Communicating Complexity and Nuance to the Less Educated

I work in political communications and the most difficult part of the job is the title of this piece. What makes it worse is when one’s boss, the politician, is, themselves, very stupid. I will freely admit the politician I ghostwrite for is a brainless male bimbo who didn’t know global warming caused hurricanes, didn’t know multiple rights in the bill of rights and one assumes he didn’t know any of them and he also didn’t know the 14th amendment, was unaware of the existnce of the Syrian Civil War or the Troubles in Northern Ireland, did not know the Americans with Disabilities Act existed, and he couldn’t name a single Taylor Swift song. Sometimes, his vocabulary proves itself shockingly parochial; he didn’t know the word “milquetoast” when I wrote it. He has the body of a Black Ken and charming personality which is how he got elected.

I’d love to use more of the Western canon in my allusions but I know if it isn’t Perault’s Fairy Tales, the most famous Shakespeare plays, and a handful of titles like Dicken’s “The Christmas Carol”, the public will be clueless. Even then, the public knowledge is superficial. I recently, in an article on Britney Spears, alluded to Romeo & Juliet when Juliet begged fickle fate to send her beloved paramour back but I know even though it is right in the middle of Romeo & Juliet, the public wouldn’t know it. That isn’t to mention other major items of world knowledge such as other things I recently mentioned like the Concert of Europe, Hypatia and the Library of Alexandria, philosophers like Hegel, Hobbes, Rawls, Mill, Parfit, and Nausbaum. None of which the public is dimly aware of.

Communicating requires one deals with people with next to no worldly knowledge or culture and such strong emotions that they can’t forgive a non-abusive ex over a decade later. “Okay, let me get this straight. You hate him like he killed your mother because he kiss-cheated on you in middle school and you’re 35, you can’t name the three branches of government, you’re paranoid about pedophiles, and you’re addicted to the ‘Real Housewives of LA’” My first step is to estimate their subculture, match their subconscious System One to it and thus their cognitive biases and subconscious stereotypes, and then reverse engineer their syllogism. What germs of compassion and intelligence exist in the elements of their logic?

I recently looked-up Molly-Mae Hague for useful polemic tools. Liz Truss is a hard Tory who has built her empire on Brexit zealotry and the xenophobia of ex-UKIP voters. I think “Somewhere in that abyss of consumerist desert, I might find an oasis of useful, suffeciently deep, compassion. Corbyn was a failure. We have to convince the proto-fascists to turn from hatred to love.” I was looking up Molly-Mae’s rhetorical canon as if it were some religious canon and I was trying to cite verses for a theological debate. I was trying to understand the moral syllogism of the average limey wanker so we can fight back the xenophobes. If their god is consumerism then their scriptures are metonymic Twitter. Appealing to fear or self-interest are the easiest ways to communicate politically, while moral persuasion is the most difficult but ultimately the safest and most lasting. I found out a few things; most importantly the body-shaming incident, how she handled it, and I do know her husband is devoutly religious and she, at least, is to a degree and has worn a cross.

The aim there is to create a model of the normative, moral, beliefs of a relatively non-political subculture to help design messaging to turn them out for our side. Boris Johnson compared Burka-clad women to mailboxes and knowing how the less-than-civically aware public reacted to Molly-Mae Hague’s being body-shamed incident is useful in knowing how to use Boris Johnson’s remark against the Tories. The goal is to understand their normative moral syllogism to lawyer it so they’ll join the good guys. It requires a background in moral and ethical philosophy. One has to know how virtue, deontological, and utilitarian ethics work, how to ontogologically derive ethics from ethical intuitiionist systems and things like that. The sympathy for her over the body-shaming incident can be classified as deontological in that Molly-Mae as a liberal right to her own person and her body is her agency, virtue, that it is ignoble to judge someone for such superficial characteristics, or utilitarian, that this and the precedent it sets increase human suffering for no net gain in happiness.

There is not much to work with, out there. There is not much civics, history, science, or anything else. There is no common artistic or literary canon and what is common knowledge is far more myopic. It is one of the reasons people scream “pedophile”, there aren’t many commonly shared values left and there is not much knowledge. Pedophilia is, however, widely known and condemned and a Kardashian addict who can’t name their state capital will be affected by accusations of pedophilia. The pallet of tools is not that myopic but you have to dig deep and analyze hard to extract cultural items and arguments that work and that are less metaphorically monosybabilic and stupid than screaming “pedo”. Contemporary political communication is more difficult than the cynical take George Orwell enunciated, it is reverse engineering a moral syllogism from places like celebrity Twitter.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: