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The Art of Effective Activism: Advice from an International Trainer!

By       Message Kathryn Smith       (Page 3 of 5 pages) Become a premium member to see this article and all articles as one long page.     Permalink

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opednews.com Headlined to H3 11/12/08

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See why writing opinions instead of facts can be a problem, at least at certain times? I suggest very strongly for the sake of Opednews's credibility, our own credibility, and especially for the sake of the urgent causes at hand, that we reference highly credible sources even when expressing our own opinions and concerns. Don't get me wrong: I too agree with everybody here that sharing opinions is very important. But I also am pointing out that there is a time and a place when such opinion can do harm instead of good, at least if not backed by highly credible facts to underscore what informs our opinions. I hope people will think about this.

SOLUTION: Quote the Executive Order, show videos, etc and avoid future-projecting. Let people decide what they think, for themselves. State the facts about post-911 legislation in which the word "Terrorism"- is "overbroad"- (Patriot Act), as unanimously agreed by the ACLU, Center for Constitutional Rights, Electronic Frontier Foundation, even the conservative Gun Owners of America. When people know the facts, they will conclude for themselves that there could be possible danger. If they choose not to conclude that, it is interesting to know what informs their different belief. If we hold a genuinely open mind, we will find out more about how to work with people, and could possibly even learn something ourselves to cool our own heads! Sometimes we just plain know too much, and our knowledge may inform our own folly (fear, False Evidence Appearing Real). Even if we are right and not fear-based, we still can learn from the positive "take"- others may have on the same exact situation. Why not learn from them? At least, why not learn what informs the conclusions others draw, so we can better learn how to "pitch"- our presentation to begin with?

If we insist possibly at our own and others' peril at writing opinion pieces concerning such matters as the FEMA camps, I would suggest we qualify our statements as opinions instead of as facts. Better yet, if we refer to highly credible sources to back our opinions, then others may begin to believe us, or at least understand what informs our point of view even if they disagree with them.

Just as we wouldn't call a person to tell them our life's story at 4:30 am, so timing is all-important where activism is concerned. We may be inclined to think that the truth shines at all times, but this is not necessarily so.


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Writing about election fraud on election day itself may turn some voters away. Is this what we intended? Probably not. Timing is everything. Be sensitive with our timing and we will be more effective!

In summary, our own image as projected to the reader becomes the all-important "Selling point"- for the truth at hand, not merely the facts themselves. We must always remember that! Image is key to credibility. Credibility, not truth itself, is what sells the facts at hand. And it is credibility, not merely the truth itself, which spawns proactivity. This is very important to remember!

Here is a strategy I use to get word out, and which I have seen to be effective every time:

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A) The grassroots is more alive than it ever has been, thanks to all the evils and horrors of the Dark Ages we have been through during the past eight years. As awful as the events have been, we also can draw hope from the now very powerful grassroots, and use it to our advantage:

Gather signatures and write to grassroots organization leaders, such as Moveon.org and the ACLU, Democrats.com, etc. (I suggest that we here on Opednews gather up in teams to do this!)

B) Write letters to the editor. Ohhh yes they work! I had a movie maker step forward who wanted to promote an idea I submitted to just a very small local paper. An activist told me she printed out a letter and handed it out at a politically-oriented movie. The filmmaker who contacted me marched an idea I had written about straight to Kucinich himself, who was present at a local house party: Kucinich was intrigued and wanted the matter penned into law. All this based on one letter in the smallest local paper!

Let me be very specific with you: I am not trying to brag. Instead, I am pointing out how effective letters to the editor really can be. Yes, even when written to local papers instead of the larger ones. I hope you take heart from this. GO FOR IT!!!

C) For those of you who complain that the editors of your larger newspaper will never print your letter, I have some advice for you. Based on more than 100 letters of mine which are in print, I can tell you that the mainstream editors of public letters often have printed controversial things I have submitted. One such mainstream paper even made a cartoon out of a Patriot Act fact I submitted, so as to draw attention to the issue. The San Francisco Chronicle printed about giving accused "terrorists"- the benefit of the doubt, based on post-911 legislative facts and the lack of burden of proof. Does that encourage you?

If not, then here's some more advice: Now IS the time to get into an editor's face! Their job when printing letters to the editor is very specifically to represent a cross-sector of public opinion. Don't write them, because they won't respond: Call them personally and give them your two cents worth! Let them know that you have every intention of cancelling your subscription and spreading word about their bias as a paper, a fact which discredits them as a source of "news"-. Let them know that you will warn others to that effect!

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Having done so, move on to the college editorial boards and the local papers, as above. You just might be surprised by the outreach afforded by such "Small"- and seemingly "insignificant"- sources!

D) Send out emails, asking people to forward them.

E) Write an article, even just a shortie, and specifically grant readers the permission to quote, reprint, etc and ask them to spread it all over the web. Every time I have done this, the results have been absolutely heartening! It has really worked. When asked, people do spread word! (One such news spreader also took the liberty of using my article to make money for themselves. So I learned from this experience to specifically say that nobody may earn a cent from my writing, that it's the cause at hand which matters most, but that in absence of money-making the permission to widely reprint and quote is freely granted).

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This quote summarizes the nature of my concerns and the content of personal experiences which stir my activism: "Necessity is the plea for every infringement on human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves". --Paul (more...)

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