We’re Still Only Talking To Each Other

I won’t have my computer back until Friday, but every now and then I get both time and access to another computer…
Yesterday I was enjoying chai and conversation at Lulu Carpenter’s in Santa Cruz when a well-informed (but not regular blog-reading) friend said she had heard that the people still in New Orleans had refused to get on buses that were provided for them before the hurricane struck. My friend said that she heard this from a friend. She watches the news and reads the papers daily – much more since the hurricane struck. She said that she had not heard this from any formal news source, but this snippet of “information” stuck in her head.

You and I are blog-readers. I wonder how many of us understand that our blog-reading means that our access to information makes us very different from most people? We are not only well-informed, but we are getting information that is only available to people who work hard to step past the Right’s propaganda machine. You and I know that buses were NOT provided to help people evacuate New Orleans but most of the rest of the country thinks they were.
So many of us believe that if only the “facts” got out there to the public, things would be different. But you and I operate on — and seek out — facts and details, and most people do not. Most people are too busy or are otherwise not able (or interested) to learn the details of what is going on in the larger world around them. And they aren’t going to change. Understanding and accepting this is the gateway to understanding why most people have the political opinions and preferences that they have. And it is the first step toward understanding how to reach them and how to start to change their thinking.
Most people get their information through channels that are very different from those that most blog-readers use. They hear snippets of pseudo-facts through word-of-mouth, from music-radio DJs, from glimpses of headlines, e-mail jokes, co-workers, etc. and only some of what they hear “sticks.” The process of discovering what “sticks” is fascinating. (George Lakoff’s work is just one small example of this process.) Rather than get into that, I just want to say that the Right’s machine (and corporate marketing departments) have spent decades and hundreds of millions trying to understand this process. They understand it a lot better than we do, and they use it. Modern marketing methods are very effective.
Bloggers and Air America and MoveOn, etc. are working to get around the “right-wing noise machine” and make accurate information available, and this is a very important beginning. But we are still mostly only talking to each other. At least now we are finally starting to talk with a common and consistent voice. But we have a lot to learn about reaching out to the broader, general public-at-large.
I think the first step is to understand that we are still largely talking to each other. But the next step is to learn how the hairdresser in Topeka gets and retains her “news,” and to start talking to her in ways she will hear and remember.

4 thoughts on “We’re Still Only Talking To Each Other

  1. A necessary feature of the Right Wing Noise Machine is the Republican Party. When the RWNM sends out a memo, the entire Republican Party reacts and gets on message.
    No matter what the lefty blogosphere comes up with, the Democratic Party leadership treats it with disdain or contempt. The M$M would not be able to ignore progressive ideas if the Democratic Party would capitalize and distribute those ideas. The Democratic Party is as much a part of the problem as the Republican Party.
    The old expression “Lead, follow or get out of the way” comes to mind. In many ways the Democratic Party is its own worst enemy and our biggest obstacle to getting the facts out to the public.

  2. For people who don’t read blogs, I think that there should be an aggregate superblog which publishes a daily digest or anthology of the best stuff in printable tabloid form. Some easily available sort of software should be used, so that anyone anywhere with access to the software could publish as many copies as he or she wanted and pass them out, leave them in laundromats, etc. It would amount to a national daily journal of opinion and news, with both an e-form and a print form.
    Electronic media allow for quick national dissemination of facts and ideas, but it only reaches about 30% or so of the electorate, and many of the 30% are hard right. Essentially, blogs are an elitist medium, and they require active involvement whereas print copies floating around can be read by someone with only casual interest (the “ambient opinion” of inactive citizens I talk about a lot).
    This is a practical idea, but it would need a lot of financial and tech support in order to happen. I made a similiar proposal about 2 years ago, and it fell completely flat.
    I’ll probably post on this on the front page here fairly soon, but don’t let that keep anyone from picking up the idea right now.

  3. John, that’s a good idea. I was in fact thinking of something similar myself yesterday. A little background, then I come back to the point.
    One of the things that arose out of the opposition to the nomination of Gonzoles for Attorney General was the “Indy 500” blogs (to which STF is a member)
    I’ve been maintaining a DailyKos like diary recommendation system for this set of blogs, with 430+ blogs scanned every three hours for new posts and the results collected. Several of us scan for the best stuff and recommend things, which then are seen by other people carrying the feeds, who further recommend them. (Come over to Dr. Laniac’s laboratory and visit the PBRC. Not linking to minimize “blog-whoring”)
    Back to the point. I was thinking how it could be a good print medium daily publication, if we had the resources to put it out.
    If the money could be put together for it, we have an editorial infrastructure for it already.
    eh? eh?

  4. Yeah, sure, all those premature babies, people in nursing homes, etc. refused to get on those imaginary busses! I wonder just how many people actually believe this? There is a handful too deluded to give up on Bush — they’ve raised their faith in him to the level of a religion — but an awful lot of the devoted that I know are disillusioned beyond anything they could have imagined.
    A printed Superblog that gets distributed is a good idea. Standing on streetcorners with a bullhorn and screaming about what’s going on is also a good idea. I’m not sure that organizing a new third party would be such a good idea. This has never had much success in this country.

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