Friday, November 27, 2009

Lou Pritchett is Scared

I received this one from my sister. She wrote:

You're so good at responding to these kinds of things, I thought I should send this one to you.
OK, the pressure is on.  Here is my attempt.

I. The message sent to me

----- Original Message -----
From: Neil
Sent: Monday, October 05, 2009 8:36 AM
Subject: FW: Please Read this Letter

By the way, I did check this out on Snopes and it is there.
Letter from Procter & Gamble Exec to Obama

Please read, even if you are an Obama fan.  It is legitimate,  written by respected, Lou Prichett, formerly of Proctor and Gamble.   Lou Pritchett is one of corporate America's true living legends- an acclaimed author, dynamic teacher and one of the world's  highest rated speakers. Successful corporate executives everywhere recognize him as the foremost leader in change management. Lou  changed the way America does business by creating an audacious concept that came to be known as "partnering." Pritchett rose from  soap salesman to Vice-President, Sales and Customer Development for  Procter and Gamble and over the course of 36 years, made corporate history.

Dear President Obama:

You are the thirteenth President under whom I have lived and unlike any of the others, you truly scare me.

You scare me because after months of exposure, I know nothing about you.

You scare me because I do not know how you paid for your expensive Ivy League education and your upscale lifestyle and housing with no visible signs of support.

You scare me because you did not spend the formative years of youth growing up in America and culturally you are not an American.

You scare me because you have never run a company or met a payroll.

You scare me because you have never had military experience, thus don't understand it at its core.

You scare me because you lack humility and 'class', always blaming others.

You scare me because for over half your life you have aligned yourself with radical extremists who hate America and you refuse to publicly denounce these radicals who wish to see America fail.

You scare me because you are a cheerleader for the 'blame America ' crowd and deliver this message abroad.

You scare me because you want to change America to a European style country where the government sector dominates instead of  the private sector.

You scare me because you want to replace our health care system with a government controlled one.

You scare me because you prefer 'wind mills' to responsibly capitalizing on our own vast oil, coal and shale reserves.

You scare me because you want to kill the American capitalist goose that lays the golden egg which provides the highest  standard of living in the world.

You scare me because you have begun to use 'extortion' tactics against certain banks and corporations.

You scare me because your own political party shrinks from challenging you on your wild and irresponsible spending proposals.

You scare me because you will not openly listen to or even consider opposing points of view from intelligent people.

You scare me because you falsely believe that you are both omnipotent and omniscient.

You scare me because the media gives you a free pass on everything you do.

You scare me because you demonize and want to silence the Limbaughs, Hannitys, O'Relllys and Becks who offer opposing, conservative points of view.

You scare me because you prefer controlling over governing.

Finally, you scare me because if you serve a second term I will probably not feel safe in writing a similar letter in 8  years.

Lou Pritchett


This letter was sent to the NY Times but they never acknowledged  it. Big surprise!  Since it hit the internet, however, it  has had  over 500,000 hits.  Keep it going..  All that is necessary for evil  to succeed is that good men do nothing.  It's happening right now.

II. My Response
As usual, there are two approaches to responding to a screed such as this: item by item, or the argument in its entirety. The item by item approach has been done by a couple of other bloggers. This one is pretty good:  There is no particular reason for me to do another.

A side note on the internet conception of "truth" - the forwarder of this email says "this is true - see Snopes". What Snopes confirms is that yes, in fact a man named Lou Pritchett did write the original letter. That merely documents the attribution of the letter, not the truth of its contents. It's amazing how much stuff is believed true because "I read it on the Internet."

