Friday, March 1, 2013

Sacred Cows & Pull The Pork: Whose Ox Is Being Gored?

Corporate communications specialists come up with messaging and test it using focus groups. Using fearmongering as their primary strategy, and huge sums of money as blunt instruments to deliver the fear, they favor slogans like "hollow the force" and "playing games with America's national security."
There is an important discussion occurring among peace workers around messaging during the federal budget follies known as sequestration. Much of it is in response to attempts to widen the tent under which radical peacemakers gather, inviting in disparate elements such as labor unions. Many of these unions have been carrying water for the Democratic Party and are apparently unable to criticize an elected Democrat even when he or she acts like a Republican. (Full disclosure: I count the union I pay dues to, the National Education Association, among them.)

Jobs Not Wars is one such attempt. Hoping to appeal to the dwindling middle class and its aspirants, the campaign is hamstrung by the inconvenient truth that jobs equal weapons manufacturing in every congressional district in the land. "Pull the Pork" is a slogan that has been in use these past weeks; "pork" of course refers to congressional spending in one's district as a way of delivering what the voters supposedly sent you to Washington for.

But Jobs Nots Wars is a slogan likely to resonate negatively with the largely youthful uprising of Occupy Wall St. and everywhere. Typically those activists do not want a job under capitalism, they want to replace capitalism because
Most Occupiers believe that "another world is possible." They are typically not interested in compromise with the rotten old system. Cutting the Pentagon budget by 10% over ten years would be, to most in OWS, an insipid ask.

Appealing to concerns over the unraveling of the middle class dream is another big tent strategy. Examining this it struck me that the middle class dream was a belief for old people. Following the trends of a younger demographic seems more likely to build a movement. Still, old dreams die hard...and the peace movement is, demographically, quite old at this point.

The women-led peace and justice group CODEPINK is willing to expend some energy to hold elected officials accountable because 1) we still can (the use 'em or lose 'em approach to our rights under the Constitution) and 2) most people are scared to. Speaking for myself, I don't expect it to change much of anything. But such activity can be a good platform for communicating to the general public especially via the mainstream media which will cover something if it happens in a Senate hearing, but not if it happens outside on the pavement. CP is all about finding multiple ways to communicate, to break through wall of silence enforced by secretive government and complicit corporate media.

Because a detailed account of how corporations like General Dynamics maintain a stranglehold on government by means of what Nicholas J.S. Davies calls  “'legalized bribery' within a superficially democratic system" is simply too unpalatable for most U.S. citizens to bear.

That's why humor is a CODEPINK tactic. It reaches people who are not going to take the time or risk bumming their high by reading Medea Benjamin's well-researched book on drones

To whip up support for demanding the White House release their secret legal memos used to justify drone strikes by the CIA, CODEPINK teamed up with the very popular comedian Jon Stewart of The Daily Show to send out a serious message surrounded by silliness:
I like the president, but if he's going to claim the right to kill me with a flying robot, don't I at least deserve to know why?
Clicking on one link leads to serious information about the secret memos. Clicking on another generates a letter calling on Patrick Leahy "the big, bald-headed Democrat who heads the Senate Judiciary Committee – to get his hands on those drone memos. If he does, he'll be doing a public service."

I'm sure many in the peace movement will be offended by the silliness, the phrase "I like the president," or even the pink. I've been told my big pink wig "trivializes our message." I disagree, because it very often becomes the medium for getting out the message on network t.v. or the front page of the newspaper. That's my public service.

Besides, young friends sheepishly tell me The Daily Show and/or The Colbert Report is where they get most of their news. Sugar coating makes bitter pills easier to swallow, and tailoring the message to the audience is just good communication.

You would think that citizens would recognize their ox being gored and care about the threats to their freedom of 57% spending on military while banks are bailed out and the liberal class claims that cuts to Social Security and Medicare are necessary. And citizens might know some of this, and they might care.

But they also might be quite busy working at their three McJobs.

1 comment:

Pat Taub said...

A brilliant post which cuts to the chase, exposing hypocritical political messages like "jobs not wars," which are all about jobs for the war machine, as you point out. This post deserves a wide audience.