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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 3/16/10

Part Two: Discussing American Ennui with Clinical Psychologist Bruce Levine

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Welcome back for the conclusion of my interview with clinical psychologist Bruce Levine. Earlier, we talked about the challenges that truth-tellers face. Let's jump right back in where we left off, Bruce.

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Fine. So what are my recommendations to real journalists who actually give a damn about get the truth out there and about having an impact?

Two things come immediately to mind. First, when you are preaching to the choir, when you are writing for a publication that is read by an audience that already has been radicalized one must think, "Is my piece going to simply depress them with one more truth of oppression and injustice? Or, is my piece going to stimulate some action in at least one reader, and hopefully more?"

I have written for publications such as Z Magazine, AlterNet, CounterPunch, Adbusters, and The Ecologists for readers who are already radicalized. I used to feel satisfied with informing readers about yet another industrial complex that I knew well, specifically, the psycho-pharmaceutical industrial complex. But now I think that's not enough. When one has an opportunity to write to people who are already aware of how they are being screwed by an oligarchy of industrial complexes, I believe it is one's responsibility to write in a way that galvanizes them to get off their asses and do something constructive.

Much of schooling teaches people that it is good enough to simply know the truth and care about injustices. But it's not enough to know and care if that concern is passive. Jonathan Kozol, the school critic, used the phrase "inert concern" to characterize what he was taught in his elitist schooling at a fancy prep school and later at Harvard. Kozol mocks "inert concern," and I so do I.

Good journalism is going to energize people to take action. One way is, as we've already talked about, giving people inspiring models.

A second thing that journalists must do is to get creative in figuring out ways of expanding their audience rather than simplypreaching to the choir. People who feel defeated, demoralized, and broken want to be energized. This means it is not enough to report the truth -- one needs to write in a way that is fun to read. Molly Ivins got it. Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert get it. Gore Vidal has always gotten it.

Michael Pollan is an interesting example of somebody who has been able to expand the audience of people who get it about the food industry. I remember reading Pollan when he was a relative unknown writing for Harper's about drug hypocrisy issues -- hewas right on the money and damn near anarchistic. But Pollan is an entertaining guy who is fun to read and doesn't sound like some ideologue pushing counterpropaganda.

He's now going after the food-industrial complex. Pollan has been effective in making it quite mainstream to talk about some pretty radical stuff. I hear he is responsible for influencing Michele Obama to have a vegetable garden. Now, having a vegetable garden and cooking your own fooddoes not sound radical to people who get turned off by radicals, but there is no more radicalizing stuff than learning to become more self-reliant and independent of the food-industrial complex.

So, two solutions to your question involve expandingyour audience and energizing people who already get it. If all journalists started to think about this and get creative, there would be a bunch more specific answers.

The real question for me is what can each of us do, at least each of us who gives a damn about genuine democracy and getting rid of the plutocracy we now have. What can journalists do? Psychologists? Teachers? Parents? Students? We need to try to think about this question strategically. Think about it creatively. We need to think about what can be energizing and fun and is thus sustainable.

You're talking about advocacy journalism, aren't you?

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Joan Brunwasser is a co-founder of Citizens for Election Reform (CER) which since 2005 existed for the sole purpose of raising the public awareness of the critical need for election reform. Our goal: to restore fair, accurate, transparent, secure elections where votes are cast in private and counted in public. Because the problems with electronic (computerized) voting systems include a lack of (more...)

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