Wednesday, 8 December 2010

How to be an activist and what not

to do.
This post seems particularly necessary to me at the moment with Julian Assange being much in the news. If you have been completely out of the loop - Mr Assange is the individual behind "Wikileaks". You can go and look that up for yourselves.

However let me say this about advocacy (which is not quite what Mr Assange is on about) because it is important. There are laws about advocacy.

The first law of advocacy is that your opponents will try to make you out to be an ill-informed fool who does not understand what they are talking about.
The second law of advocacy is your opponents will harass you and endeavour to have you ostracised.
The third law of advocacy is that your opponents will talk about you and spread rumours about you. What they say will rarely be kind and the rumours will be false.
The fourth law of advocacy is that, if you have a job, you may lose it. If you do not have a job you may find you are not able to get one. People who are responsible for employing other people do not like people who speak out.
The fifth law of advocacy is that it costs - both time and money.

You still want to go ahead? Fine. You might well find that, if the cause is a worthy one, you will find you have supporters as well. Just be aware that some of them may be radicals who do the cause more harm than good.

It is for that reason that I will now offer you a list of rules about things you should not do if you want to be an activist:

Rule 1: Break the law.
This is more important than anything else. You do not want a criminal record. It gets you nowhere in the end. No, nothing is worth getting arrested. Find another way to protest but do not break the law.
Rule 2: Do not state opinions as if they were facts.
This is one of the fastest ways of stopping the people who matter from listening to you. Your job is not about getting the public on side but about getting your opponents on side. Mobilise the public with facts so that when your opponents attack them they are armed with the right sort of weapons.
Rule 3: Do not lie.
You will get caught and you will have given your opponents a powerful weapon.
Rule 4: Do not be rude.
It might capture media attention but nobody will respect you for it, not even your supporters.
Rule 5: Make sure of your facts.
Your opponents are out to catch you out. If you have your facts wrong then they are going to use that against you.
Rule 6: Do not ignore the facts.
If there are facts that do not support your stance then admit them - and then find a way to reduce their impact.
Rule 7: Do not write long letters.
Nobody is going to read them.
Rule 8: Make sure you know your opponents.
Your opponents are the enemy. You need to know them in order to do battle with them.
Rule 9: Do not waste your energy talking to the wrong people.
Engage your opponents in conversation, not your supporters
Rule 10: Do not allow your opponents to set the rules or the boundaries.
This does not mean you may not negotiate but, when you do, make sure you are getting something and not just giving.
Rule 11: Do not give up too soon.
Make sure your opponents are publicly committed. If they fail to honour an agreement you can come back to them.
Rule 12: Know when to give up.
You may not get what you want, or all you want. Do not find reach a point where you find yourself in court.

All these things can really be said in just two words "Act Responsibly".


Rachel Fenton said...

Alas, I am always out of the loop - no other commentators; what have you been blogging about?...Going to go back track....

catdownunder said...

I think I have bored everyone Rachel - although the idea was that I would provide some advice for people who want to actively join in the Campaign for the Book - or maybe they are too busy writing letters. I hope so.

Ann said...

Great check list! Very sensible approach to advocacy. There is no point in advocating if you go at like a bull in a china shop, you accomplish nothing.