Thursday, May 10, 2007

The Marketplace of Ideas

Numerous commentators have spoken about the enormous efforts the corporate right-wing has made to insinuate their values and opinions into the popular culture.

"Think-tanks," pressure groups, genuine "grass-roots" and "astro-turf" organizations, churches, public relations, marketing, etc., etc., on top of the already existing corporate newsmedia and pro-capitalist government propaganda.

These commentators and other activists say that we on the Left have to get our act together meet this challenge.

But the thing is, we did meet this challenge, with popular magazines, grassroots pressure groups, and other forms of outreach, including the work done by unions and left-of-centre political parties.

The fact of the matter is that we're out-gunned because we're out-spent. Corporations can instantly form organizations with full-time, paid staff, comprising experts in media relations and in the technical issues of whatever issue it is they're concerned about, to lobby, pressure, and lie, about anything they want.

We on the Left will never be able to meet this challenge word for word, commercial for commercial, reporter for reporter. The Left is sustained by unpaid volunteers, activists who have been damaged by one particular outrage and who are left without the resources to go on, but a burning anger against the system that injured them, and on the thinly-spread money of union and party membership donations.

We can't achieve parity, unless we pursue something else, something focused, something that will pay off major dividends to all concerned.

That is why I advocate for citizenship rights for workers. Give workers access to their employers' P.R. slush-fund money. Split it 50-50. So if the shithead Fraser Institute used to get $20,000, now it gets $10,000 and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives gets the other ten grand.

Actions like that will help tilt the culture wars in our favour.


Anonymous said...

The fact of the matter is that we're out-gunned because we're out-spent.

Yes ... and no.

In his book Blinded by the Right, author David Brock writes about the foundation and rise of that mother of all conservative think-tanks, The Heritage Foundation: With $250,000 from Colorado brewer Joe Coors, and help from direct-mail fund-raising wizard Richard Viguerie, Weyrich founded the Heritage Foundation and made it into the premier research institution on the right. He then started the Free Congress Foundation and its PACs, dedicated to reversing entrenched Democratic rule ion Capitol Hill. Within a decade, Weyrich's operation dwarfed anything like it on the left, making it possible for people like me to flock to Washington in droves and find jobs.

Sure, Weyrich got funds from Coors, but it is doubtful whether he would have been able to have such an impact without Richard Viguerie. What Viguerie brought into the mix is an ability to canvass large number of potential voters using direct mail. More here, here and this very interesting BuzzFlash interview.

Of course, the Canadian Left does not have a Richard Viguerie to start the ball rolling. We can learn from him though. As well, we need to think out of the box and devise ways and means to achieve what Viguerie did for neoconservatism. In that regard, another early sponsor was Amway. I would not be at all surprised to learn that Amway has also used its contact model to help the neocons. Indeed, under Dean, the Democrats have wisened up and introduced the "Neighbourhood Networks": "It [...] works like an Amway plan, besides contacting people, we look for others who will join us in contacting others, and keeping the network growing and going. The beauty of the Neighborhood Network is that is gives us all the possibility to become local leaders ourselves." An interesting link here.

In other words, we do not need to wait for a 'guru' or a 'leader' or whoever to start our own awareness-raising campaign. We could begin with our mailist of family and friends. I would bet that most bloggers who write about very interesting and damning things about Harper and his neocons do not bother to inform their family & all of their friends and acquaintances including neighbours of what they have learned or found. Perhaps that would be one place to start.

Sorry about the long comment.

thwap said...

Oh, I don't mind a detailed response to a post.

In fact, thanks.

Re: Viguerie, ... yes, the Left has to do work similar to the messianic work of the network of Christian churches in the US, that were used to advance the Repugnican agenda.

But there's the issue of what motivated those Christians to vote the way they were told to, write the letters they were told to, work for the causes they worked for, ... versus what the Left could use to motivate people to a similar level of activism.

But yeah, I guess a certain more sustained level of activism on my part, in my own life, other people in their own lives, communicating with family, friends, neighbours, to try to counteract the influence of the system's media.

Still, I'd love to see workers have some sort of control over the discretionary spending of their workplaces' P.R. slush funds.

As workers and as consumers we have a great degree of ownership over that money. The idea that it all goes to institutions that justify our continued exploitation is highly distasteful to me.