Archive: Nov 2015

This semester, I have a few particularly gullible and literal-minded students. They seem oblivious to the verbal nuances of my using irony, sarcasm, facetiousness, and mockery. They also miss my nonverbal cues of raised eyebrows, mock accents, and outrageous gestures. They naively assume that everything I say is an assertion of something that I believe to be true.

In desperation, I decided to take a ventriloquist’s dummy to class. Now when I am about to make a preposterous statement that represents someone’s belief other than my own, I set the dummy in front of me, and speak through its grinning mouth. I named my dummy “Dying Ideas.”

Monte's dummt

We need more realistic radicals.

Will Bunch is talking about a righteous movement making strategic and tactical errors after organizing a successful campaign. They won the battle but damaged themselves in a foolhardy confrontation with the photographer.

Battles are won by neither the protagonists nor the antagonists: Winners and losers are usually decided by third-party audiences. In the rhetoric campaign to win over bystanders, the news media can be your ally or your enemy.

The goal of the less powerful is to widen the conflict to more audiences; the goal of the powerful is to narrow and privatize the conflict as much as possible.The care and feeding of the news media is a must for marginalized groups. You need to win the hearts and minds of various publics–witness GLBT’s amazing media strategy and tactics that led to a unprecedented turnaround in public opinion within just a decade.

I have been organizing protest campaigns for nearly five decades. Of those that have succeeded, I was most effective when I had excellent relationships with reporters, photographers, and editorialists. Persuasive and persistent work with the news media is an essential source of power for the powerless- -witness the Civil Rights and anti-Vietnam War movements.

Assuming that the news media is the enemy because they don’t tell the story you want told is ultimately self-defeating. Perhaps you have failed to a create a rhetorically persuasive message and an effective media campaign.

The Sixties looked quite different by 1980.

When someone is honestly 55% right, that’s very good and there’s no use wrangling. And if someone is 60% right, it’s wonderful, it’s great luck, and let him thank God. But what’s to be said about 75% right? Wise people say this is suspicious. Well, and what about 100% right? Whoever says he’s 100% right is a fanatic, a thug, and the worst kind of rascal.”

                   An Old Jew of Galicia [quoted by Czeslaw Milosz in The Captive Mind]