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With friends like these...
October 10, 2001 4:56 PM   Subscribe

With friends like these... "The Left in 2001 needs a media upgrade in the worst way. It needs to figure out a way to communicate its message that doesn't cause a vast majority of Americans to roll their eyes. Change in this country comes about through numbers, and continually alienating the bulk of the nation with old, tired tactics isn't going to change anything. "
posted by theMargin (41 comments total)

 
As a self-proclaimed bleeding-heart, I have to say I agreed with almost everything the author states in the article. Protest is vital, but it should be effective protest. Otherwise, what's the point?
posted by theMargin at 4:59 PM on October 10, 2001


amen.
posted by rebeccablood at 5:03 PM on October 10, 2001


Great article. I would have added that the tendency towards "coalition building" ought to be de-emphasized. When everyone who has anything to protest is balled together into one mass, all their motives become as one: HEY HO, HEY HO ... 98h9G7GYg(*^75TUNUIH^%A^FA. Just a bunch of white noise.
posted by sylloge at 5:13 PM on October 10, 2001


as the freepers would say, BUMP!
posted by irix at 5:20 PM on October 10, 2001


I think we need a few more articles about the failings of liberals on the front page. I mean, I can only read two of them before I have to scroll down! How can we get the message out with only two? Remember, Only You Can Prevent Liberal Protestors. Post away!
posted by kevspace at 5:22 PM on October 10, 2001


Yup, he got it right.
posted by jragon at 5:27 PM on October 10, 2001


My mantra for a year now: the Right is filled with RAGE. The Left is filled wity GUILT and Self laceration.
The Chomskyites tell us we have such bad polcieis (they of course leave out the good ones) that that is what caused the teeor attacks. Meanwhile Bin Laden says he wants the West totally out of Arab countries. Period.
And the Muslims world-wide (Pakistan, Indonesia, Phillipines etc) who make up more Muslims that the total within Arab nations are anti West too even though they are glovalized and not in the Ararb areas. Doesn't that suggest that we did not bring it on ourselves?
Ps: where is Ralph Nader, the Jolly Green Giant when his nation needs him? Anyone heard from him?
posted by Postroad at 5:38 PM on October 10, 2001


Good article- a rarity in the Stranger these days, but good nonetheless. It's a point I've been stressing for some time, that left-leaning folk seem to completely lack the ability to get their message out in an effective way, or to even understand the concept of "gradual change"- as if their ideas are so noble they should be wholly adopted overnight. Do as Rush and O'Reilly do: cloak your message in populism and blue-collar rhetoric, with dashes of spitfire and RAGE, and you'll get more people to agree. Swallow yer freakin' pride and principles and get something done for a change.

For example, I've read a lot of what Chomsky writes and always think, "Gee whiz, I agree with you, Noam, but if I weren't already pre-disposed and reasonably well-educated about the facts you offer as evidence, I'd think you were just a pompous jackass, and disregard everything you had to say as elitist and loonie." Similarly, when I walk out of my apartment and see those morons with their Socialist Worker's Party newspapers standing at the corner of Broadway and John, I can't help but think "You IDIOTS! Who's freakin' mind are you gonna change walking around calling yourself a Socialist!?". The worst part is that the country has in many ways gone heavily left in the past few decades, but it's almost been in spite of, not because of, these leftist activist types.

Also- props to Postroad, making the point many have made in the past couple of weeks: where is that erstwhile Presidential candidate, Ralph Nader? He said he wanted to be president, wanted to offer a choice other than "Gush and Bore", yet he's nowhere to be seen.
posted by hincandenza at 5:47 PM on October 10, 2001



Labels weaken the labelled, and strengthen the labeller.
posted by rushmc at 5:47 PM on October 10, 2001


Mr. Nader will be in SF tomorrow, at a public power rally. He also makes pretty regular posts to the Guardian. (The SF Bay Guardian, not that other paper.)
posted by badstone at 5:57 PM on October 10, 2001


The vast majority of America is ignoring this tired rhetoric and tactics. The college crowd and their adult puppeteers can blather on into the wind. Ninety plus per cent of America gives them no creedence.
posted by scottfree at 6:09 PM on October 10, 2001


wait a minute, has anyone every seen Ralph Nader and Noam Chomsky together?

hmm, maybe they're in complementary distribution.
posted by cheesebot at 6:10 PM on October 10, 2001


I'm going to have to agree with hincandenza. When people think radical left they think communism (and we know how well that went). There seems to be no moderate liberals for people to grasp onto. I'm not talking about politicians (whom seem to be moderate in everything), I'm talking about spokespersons.

