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Progressives and the left: a problem in communication

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Communication has become the art of the sound bite; infuriating, though that is, it is the reality of the world we inhabit. S/he who is good at simplifying a complicated issue but keeps the essence of it is the one who will reach the widest audience.  

The left and progressives are too clever by half.   They get the complexities, but are loath to simplify for fear of losing some strands of the argument.   I have read incisive, clever, and informative articles written by well known writers of the left such as Paul Craig Roberts, and Chris Hedges on this site; elsewhere Noam Chomsky and Naomi Klein come to mind.

These writers and others use their experience and knowledge combined with findings from other sources in an enterprise of intellectual rigour to back up their theses and conclusions. However, it is important that these conclusions and ideas are then distilled into easily digestible chunks and presented in a way that resonate with the experiences and struggles of the ordinary voter, to whom politics is not such a passion.   Alas, this does not happen.   Progressives seem to me to be writing for each other with little regard to keeping an eye on a wider audience.

The right have always been able to appeal to the basest instincts of human nature in a way that chimes with the aspirations of the many. Take, for example, the issue of the savage cuts in government spending that are being advocated by the right on both sides of the Atlantic; it is presented in the guise of a "family finances" argument.   As a family, "wouldn't you want to pay your debts and live within your means"? - is a very appealing argument.   I am sure many on the left could write a many page document pointing out the differences between family finances and that of a country, priorities etc. It is infuriating that such cuts are supported by many people who will be the first to suffer the consequences.

Selfishness and obscenely large salaries for the elite in society are presented by the right as self-reliance and reward for hard work. The argument that you too can make it has a simple appeal.   The fact is that the top 1% of society in the US owns 38% of the wealth; in the case of the UK the top 1% owns 21% of the wealth. And the fact that this gap is getting wider does not seem to register.   Progressives need to find simple counter messages if they are serious about changing society and the politics that are impoverishing the quality of life of millions in the US and UK.

Progressives have a mammoth task to get their message across.   Corporate media is not going to help, and those with money and influence will do their utmost to bury and distort the message.   But we now have the net based media, and here the left should be able to reach a wider audience.   However, it seems to me many of the progressive left leaning websites are probably being read by political junkies of the same persuasion and not reaching the wider audience necessary to make a difference to the way our lives and our world are being run. Could it be because ordinary voters find it difficult to make the connection between their experiences and the articles they read?

Dictators and despots in the Arab world, with all the instruments of media control and terror at their disposal, could not stop their people from finding out the truth.   Surely it is easier for progressives to make the case that there are better ways to run the US and the UK than the present state of perpetual war and greed that is blighting the lives of millions in the West and worldwide.  

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Dr Adnan Al-Daini took early retirement in 2005 as a principal lecturer in Mechanical Engineering at a British University. His PhD in Mechanical Engineering is from Birmingham University, UK. He has published numerous applied scientific research (more...)
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