The left needs more passion

A grimace is the holding back of emotion. Let it out!

A grimace is the holding back of emotion. Let it out!

I’m now looking ahead, not back, and hoping to be part of the worldwide left’s refusal to go down without a fight in the face of a Trump-Republican White-House-wash. My first point of order in the war ahead is to encourage the left to do what any winning team has to do in order to win; be passionate.

It’s not just me who is talking about the importance of emotion in politics. Scott Goodstein, a Democrat who worked for Bernie, says Trump’s message was revolting, but his authentic use of social media was a winning campaign strategy because ‘the true power of social media for politicians is unleashed only if they use it to make emotional connections’. Jonathan Freedland makes the point that the centre-left in the UK and the US (and Australia!), too often ‘play nice, sticking to the Queensberry rules – while the right takes the gloves off’.

I agree with Goodstein that the left have to be more authentic. And with Freedland that the left have to take our gloves off. This doesn’t mean we have to be lying, cheating bastards like the right, as we, by our nature, have morals and values which would make it impossible for us to win this way whilst still being authentic versions of ourselves, which by the way, is a key part of glove removal. What we need is to get our emotional, refuse-to-back-down, do-whatever-it-takes, scream-from-the-top-of-our-lungs, never-say-die, passionate mojo back. Frankly, we all know the left cares, a lot, but too often, we’re too polite to show it. This must end.

Here’s a personal anecdote which might help to convince you. I have always been a loud mouth, always told to tone it down, always getting myself into heated exchanges, partaking in twitter wars with anyone and everyone I disagree with. I’m the same when watching football; a friend described me as never taking a backward step. That’s just how I am. I bring this personality to my blogging. It has always bemused me that the posts I write in anger, bashing the keyboard and getting my political frustrations out in less time than it takes to read it, are the most successful. When I say successful, I’m talking quantitatively. I get the most shares, likes, retweets, hits, comments and occasional trending posts, on the posts that I write with the most passion. Often they’re open letters, usually they’re directed at someone who has done something to make me angry. It doesn’t surprise me that people are more likely to share posts they react passionately to. When they are angry, and I’ve described why they’re angry, they share the post to show how angry they are and on and on it goes around and around the angry, outrage-viral-machine. On the other hand, my more eloquent, carefully-researched, analytical, policy-detailed posts most often sink without a trace.

For a long time I thought the rants were a bit of fun, and that the serious stuff was far interesting and beneficial to the audience. But what’s the point of the serious policy analysis if five people read it? What’s the point of being pithy, smart and toning myself down, if no one reacts to it? What’s the point of carefully constructing a fact-laden explanation of why the left are ‘right’ and the right are ‘wrong’ if it’s just yet another piece-of-argument on a wall of arguments that never get seen and ends up getting us nowhere?

More recently, I’ve learned to embrace my ranty self. The rough edges, the anger, the obvious passion, the emotion, the reaction, is what politics is all about. Politics touches lives, it changes lives, it hurts people, it helps people, it saves people, it kills people. The left need to learn this and need to bottle it and need to use it as a political weapon. Authentic, raw, reaction. No more toning it down. No more careful statements, written by committee, with the emotional-pull of a limp-leaf-salad. If you’re angry, show it. If you’re upset, show it. If something the right has done makes you want to scream, then scream. You can do all these things without denigrating others, without calling people names, without swearing (I have trouble with this one), and without losing your dignity. When you show people why you’re angry, they might find, low and behold, they’re angry too. They might take more notice of you than if you’re just politely inserting a list of factual-dot-points into a slush-pile of facts that don’t fit their pre-conceived opinions.

When watching Clinton debate Trump, when he was being a total arsehole the entire time, Clinton stood passively watching, with a strained smile on her face. The biggest reaction we almost saw was a raised eye-brow every now and then. But imagine if every time Trump said something outrageous, every ridiculous statement he made, she reacted. Imagine if she slapped her forehead when he lied, or she put her hands on her hips and glared at him, or she actually laughed in shock and interrupted him as many times as he interrupted her. (Sure, as a woman, she would have been criticised for doing this, just as she is criticised for not doing this, but either way it would have been great to see her reacting, human to human, to show us she cares!).

The left are too careful, too polished, too reliant on facts, too sure they’re right and often, too scared to get into a screaming argument. The left feel morally superior when they take Michelle Obama’s position that ‘we go high when they go low’. There is no reason you can’t go high and scream it from the mountain tops. You care about something happening in politics? Don’t be afraid to show it.

(This post was originally published on – follow me there too!)

What’s in a meme?

Memes are a great way to quickly communicate on social media and if you get them right, they can reach huge audiences through the viral nature of ‘hey guys, look at this!’ sharing activity. But too often I see memes which are complicated and are missing one vital ingredient: a single-minded message.

Here’s an example. This meme is promoting Labor’s asylum seeker policy:


It’s a nice, straight forward list of the various elements of the policy. But what’s missing is a clean, swift, dart-in-the-bullseyes explanation for where Labor stands on asylum seeker policy. This is a communication opportunity gone to waste because as you have probably noticed on your own social media account, it’s rare for people to share memes which don’t quickly convey a ‘value’ message.

To explain this concept better, I will borrow from Drew Westen. Westen is a scholar who has a lot to say about the value of sign-posting communication with values, rather than just relying on dispassionate lists of facts and figures. In Westen’s book The Political Brain: the Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the Nation he makes his point using this simple example.

Read the following statement:

The procedure is actually quite simple. First you arrange things into different groups. Of course, one pile may be sufficient depending on how much there is to do. If you have to go somewhere else due to lack of facilities, that is the next step, otherwise you are pretty well set. It is important not to overdo things. That is, it is better to do too few things at once than too many… After the procedure is completed, one arranges the materials into different groups again. Then they can be put into their appropriate places. Eventually they will be used once more and the whole cycle will then have to be repeated.

If you’re like me, you got to the end of this passage and silently said ‘what the?’ I read it twice and still wasn’t sure what on earth the point of these instructions were. And I definitely did not remember the order of what I was told to do.

Westen says this ‘task isn’t easy. But it’s a lot easier if you’re first given the title: ‘Washing Clothes’’. Light bulb moment anyone? These instructions are all to do with washing clothes. Do you get it now? See why this asylum seeker policy meme is just a list of disparate ‘things’ that aren’t tied together with a single ‘clothes washing’ meaning? No opportunity to communicate should be hung out to dry as a laundry list of statements without delivering a meaningful, value laden message.

Ban the Beige

Ban the beige

Beige is a safe colour to paint your walls. Beige is not a great strategy for your social media profile. I get it. Social media is scary. Things can get out of hand. People who don’t know what they’re doing can get themselves into trouble. And beige is so much safer than a bright colour. But the thing about beige is, like a colour on the wall, it’s safe because no one notices it. What’s the point of being on social media if no one notices you? While you lurk around, liking everyone else’s bold, brave statements of opinion, safely keeping your ideas to yourself so to avoid the risk of someone disagreeing with you, and worse, being offended by that disagreement, you’re not getting anywhere. No one re-tweets beige. No one ‘likes’ safe, nothing-to-see-here posts. Your follower count remains static when you’re beige.

If you’re interested in finding out how to be your best authentic self on social media, while banning the beige, without getting yourself in trouble, contact me. I promise I won’t make you Tweet about The Bachelor.