As a right leaning person I don't want to be yelled at and called a pig for my beliefs. I need to be coaxed and told "it is not that you are wrong, but we're more right".
posted by geoff. at 6:13 PM on October 10, 2001


Also- props to Postroad, making the point many have made in the past couple of weeks: where is that erstwhile Presidential candidate, Ralph Nader? He said he wanted to be president, wanted to offer a choice other than "Gush and Bore", yet he's nowhere to be seen.

Perhaps because the media has been more interested in putting gushy religious flag waving in front of the camera than following up on Nader's current campaign of Democracy Rising. Nader coverage (along with Nader bashing) has gone out of journalism fashion after 9/11 like bell bottoms. It's sooooo last month. The current fashion seems to be those wacky peace advocates. Ohh my!

Of course, the reason why the media chooses to focus on costumes and dancing protesters is primarily because it makes for a nice visual image to wrap up a bit of concerns and stereotype an entire political movement. Those of us who have been in the gay rights movement for a while can remember how the cameras love focusing on the one drag queen in the middle of a horde of men and women in jeans and t-shirts. (The same phenomena happened with the CNN coverage of cheering children in Palestine. The parts that got clipped included a full view of the street in ordinary detail, and the encouragement of camera crew to get the cheering started.)

Of course this is not just a liberal thing. Christians are just as embarassed to be represented by Fred Phelps and Operation Rescue as gays are of NAMBLA.

But the big problem is that a huge volume of what happens on the left doesn't make the news because let's face it, actual charity work and politics is booring as mud. No one particularly is interested in the Green Party member who attended his 100th city council meeting last week, the cooperative worker-owned grocery that just celebrated it's 25th anniversary, 5 new beds at a local shelter or the 1,000th book shipped to an inmate. Houses get built by volunteer labor might get a blurb on page 3, and the thousands of itty bitty little individual contributions never make the newspaper.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 6:18 PM on October 10, 2001


It REALLY looks pretty silly to us old farts that remember and/or participated in Viet Nam antiwar protests. It's like they're trying to relive MY youth!

It's not that I don't support the right of the participants (especially the "bare-breasted female" ones) to engage in peaceful protests. But you guys need to stop living in the '60's.

Ralph Nader?? I never forgave him for that hatchet job he did on the Corvair.
posted by groundhog at 6:28 PM on October 10, 2001


Has Cristopher Reeves had success with his media savvy approach to advocating stem cell research?
posted by greyscale at 6:37 PM on October 10, 2001


Greyscale, quite a lot, actually.

The big problem, and the one that doesn't seem to have been solved, is that if you don't like the current policies it isn't enough just to say so. You have to come up with a plausible alternative which will also guarantee to stop the terrorist attacks. No anti-war writer I've seen yet has actually done that. They just say they don't want war. I don't, either, I just don't see any other alternative. Until someone shows me an alternative, I'm not going to listen.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 6:41 PM on October 10, 2001


Of course this is not just a liberal thing. Christians are just as embarassed to be represented by Fred Phelps and Operation Rescue as gays are of NAMBLA.

Some things just deserve to be repeated. (Thx KJS)
posted by RavinDave at 6:41 PM on October 10, 2001


thank christ. at least someone is saying these things.

personally, i might have been saved for the 'organized left' if this sentiment had started coming out 3-5 years ago. now ... as much as i agree with the author, and applaud him for trying to raise the question, i don't think that it will make a damn bit of difference. call me disenchanted, but all i see when i look at my peers (20 something) in the left is a bunch of self-important, self-involved, myopic and elitist lifestyle radicals, getting off on an anti-establishment kick. their 'movements' and 'media' are insular and self-congratulatory, preaching to the converted and belittling everyone else. of course, they had to learn it somewhere, and you need look no farther than the remmnants of the old new left, conveniently enshrined so deep within academia that some of them probably still do believe that they are in the sixties. this is what happens when you recruit leftists from campuses instead of coalmines ... its just another fashion, another clique. instead of spring break spent partying on a beach in mexico, they all congregate wherever the WTO happens to be and throw a party in the streets.

The left isn't getting their message out because it doesn't seem to be much of a priority to them. they would rather surround themselves with like minded individuals and bask in the glow of their superior insight and knowledge than face a crowd that might be *gasp* critical or in need of more convincing than slogans and chomsky quotes can provide. and god forbid they ever have to whore themselves out to semantic thought control and alter their tone to appeal to a broader audience. the vast majority don't have a socioeconomic stake in the actual implementation of the justice that they preach, so they can afford to stick to their 'principles' ...
posted by hipstertrash at 7:05 PM on October 10, 2001


That article is extremely hypocritical. Doesn't the author realize that it's a little questionable to criticize the activist left for opposing war and imperialism while not "offer[ing] some sort of alternative" if he offers no legitimate alternative himself?

