Michael Finley’s weblog worldgonewrong amplifies on something I wrote recently about the need for a “left wing” Message Amplification Infrastructure to counteract the “Wurlitzer” of the right. (I wrote something here as well.) Also, the watch weblog addresses a related issue a the piece titled Framing the Message. Please read these two pieces. Ruminate This and Wealth Bondage have also written repeatedly on this subject. (Bloggers — Please let me know if I missed you and I’ll add you to this list.) (Update – Digby at Hullabaloo was writing this while I was woprking on the piece you are reading.)
I am glad to see more weblogs writing about this issue of forming an organization that works to move people toward a more progressive perspective. It is so important to spread the word, and get people talking about the need for this. If you look at why the right has become so powerful and successful you see that they have a well-coordinated and well-funded web of organizations that pump out carefully crafted, coordinated right-wing propaganda to the masses, following long-term strategies, slowly moving public attitudes to the right, thereby generating UNDERLYING SUPPORT for their overall ideology. This is not about just PR and advertising for particular current issues, this is about the long-term ever-ongoing push of their overall ideological framework — slowly pushing the public ever onward to the right with a steady drip, drip, drip of messaging. The messages are pounded out day after day, through books, magazine articles, talking points read by talk show hosts, TV pundits, newspaper commentaries, and many other outlets. The resulting shift of general underlying public attitudes then translates into ready-to-go support for their issues, their organizations, and finally, into votes for their politicians. THIS is how they have done it, and this is how we can do it, too.
The solution – the way to win our country back – is to develop an infrastructure of our own that works to change underlying public attitudes in a general way, thereby supplying support that strengthens and reinforces progressive and moderate organizations, issues, and leaders in general.
Here’s a brief description of the goal of the Commonweal Institute, that I sent to someone just this morning:
Commonweal is a think tank/communications organization that will work to bring positive progressive/moderate messages to the broad general public, working to change underlying attitudes. Think of Commonweal as a Heritage Foundation of the left.
Commonweal will generate ongoing, long-term, thing-tank-based, strategic messaging specially developed for specific target audiences using metaphorical analysis, linguistic translation, aimed at changing underlying attitudes of the general public.
Commonweal is an organization working to help the public understand and support progressive and moderate positions in general, bringing them back from the right, and thereby bringing support for our (moderates and progressives) organizations, issues and leaders. This is the component that is missing from “our side’s” approach to reaching our goals. This is “infrastructure” because this general issue work, directed at moving the general public away from the right in general, will underlie and support the work of all kinds of other organizations and leaders. And these organizations and leaders will be able to use the work of Commonweal, getting talking points and other messaging that has been developed by messaging and communication experts. To put it in a simpler way – if that rumored liberal talk-radio network gets started, Commonweal will give them things to say that is put together in ways that resonate with the general public.
Take a look at the credentials of the communications specialists on Commonweal’s advisory board. Specifically, people like George Lakoff, Laurie Dorfman, Efrain Fuentes, Celinda Lake, Harvey Gotliffe, Geoffrey Nunberg, Paul Ray, Brooke Warrick, David Zucker, and Joan Blades. This will help you understand the nature of what they mean by “communications organization.” (The Framing the Message piece over at the watch discusses the works of George Lakoff.)
Here’s the endorsement Commonweal Institute recently received from House Democratic Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi:
“In these challenging times, we need an advocacy think tank like Commonweal Institute to communicate our principles and programs in ways that will resonate with the broad public and empower citizens to take a more active role in our democracy. Commonweal takes a strategic approach to advancing issues in a way that will help decision-makers be proactive in confronting the challenges of the future.”
From Jim Hightower:
“It’s always good to put your brain in gear before you put your mouth in motion. The folks at the Commonweal Institute do the heavy mental lifting so agitators like me can arm ourselves on the front lines of the ideological battles taking place every day in America. For too long progressives have walked fearful of their shadows, whimpering and whining about what’s wrong and fighting amongst themselves over crumbs. With the help of the Commonweal Institute, that time is over.”
Congressman Mike Honda:
“Moderate and progressive members of Congress need a substantial resource that can develop public support for our whole range of issues in a timely fashion, and defend our gains from right wing attacks. The Commonweal Institute is positioned to be that organization. I hope to see them grow quickly.”
Former U.S. Secretary of Labor Robert B. Reich
“America needs a true marketplace of ideas, not a one-sided monologue by the right. At a time when airwaves and emails are filled with conservative voices, the Commonweal Institute is more important than ever.”
Imagine a public environment where people trying to bring environmental or peace issues to the public’s attention, or running for office, don’t have to start from scratch explaining why it is good to support strengthening community, protecting the environment, helping the poor, etc.! Imagine if each of us didn’t have to constantly be on the defensive, fighting the widespread ideological nonsense spouted by Rush Limbaugh, before we even get a chance to start talking about what we believe in. Wouldn’t it be nice to have an organization doing that for you? Working in the background to improve the public’s attitudes about progressive/moderate ideals? Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to be PROUD to say you’re a “liberal” or a “moderate” or a “lefty?” It isn’t up to the Democrats or the Greens or moderate Republicans to change people’s underlying attitudes – politicians RESPOND to the public, and it is a mistake to blame them for what is going on or rely on them to fix it.
Here is what I am trying to say today. This “infrastructure” concept is the solution that I have come to believe is the answer to the problems we face, and I think that anyone engaging in a comprehensive analysis of what is going on will also come to this conclusion. But this is a somewhat complicated issue, and it seems to take some time to understand. As more of us discuss what is going on and how the right has moved the public over time, and talk about the need for this approach, more people understand what we’re saying and come to agree. And different and better ways to explain the concept will surface.
Bloggers – please write about this. People – please talk to people about this. Funders – please fund this. It may be the most worthy cause.