Looking out at the not-so-normal-new-normal as we near the end of 2020, Dora Meade and Elena Blackmore have been thinking about the key narrative *tactics* currently in play and how social and political movements should respond:
- The co-option of language in the battle of ideas. Everyone wants to Build Back Better now: with radically different agendas. Messaging is regularly being borrowed/stolen, losing its meaning, squeezing the narrative space & confusing the debate.
… Is this tactic a problem or should we see it as a win? Should we relinquish co-opted rhetoric or hold ground? Does it suggest we need to hone our messaging or shift tone?
- Optimism over reality. A PMA can get you anywhere, right?! A compelling story of a rosy future is a powerful tool: obscuring the current mess. Opponents are positioned as ‘doomsdayers’, far less appealing to persuadables, and alienating/confusing for anyone who doesn’t agree.
… So how to do critical opposition whilst telling a story of a better future? How do we highlight stories of injustice and oppression, whilst explaining things can be different?
- Pointing the finger. Where we level responsibility shapes the solutions we seek. Should we be dobbing in our neighbours & blaming asylum seekers for their own plight (sp. alert: no) or calling for a change of policy? Blaming individuals obscures responsibility of politicians.
… How do we move away from individual responsibility framing? What can we do to call this out and bring systemic (and often historic) responsibility into the frame?
- Politics as theatre. We increasingly consume politics in short, dramatic ‘acts’: engineered arguments (Rule Britannia), bizarre media moments (Home Secretary on the cliffs of Dover), outlandish leaked policy ideas. How quickly can the Overton Window be shifted?
… Is it ever strategic to be silent? Should we come out on the attack or are there times when we stoke the fire of unhelpful debates? How can we shift focus away from the theatre and back to reality?
- Crisistunism. Yeah we said it. Using crisis as a narrative opportunity—‘shock doctrine’ style—to normalise regressive policies & shape a new common sense. Think draconian migration restrictions (via scapegoating +hate) & the attacks on the judiciary (‘activist lawyers’).
… How can we call this out? What role is there for narrative in resisting these policies? Especially when other forms of protest might be more constrained by pandemic restrictions.
We also thought about *current narrative battlegrounds*, who the dominant *narrative players* are, and what *space has opened up* over this time.
Watch this space for more of our ponderings on these…