Further rant on propaganda: getting personal

Before reading this, you might want to look at my recent attempts at Green Party propaganda here:
I showed them to the Greens on my list and they had little to say.  Maybe non-Greens can give me some nice hostile reactions just to break up my day.

I’ll continue on that ever-recurring question:  “How the hell do we convince more people to register and vote Green, not to mention take an active part in Party affairs?”

There’s a common theme that I’ve caught myself at in those graphics I made.  We often use the “domestic abuse” theme when talking about Dem activists who keep going back to their abuser no matter how many promises are broken, crudely illustrated thus:

greenhitsmecat2and the bits I’ve put together on that page are often of the “We toldja so” or “You made a bad choice” variety.

The problem is that, as the other choice, we’re kinda talking from the perspective of the nice guy who was rejected long ago in favor of the abuser.  If you’ve ever been in that position, or near anyone who was, you know how hopeless it is.  Even if we long ago had lost any personal interest in the victim (which we clearly have not), anything we say is assumed to have ulterior motives.

Here’s where it gets personal.

I thought I had a nice video link on file for this, but it seems to be gone.  Anyway, you’re all familiar with the “backfire effect”, right?  The way people won’t change their minds about things they consider important no matter what facts are put in front of them?  They usually become even more firm in their beliefs after they’re challenged.

coolwarsObamasmallOk, well it seems the only way they’re likely to change their minds is to be told the new information, and interpretation, by someone they consider “one of the tribe”, whatever that might mean to the individual.

I have this on the authority of my flawless memory from that analysis that I’ve lost the link to.  That should be good enough for anybody.  Really.  It came from some battery of psychological tests someone gave to a bunch of people, but my Googling skills have failed me for now.

The point is, when we’re trying to change people’s opinions, and especially their party loyalty, how do we make it sound to the listener as if we are one of “us”, or someone with whom they want to identify, to whomever we’re trying to convert?  There are all kinds of demographic, tribal, personality-implying tags on whatever we might put forward, making a caricature in the viewer’s mind.

Caricatures that we might present of our enemies are pretty obvious:


A Republican might be a billionaire who can always buy more friends or whatever “companionship” he might wish, hire mercenaries to harass his enemies, and buy off truth-tellers.






Alternatively (representing another wing of the GOP), he might be a televangelist who doesn’t believe a word of his own preaching, and can swindle the desperate and ignorant down to their skivvies.





The Dems might be portrayed as a Ralph Cramden-like character:  always with a big idea, making inflated promises, with no results.





Alternatively, the “good cop” to the Reps’ “bad cop”, simply shilling for a milder version of Rep policies, but actually enacting those policies of the rich more effectively than the Reps could.  Another mercenary for the same interests driving the Reps.






If Greens come across as the nice guy who never gets the girl because he has no money, power, nor anything exciting about him, that’s really not a good image to project.  It’s not how people want to think of themselves and their associates, their “tribe”.





One answer might be to study how people have often used martyrs in their propaganda.  godhammersmallChristianity was built around the image of a loser; the guy who couldn’t save himself, much less anybody else, from an oppressive state, and numerous martyrs who came after him.  Turning this story into “He could have saved himself, but chose not to, for YOU.” was a masterful way to turn that around, but I don’t think that would work so well for us.  (We do have that “no big money from the rich behind us” thing to explain our failure, but it can only go so far.)  Anyway, the Tunisian revolt was set off by a guy who burned himself alive.  Hunger strikers have a long history.  You get the idea.

Ordinary people might not be ready for martyrdom, but it flatters them to be associated with some kind of “hero”.  That’s one of the great recruiting gimmicks I mentioned in an earlier post, the “great leader”, but living heroes are dangerous.  Dead ones are much better:  They don’t have a chance of controlling an organization.

So how do we project some great mythic hero for the Greens?



Our time is not short of heroes and martyrs:  Assange, Manning, Snowden, Yousafzai, Maathai, but only one of the above (the first five who came to mind) is dead and Green.  Wangari Maathai is an excellent hero, but not someone with whom many Mercans are likely to identify.  I’d much rather NOT see Cheri Honkala die for a while.  Open to ideas here.


The opposite approach is probably more practical for us.

walmartassocYou’ve probably noticed any number of commercials and other propaganda that hire actors, or selected favored members of their org, to play a battery of “ordinary folks like you”.  The “I’m a Mormon” videos come to mind immediately (using celebrities as well as “ordinary”), as do the Walmart ads portraying their “Associates”.  Greens have a better shot at assembling a diverse group for such an ad, and captioning it toward the end with “Unlike other such ads, no actors were employed here.”

That’s my best idea for the moment.


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2 Responses to Further rant on propaganda: getting personal

  1. I’ve got a lot of links related to the backfire effect on this post:
    … no video there, but a place to start.

    • kitchenmudge says:

      Some of your links there are required reading for anyone thinking about this stuff. What I can’t find anywhere is a discussion of how people have their basic math skills thrown off by preconceptions, and how they’re much more likely to consider the facts if told by someone they trust.

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