Democrats-liberals and Republican-conservatives may be on opposite sides of the political spectrum, but if the dozens of political emails I receive daily are any guide, they seem to use the same political consultant(s). Or maybe they just rent the same robot and take turns using it. They certainly use the same playbook. At least they seem to send out identical emails—sometimes the exact same wording, the same tone, the same appeals. It’s all boilerplate. The only difference between them is the name of the candidate that we “have to” elect or the action by “the other side” that needs to be protested and stopped in its tracks, etc.
It’s logical I would get the Left-progressive emails given my history and very leftist political orientation. What I found puzzling was when I started receiving Right-conservative emails, almost all of which begin with “Fellow Conservative” or “Friend.” I figure I got on the Right-wing email lists as a result of my having written articles that were critical of the Democratic Party establishment. These emails, both Left and Right, use the same insultingly simplistic ploys.
“I just got off the phone with” and other ploys…
A favorite ploy seems to be “I just got off the phone with” and here the emailer names a person or group that is supposed to impress you. The obvious message is “If this important person or group supports me (or my cause) so should you.”
The emails often announce a major achievement (a big endorsement, successful petition drive, etc.), telling me that “I (We) could not have done this without your support. Thank You!” That I had absolutely nothing to do with the achievement at hand and deserve no credit or thanks does not stop the emailer from thanking me profusely for my “hard work.”
Another is “I was in the room” when some momentous event happened or pronouncement by an important person was made. The implication, of course, is that the person sending you the email (often a political candidate) is part of an important inner circle. More often than not, the reality is that the email sender attended a luncheon or some such at which the important person spoke.
Many of the emails I receive start out with “I just wanted to make sure you received the email I sent you recently” about this or that “pressing” issue and then they cut-and-paste the same annoying email I deleted yesterday.
Chicken Little (of “The sky is falling!” fame) features prominently in these emails. These breathless (“Did you hear that…”) missives warn about some outrageous, earth-shaking occurrence “the other side” is engaged in or has caused.
Nancy Pelosi and President Trump are by far the most popular foils in these emails. The Right folks, mustering up every ounce of indignation and horror they can, warn that if you don’t support whatever or whomever the Right is promoting, Nancy Pelosi will be in charge of the U.S. government and will wreak all manner of mischief, including suspending the Constitution. Not to be outdone, the Left folks breathlessly warn that if you don’t support whatever or whomever the Left is promoting Trump will continue to be president and will establish a military-junta type of dictatorship.
Just give us some bucks and nobody gets hurt…
One thing all these emails, Right and Left, have in common is that they all pitch for money. They all claim “the other side” is raising tons of money, and we (the emailer and you) have to match them. The emails only differ in their approach. The Right folks set out a litany of “Yes! I will donate…” amounts, usually starting at $25 and going to the hundreds. The Left, on the other hand, puts out the absurd “Will you chip in $3 or more…” line. This ploy is designed to make it seem like the emailers are “regular” grass-roots folks who traffic in manageable amounts of money. They know full well that no one will send in a $3 donation on his/her credit card (it’ll cost more to process the transaction than the donation itself). The $3 thing is a trick to get you to send in a more substantial donation.
I guess we are supposed to breathe a big sigh of relief, knowing we can solve the country’s problems simply by making a political donation. One doesn’t have to work, to organize, to make political change … just send us some bucks and everything will be hunky-dory.
Laziness and a belief in our stupidity at the root…
Two obvious things are driving the Right-Left emails. One is plain laziness. There’s not much thought or work involved in filling in the blanks and then copying and pasting someone else’s message and passing it on as your own. The other is the bedrock belief that we—the public, the voters—are abysmally stupid and are incapable of even threshold critical thinking. Thus, the Right-Left emailers believe, we are easily manipulated by fear, by hate of “the other,” by simplistic slogans.
Fundamentally, the above is a reflection of the prevailing digital culture that permeates virtually every aspect of our life. People no longer have to do many things they used to do—go to a library to research a topic, consult a map to get from Point A to Point B, etc. Among the things the digital culture has changed is the nature of political organizing.
I’m a veteran of the Chicano Movement. We moved mountains in our halcyon days via old-fashioned organizing—going door-to-door in the barrios and standing outside churches and grocery stores talking to people about what we were doing, renting loudspeakers and attaching them to cars or trucks and driving down barrio streets exhorting people to support our cause, etc. I remember the excitement we felt when a local labor union donated a used mimeograph machine to the Centro Chicano, where I was an organizer. We thought we were in heaven!
It’s not the how but the what…
Although there is much to be said about old-fashioned organizing, my point here is not to wax nostalgic about the “good ol’ organizing days.” I know that today we live in a digital world. This is particularly true of young people. I know and understand that young folks organize via electronic means—twitter, Facebook, etc. In fact, social media played a big role in the organization of the recent “March for our lives” marches led by young people that took place all over the country (and even abroad).
My concern is not so much about how people organize politically these days. My gripe is about the content, the what, of the emails that seem to be a favored tactic among both the Democrats-liberals and Republican-conservatives. The examples I cite illustrate the deep disdain the political organizers (and the candidates or groups they represent) who engage in the practices described above have for the people they rely on for support.
Sadly, the emailers who talk down to us and treat us as unintelligent beings are enabled by those who respond and who donate. I’m sure these are well-meaning folks (at least the majority of them) who actually want to be engaged in the political process and who want to make a difference. But be that as it may, as long as the emailers keep getting money from the people they consider the unwashed masses, they will continue to sully our doorsteps. Fortunately, the “delete” key on my trusty keyboard still works. c/s
Copyright 2018 by Salomon Baldenegro. To contact Sal write: firstname.lastname@example.org All photos in the public domain.