Mr. Hicks, mad-ons, and strategy

Mike Lieber (U28550@UICVM.BITNET)
Wed, 2 Nov 1994 10:32:58 CST

Mr. Hicks is offended because the Rushton thread has played itself out,
interpreting an understandable wearying of saying the same things over again
with an equally understandable charge of acquiescence. There is only one
answer to Mr. Hicks's charge--think strategy, because that's what El J. has
been doing all along.

The strategy of his colleagues in Canada, according to several Canadian
scholars I talked with 2 weeks ago, has been silence--not acquiescence, but a
refusal to provide him with a forum and media attention. It seems to have
worked, because he turned his attention to the U.S. and, among other things,
ANTHRO-L. We have kindly obliged him by providing him with a forum, implicit
legitimacy (as I pointed out before), and lots of documents that he can
download for future use. You want to provide him with more grist for his
mill? Think strategy! What is the best strategy for countering the Rushtons
and the Itzky's and the Murrays of this world?

(1) Anthropologists know what El J.'s stuff is worth, so why beat it to death
saying the same stuff over and over to one another? The ones who need to hear
about bad science are the ones who pay taxes, who vote on educational funding,
who make public policy, and who read newspapers and watch TV--the turf that
El J. and Co. want most to control.

(2) Go after the media and know what to say to them and HOW TO SAY IT. The
first thing the media has to hear is (a) good science helps to make good public
policy, and (b) bad science makes bad public policy. Next, (c) what El J. @ Co
do is bad science, followed by (d) why it is bad science.

(3) I circulated my own contribution, the Tribune article, on this Net and
elsewhere as an example of what we need to do, stimulated and guided by John
McCreery's posts on hooks. I had hoped that this would juice some of you into
doing the same, and a couple people on the Net have told me that they've done
precisely that in their local media. Ever hear of grass roots, Mr. Hicks?

(4) I have contacted Ellen Goodman, a syndicated columnist who always has a
unique, level-headed, and incisive way of approaching events around her. I
have asked her to do a piece on this controversy, and if she does, it will
reach tens of millions of people. Her piece on Derek Freeman's attack on
Margaret Mead in the 1980s devastated Freeman's argument in a way that nothing
else could have.

(5) Dealing with TV is a special problem that anthropologists MUST learn to
deal with. Anyone who saw Murray's bit on Prime Time should learn from it--
this is the liberal media in its element, trivializing the most vital issues
because it's easier ("better television") to have black students saying
"bullshit" than to have a scientist telling how this is bad science. What we
have to prepare ourselves to do for TV and radio appearances is to decide on
the points we want to make--no more than 3. Next, each point has to be
carefully worked out as a module that takes about 20 seconds (one sound byte)
to deliver. The wording has to be clear, tightly connected, and MEMORIZED to
the point of smooth delivery. What this does is to make it next to impossible
to edit into pieces. If it's done right, the sound byte editors have to use
the whole sound byte or nothing. The next step in preparation is to anticipate
a reporter's questions about your point and be ready with succinct answers to
each one. Do NOT expect that the questions will be fair. Reporters have their
own agendas. For example, I attended a rally for school reform in Chicago in
1986, and a reporter tried to bait one of the reform leaders by asking, "Isn't
this whole thing a matter of social class?" [The implication was that the
reformers are all white middle class folk trying to help their own kind.] The
man being interviewed answered, "Hell yes it's about class. There's the class
of downtown administrators who are sucking up most of the educational funding
for their own pockets and then there's the other class--the rest of us who
trying to educate our children."

It's time to stop giving El J. & Co. Net time and and turn to the strategies
and the turf on which the battle needs to be fought. This will go away after
mid-term elections--and I still think that this is what this whole mischagoss
has been about. But it will be back. Get ready and stay ready. It would
also help, as I have pointed out before, to do some research that is good
science--genetics and environment. Get that done, and the media will come.

Mike Lieber