On to the big picture. After we read this item, what do we conclude? Lou says he’s scared. He starts every statement that way. He’s trying to get us to be scared. Really scared. Really really scared. It doesn’t matter what the reason is or if there is any logic behind the statements; we are just supposed be scared. Instead of peddling soap, he’s peddling fear. (The letter has about the same intellectual depth as a soap ad.) We’re supposed to be afraid of Barrack Obama. Why does someone peddle fear? It’s an appeal to emotion, which is always done to short circuit our process of reason. Once we become afraid, we follow the call of the fear-mongers to whatever goals they are trying to achieve. A recurrent problem with democracy is that it requires mental participation by the citizens. That’s a lot harder that simply following the lead of a charismatic leader.

This has unfortunately been a persistent feature of the American right since FDR. Senator Joseph McCarthy told us that we had to be hysterically afraid of hidden communists. The Republican Party since 1968 engaged in the Southern Strategy: be afraid of blacks. It worked for them for a long time, but in 2008 it seems to have (hopefully) run its course. But for a fear-monger to succeed, it helps if his audience has some fears and anxieties that he can latch onto, magnify, and align with his own message. So we should consider Lou’s audience. What are their fears?

They have a lot to be afraid of. Many of them live in smaller towns. Let’s face it; small town America is dying, period. There only jobs there for their children are dead-end. So their kids get an education and leave for the (evil) cities; or they stay in the small town with a low-paying job. So the older generation sees their way of life dying; the younger generation sees no future. (As a footnote, there is a parallel in the 19th century – the introduction of the McCormick reaper and other technologies meant that far fewer people could produce the same amount of grain, farming jobs disappeared, grain prices fell with increasing production, and farmers fell into debt. The great demagogue of the time was William Jennings Bryan, whose proposed solution was deliberate inflation so that farmers could repay their debts in cheaper dollars. The enemy was the industrial cities.) Today the enemies now are still the people in the cities, particularly on the three Coasts - East, West, and North Coast (the cities along the Great Lakes - Chicago et al.) These places are where their children leave to, and are filled with lots of "other" people. They "other" doesn't live like "us." Attacking the other has always been a good demagogic strategy - whether Pericles against the Spartans, Hitler against the Jews, or Lou Pritchett against a black man in the White House.

So there a lot of people who are afraid, and the demagogues are playing to their fears. Now we ask a very important Latin phrase: cui bono - who benefits? (We have all those old Latin phrases because none of this is new - the Romans saw it all before.) There are two obvious gains from being a fear-monger: status or power. Status: you can draw attention to yourself as the one who sees the danger - the boy who cried wolf, or McCarthy with his secret list of Communists. Or power: if you can ramp up the fear and get people to follow you, you have the rabble behind you and can use it for political power. (Pick your own list of historical antecedents here.) The latter reason is what lies beneath all the decibels on the American right: be afraid, and follow us.

For the right-wing faction made up of the unholy alliance of small-government conservatives and religious right, fear is all they have left to sell. To rephrase FDR, all we have to fear is the fear-mongers. To Lou Pritchett: when you have some logic to peddle instead of fear, come back and we can engage in discourse appropriate to a democratic republic.

Gratuitous Cheap-Shot Post Script
I know I shouldn't, and it cheapens my argument, but I could not resist the two following observations.

The preface to the letter describes Lou Pritchett as a respected author, speaker, etc. I have not heard of him before, and a search on the Net mostly reveals references to this letter. No Wikipedia entry, which you can find for almost anybody semi-famous. There is a web page by the company that flogs him for speaking engagements ($15K to $25K a pop), and that’s about it. He wrote one book. He’s a soap salesman who negotiated with Wal-Mart, and renamed getting pushed around by Wal-Mart “partnering”. (I'm sure you can think of other words for that relationship.) He retired in 1986; now he's just a cranky old white guy that is looking for some attention.

What also comes to mind is Eddie Murphy's cowboy bar scene in "48 Hours":  "I'm your worst f---ing nightmare, man. I'm a nigger with a badge."  Like Jimmy Carter, I can't help but feel that some of the response to Obama has a (scared) racist undertone.


  1. Right-wing talking-points & fear-mongering are their intellectual limits. Nice response.