Hacker News new | comments | show | ask | jobs | submit login

Despite my differences with much of the Republican party platform, one thing that they are damn good at and I respect them for is an ability to communicate with their target base.

Where's there's a hot topic issue, the Republicans will come out in lockstep with voices on the same wavelength. They use clear and simple language with a single antagonist. In the really big battles they even coin phrases like 'Obamacare', 'Death tax', & 'energy exploration', that succinctly convey their point of view. Each of those phrases will be used repeatedly by every Republican on TV, until their opponents (Democrats) even adopt the same language they've invented.

This why I like that 'shoplifter in the store' analogy. Its pretty simple and relatable to just about anyone. On the topic of language though, the opponents of SOPA should be creating their own word/phrase. If we refer to SOPA as 'online piracy', then we've already conceded more ground that we need to.

Agreed. So here's how we do it.

This is the word: Prohibition. It's our "death panels".

This is how you tell it to grandma:

  - The music & movie industries want a Prohibition on user-created content.
  - When radio was invented, they wanted a Prohibition on it.
  - When cable TV was invented, they wanted a Prohibition on it.
  - When the VCR was invented, they wanted a Prohibition on it.
  - Now Youtube and many other websites have been invented.
  - Youtube is very entertaining; you can watch funny cat videos all day long.
  - They want the Government to create a Prohibition on Youtube.

I went and found my password for this account which I haven't used in an age just to say this is a really good idea, I hope other people who get a chance to talk on TV about this pick up on it.

I don't think that's accurate enough. 'Prohibition' is better for the War on Drugs, which draws a more meaningful connection to the 20s.

If I had to paint in broad, evocative strokes, I'd claim the industries are using the government to prop up their outdated business models by destroying competition from users.

So I'd suggest 'Monopoly.'

I don't like 'Monopoly' because most people don't recognize that as a fundamental problem. In fact in the case of media, monopoly is assumed as necessary to provide you with what you want (hundred million dollar blockbuster films).

The key thing to focus on is the imbalance of power SOPA creates and how that will end up getting in the way of Uncle Art's evening entertainment. So far the shoplifting shutting down the store analogy is the most pointed I've heard, but still not a catch phrase.

I find the shoplifting analogy decent, but the main flaw I see is that it keeps the discussion framed around crimes being committed and what is the punishment. Even if the punishment is seen as really extreme, centuries of legislation have shown that being "tough on crime" is extremely popular.

My hope with the term 'Prohibition' is to turn it around and put the focus on the evil being done by the media companies. They want the government take away your rights, because they don't want to compete fair and square with web technologies.

Fair points on Prohibition. It definitely has the negative-only effect that you'd want; I'll have to think about it.

Here's an analogy I've been using that might work: "They're tying your hands behind your back so you have to pay them to feed you."

'Monopoly' is a good one too. I don't think the terms are mutually exclusive:

"They want the Government to create a Prohibition so they can have a Monopoly on content"

That said, I do think 'Prohibition' is an accurate description. SOPA may well be the first step in a 'War on Piracy' that does have strong parallels with '20s prohibition and the drug war. SOPA is a futile attempt to stop normal human behavior - sharing of content. It won't work. The fact that it won't work could lead to even more draconian blocking measures, creating a self-reinforcing loop of ever-escalating restrictions and punishments. 'Prohibition' conveys that futility and extremeness pretty well for a single term.

"Despite my differences with much of the Republican party platform, one thing that they are damn good at and I respect them for is an ability to communicate with their target base."

Yes- they are so good at this, its a great lesson in conveying with power.. George Lakoff beautifully explains how they do this in his book- "Don't Think of an Elephant!: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate".. You also mention they get the other political parties to use "their" terminology as well, George Lakoff goes through this in the book as well. I found a ton of communication lessons in the book, and I dont think the tone will alienate anyone, even though its clear the author doesn't lean too far to the right. A great book to read if anyone is at all interested in how the Right owns the game...

One more suggested metaphor -

If some kids at a mall talk about shoplifting, all the malls that company owns get shut down without a trial.

