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Sunday afternoon rough notes on messaging for populist alignment

Messaging (/symbolic contestation) for populist alignment: very rough notes, pieces of the puzzle, for future exploration…

  • Messages and memes (i.e. carriers of messages) must be potent enough to penetrate the meaning-making processes of existing social aggregations (aka “groups”).
  • Proximate groups are the primary spaces where meanings are processed, judged, opinions shaped, etc. (A “proximate” group is an immediately-experiencable, graspable in size, often-local group. Proximate, as opposed to abstract or imagined, the latter referring to a society, nation, class, religion, etc.)
  • Explicate the modern dis-integration/dispersal of proximate groups; a society of divided selves; identities dispersed across several circles / groups of identity, etc.
  • Explore the “script” and pressure within groups to avoid internal friction, especially subversive challenge; to extricate the political into a distinct group unto itself (e.g. “activism”), and thus to minimize antagonisms within the proximate group, its life and functions.
  • In eras of identity dispersal and unrootedness—and the shrinking of the “tradition-directed” groups and character structures—the opening to frame more potent abstract “groups” (aka imagined communities). The technologies of the mass media (first print, through the novel and national newspapers) enabled these new publics to emerge. The idea of society itself became more imaginable. (See Benedict Anderson’s Imagined Communities)
  • The imagined public is still processed, understood, and judged within proximate groups, whose identities are also shaped by their understanding and interaction to the larger social abstraction. The way it seems to look and the way it should look are a projection of values, rituals, understandings, experiences, etc. derived from proximate group experiences and culture.
  • The group is the home of morality. Without the group, anomie.
  • The hegemonic contest is over how the abstract public is framed. Who is in it? Who is outside of it? Who are its protagonists? Who or what are its threats (external and internal)?
  • Which group, individual protagonist, or symbol can step in and gain the buy-in/identification with a critical mass of the scattered individuals and groups that comprise a society?
  • Framing messages for resonance. Access to mass media ≠ mass internalization of messages. Must account for opposition’s counter-strategy of inoculation. Contagious/resonant messages build upon existing values (and ego) of proximate groups.
  • The best protagonists are those that make the audience feel good about itself — connect with their positive values and agency and triumph in the face of challenge.
  • Compare the emergence of working class consciousness in industrialized nations in late 19th Century – early 20th Century to the nationalism required for WWI. That is compare the projection of proximate group values onto the imagined abstractions of class and nation, respectively.

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