Right now in news rooms across the nation well-meaning editors are assigning someone to write a “balanced” story about the Dow breaking 15,000 that also includes some stories about people struggling to find work. They know not to totally cheer the Dow, “See, we know that not everything is okay, so here’s a sad story of a person sort of like you, which you will dismiss in 10 seconds because it’s depressing as hell.” ( Pam Spauling’s story “Over 55, out of work more than six months? Headhunters say you’re screwed.” made me loath my birthday and myself instead of loathing the people driving our economy. Their incorrect, destructive austerity metaphor is destroying lives as surely as bullets in our brains.)
I used to believe that personal stories, combined with cold hard statistics could break through to politicians and policy makers who would say, ‘Enough! The lack of good jobs with good wages is a national tragedy, we must fix it or I’ll never get re-elected!” I had the same delusion when it came to weapons. Silly rational Spocko. I thought 20 dead kids with their arms and legs shot off combined with 90 percent of the country behind a sensible change in gun laws would do the trick. I was an optimist, but I am not stupid. I do know how the world works. It takes more than stories and statistics. It takes leverage.
Individual stories about the unemployed won’t force politician into working for change. Polling data showing a desire for jobs aren’t going to move politicians to act. You might get some pity, and a pledge for future action, but not the massive shift in actions we need RIGHT NOW. Especially when the unemployed people whose stories finally get told aren’t donating to your re-election campaign or you don’t need to be re-elected.
The people who benefit when the Dow soars use their leverage to keep the country on course with current economic policies. Policies which don’t include a massive jobs program in the United States, because those people don’t feel the pain the way the rest of us feel the pain. You will note that when they do feel something they call pain, say in the form of delayed flights, they will let the politicians know and they are quickly healed, even if it is a band-aid just for them. Who is using leverage to ease our pain?
People who read me know that I’m a big science fiction fan (my name is a clue!) but I’m also a fan of what I call “comeuppance stories” ones where a person or group of people work together to ensure the bad guys get their comeuppance. I don’t like violent revenge stories, but stories of justice. I like seeing a show of karma in this lifetime. In the olden days journalists used to work on stories that lead to someone getting their comeuppance. You know, “afflict the comfortable.” But now these kind of stories are almost entirely seen in fiction.
These days people who SHOULD be getting their comeuppance have insulated themselves from the traditional sources of comeupatude–the press, the prosecutor, the politicians, the people.
Instead of the press creating stories that might lead to someone’s comeuppance they wait for someone else to do the heavy lifting and jump in to report on “both sides.”
Prosecutors don’t want to go after big complex cases. Politicians see that if you have a well-funded small group of supporters you can ignore the people. And the people, well the people can rant and rave and march and tweet, but if they don’t have leverage (via the law, politicians they own, money streams they control, votes they can cast or dirt they know) nothing will happen.
So that is why I think about ways to gain leverage. Since I’m a communicator I often think about how to use the media, but I know that you need multiple methods. I always like to point out the successes we have had interrupting the money stream of right wing media. The naysayers love to come back with, “Yes, but… Rush is still rich, Beck is back.” I remind them that this one form of leverage worked when people thought nothing ever would. (I wish that the media that cover this story would ask about the goals of the people coordinating the advertiser alert campaigns instead of listening to the straw men that are offered up by the subjects.)
We wanted advertisers to walk away from the hosts because the host was tainting their brand. They did. We wanted to create a situation in a corporation that is financially unsupportable if they wanted normal ad sources. We did. We showed shareholders that what was an asset has become either a liability or an under-performing asset. CEOs responded as they often do with other under-performing assets in a pure capitalist environment. They look at ways to get out of their contract.
We need to be constantly looking for leverage points to help the economy of the 99% sometimes it involves pushing for accountability, other times it involves pushing for people to enforce the laws that still exist. I have showed how with one model we used successfully against the RW media, but there are others. I know there are more “comeuppance” stories out there. People love those stories. There is a reason that Shawshank Redemption is a lot of people’s favorite movie.
So tonight or tomorrow, as you listen to “Dow Soars!” stories and skim over the depressing bits about the unemployed, “Joe Btfsplk is 55 years old and has sent out 3,500 resumes blah, blah blah, spent retirement saving, yada yada yada played by the rules. zzzzz” think about what kind of leverage you can wield to help change things. What leverage can you develop that helps the 99%? I look forward to reading your comeuppance stories.
Photo by Macca under Creative Commons Attribution license