Messaging like a convoy

Image from Flickr, Creative Commons license

Image from Flickr, Creative Commons license

I read A LOT this summer, and I have notes about some of my insights from that reading all over my desk.

In an effort to clean off my workspace and clean out some of the thoughts swirling around my head, the next several weeks will be sort of ‘book review’ time at Classroom to Capitol. I hope that you add some new titles to your ‘to-read’ lists (mine are SO long!) and find some new ideas to seed your own thinking, as we head into fall.

Reading about Auschwitz on vacation prompts some strange looks, I’ll admit.

But it’s good mental exercise, and I found myself reflecting on more than just the obvious horror of the Holocaust, although that’s what kept me up some nights.

But this quote from Goebbels was one of the first pieces that struck me.

He described his communication efforts as relying on repetition and constant, only somewhat varied, reiteration. His technique was to ‘move like a convoy–always at the speed of the slowest vessel’ (p. xvi).

I’m not, I promise, suggesting that we strive to emulate the Nazi propagandist, it is an undeniably poignant example of the power of communication.

But that idea, that we need to be always aware of how we’re bringing people along with us, as we’re messaging, is incredibly important.

It means that racing along at our preferred speed won’t work, when what we’re trying to do is get people to adopt our lens to see the world. It means that we will leave people behind unless we’re not only scanning the horizon but also looking in the rearview mirror. It means that we can’t be afraid of saying the same thing over and over again, because that’s how we give people a chance to connect to our messages, at whatever point they encounter them.

It means that we never lose sight of the purpose of our communication, at least in an advocacy context: to share a vision of the world as it should be, and to invite others to be part of it, too.

2 responses to “Messaging like a convoy

  1. Melinda, you note provoked this reflection:
    As a child, like many boys of my generation I was fascinated with tales of war and the reenactment of slaughter on the grandest of scale. In the seventh grade, I purchased a book with a red cover emblazoned with a white circle and black swastika. Written by Miklos Nyiszli, the title was simple enough. “Auschwitz, A doctor’s eyewitness account.” I don’t need to relate the story as we’ve all heard it. (But were we all listening?) It’s telling at this time in my young life changed this life. That single book was a seed for what has become my life’s’ passion as well as my profession. How could anyone have known at the time? Mrs. Hagen my fifth grade teacher might have had some inkling, she was remarkable about such stuff, but certainly no one else suspected. Sadly, frighteningly what I recognized in that book and the thousands of others that have followed was that in each of us is the potential for unfathomable intolerance and cruelty. Right along with the capacity for as-yet-realized compassion, understanding, growth and peace. Our lives are framed by the choices we make. Choices molded by the obstacles as well as advantages encountered along the way.
    “I’m gonna lay down that sword and shield, down by the riverside…”
    Peculiarly I am still fascinated by the words of warriors and those who chronicle their deeds. And I will, in-spite of the song we sang in church this past Sunday, continue to study those words with vigor. As the sword and shield rust to nothingness in the mud, I know that there are plenty more where they came from.
    Just a year before my discovering the story of Auschwitz, my father had died in a veteran’s hospital. As an adult I have wondered what he thought of my unbridled childish enthusiasm for war. A third generation cattleman, his uniform was that of a Stetson Hat, Hyer’s Boots, and a tooled leather ranger belt with silver and gold buckle from old Mexico. I never imagined him in that plain seaman’s uniform he wore in the picture on my grandmothers’ nightstand. And I never heard his stories of New Guinea, Guam, Iwo Jima, Ie Shima, or Okinawa, place names from history books that I found noted in his discharge papers, many years after his passing. My father was no warrior as he told no stories to fill my impressionable mind. In the war he was just a “hospital corpsman.” And everyone knows that hospitals are safe. Perhaps his silence spoke volumes that I didn’t understand. Certainly, his frequent acts of kindness and compassion for friends and strangers alike spoke volumes that I would only come to recognize in their later absence. (In reality, Navy Hospital Corpsmen served as “medics” with the Marines.)
    James Bradley, the son of another Navy Corpsman wrote a book titled Flags of Our Fathers. In the book he tells of uncovering the story that his father had refused to give voice too. The son gave voice to that truthful and terrifying story with the honest words of horror, pain, grief, loss, hate, and finally even rebirth and hope. It is a painful accounting of the ignorance and fear and hate that drove young men to mercilessly slaughter one another a half century ago. Honorable Japanese men and idealistic American men, boys really. Not unlike us still today, driven to do the unimaginable through a limited understanding of a diverse world that is subject to manipulation and exploitation by political and religious leaders alike. (A 10×10 copy of the photograph in which Brady’s father helped with the flag raising on Mount Surabachi, marked with the faded the signatures of long lost friends and a Navy censors stamp was interestingly enough, one of my fathers’ only material mementos from the war. My mother had stored it away in an album amongst letters and news clippings.)
    In a world full of fear, hate, intolerance and ignorance, where poverty and disease begs for a culprit, rigid ideology and efficient weaponry offers the invisible a recognizable image, and the unheard a loud resounding voice.
    Gary E. Bachman MSSW

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