Tips for bringing people over to the Left

If you’re a regular to my blog or my twitter, you’ve probably noticed that I’ve been a bit quiet. I swore I wouldn’t blog until my Masters was done, but the following came to me in a dream, so I wrote it down in a half-asleep frenzy. It’s a little rough and makes me sound like a massive know-it-all, but that’s how it arrived. Hopefully it makes sense.

Tips for bringing people over to the Left

  • Work within your networks.
    • People are more amenable to arguments when they are delivered by friends and family. Anonymous Youtube commenters, less so. Resist the temptation to shut yourself away in a leftist echo chamber. Politely inject yourself in non-politicised spaces.
  • It’s not about you.
    • I know it feels good to express your anger and publicly perform your leftism, but it’s not about you. It’s about promoting the values and goals of the Left by reaching consensus (with them doing most of the giving without realising it), rather than winning isolated arguments.
    • When it comes to changing minds, it’s better to look at their intentions instead of your feelings. Sure, you’re offended, but did they mean to offend you? If not, don’t get all caught up in how special and important your feelings are.
  • Assess your audience.
    • How amenable is your target audience is to your message? Some people are not easily convinced. Trying to convince these people is poor use of your time.
    • Understand the values and concerns of your target audience. View them as people with human concerns, and resist the urge to see them as the embodiment of a particular privilege/ideology.
  • Assess their values and concerns.
    • Which values, principles, experiences etc underpin their position? Engage with these on their own terms instead of dismissing or ignoring them.
    • Assess the strength of these underpinnings. How easily are they rebutted? There are plenty of good arguments available if you do a quick google.
  • Assess your arguments.
    • Take a good hard look at your argument. What are its weaknesses? Unless you are strikingly original, you’re probably not using your own arguments. The weaknesses of these will have been pointed out somewhere. Anticipate these responses. Warning: this will require listening to/respecting the views of people who you disagree with.
  • Use an approach that fits your audience.
    • Use tone and language that fit your audience. Speak to them on their terms, rather than throwing around your favourite lefty words. I’m looking at you, kyriarchy.
    • Appeal to their concerns and values, if possible. Many everyday concerns and values can be argued for from a left wing perspective. With a little research and creativity, right wing language and values can be directed towards left wing ends. In particular, Christianity can be used to argue for pretty much anything.
    • Give the appearance of debating in good faith. If they make a good point, acknowledge it. That way it will feel like a discussion, not a sermon.
    • Be charitable when interpreting their words. Ignore the occasional problematic statement. Be compassionate and understanding. Look to their intent, instead of jumping on their phrasing.
  • Use the power of conformity.
    • Most people use a two-step process to reach an opinion. First, people encounter/form a view. Second, they test it on their peers. If the testing goes well, the view is strengthened. If possible, find out where your target audience peer-tests their views.
    • Can you infiltrate these domains and influence the peer-testing? Social media a great place for this (especially facebook) but so are family barbeques and chats at work. People will often agree to avoid an argument. This can help legitimise views and win over people on the margins.
  • Employ wedge issues and valence issues.
    • Wedge issues: drive a wedge between them and the far Right. Tactically misrepresent right wing positions and people to draw your target audience closer to the Left. At the same time, don’t be afraid to be wedged away from the far Left. It’s all about appearing reasonable.
    • Valence issues: use these as much as possible, especially in the form of plain English intuitive truisms like ‘I’m just don’t want kids going to school hungry’.
  • Isolate partisans from the discussion, especially those on your side. They turn a discussion into a battle and make your position seem more combative than it needs to be.

What are your thoughts?