Archive for March 22nd, 2010

We Help Sell Tomes

When people found out I worked on the writing of legislation on Capitol Hill, they would naturally ask if I was a lawyer. I had a standard joke reply:

“No, I don’t do anything legal.”

“Uh-oh, let me restate that…”

Of course what I meant was that lawyers made sure that people like me discussed policy language in a bill. But, just as every speech one wrote for the congressmen began with MR. SPEAKER: certain places in the legislation had to conform to legal form.

Some of this was arcane. For example, Federal language used the word “abolishment” rather than the correct term “abolition.” The lawyer had to finalize the FORM, but when it came to 3 am compromises on intent and policy, the congressmen sent senior staff in, not lawyers.

So instead of trying to explain that, I just made the joke about my not doing anything legal.

But I face something of the same problem with my writing. I could say that the unique thing I have to offer is not factual information. If I say I do not base my thinking on a special set of facts I know, it sounds, like “doing nothing legal,” as if I were proposing that facts don’t matter.

On the contrary, my best work, like the Mantra, is based on solid actuality. But it is a different LOOK at actuality.

Having developed a way of thinking, I could spend another fifty years or so just looking into the facts you and I both know as a matter of course and finding different aspects to them that people need to think about.

I made huge factual errors in my first book that make me cringe now. But that book made Review of Reviews, and nobody mentioned one of them. Even my enemies realized that the examples I gave wrong were not basic. They were infinitely more interested in the fact that I was stealing the word “Populist” from the left.

But I cannot get all the research done by myself that people get paid to dedicate their lives to on the other side.

In his Foreword, Joe Sobran said that my last book was not really a book, even though he praised it handsomely. That is true, in the same sense that if I wrote a complete piece of legislation by myself, it probably would not be legislation. Lawyers have to do the doctoring, and most of my congressmen were lawyers themselves.

I got the discussion down and the lawyers did what needed to be done.

In exactly the same way, I have nothing but respect for those who study issues and then write our tomes. But a person who is only a member of the committee legal staff cannot make the POLITICAL decisions and do the POLICY exactness that was my job.

But the legal staff would be useless without us policy people. Policy is the point of the whole exercise.

This seems obvious, but it is hard for me to explain that the case of our tomes is similar. The problem with tomes on our side is that few people BUY them, much less READ them. One reason I gave up on conventions was because when I made this obvious point, I got that cow like look I so often make when I point something obvious out, something everybody already knows, as a prelude to saying what to do about it.

We cannot depend on the tomes to get a bigger audience for themselves. They have been coming out for a century and practically nobody HAPPENS to read a hundred thousand word book contradicting what he believes and is converted by it.

But every time we shake their tree with the Mantra, we set the groundwork for those who can see to look for more. People only start looking at “racist” literature when they are shaken by something they read, and damned few are going to just happen to read a hundred thousand words at the outset.

I understand the place of the Tome People. But they cannot understand OURS.