Freedom and the art of persuasion

If you look at Twitter and Facebook, it appears that Democrats are convinced that Trump beat them by tapping into rage more effectively, so they’re trying to catch up. They’re denouncing anyone who skipped the election and anyone who voted for a minor-party candidate. They’re saying anyone who voted for Trump is a “collaborator,” regardless of their reasons. By this logic, anyone who voted for Clinton, for any reason, must also be a “collaborator” with her militarism, with her hostility to free speech, with her “Manhattan project” for breaking secure communication.

It’s a perfect achievement. If you were eligible to vote, you’re evil. Everyone’s evil. Except them.

But that’s Twitter and Facebook. They’re practically designed to encourage fury and promote echo chambers. Talking with people in person, I’ve found considerable common ground, even if it’s just that Trump is very dangerous. It’s possible to reach people with a lot of patience. (Which I’ll freely admit is a virtue I’ve never been strong on.)

Reaching people requires having reasons and facts at hand, but those don’t get far unless we also reach people’s concerns and feelings. People who were hugely dissatisfied with both major-party alternatives are looking for something else.

Stories are as important as raw facts in reaching them, and generally more persuasive. The presidential election was a battle of narratives: Trump as an abusive bully, Clinton as a cheat and liar. (Both stories are true.) Stories that win people’s sympathy, rather than stirring their rage, are more effective in the long run. Presenting them can move people toward better choices. I wrote a song, “No Trump Contract”, about Vera Coking’s legal victory over Trump; no one’s going to call it great art, but it shows how someone fought back successfully against him.

Berlin Wall

Other people have written better, more persuasive songs. They’ve created art, taking memorable photographs, and written stories. All of these things are important to positive change. The battle is one of ideas, and the winner isn’t always the one with the better ideas but the one who’s more persuasive. Just providing an alternative to rage is a good start.

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