Barbarian at the Gates: A Leftist American's Critique of Leftist American Messaging

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    • #326521
      Ohio Barbarian
      Moderator
      • Total Posts: 17,182

      The process is simple and repetitive. Some leftists or progressives or social activists with a good cause comes up with a slogan that can be easily twisted by the right. Allies on the left question the slogan. The inventors then accuse their own allies of being right-wingers or insensitive or stupid or what-have-you. The right wing attacks the slogan and the movement just like critics of the slogan said they would, and damage the movement.

      Let’s look at a couple of recent examples. First, “Black Lives Matter.” Years ago, I said on this forum that it was a stupid slogan because many Americans would see it as implying that only black lives matter, and that the right wing would attack it on that basis, which of course they immediately did. It was alienating to millions from the get-go. Of course, I was then attacked for being insensitive and racist myself, when all I wanted to do was to make the police reform and restructuring movement more successful, not less.

      Recently, people in the BLM movement, in the midst of the massive protests against police thuggery triggered by the public lynching of George Floyd, started explaining that BLM means Black Lives Matter, Too!  Well now, that’s different, you see. “Black lives matter, too” cannot be easily twisted into implying that only black lives matter, and generates a more sympathetic response from people who aren’t black and not subject to the same kind of police violence as black people are on a daily basis. And we need those people to make necessary change a reality and not a pipe dream.

      It’s better framing, it’s not alienating at all, and in combination with literally hundreds of videos of police beating the shit out of protesters of all colors, it works. 80% of Americans now think the protests are justified, and a majority think burning down the Minneapolis police precinct was justified. All the right can do is bleat about looting and vandalism and trying to equate those things with murder. Now they are the ones who look silly or just like the kneejerk propagandists they are, not BLM.

      Now progressive activists have come up with yet another stupid slogan: Defund Police! Jesus H. Christ on a Harley, people, that particular dog just won’t hunt! People will hear “defund police” and immediately think that the abolition of police is being called for, with nothing to replace them. That’s not what most folks saying “defund police” want.

      “Demilitarize police” is completely accurate and there’s nothing wrong with it. Even a lot of Republicans will go along with that. “Reform police” is milquetoast, but better than “defund.” “Make police serve and protect” makes sense, especially now when the overwhelming majority of Americans know the do neither one.

      Progressives could also turn a Republican talking point on its head and say “Repeal and Replace the Police State.” People would naturally ask, “with what?” And the answers are easy–repeal the laws militarizing and requiring police to be responsible for social work, mental health work, homeless control, and other things they have no business doing in any rational society. Replace all the cops who have become this cult of mafia-like thugs who only protect themselves and intimidate their critics with death threats or actual death.

      Replace them with police officers recruited from the neighborhoods and cities who need someone to catch rapists and burglars and murderers, not just ticket speeders and harass working class people of all ethnicities. Replace them with people trained to de-escalate, not Comply or Die! Repeal and replace the laws that criminalize mental illness and poverty. For that matter, repeal and replace the laws that allow corporate pillaging, but I digress.

      A slogan like Repeal and Replace the Police State is open-ended, and can also get people to ask themselves if we really are living in a police state, and I think most Americans would at least say, “Yeah, we’re at least kind of a police state and it’s getting worse, so somebody needs to do something about that because it’s bad.” Those who defend police brutality, like Sean Hannity, Donald Trump, and Tucker Carlson, can then be hit with You’re trying to turn us into Stalin’s Russia, and you are bad people. 

      Messaging and framing are important. We need to think about that before latching onto a slogan that sounds good at first, but can be turned against us if it is too vague, misleading, or has double-meanings to begin with.

      It is better to vote for what you want and not get it than to vote for what you don't want and get it.--Eugene Debs

      Show me a man that gets rich by being a politician, and I'll show you a crook.--Harry Truman

    • #326526
      NV Wino
      Moderator
      • Total Posts: 5,877

      Usually “in the heat of battle.” There is little to no thought or analysis that goes into them, unlike advertising slogans. Admittedly, “Winston tastes good like a cigarette should” was a bit controversial, but “It’s the real thing,” “The pause that refreshes,” “Where’s the beef?” were all very effective and not controversial because tons of research, testing and thought went into them.

