I’ve been reading Anat Shenker-Osorio’s new book, “Don’t Buy It: The Trouble With Talking Nonsense About The Economy.” I like it, mostly because it says what I’ve been screaming about for years: The personal is political, use metaphor to make it personal:
Strategic communications consultant Anat Shenker-Osorio has a message for progressives, simple but apparently almost impossible to execute, given the movement’s history: Get personal. Get real. And for heaven’s sake, quit fighting your opponent on your opponent’s terms.
Seems like common sense, but as Shenker-Osorio discusses in her new book, Don’t Buy It, she sees progressives make these same mistakes over and over and over again. In particular, the progressive messaging on the economy—especially the metaphors we adopt in discussing it—have contributed to a massive communication failure.
In a nutshell, when we insist on talking about the financial meltdown and its effects in terms of an unstoppable force of nature–like I just did with meltdown, in fact, or as many, many other well-intentioned liberals discuss it in terms of a crash, an earthquake, a “flood of bad mortgages,” “the perfect storm” of circumstances—all these terms cry out that we must hunker down and pray instead of actively work for change.
Body metaphors are little better—an “unhealthy economy,” a “sluggish recovery”—these too imply outside agency swooping in and destroying us, usually from within, like germs or cancer. But these scenarios are flatly wrong.
The economic crisis was neither an act of God nor a natural disaster, not an attack by microbes or internal organ breakdown. It was the result of choices—bad ones—made by specific human beings who benefitted from human-created policies at the expense of a majority of the population. And if our language does not reflect that this crisis is human-made, it follows that it cannot be human unmade either, which plays into the shrugging, no-fault stance of conservatives.
I think I’ve been pretty consistent: Bankers crashed the economy in a ditch, the Obama administration made matters worse by not pulling the damned car out of the ditch. Oh well!