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Public perception is very important. What tells is the message people get, not necessarily what you intended to convey.

For example, Al Gore's Oscar success was impressvie, but rather symbolically so. He may have proved the global warming problem to many people, but did he show a solution? The disclosure of his household energy bills was a nasty right-nut trick, as always, but this time they do have a point. Either you won't save a planet by consuming that much energy, even if it is all green and compensated with offsets, or the problem is not so terrible or imminent as it sounds in the movie. Gore may still be a sincere and credible authority on the subject. But his campaign would be much more effective if we would set an example immediately followable by millions of people. At best, he is demonstrating how it is easy to be concerned with a problem but still act too little. At worst, he makes the job of opponents very easy.

While we are at the global warming issue, there is an announcement of a skeptic documentary on the climate change. Media reports indicate that this is a determined and canny effort to oppose "The Inconvenient Truth". It will be interesting to see how that will play out.

Documentaries aside, we need to learn how to tell stories of what we anticipate or wish to build. Facts can be practically useful to understand a problem, but vision is needed to move people. The prevailent vision of this time is "a house, a car, and easy money". Maybe this is a default vision of humankind. Maybe the right-wing nuts had a much easier job to promote this vision. Whatever cognitive slant is against us, we have to overcome it (or level it, if possible).

We may have nice visions. But first, those visions need to be more actual individually, or inspiring. Just description of technical solutions that would need to be imposed won't do enough. People should get a good picture of "emotional future" as well. A story does not have to be fully correct. The important thing is to get people moving, even if their immediate actions would not be objectively adequate.

Secondly, a story has to be told well, using the most effective media. As we imagine, for example, global warming is a hugely important problem. Yet there is only one Hollywood story to this date, The Day After Tomorrow. Even if the film was commercially successful, it is not exceptional amongst several other catastrophy films. It was hardly a convincing story, with the main feature of global warming being a catastrophic freeze. This is the only widely shown story on global warming that we have. We need more. (I have a general idea with a set of isolated episodes for a story that I may wish to "imprint" on others. Perhaps I should find time to write something down and look for people closer to Spielberg or Polanski, ha ha.)

The right-wing opponents may not have great stories either, but nevertheless, their consumerist vision is dominating unopposed. Where are Charles Dickenses and Jules Vernes of the 21st century?

I do not see the current media difficulties for progressives as fundamentally hard. Rather, I see a miss-matched evolutionary episode, where one side jumped forward with new (or rather, innovative but primitively old) verbal tools, while the other meekly accepted a marginal role. Progressives may have less inclination for alpha roles, but it is important to take them. (Humans are primates, after all.) For the sake of message clarity, we need to appear more confident indeed.

by das monde on Mon Mar 5th, 2007 at 04:19:54 AM EST

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