      “As we act, let us not become the evil that we deplore.” Barbara Lee
      “Politicians and pro athletes: The only people who still get paid when they lose.” William Rivers Pitt

      • #326545
        Ohio Barbarian
        Moderator
        • Total Posts: 17,182

        @nvwino Sometimes, I get the impression that some people get emotionally attached to these slogans, and resent any attempt to change them. I do not understand that behavior.

        It is better to vote for what you want and not get it than to vote for what you don't want and get it.--Eugene Debs

        Show me a man that gets rich by being a politician, and I'll show you a crook.--Harry Truman

        • #326560
          NV Wino
          Moderator
          • Total Posts: 5,877

          @ohiobarbarian And they are reluctant to give up ownership. Also, extensive use sometimes makes it impossible to change. Medicare for all is a good example. Wrong, wrong, wrong terminology.

          “As we act, let us not become the evil that we deplore.” Barbara Lee
          “Politicians and pro athletes: The only people who still get paid when they lose.” William Rivers Pitt

    • #326531
      game meat
      Participant
      • Total Posts: 1,295

      What tripped up BLM in a public relations sense was the irrational hostility directed towards well meaning people saying “all lives matter.” This naturally leads many to think they literally mean only black lives matter because that is what is being said in plain English. Of course, they mean black lives matter too, so why not have a slogan that coveys the message you actually want people to hear? Your messaging is poor if it requires a long winded explanation that what you say isn’t what you really mean.

      Now everyone seems determined to repeat the same error. Most of the ideas behind the surface are well thought out and perfectly reasonable; unfortunately, burying these ideas around calls for “defunding” or “disbanding” or the police is poor messaging, and that’s the nicest way of saying it. I kinda like “repeal and replace” btw, and if nothing else, it’s way better than what we have now. I’ve posted my thoughts on this elsewhere, but I’ll put it here again just for the hell of it:

      “Defunding” is too easy to take literally and force gotcha questions. When you’re forced to have to explain what it isn’t before being able to explain what it is. “I am calling for ___, but wait, no, you misunderstand, I actually mean something else entirely.” It’s an inefficient use of language.

      Call it a “restructuring of police departments”  (that’s more accurate anyway) or something similar, anything less likely to provoke a knee jerk reaction and close minds before you have a chance at opening them. This way you can immediately go on to define what that restructuring entails. Using words like “defund” complicates things for no reason and puts you on the defensive where you first have to reassure people that you are not calling for anarchy and lawlessness. It’s an unnecessary obstacle which will be easily exploited by your opponents, and distracts from the core message.

      Think about it: If you were to survey people to get a sense of their attitudes towards this, do you think you would find greater support for the substantive policy proposals or for blanket calls for defunding the police? You also have to win over the people who only read the headlines.

    • #326546
      Red Cloud
      Participant
      • Total Posts: 1,452

      is not an attempt to bankrupt them, but to redirect social service monies so long denied and willy nilly given to the police. That way social service programs will not flounder or have to beg constantly.

      So many moons ago, when I had almost no money, I took a bus to Columbia, Missouri. A young girl got on the bus and sat  next to me. Obvious runaway. I thought I may be one of the few who would do something other than: A) Turn her in to the police or B) let her suffer lifeś harsh consequences. So I took her to this place:

      <h1 class=”groupbox_large_header_text”>THE EVERYDAY PEOPLE, INC.</h1>
      Missouri Non-Profit Corporation · Updated 8/17/2016

      They received her with open arms and promised to help her. Such beacons of hope are necessary everywhere and they need funding to provide for the common good.

      • #326569
        Ohio Barbarian
        Moderator
        • Total Posts: 17,182

        @redcloud Those in favor of taking money from police budgets and spending it on other things are instantly exposed to misunderstanding, deliberate and otherwise, by the slogan “defund the police.” If that isn’t what they actually mean, then why say it in the first place? Why not say something more accurate and easily understandable?

        Like Reconstruct the Police. Or community-controlled policing. Something they can say that they actually mean. We shouldn’t have to say, “No, we don’t mean to bankrupt the police,” but that is exactly what “defund the police” implies in plain English.

        It’s stupid. I wonder if rich people and corporations who end up donating to these movements actively encourage bad messaging by saying they like it after they’ve given some money to the cause. It would be perfectly natural to want to please the big sponsor.

        It’s also dangerous and foolish. Don’t take their money if there are strings attached.

        It is better to vote for what you want and not get it than to vote for what you don't want and get it.--Eugene Debs

        Show me a man that gets rich by being a politician, and I'll show you a crook.--Harry Truman

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