I was reading diaries, some political news stories, and such and saw that Conservatives spread their "message" through entirely different mediums than we do. They seem to occupy the "old tech" avenues of communication. Whether we are talking about emails with 20x "Fw:" in the subject line, AM radio, or billboards, the right-wing propagandists seem to cling to older ways of spreading messages.
The problem seems to be: People are listening. Someone still tunes in to AM radio, still reads email chains instead of deleting them, and still cares about billboards on the highway... What can we learn from the Conservatives' old-fashioned way to communicate their extremism? Should we adopt some of these methods for ourselves, or work on new, innovative ways to reach voters more effectively?
Conservatives seem to live in an isolated world compared to us. They have methods of communication that we don't tend to use anymore.
1. AM Radio - Rush Limblargh and his cronies still command lots of ears, and the majority of those ears are tuning into an AM radio station to listen to his rants. I thought radio was dead save for a smattering of FM stations and the occasional satellite listener?!? This seems to mesh with the ultra-rural radio climate where local sports games and other events are still broadcast by the town's AM station, so its easy for someone who lives there to acclimate to using AM for a talk show as well.
2. Email chains - see MyRightWingDad for a compilation of these. I thought the practice of sending massive email chain letters died with America Online, but I was wrong. Conservatives seem to love this kind of communication, and these messages do seem to foster a "look how many people agree with me" reinforcement of their beliefs. This is where all of the "witty" anti-Obama jokes, racist taunts, etc. seem to come from. Someone comes up with a new way to call Obama the n-word in so-many-words, sends it off to sympathetic friends, and a day or two later we see the slogans on signs and Facebook.
3. Billboards - see this diary. I know that Democrats do fund some billboards, but not at the rate that the right does. They also seem to post more inflammatory messages, whereas our messages are more in the vein of endorsements on our candidates than insults against standing officials.
4. Documentaries - The "2016" film and the anti-teacher films like "Waiting for Superman" are prime examples of how Conservatives love to create 2-hour-long attack films against the President, unions, or whatever else ruffles their feathers. We haven't had a Michael Moore film in a while, but even if there was we would still be outnumbered by the number of these films that the right wingers like to put out. I remember getting a mailer with a copy of "Obsession: Radical Islam's War on the West." Someone is paying a LOT of money to produce this junk and push it on us.
5. Messaging by all-of-the-above to avoid the "liberal media" - The meme that "we have the truth, everyone else is 'liberal' and can't be trusted" is a strong one. The undercurrent in a lot of these messages, particularly the emails, is that THIS source is the truth that the "liberal media" is "hiding" from you. This came to a head in the Presidential campaign when one of Romney's advisers mentioned not letting fact-checkers run his campaign. There are people out there who believe that the rest of the media is somehow out to get them, or that everything that isn't Fox News is a Soros conspiracy to tell them lies, et al.
The common thread I see in all of this is fear. Fear of a world that does not conform to a narrow vision. Fear that the country is in crisis, and the only way to fix it is to vote out the black man. Fear of an African American doing a better job in four years than their last President did in eight. Fear of changing demographics. Fear that people are no longer just "getting in line" when bossed around by religious dogma. Fear that "patriarchy" isn't being followed by a majority of Americans anymore. Fear that people who aren't like them have a voice in this country, where before only white males had that "privilege." What I see is a population in fear of change, who cling to the old ways of doing things in order to cope with inevitability.
Still, this messaging seems to be very effective. As you know, there are millions upon millions of these right-wing nut jobs, and more are coming out of the woodwork since President Obama was elected. Racist groups have exploded in popularity, while these groups' membership has become more defiant. Racist messages are everywhere, right-wing memes pollute Facebook after circulating across email, and the facts have no influence on this crowd.
I know of a group that is similarly "conditioned" to ignore the facts: Scientologists. THEY have the TRUTH, and us mere "pre clears" have no idea. In fact, many religious cults and pyramid schemes have a canny knack for conditioning their members to ignore rational ideas that might get them to snap out of emptying their financial accounts, or worse.