We know and understand user-created content because we've been using it (and creating it) for years. That's the thing we need to get across to the great masses - not that websites should be penalised for giving out unauthorised copies (which they'll largely agree with), but that a huge percentage of the websites they use and love are no more in constant control of what appears on every page of their websites than malls are able to control every last thing that happens within them, and that the penalties should be organised accordingly.

It doesn't hurt that they have a 24hr propaganda network dedicated to repeating these catch phrases and sound bites over and over again.

That came later after talk radio built the audience. The political messaging came first, over decades, to whip up a base of support. Fox is the number one news channel in the US because it resonnates with the receptive base audience.

The shoplifting metaphor might be simple and relatable, but it's inaccurate because it's not just someone stealing in your store, it's other people putting stolen merchandise in your store to be re-stolen by someone else.

The real metaphor is, "If you own a pawn shop and let obviously dirt broke people come in and sell you stolen Rolexes all the time, you may be shut down."

I would put i like this:

It is like you own this huge supermarket. Lately some shady guys have started putting flyers with information on where you could buy pirated merchandise from China for cheap.

With SOPA this would mean the Governmnet could shut down _your_ supermarket because someone found one of these flyers at your place.

Another take: in this huge supermarket two random people talk about drugs, and a police officer overhears their ramblings, so the supermarket gets shut down.

I think this would work best in communicating with an older audience. It's like shutting down the whole store because the customers are sharing illegal information with each other.

No, that's not it either. It's not that your letting people do stuff you know they can't legally be doing. It's that your pawn shop is so incredibly huge that you can't be sure what's happening everywhere at any given time. By the time you get to one side to see what's happened, the other side has turned into Somalia. You put up signs, hire security guards but the floor space is so enormous it would be prohibitively expensive to keep any wrong doers out and trying to do so would cost more than the whole thing is making in revenue.

It's not that mine is incorrect. It's that we're both correct, plus a whole other slew of equally plausible scenarios. In plenty of cases it is what I described, plus the owner is painfully aware that his shoppers mostly only buy from the fake watch guys, and they hide behind a description like the one you've crafted, crying "poor me, my job is so hard."

I agree with you to some extent. However, one of the problems with how the Republican party communicates is that, amomg their target base, they will often conflate "memorizing and regurgitating" talking points with understanding/groking the issues. They may not know why they don't like Obamacare, but they can memorize that catchy word and they know it spells trouble. But later when/if their party decides to change positions on the issue, a new catchy term with a positive connotation is coined for the masses to latch onto.

I think this runs at odds with what some people are trying to do, which is educate the electorate on why this kind of thing is a bad idea so that these types of issue branding tricks can't get past the public.

All that being said, I'm not sure that much of the electorate can be educated in this way, which probably does account for the success of this sort of thing.

> They may not know why they don't like Obamacare, but they can memorize that catchy word and they know it spells trouble.

Not to get to OT with politics, but another important part of the "Republicans are better at messaging" thing is that in general conservative positions tend to be very simple, e.g.

"drill for more oil" vs. "if we create a market for greenhouse gas emissions we can incentivize a market-based transition to a cleaner...."

"get tough on crime" vs. "focusing on incarceration ratherthan rehabilitation for certain classes of crimes actually increases crime by decimating minority communities and perpetuating a cycle of...."

"the government is bloated" vs.


SOPA is throwing the baby out with the bath water.

(And you never throw the baby out with the bath water!)

I always though it was interesting how the right is very good at sounding authoritative, but when they try humor it comes across poorly or obviously self serving. The left however is very good with humor and satire, but when they try and speak strongly it more often comes across unclear or whiny.

Call me crazy, but Reagan was a pretty funny guy.

"SOPA is the Great Wall of America"

"SOPA is Internet Mutilation"

People generally think the Great Wall is pretty cool, and also that it was effective and did good things.

I agree, tacking on "of America" only makes it sound more positive to most people. Even I'm having a hard time thinking "SOPA is the Great Wall of America" doesn't sound really awesome.

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | DMCA | Apply to YC | Contact