May 08, 2008


Caption: Fuzzy chickens are a particularly challenging audience.

El Cabrero hopes all y'all noticed the elegant way in which I avoided ending the title of the post with a preposition. It is a truth universally acknowledged that a preposition is a bad thing to end a sentence with...

The series on writing for social change (or, when appropriate, social conservation) continues at Goat Rope. I'm going to ride this wave as long as it lasts.

A good question to think about when writing is, who is the audience? Is it people already on your side you want to energize? Is it the hard core opposition? (In which case, you might be banging your head against a wall). Or is it a lot of people in the middle?

If I'm sending out some kind of action alert on a hot topic, I'm usually aiming at like-minded people.

But most of the time when I write about a current issue for a general audience, as in a newspaper op-ed, I'm aiming for the folks in the middle. It's not likely that someone on the opposite side of an issue who benefits from an unjust situation is going to change their mind no matter what you write. (Although it does happen in some cases.)

On many controversial issues, there may be strongly committed people on both sides (often both are numerical minorities, although at least one side may be very powerful). But there is a large number of people who may not know much or feel strongly about the issue at hand. Much of the art of writing and of strategy (I see them as one and the same) in such cases consists of trying to isolate one's opponent and move more people to your side of a given issue.

In cases like that, I try to look at what I'm writing or trying to accomplish from the point of view of someone not committed to the issue. Note: it helps if what you're trying to accomplish is reasonable.

This is where a lot of "progressive" types royally screw up. These can become so insular and even sectarian that they have difficulty communicating with anyone who isn't already there.

Here's my two cents. It's nearly always bad to use "internal" jargon for and "external" audience. But the reverse isn't true. Talking to people on your side in a jargon free way sets a good example.

WEAK LINKS. Travel has prevented me from assembling the usual mix of links and comments about current events. That feature should return tomorrow.


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