My friend Alex Lawson, of Social Security Works, dressed up as a corporate pirate and showed up at the public launch event for “The Can Kicks Back” a subgroup of the billionaire funded front group “Fix the Debt” movement.
What is great about this action is how Alex used the organizations’ own PR push and event to subvert their message. They hired a PR firm to get the word out to the press. They probably had to pay the 30 people who attended it. (Grass roots movement my ass). When it came time to write a story about the event, the press who attended wrote about Alex and his message vs. the selfish billionaires and their message.
Here is Slate’s Dave Weigel’s story on the event. Pirate Crashes Anti-Debt Group’s Event, Is Ushered Away by Giant Can
So what have we learned? I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again because repetition is good. Is good. Is good. Is good.
1) Flip their narrative with actions that co-opt their events. This works because the press feels obligated to run the “both sides” message. Use this to your advantage. Think about all the anti-war rallies in the past with hundreds of thousands of people. Then remember the stories that came out of them. The TV cameras gave 20 seconds out of a 60 second piece to the 10 “Support our troops!” counter protesters in the crowd. Because of their formula to hear from “both sides” no matter what, TV gives a tiny number of opponents more air time that their numbers warrant.
2) Humor. Humor. Humor. I know this, why don’t I do it more often? I realized that sometimes I’m embarrassed doing something silly or funny on a serious topic. I desire to be taken seriously, yet I’m funny. What if humor helps more people hear my message? Do I “win” more if nobody notices my very serious comment?
Do you know WHY people who watch the Daily Show or the Colbert Report are better informed than people who watch mainstream news? It turns out that the set up to the joke is a better way to condense the information than nightly news. In order to get the joke Jon and Stephen need to explain what’s happening, then the humor helps us remember the story better. Double win.
If I wanted to push this story further, what could I do? Maybe interview the guy wearing The Can Kicks Back costume. “ How much they paying you for this gig? Are you also in charge of security and crowd control? Did you want to kick him?”
There is a old pirate saying, “When your enemy is drowning throw ‘em an anchor.” Pete Peterson and his buddies have millions to spend, but a cheap costume, with the right message at the right time just messed up their multi-thousand dollar event. Brilliant.
They may have the Quatloos, but they don’t have our brains, folks. Use ‘em if ya got ‘em.