Isn't it a little to recognize that all the media has shown of globalization protests are the wacky and violent demonstrators, then claim that a "media upgrade" is all we need to successfully make our point? How is this supposed to get accomplished again? No one chooses how they're portrayed by the media. As other posters have said, there is bias against any minority opinion.

He attacks "extreme" leftists for being divisive and counter-productive.... preaching to the converted, etc. Gee, writing an article (presumably) directed to middle-class liberals is so much more productive, isn't it? Maybe the author should actually take part in a demonstration and tried to make his points there. That could also help him see that there are people effected by protests.

"No war" isn't necessarily any less viable than "war". Will this war against "evildoers" end terrorism? Americans don't seem to think so, based on Gallup polls. The vast majority of the people in other countries don't think so. Even the American media hasn't stood behind that claim. On monday, after bombing began, there were a number of barricades and warnings in public areas where I live... so the government doesn't seem to think so, either. Sure, it seems necessary to retaliate, but will it accomplish anything (of course, as far as I know, this "war" doesn't even have any clear enemy, or long-term objective)? Are we trying to acheive justice, or vengeance?
posted by kidsplate at 7:31 PM on October 10, 2001


Let me add that I certainly agree that most of the bratty, elitist left-leaning people aren't very good at even basic relations with non-political people. That does need to change... but the article was still dumb :).
posted by kidsplate at 7:34 PM on October 10, 2001


Kidsplate, the reductionist question of whether there will ever be another terrorist attack after this war is completed for the rest of the duration of the universe is very clear cut: of course there will be.

This war is not about preventing every terrorist attack for the rest of time, it's about preventing this particular bunch of terrorists from ever launching an attack by finding and annihilating them all. That is sufficient, and that is achievable. It's not being done to punish them but because they have now clearly shown themselves to be quite dangerous, and so it is necessary to remove this particular danger.

If the public answered polls the way you said, it was because the question was asked wrongly -- probably deliberately so, by someone who had an agenda.

In the mean time, he does offer an alternative: that the liberal left sit down, come up with an plausible alternative, and then figure out how to sell it to the American public. He doesn't claim he knows what that alternative should be.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 7:46 PM on October 10, 2001


I want to thank you all and the author for putting my mind at ease a bit.

After four years in NYC, I was starting to worry that I became incredibly conservative in my two years in the great state of Texas before that. Maybe it's just the extreme liberal people I have to compare myself to. God, I hope so.

I'm a Texas liberal and a New York conservative. Whatever that's worth.
posted by globetrotter at 8:07 PM on October 10, 2001


Bloody hell. Political persuasion as a branding exercise. Choose the political views that suit your lifestyle. Pick beliefs that complement your fashion sense. Yick.

The worst thing is, the author equates the crowd of protestors with "the Left". By nature, the crowd will be extreme: that's why they're in the crowd in the first place. There's a much broader left that's not the same as these guys.

Those right wing activists need to stop smoking cigars so much...
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 8:22 PM on October 10, 2001


That's the first I've heard about this being a war on one set of terrorists. As far as I know, it's supposed to be a "prolonged war on terrorism" (paraphrased). That's one of the main problems I have with it. Maybe if there was a stated goal (such as eradicating al-Qaeda), I would feel a little better about it. Based on official statements, this could go on for as long as Bush wants it to, and during that time any action against a huge number of potential targets could be taken.

If this is in fact retaliation against those directly responsible for the attacks, then all the open-ended "extermination of evildoers" rhetoric is unneccessary and misleading. If the true nature of the military action is closer to what the press releases imply, then I think that some set goals, and defined limits of what they're authorized to do, are in order.

Here is the Gallup poll page with their findings, which are very ambiguous (both in the questions asked, and actual numbers in several cases). I remember hearing, or seeing in a print newspaper, that something like 90% of the population thinks that further terrorist attacks in the near future are very likely, while a comparable percentage agree with US military retaliation. My point is that most of the people in favor of war don't seem to think it will accomplish much of anything. That's not so much a logical argument against war as a prediction that it's very possible public opinion could shift more and more towards peace.

As for biased pollsters, Gallup is the most reliable polling organization that I know of. If anything, their policy of polling by phone in the early evening favors middle-class people over 30 (as they're more likely to be home in the early evening).
posted by kidsplate at 8:44 PM on October 10, 2001


uh, I hate to crash the nice little pity party you got here, but have any of y'all actually has considered the idea that maybe the public has heard you, but came to the conclusion that your really well-intentioned ideas don't square up with reality?

