The Meh-ssage and the Mess-age
The message above is an example of what I call a meh-ssage. OK… I guess. Not framed well, not really motivating. Factual, but not terribly effective.
Note the words “deserve” as in we must allow trans kids to play sports —though they already have that right, and perhaps “belonging”; but “a chance” at belonging? As if they didn’t already belong to the group of all kids? The Republican’s bill takes away rights and opportunities the kids already have. That’s the frame. And if they can do that to trans kids they can do it to girls and to Black and Asian kids, public school kids, etc..
Say instead that we must protect kids rights; all kids, not just trans kids rights, thereby keeping them in the group of all kids that they will be kicked out of if the GOP succeeds in taking away their rights.
Why are Republicans taking away our kids rights?
Hot on the heels of taking away students’ right to learn about slavery, Republicans now want to take away trans kids’ right to play sports (click here for more info about the Republicans’ “anti-trans kids bill” or “trans discrimination bill”).
What will they take away next and from whom? Where will they stop?
You can stop them.
Protect our kids. Call your Congressperson and tell them to vote NO on HR734.
This kind of messaging gives us the steering wheel of the debate and forces Republicans to defend themselves against our charge (for a change). We set the agenda instead of responding to theirs. We motivate people to pick up the phone.
Another advantage of this frame is that it is strategic: it not only transfers to other student issues like taking away their right to learn the truth about racism, but also issues such as the taking away of a woman’s freedom to control their own body, the taking away of people’s right to vote, wage theft —and many other issues. Then each message about Republicans taking things reinforces all other messages about Republican taking, no matter the issue. People begin to understand that Republicans take things from us and Democrats want to stop them and create even more freedom. This deeper framing works over the long term to bring more people to our worldview; it makes more Democrats —which is, of course, our ultimate goal.
There is also, of course the “mess– age”: a message that is overly confusing, boring, violates the rules of framing, repeats or strengthens our opponent’s message or is outright damaging. A mess-age should never have been spoken in the first place.
“Defund the Police” is an example where the definition seems to always start with “Well I don’t actually mean defunding police. What I really mean is …”
Another example is the mess-age that flings facts at voters “Well you know I’m a scientist and climate change has warmed the planet by .5 degrees in the last 20 years and the oceanss can’t take more of that kind of pressure and the air; let me tell you about the air….”. The voter might have more comfortably taken a sleeping pill.
A mess-age can also try and fail to re-define a word to give it a positive connotation rather than its widely accepted negative. Example: “Democratic Socialist”. Socialism has had a negative connotation for going on a century and a half, especially to the remaining WWII era voters. For many people their brain triggers on “socialist” and will never make the fine distinction that democratic socialism is not full on state ownership of all the means of production. Further, rather than making a distinction, the term actually associates —even equates— Democrats with Socialists muddying the waters altogether with potentially real world consequences in the voting booth. Europeans, who should be the people most against socialists, given WWII, solve the problem with “Social Democrats” which is, arguably, only marginally better. Bottom line here, getting people to shed all the associations around the word socialism takes concerted effort over many organizations, many communications vectors and over many many years.