I love a great villain. Or more correctly, I love to hate a great villain.
I find myself fascinated with the psyche, as well as the methods, of men and women hell-bent on causing chaos in the lives of others.
This infatuation is the root of my love for Benjamin Linus, the manipulative villain of ABC’s smash-hit series “Lost”. Ben’s penchant for pushing the precise buttons of each character at the consummate time was like watching a master puppeteer in his performance de resistance.
This same obsession is why Pillars of the Earth, an 816 page novel by Ken Follet primarily about church architecture in 12th century England (seriously), is perhaps my all-time favorite read. POTE features a villain, Sir William Hamleigh, so diabolical that my copy of the book still has imprints on the edges of the pages where I clenched my fists with rage. Hameleigh was so dastardly that he even managed to ruffle the usually unflappable Oprah Winfrey and even has a Facebook page dedicated solely to hating him.
And this same thirst to dissect the villain led me to attend a debate Sunday night at Bar Ilan University featuring the head of Yisrael Sheli, Ayelet Shaked against Peace Now head Yariv Oppenheimer. I had seen Oppenheimer before and have always marveled at the skill and smarts he uses in these forums to spin his lies, half-truths, and snide remarks into almost believable fact. To me he was a perfect villain and I wanted to study him.
But as Oppenheimer began to spew his slanted and fictitious narrative something happened. The room erupted. Right wingers began shouting at Oppenheimer. Left Wingers began shouting back. The more the debate went on the more enraged the right wingers became, exploding with vitriolic slogans and insults. Unintelligible screaming as well as what I wish had been unintelligible screams filled the air.
Initially I was upset that I had come to hear a debate that had disintegrated so thoroughly. But then I caught a glimpse of Oppenheimer. As the room descended into chaos, there was Yariv Oppenheimer sitting quietly in his chair with a smug grin of superiority and accomplishment.
I sat there in awe, thinking to myself “wow this is one great bad guy”.
I also had this nagging feeling that I had just witnessed something similar occur.
When I got home it hit me. The night before I had watched Virginia Commonwealth University play an incredibly competitive game against Indiana University in the NCAA men’s college basketball tournament. VCU was not the most talented team in the tournament but they succeeded all season thanks to what they called “HAVOC defense”.
The HAVOC approach is all about pressuring your opponent the second they inbound the ball, rushing them and forcing them to commit crucial errors.
Popular writer Malcolm Gladwell recently explained in the New Yorker how the less-skilled and undersized David defeated Goliath the giant with a strategy similar to the HAVOC system. “David pressed. That’s what Davids do when they want to beat Goliaths,” Gladwell elucidated. What he meant by this was the most effective way to defeat your enemy is not tear him down but to force him to tear himself down. Create so much chaos that he loses sight of his goal and makes a mistake. Pressure him until he falters and you win from within.
This is what Yariv Oppenheimer did to us in that room on campus. By refusing to lose his cool while simultaneously provoking a more and more flammable response he pressured all of us who are in the right (pun intended) to slip up with an ease that would have made Ben Linus jealous.
The truth was on our side. Peace Now is a self-hating organization that spies on its own people in order to cleanse their liberal guilt. Unfortunately that message was not communicated in that Bar Ilan lecture hall because Yariv Oppenheimer put on the full-court press and we coughed the ball up over and over again.
I was glad that I attended the debate in the end because although I didn’t learn all that much about the issues I did learn a great deal about our enemies. I learned that Yariv Oppenheimer is a great villain. He truly is a man I have grown to love to hate. However I also learned that if we can identify more quickly when the pressure is being applied we can break the press. And any true basketball fan will tell you that when you keep your head and break the press the result is usually a breakaway slam dunk.
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