Friday, October 14, 2011

Messaging vs. Communication

Media professionals often use the term messaging to indicate a small number of talking points that are repeated incessantly.  I call this propaganda.  To the so-called media professional staying “on message” is a virtue.  Joseph Goebbels said, “The point of a political speech is to persuade people of what we think right.”  Messaging falls squarely within this tradition.  Goebbels was the first master of old media.  Old media is about control, and about one way communication, which, when you think about it, really isn’t communication at all.
Communication is dialogue.  When a union is truly communicating with its constituency, the democratically engaged members are simultaneously the recipients and the shapers of the message.  Democratic engagement is the antithesis of control. 
Web 2.0 technologies break down the control exercised by the petty propagandists of American media.  Social media, blogs and wikis are among the technologies that allow the people to talk back.  These technologies represent a threat to old-media professionals. 
What if a member rode off the rails?  What if he or she went off message?  What would happen to the monolithic talking points that the union hammers at relentlessly?  What if it was revealed that there was diversity of opinion within the organization on a topic?  What if, god forbid, the dissenting point of view became….popular within the organization?
The answer is simple – we would have to do business differently.  And that would mean professional staff would have to do business differently.  So it’s easier to control the message, because doing business differently is a threat to those who are the masters of yesterday’s world (and are well compensated for their trouble....)
In the battle between control and democratic engagement, the ongoing ascendance of the forces of control weakens the union.  The only way forward is through democratic engagement.  Messaging – propaganda – fatally weakens engagement.  Could it destroy our union?
And to think I finance messaging with my dues dollars….

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