We Have A ‘Message Problem’

Background Reading


From: Robert Reich moveon-help@list.moveon.org

Subject: We have a message problem
Date: May 5, 2015 at 4:29 PM
Dear MoveOn member,

I think the Republicans are wrong about an awful lot. But you have to give them one thing: They know how to stay on message.

And the hard truth is, Democrats basically stink at it.

The Republican message is simple: Government is the problem. If we just cut taxes and regulations, then voila! Prosperity will follow. It’s wrong—dangerously wrong. But the echo chamber of conservative think tanks, right-wing media, and Republican politicians repeats it over and over and over.

Now here’s the key: If we’re going to build an economy that works for all Americans, we need to become as effective and disciplined in our messaging as the Republicans.

That’s why I’ve spent the last few months teaming up with MoveOn Civic Action to develop a groundbreaking project to do just that. Will you chip in $3 to help kick off the next phase of this project with a bang?

Yes, I’ll chip in.

Here’s the plan: We’ve put together a platform with ten of the most powerful and important proposals to improve the lives of regular Americans. And we’ll start by bypassing corporate media entirely, getting our compelling ideas in front of millions of people.

MoveOn’s team of social media and viral video experts knows how to get these ideas out to millions of Americans, just as effectively as Fox News and Rush Limbaugh push out right-wing talking points.

But ideas alone—without the organizing needed to create meaningful change—just aren’t enough.

That’s why we’ll go further. We’ll make sure our ideas are heard in Washington, D.C. by taking MoveOn members and our allies—and our solutions—directly to our elected officials.

To make sure we have enough resources to launch the next phase of this project, we’re counting on you. Will you chip in $3?

Yes, I’ll chip in.

Thanks for all you do.

–Robert Reich


Robert Reich’s message arrived in my inbox today. It along with a thread from the rather dysfunctional Chicago ‘Whine and Jeez Club’ Cycling Forum Crowd. This group runs hot and cold when it comes to their message as well. One day they are delivering this sort of drivel:

Chicago's Cycling Movement Issues A Leftist Manifesto

Chicago’s Cycling Movement Issues A Leftist Manifesto

And the next it is decrying the behaviors of its teenage segment who ride too fast and do it (the ‘wrong way‘) on one-way streets. They end up blowing through a 4-way stop sign and shouting obscenities at the motorists who are angered by their ‘near-miss‘ with automobiles on the roadway.

Our Youths Reflect Who We Are

Urban Cyclist "Idaho Stop" Two-Step Variation

Urban Cyclist “Idaho Stop” Two-Step Variation

Make no mistake about it, kids always spy out our worst behaviors. They know how we behave on Critical Mass Rides. It is not lost on them that we routinely ride against traffic by crossing the double-yellow lines on the parade route.

They learn that ‘cool cyclists‘ like those who commute to work not only run stop signs that have a nifty ‘Idaho Two-Step‘ that really freaks out the old farts in their cars:

Maybe This Is NOT a Good Idea?

Maybe This Is NOT a Good Idea?

But what really makes it difficult to find fault with the behavior of teens is that when we are faced with complaints we resort to the ‘so’s your old man‘ defense. It is as if we have a very difficult time ‘owning‘ our bad behavior.

So very much like these teens we are badly behaving members of the transportation landscape. But where we differ from them is that they are at least unrepentant. We on the other hand are as hypocritical as ever. Rather than admitting that we should not be doing what we do we offer up the ‘they do it too defense‘ and smile smugly.

But Our Youths Are Watching

Kids know ‘shucking and jivving‘ when they see it. Nothing gets past their youthful brains. And they become dismissive of their elders who need to offer up excuses in exchange for bad behavior. Kids are at least honest in their rebelliousness.

The situation is getting worse rather than better. Motorists are not fooled by our prevarication. The simply write us off as people who will lie when it is convenient and for some it becomes the grounds for their seething resentments. That eventually erupts in some level of Road Rage.

The thing that is most important to understand is that the original poster on the teenage youths was in fact expressing a level of ‘Road Rage‘. He may not understand it as such but that is precisely what it is.

He is asking the age-old question as to how you can behave stupidly and not understand that there are consequences to your actions?

Urban Cycling Movement Members are more often than not forgetful of the consequences of their actions. On one level they like to be able to remain the ‘victims‘ in all roadway situations. They belittle pedestrians for being as clueless in their minds as motorist believe us to be.

But on another level there is a tendency to dissociate the consequences of our bad behavior from the injuries incurred in day-to-day travel. We conventienly forget (if we every knew) how to avoid ‘Right Hooks‘ and ‘Door Zone Collisions‘, relying instead on lawsuits to ‘fix the problem‘.

At Least ‘Own’ Our Peccadillos

Nobody is perfect. We all make mistakes. But sleeping with a child when you are a teacher is not quite a mistake. It is stupid and very bad behavior. We need to have teachers and priests ‘own‘ this reality.

Likewise we as cyclists need to stop asking stupid questions like ‘who trains out youths on how to ride‘? We do. Each and every mothers son or daughter  of us does. They ape what we do and feel no shame. They do it precisely because they know it to be wrong.

Adults on the other hand get into these rather silly arguments about rights and liabilities and eventually the who thing gets so convolutely that we are unable to ‘speak plainly‘. As a result our message gets highly muddled.

When we have our advocacy groups start blathering about ‘safety’ it is obvious to everyone that we are lying to ourselves. We ask that automobiles give us 3-Feet when passing but when we ride in their midst (we call it ‘filtering‘) we routinely caress the sides of buses and trucks without hands. We even go so far as to grab onto vehicles and let them tow us.

Our actions make liars of us and yet we can no longer detect what is obvious to all those teenagers. That is why our message does not resonate with others. We are liars and are totally unaware (any more) that we have slipped into that mode.