2015/08/26

The social movement of the college commute

Many mornings, as I walk to classes I will most likely fail, I pass a group of students handing out a socialist newspaper. They stop students, and attempt to discuss their newspaper and whatever immediate political thing that irked them recently. It is a strategy that is met with a lot of awkwardness and frustration, from all sides. If I'm aware of their haunting, I will often take a different route.

This is not to say that their hearts are not in the right place. The more cynical part of me says that people will fight for rights and change that benefit them personally, but even were their goals entirely altruistic, their strategy must change.

I feel as though there is an undercurrent of resentment when they gather to attempt to push paper on to unsuspecting students. They know that they have taken the time out to make their information public, thus the onus is on the students passing by to pick up on it. After all, their truth makes sense if you only take the time to look at it. Those students that ignore the newspaper in favour of their own multitude of problems are damned when the revolution comes.

"Well, I tried." *hands up, walk away*
Well, no.

It is a rather natural way of thinking, and all too common. People like to feel superior, even if they don't wish to admit it. People also like to wash their hands of responsibility and blame people for their poor choices.

However, this does not truly justify the use of forced newspaper distribution strategy. The contents of the newspaper may be of great value intellectually, and can be a tremendous force for organisation and morale within the social movement. But as a tool for recruitment, it fails dismally. It doesn't matter ultimately whose moral responsibility has failed when a recruitment attempt fails. All that matters is that it did fail, and the activity may as well not have happened.

Indeed, it can be actively detrimental. Internal change is a laborious and painful process, and being forced to even consider it (in public no less) can cause resentment. This makes the activity more divisive than doing nothing, making members of the social movement further apart from non-members. This is damaging for the social movement, and the members should take the time to realise this.

All social movements must contend with the fact that if they wish to succeed (presumably they do), they must recruit new members and retain the old. Social change, be it violently or democratically enacted, relies on supporters of the change being at least a hefty minority, if not outright majority.

Scientology retains their old members, but their recruitment has died off as more of their movement becomes open to the public. It does not matter if their ideology is bogus, if their leaders truly believe it, and so on. To survive, they will need new members.

My socialist friends have problems on several fronts. Commitment is difficult, and their recruitment drives many people who may be ideologically close to them away. They do have a fairly constant influx of new bright eyed hopefuls that want to impact change, but alas, the movement will likely go nowhere (for now).

ISIS, for all its bluster, will implode for a number of reasons, not least of which its apparent desire to annoy the vast majority of the world. But for the time being, they can run off resources that they loot off those too weak to defend themselves.

I am not saying that there is a textbook that will definitely force change to occur. There are far too many variables for that, and the world would probably be a significantly different place were one to exist. However, for individual movements, you can certainly avoid activities that are wasteful or actively harmful to your cause.


2015/08/20

FREE NEWS!

The role of the media in modern politics is a rather important one. A free and well-informed populace is important for a democracy, and the media should play its role as, if not a direct controller of those in power, a device for informing the public about more devious goings on.

It is generally accepted that an entirely state-run media is rather unhealthy, opening itself up to propaganda all too easily (not that a corporate run media channel can't). It seems at the moment a mix of both is what has evolved over time, though deliberate design is not what occurred.

I have a problem with the sheer amount of choice with respect to content at the moment. The current mainstream view is that people should have choice with regards to what news outlets they watch.

However, this has a number of problems with it. Firstly, it opens up journalism to fierce marketing. Being beholden to advertising (as some news outlets are) is unhealthy for the journalism to be entirely honest (if not correct). This can be generalised to include government advertising (which could be public service announcements to propaganda).

Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, it divides the community by where they get their news from (and their political goals). People will tend to watch media that agrees with them. That's perfectly natural. People want to feel validated and included. However, this results in very lopsided reporting (or "reporting"). One particularly egregious example would be Fox News, the Republican/conservative values based news show.

In that case, the producers recognise that even though they are blatantly pandering to their base, they cannot admit that they are only telling one side of the story. They have constructed a narrative that is very addictive for their viewers.

Such news does not an informed public make.

Alas, having your funding controlled by the government is also frustrating if you need to say anything bad about the government.

Anyway, I'm not really sure if there is a good solution that keeps journalistic integrity without being obnoxiously complex. But this all feeds into the whole partisan politics thing that I dislike a lot.