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.