Saturday, August 21, 2010

A brief note on "Gestapo" tactics

Down in Florida's 22nd Congressional District there's a close race this year between incumbent Democrat Ron Klein and Republican challenger Allen West. Virginia's bloggers are familiar with the tactic of sending a video "tracker" to record the speeches and public remarks of the opposing candidate.

Everyone involved in politics knows that this tactic is no big deal: both sides do it and it is very rare--"macaca" notwithstanding--for a candidate to mess up on video. Even so, every now and then a candidate will decide to try and make a big deal about the tracker's presence. That can be far more dangerous than just ignoring the tracker, it is in fact how "macaca" happened. I bet not a day goes by that George Allen doesn't wish he'd've just ignored the tracker sent to track him the second week of August 2006. But I digress.

The Democratic Party in Florida decided to send a tracker to record a speech by Republican Allen West, and West decided to flip out and attack the tracker verbally. Here's what West had to say:
I know here today we have a representative from the Florida Democratic party and he is here to film me and his whole purpose of filming me is to take what I say and allow other people to distort it so they can misrepresent me. You know if we allow those Gestapo-type intimidation tactics to prevail in the United States of America what happens to our liberties, what happens to our freedoms?
It was amazingly stupid for West to do this and say the things he said. First and most obviously, video tracking is no big deal. It's old hat. It almost never has a big impact on a race--unless you are George Allen.

Second, if you are going to direct personal attacks against someone like a tracker, then you'd better know exactly who that person is. For instance, it's probably not a good idea to accuse the grandson of Holocaust survivors of using "Gestapo" tactics . . . oh yeah, did I mention the tracker in this particular case is the grandson of Holocaust survivors? Oops.

Third, if you are going to attack someone, it is probably best to not accuse them of something you yourself have done, because it comes off as psychological projection and you simply end up calling attention to your own terrible behavior. Take Allen West for instance. He accused a tracker of using "Gestapo" tactics, which comes off as projection because of what he did that got him kicked out of Iraq and forced to retire from the Army:
West has become a star of the conservative movement as a result of his service in Iraq, where he was forced into retirement after torturing an Iraqi police officer for information. The man was beaten, and then West personally told the man he was going to kill him, pinned him to the ground and then fired his gun next to the man's head.
Beating someone, threatening them with death, and firing a pistol near someone's head: you know, Gestapo tactics.

The moral of the story is: it's probably best not to attack a tracker lest your own record of war crimes becomes an issue in your campaign.

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