The fear perpetuated by right-wing propaganda leads to things like this. There seems to be a new threat posted every couple of weeks. How many times did someone send former President Bush a thinly-veiled death threat like this?
So what can we learn from this? We know that the right has a propaganda machine that uses old-school communication channels to spread the most vile propaganda. We know that fear is what drives most of this communication. We know that thanks to the combination of fear-based propaganda and a constant message against "trusting" any other information source that we're not going to reach these people any time soon. We also know that the above is wildly successful. Can we change some of our messaging to counter some of this propaganda?
- They go low-tech with radio, lets go any-tech. I would love to see a competent, yet passionate speaker on the AM airwaves to counter Rush and the other right-wing talk hosts. From what I know no such thing current exists nationally. While I don't think that AM radio is the most lucrative market, we need something to counter the deluge of conservative programming that seems to populate the radio. We don't want rural listeners thinking that because there are only right-wing shows on the radio, that the left-wing ideas are not "good enough" for a radio show.
At the same time lets make sure that we keep our shows accessible to people living in the 21st century through internet radio and pod casts. I can see a syndicated liberal talk show that is broadcast simultaneously on AM Radio and online. With the right charismatic host, people will find ways to tune in.
(Yes, I think Rush has a online radio stream now, but the point stands that he still gets a LOT of listeners from the AM crowd.)
- Where are our email chains? I know its stupid, but for a lot of people apparently they didn't get the memo about AOL or Facebook. There's nothing stopping us from taking the posts that we already use on Facebook and creating an effective email campaign to counter theirs. We have the truth on our side, so OUR emails will be positive and factual, providing a stark contrast to the fear-laden diatribes that our right wing dads and uncles like to send around.
- We can put up our own billboards too! Lets take the hard rebuttals that we use on Facebook (like the one showing that, yes, BUSH took more vacation days than the POTUS) and get those on billboards. We should be calling out their lies on our own billboards instead of letting their BS be the only messages on the road.
- Do we need our own documentaries? I don't think so. It seems like a huge waste of money, and these films don't gain a wide audience when they are released by the right. What we CAN do is keep a low-cost, high-tech series of videos like what the Obama campaign is doing with the Truth Team videos and all of the great ads that have been cut this election. In the current age of "here now, gone in 5 minutes" social media, these 2 minutes or less videos should be more effective than trying to get people to spend $10 to watch 2 hours of attack video.
- Here's something we can do that no one seems to be doing right now: an app. Yes, the kind you can download for iOS or Android. Both candidates have official campaign apps, but neither have a easy-to-use talking points app that can be pulled up quickly with rebuttals and counters for any of the right-wing BS that gets spewed in public. Think about how many times a right-wing nut has said something completely crazy, so that you don't have any good answer to it? I'd like to have a tool where we can look up the insanity and counter it right there and then. This would also be a big help for volunteers, people at family gatherings, etc. Everyone who is on our side should know exactly WHY the President is the best choice, and with something like this none of our supporters would be left without that info.
- The facts are on our side, so maybe we should try to steer people AWAY from TV and Radio all together, and change our messaging to teach people to find the facts for themselves. I'm serious. What would happen if, when the ACA passed, our messaging was "here's what page x of the bill ACTUALLY says. Don't believe the news channels, radio, or emails. Read the entire bill for yourself at _." Its a hard sell to get people weaned off of TV, but if we can do it then maybe we can start building a base of people that can think for themselves. People who are no longer feeding off of fear. People who can find the unbiased sources, get the facts, and make the right decisions based on those facts. People who are Democrats.
12:15 PM PT: Speaking of an "app," we could more easily create a simple jQuery Mobile page that would be legible on an iPhone and Android devices without having to write in Xcode and whatever Java systems Android needs (Eclipse?) I can provide assistance with the code if someone can get the content together.