a majority of the country, you might consider something a tad more conciliatory. Something like – “There is no “R” in Jesus – But There’s G-O-P in Gospel!”
Finally, with respect to your “challenge,” I’m not a registered Republican, but from time to time, I have voted like one. If you really want to know why, ask me in a fashion that incorporates the aforementioned steps, and I’ll try to explain it to you.
In the meantime, GOOD LUCK WITH YOUR BOOKS!!!!!!!!!!!!!
PS. As you can see, the captain has given me some plastic wings. So clearly, I know what I’m talking about.
Rowe’s advice rings true with respect to all Internet discourse and our side would do well to heed it. I can recall that when I first started blogging in 2004-2005, Republicans had been in power for the better part of 4 or 5 years and the anger this caused in liberals made the left side of the blogosphere demonstrably more unhinged in their rhetoric. After the election of 2006, if anything it got worse as they smelled blood in the water and the bitterness and rage were mixed with triumphalism.
I am seeing now the same phenomenon unfold in many corners of the conservative Internet. I get the anger and frustration people on the conservative side of the aisle have about the current direction of the country. I get especially the anger towards Obama, given that he has responded to an electoral drubbing with zero humility and instead with, if anything, increased hubris and overreach. But while it can be viscerally satisfying and cathartic to turn the volume up to 11, it is seldom/never persuasive to anyone who is not already persuaded, and in fact can often be a turn off.
Part of the reason Obama was able to win in 2008 was that he eschewed public displays that emulated the rage and bitterness of his followers, in favor of viewpoint-free and borderline Messianic optimism. He has undoubtedly failed to deliver on the promises of 2008, but his campaign accurately captured the zeitgeist of a public that was weary of the Bush presidency but also leery of the seething anger of many of his opponents. If we are to succeed in 2016 we must somehow replicate that path, and our nominee will be reflective of our posture as a movement.
In doing so, it would be eminently helpful to remember Rowe’s advice, especially as it reminds us that many of the people we have to persuade are people who voted for Obama twice, and who don’t like to be insulted or belittled about their choice, even by extension. It’s possible to stand strongly and firmly for what we believe in and against what Obama believes in without rapidly descending to farcical commentary. Sometimes, being nice is a dirty job. But someone’s gotta do it.