The more I read about the history of social justice activism, the more I realize that the holy grail of success for any activist movement is gaining the support of the middle class. In every era activists bemoan the apathy of the middle class in the face of so much corruption and injustice. Many have used all manner of disparaging adjectives to condemn them.
We are all familiarized with the reasons for the apparent apathy. On the one hand, people in the lower economic spectrum of the middle class are consumed with their efforts to stay afloat, trying to avoid falling into poverty, and so they don't have the energy or inclination to get involved in social activism.
On the other, people in the upper middle class are pretty comfortable with their situation in life, which gives them an incentive to try to maintain the status quo, or at least be very careful about upsetting the proverbial apple cart.
And this happens regardless of the level of corruption or oppression in society, as long as it does not affect them (too much) directly.
Then you have those who fall through the cracks into poverty or become victims of the corrupt system, and others who for some reason or another become marginalized from the mainstream (mainly through the effects of propaganda). In this space, you also have hard-core social justice activists who are mainly motivated purely by altruism, humanitarianism, and their uncommon understanding about the consequences of not confronting corruption and oppression.
Because of the years I've been interacting online with others here at Daily Kos, my impression is that most users are middle class people, with middle class sensibilities.
This diary is an attempt at identifying ways to bridge the gap between hard-core social justice and anti-corruption activists and the middle class. Hence, your ideas and suggestions are welcome...
Here's a case study... I visited the Occupy Oakland website and on the home page I read about a "Debtor's Assembly," whose goal is "to educate and mobilize around the issue of debt." When I study the website, I see emphasis on many other important issues like environmental justice, foreclosure defense fund, fighting patriarchy, and other social justice issues.
When I visit other Occupy Wall Street websites around the world, and study what they are doing, I come away with similar conclusions about their agendas.
Again, I don't for one second criticize what they are doing, nor do I question whether they are actually able to effect change and put pressure on the corrupt system.
I'm just concerned that given the level of energy, knowledge, and commitment shared by all these good people, this piecemeal and disparate approach undermines their true potential for success, if success is measured by the eventuality of taking down the corrupt plutocracy.
Why? Because the causes they are rising against are related to injustices perpetrated against mainly marginalized people: the poor; minorities; debtors; the sick and infirm; the young; the old; the native peoples; etc.
Thus, regardless of how many Occupy Wall Street chapters are around the country, or the world, in any given neighborhood they will be seen as a fringe group.
This of course is mainly the result of the control of the mainstream media by a handful of corporations, which use that control for propaganda purposes.
Drawing on my experience in advertising, marketing, technology, and product development, I'm inclined to deduce that the best way to reach the larger number of middle class people in order to gain support for the goals shared by social justice and anti-corruption activists is to deploy mainstream media campaigns mimicking the same approach used by typical business advertisers.
This would have to be carefully-calibrated to first, find the right type of messaging (using a standard advertising, public relations, and marketing approach) to gain the attention of the target "consumer," and make their participation as easy and risk-free as possible.
Here's a specific idea... First, I'm under the impression that the average middle class person with liberal tendencies feels pretty comfortable with PBS programming.
I have identified two recent documentaries which I think meet two important requirements: they were produced by well-known media personalities/entities; and their exposés are truly scandalous and shocking in the level of corruption they reveal.
(1). THE UNTOUCHABLES: FRONTLINE investigates why Wall Street’s leaders have escaped prosecution for any fraud related to the sale of bad mortgages.I happen to think that these two documentaries go straight to the root of almost everything that's wrong with our system...
(2). United States of ALEC: Revealing the hidden world of ALEC — corporations and state legislators colluding to write laws and remake America, one statehouse at a time.
The idea would be to produce an event around these two documentaries. The events would be held at a very nice venue, like a theater or hotel conference room.
The program would include a screening of the two documentaries, and perhaps a panel or a presentation by well-known liberal media personalities. For example, people like Thom Hartmann, or Norman Goldman, or Rachel Maddow, Big Ed, Bill Moyers, or Daily Kos diarist, social activist and researcher Bob Sloan, could be invited to talk about the content of the documentaries after the screenings.
The event would be totally mainstream, providing a comfortable space for middle class people.
I would take a standard approach for the marketing of the event(s). I would do a media buy, including print advertising (a half of full color page in the San Francisco Chronicle, for example), and if possible, TV, and radio. People in event marketing usually suggest that you give yourself a minimum of three or two months of advertising prior to the event.
This would be a great opportunity to bridge the gap between hard-core activists and average middle class people, where there could be a cross pollination of ideas and ideals, all of which would serve to strengthen the social justice and anti-corruption movement.
One of the best examples of this type of idea (actually, I got some inspiration from it), is the Abolitionist movement, as depicted in the PBS American Experience Documentary: THE ABOLITIONISTS.
Abolitionist allies Frederick Douglass, William Lloyd Garrison, Harriet Beecher Stowe, John Brown and Angelina Grimké turned a despised fringe movement against chattel slavery into a force that literally changed the nation.Of course, a more recent example is the Stephanie Miller "Sexy Liberal Show" tour.
The only difference with this idea I'm proposing is that my intention is to find a way to help spread the social justice and anti-corruption movement to every corner of the country, and bridge the gap between hard-core activists and more mainstream activists, all working together against the imposition of the nascent plutocracy.
Finally, by making this event as mainstream as possible, my idea would be to also try to reach as many moderate Republicans as possible, and even some people from the Tea Party: San Francisco Chronicle: MoveOn founder, Tea Party figure meet.
Please let me know what you think about this idea... This morning I've been emailing different Occupy Wall Street chapters suggesting this approach. Hopefully, I'll hear back form some of them.
I have a whole "project plan" ready for this, so if anybody would like to collaborate, I can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.