How would you maintain your composure as a guest on a right-wing media program, in the face of a screaming Rush Limbaugh or a battle-ready Bill O’Reilly? Yes! magazine asked Pramila Jayapal, founder and director of the immigration-rights group OneAmerica, how she approaches her guest spots on such programs. She does believe that these appearances can be effective, she says, “not because I think I’m going to change the host’s mind or because he or she is going to give me a fair hearing, but because I know a lot of people listen to those shows and are moved by what they hear.”
I look for something that I can agree with. The host says, “I believe in law and order.” I find a way to take that argument and connect it to my values. When I become reasonable, that deflates both my anger and the conversation. The host is not expecting me to agree with anything they say. They’re expecting an all-out fight.
I cite statistics. I am the one with the facts. The facts are not to convince anybody but to establish my identity as someone who is calm, uses logic, and isn’t just speaking wildly. The host becomes the angry, shouting, loud, mean person.
I focus on values that I believe most people hold deeply. I say, most Americans value respect or hard work, and that’s what this debate should be about. The host is not going to say he or she doesn’t believe in respect or kindness.
Then when I come home, I need to be around people who can shower me in wonderful, nice things. The hosts’ comments are not directed at me personally, but they are personal. A good glass of wine, good friends, good family, good love are important if you are going to be out there on the front lines.
Image by Gage Skidmore, licensed under Creative Commons.