April 24, 2005

The Fascination of What's Difficult

I was at L.A. Times/UCLA Festival of Books yesterday (yes: Angelenos just call it "the book fair"). What a great time. It's always a little grueling, and we usually come home with those "day at the beach" headaches that tell us we have micro-mini cases of sunstroke. Yesterday, though, it was a little overcast, so we were able to stay a little later in the day without danger of our parched bones being found outside Royce Hall.

As usual I saw a few panels on crime writers, and was excited to sit in on one that featured both T. Jeff Parker and Roger L. Simon. (But where, Roger, was the fedora? You were wearing a baseball cap.)

Roger was blunt about his politics, and actually announced in a small lecture hall of about 300 people that he'd voted for G.W. Bush. He discussed 9/11 as a pivotal moment in his political evolution, and Tod Goldberg, as moderator, was able to joke about the fact that this made Simon a minority in that crowd: Goldberg struck just the right note, defusing the tension in a way that was respectful of both Simon and the left-leaning audience.

But the impressive acts of courage were undertaken by Hugh Hewitt. To a much-larger audience in a lecture hall that sat over a thousand, Hewitt discussed the media with a crowd of people that included Arianna Huffington. At first I was confused when Hewitt didn't garner as much applause as Arianna; later, it became clear that even a panel featuring Hugh hadn't attracted a centrist crowd. Not in this town, Baby.

The audience was completely outraged by a few observations of Hugh's, including a statement to the effect that the L.A. Times leans to the left. (I'm serious: it seems so self-evident that even my lefty friends cheerfully agree it is so, despite the Times featuring a few righty columns and one neocon cartoonist. Yet the boos Hugh was subjected to lasted over five seconds, and the two women on either side of me each glanced in my direction, as if to ask, "can you believe the amazing thing he just said?" Well, you know—I could.)

I kept a polite, chilly smile on my face. I didn't give these people any reason to think I agreed with them, but I also didn't clap at the end of Hugh's statement, and this was a failure. I think the handful of us in that room who support the war were truly scared and surprised by the sheer level of lefty adrenaline in that huge space, and just didn't know what would happen if we let those around us know how we felt.

Later, Hugh referred to Fox News as "center-right." More booing and hissing. The woman on my left (figuratively and literally) nearly bounced out of her seat once more. Again, I was chilly and unresponsive to those around me. But I failed to support Hugh as audibly as I would have liked.

I keep thinking about Malcolm Gladwell's amazing book, The Tipping Point. It was a great read, and I'm ready to buy it and hand it out on the street: what a fabulous set of observations about human nature. One of the fascinating discussions within it has to do with how we behave differently in groups than we do when we're alone. I was disappointed in my inability to stand up for what I believe in from the midst of a crowd of people who were upset about the war in Iraq.

This inner resistence we feel is the hardest thing in the world to counter, because no one wants to be the nail that sticks up and gets pounded back down. I'll have to try harder, though: because what matters is not who wins the debate. What matters is that we keep having it.

Next time, I'll clap for Hugh. I have to.

Posted by Attila at April 24, 2005 03:23 PM

Sorry I missed you. That reminds me...(see email).

Posted by: Juliette at April 24, 2005 10:37 PM

But you're in a ghetto there, like the SF Book Fair. I know liberals who consider the NY Times conservative.

Posted by: jeff at April 25, 2005 03:36 PM

Yeah, I know. And they control the film industry, music, books, most other media, pop culture on the coasts, and academia.

Yet they're very angry that "no one represents their viewpoint."

Posted by: Attila Girl at April 25, 2005 05:06 PM

Sounds like a good time nonetheless. I think though it is wise to pick our battles and getting the snot beaten out of you by some buck-toothed peace-lovin' hippy on meth sitting behind you may not have been the best one in which to go down in a blaze of glory, which you probably knew on some level. We must be strategic in our selection of glorious martyrdom :p

Posted by: m a r t i n @ b l o g b a t at April 26, 2005 10:35 AM

the fact that you do stand out among the lefties is what leads them to believe that everyone is left, and that left is the usual "state of nature." then, they are not only surprised but find it difficult to accept either emotionally or logically when right ascends.

Posted by: josil at April 29, 2005 12:09 AM

Share photos on twitter with Twitpic "Let the issues be the issue.

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