The Blizzard and How to Fight It

Dear Group,

I have made a concerted effort to pay attention to the news in eastern Washington and, to a lesser degree, national and international news, especially over the last two years. 

The stream of information is like a blizzard. Without a conscious and concerted effort one’s opinions may be formed by snippets from the haphazard media encounters. As the blizzard blows by, certain snippets catch and stick, some by chance, some because of each potential recipient’s momentary mindset, some because the snippet is particularly dramatic, horrifying, or poignant. 

There are two examples from this week. My canvassing partner and I on Monday encountered a woman and her daughter who had grasped a snippet of intentional misinformation, that Lisa Brown “didn’t want sex offenders to be registered.” As is often the case, she couldn’t quite remember where she had heard this factoid, although it pretty clearly floated out of the television from the “predator” commercial McMorris Rodgers authorized and paid for. It stuck with this recipient in particular because someone in her family had been abused. Propagandists understand this.

This week’s Republican media burst around Lisa Brown’s thirty year old dissertation is based on a different principle, buzzwords. “Communism, socialism, anarchy” blare from the titles. Never mind those words have nothing to do with the dissertation. The intent is to shock, to associate the reader’s ingrained negative images around these words with the persona of the candidate. The propagandist counts on the receptivity of the reader and the conviction the reader will not have the interest, time, or energy to actually examine the evidence. After all, “it’s in the newspaper, it must be true.” Do you remember “swiftboating,” the well-funded Republican lies that helped sink John Kerry’s campaign for President in 2004? Same method.

In this media blizzard, whether a person votes at all and for whom they vote if they do is often determined by the last snippet heard…or by a general disgust with the whole perplexing blizzard of contradictory evidence that induces paralysis. 

The people who will determine the result of the election on November 6, just fifty-four days from now, are likely not the people who will watch the debate next Wednesday. Overwhelmingly, those folks have already made up their minds. The people who will make the difference are the folks I meet every time I go door knocking, people who admit they “don’t follow politics,” people who, like the woman and her daughter, who would vote but are stuck on one nasty, inaccurate snippet of information, people who are disgusted with the current state of affairs who just need a friendly person to make the effort, knock on their door, smile, listen, and encourage. Humans are built to respond to face-to-face encounters. The election can be won if enough of us get out and make those encounters. Make a difference. It is too depressing to just stay home, read, and watch the pundits on TV try to convince us they know what will happen. They don’t know.

Keep to the high ground,