I mean, have any of you considered that the "man in the street" simply realizes that your nice ideas just don't work in the real world?

You should really consider giving the proletariat credit for being sophisticated enuff to see past your silly costumes and corny puppets.
posted by nobody_knose at 9:30 PM on October 10, 2001


knose, while reading this in the article: "And the best way to convince Mr. Blow is not to scare the shit out of him and/or force him to write you off as a commie pinko loon, but rather to detail your opinion in a clear, concise manner, to explain what you believe the U.S. is doing wrong, and, perhaps most importantly, to offer alternatives and propose solutions."

I kept thinking, I wonder if Bradley is up front with his condescending attitude and if, when presenting his case, does he actually refer to his complacent brain-dead listeners as "Mr. Blow" to their face? This guy is all the bad things he's reacting to. No doubt, since we all believe what the media feeds us, his "media savvy" approach is going to win friends and influence in the years to come.
posted by greyscale at 10:00 PM on October 10, 2001


"The Left" has needed decent PR for some time now, as they seem to constantly shoot themselves in the collective feet while the Right runs roughshod over them. Most notably they need to stop coming off as reactionary. Its always in reaction to a move of the right instead of the other way around. "Left-liberalism" needs to be repackaged to appeal to the center (much as I hate to admit it, the reality distortion fields of "compassionate conservatism" and the "contract with america" had some success). Most of America sees liberals/left as wanting to "take all of our money and spend it on crap", and while its true on both sides - you have to convince them that your "poop don't stink" as much as the other guy.

Of course, liberals will read this as "selling out" and lose. Again.
posted by owillis at 10:18 PM on October 10, 2001


'On the one hand, U.S. foreign policy had something to do with the terrorist attacks. ' That is the point that I stopped reading the article.

The liberals don't need better PR they need to change their message. It is a simple or as complicated as that. I've listened, and listened closely. The more I heard the more I realise that they are entirely devoid of reality. You don't defeat such people by pampering to them; has history taught us nothing?
posted by RobertLoch at 11:08 PM on October 10, 2001


Mr. Nader will be in SF tomorrow, at a public power rally.

Which is exactly where he least ought to be if he actually wants to spread his ideas as far as possible. That's the whole point of this thread.

No one particularly is interested in the Green Party member who attended his 100th city council meeting last week, the cooperative worker-owned grocery that just celebrated it's 25th anniversary, 5 new beds at a local shelter or the 1,000th book shipped to an inmate.

I'm not sure why any of these things are somehow liberal concepts. Okay, I doubt many conservatives would be giving out freebies to inmates, but the basic concept of being at all politically active is not left or right. Merely showing up for city council meetings or managing to not run your business into the ground are not newsworthy activities.
posted by aaron at 11:10 PM on October 10, 2001



Amen, and may I join in the castigation of the left. Sorry I feel the need to be oh so harsh on them, but they truly deserve it, those intellectual elitist bastards. Bear with me as I try to control my contempt.

Really. How do they expect to spread their "message" when they're just soft-hearted, impractical idiots?

After all, they were the ones who sold arms and trained the mujahideen, and look at the horrible fruits of that little adventure.

After all, they were the ones who insisted on squandering our nations resources on such enormously useful counterterrorist measures as "Star Wars" (in all its various reincarnations) and other corporate welfare schemes, thereby allowing 19 morons heavily armed with boxcutters to cripple our nation.

After all, they were the ones who insisted on deregulating the airline industry, ruthlessly demanding that the FAA become "business friendly" (code word for "do whatever you want to make money...safety is too expensive"). Result: minimum wage security personnel with about as much military/security experience as GW "Barksdale" Bush got during the Vietnam War.

And can you believe it: those pinkos traded arms for hostages in benevolent states like Iran, kept us dependent on foreign oil by pooh-poohing stricter mileage requirements on our big ol' cool sport utilities, attempted to overthrow an Iraqi dictator by squeezing Iraqi children, armed and propped up repressive Middle Eastern monarchies with bushel baskets of oil cash, and generally said any damned thing goes...no crime is too great...just as long as business remains good and our gross national product becomes grosser.

And look here. I'm not even mentioning the left's historical cozy dance with terrorism. Like at Dresden. Like at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Like at No Gun Ri. Like at My Lai. Like hand in hand with terrorist liberals like Lt. William Calley (at last sight, owner of a jewelry shop and a Mercedes somewhere in commie-loving Georgia), Timothy MacVeigh, Eric Rudolph, and, um, Ann Coulter.

Yeah, those limp-wristed lefties have really made the world a safer place. Thanks, liberals. When will you ever learn.

Oh. And how sweet it is that we're now waging war against a party that hates equal rights for women, barfs at equal rights for gays, demands the presence of one particular religion in the schools, thinks separation of church and state is blasphemy, drools over the death penalty, swears "God" is on their side, quotes scripture ad nauseum, and packs around enough concealed firearms to make Charlton Heston dance a little jig of jingoistic joy.

Unfortunately, it all fits so neatly. Those are our enemy's ideologies. And those are the ideologies of the bleeding heart left.

Right?

>wink<
posted by fold_and_mutilate at 11:25 PM on October 10, 2001


Hey fold_and_mutilate, you should buy a new record, your old one broke.
posted by darukaru at 11:51 PM on October 10, 2001


My God. It's rare one sees a post that is so utterly ignorant of the thread that preceded it, but you sure managed to pull it off this time, mutilate.
posted by aaron at 12:30 AM on October 11, 2001


My God. It's rare one sees a post that is so utterly ignorant of the thread that preceded it

Funny, I was just thinking the same thing, aaron. What are the odds?
posted by hincandenza at 1:19 AM on October 11, 2001



I'm with aaron.


D'oh!
posted by sylloge at 1:25 AM on October 11, 2001


And, oh yeah.

Joe's speen: Political persuasion as a branding exercise. Choose the political views that suit your lifestyle. Pick beliefs that complement your fashion sense. Yick.

You completely missed the point. If anything, it is the opposite: change your lifestyle/fashion sense for the sake of your political beliefs.
posted by sylloge at 1:31 AM on October 11, 2001


[I doubt many conservatives would be giving out freebies to inmates]

You're kidding right? There are many organizations that ship bibles to any inmate free of charge, and many more that distribute their tracts.
posted by revbrian at 3:28 AM on October 11, 2001


the image of the 'left' is manufactured by the 'right'.
PR is not truth, it is spin.
try to think about the situation as a scientist might - what is best for the survival of the human race?
facing up to the reality of the situation might help, not spinning around the proverbial bush.

thanks rushmc:

Labels weaken the labelled, and strengthen the labeller.
posted by asok at 4:14 AM on October 11, 2001


This war is not about preventing every terrorist attack for the rest of time, it's about preventing this particular bunch of terrorists from ever launching an attack by finding and annihilating them all. That is sufficient, and that is achievable. It's not being done to punish them but because they have now clearly shown themselves to be quite dangerous, and so it is necessary to remove this particular danger.

However, it seems quite likely that this war is having the exact opposite effect given that our bombing campaign has encouraged Islamic Fundamentalists in Pakastan and Indonesia. It is not all that certain that killing them all is achievable given reports that we can't find targets, and the targets we did hit were abandoned before the September 11th attack.

So there is certainly quite a bit of room for caution. We are in a "war" with no targets, no visible enemy, no objectives and no exit strategy. Our allies are fragile states (including one nuclear power) that could topple under the stress of an extended military engagement (remember Russia and WWI?)

Of course the left has been offering solutions. The problem is those solutions don't satisfy the nice and easy "punch 'em back" instant gratification of this war. Perhaps what is most interesting is that most of these solutions were proposed as alternatives to Bush's early "fuck off and die" foreign policy (or absence of foreign policy):
* Strengthen our alliances with countries in the region.
* Try to broker a peace settlement in Israel/Palestine.
* Back off on "globalization" policies that hamstring local economic decisions.
* Prioritize anti-terrorist police actions with multinational cooperation over "Star Wars."

So of course, I'm still not convinced that this war is in either the best interests of the U.S. in terms of stopping terrorism.

I'm not sure why any of these things are somehow liberal concepts. Okay, I doubt many conservatives would be giving out freebies to inmates, but the basic concept of being at all politically active is not left or right. Merely showing up for city council meetings or managing to not run your business into the ground are not newsworthy activities.

Certainly. But these are the kind of actions that "liberals" do as most of their action. Why is it that showing up on the street with a sign is newsworthy while the every day actions advocated by the commentator in the link are not newsworthy.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 9:27 AM on October 11, 2001


The left's doing just fine, thank you. The article's talking about "The Left", which is an amusing construction, generally born from the memories of 60s radicals who sold out.
posted by holgate at 12:08 PM on October 11, 2001


Read this:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,3604,566638,00.html
posted by semmi at 12:06 PM on October 12, 2001


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