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Sunday, 12 June 2016

Bernie Sanders' mould-breaking politics — and the value of 'signposting headlines' in writing

By Dude Swheatie of Kwug

I'm sure that most of the people who like this blog will have heard of Hilary Clinton's main Democratic Party rival in the USA. Bernie Sanders is a man and I believe that despite his gender even the women who like this blog would prefer Sanders to be USA President than have Hilary Clinton as the USA's first ever female president.

Whether the women and men who like this blog currently would already prefer Sanders to be USA President or not, I commend them to read the blog piece Dear Bernie, Don't Give Up, Run as a Green at either:
  1. the America-focused Counter Punch blog site(1) or
  2. the UK-based London Green Left blog site.(2)

Gender politics and 'declaring an interest'

I find it pretty convincing, but then again I 'declare an interest' by saying that I am a member of the Green Party of England & Wales and a member of the eco-socialist tendency in GPEW known as Green Left. As for the fact that I am a man, I do not think that that is relevant to why I reckon that women who like this blog should vote for Sanders than vote for Hilary. Are those who wanted Obama as America's first black president satisfied with his record as first black president of the USA? What would Hilary Clinton be known for as America's first female president? 

What is Margaret Thatcher mainly known for as Britain's first female prime minister? I am reminded of something that Alan Clark MP (Conservative) said on an audience-participation
programme in South-West England. He had been asked why Britain was kowtowing the American line with Ronald Reagan in the White House and Margaret Thatcher resident at No. 10 Downing Street. Taken aback by that statement, Clark instantly retorted:
"Margaret Thatcher is twice the man that Ronald Reagan is!"
That was after she had gained the 'Falklands Factor' to her record, turning — as Naomi Klein pointed out in her 2007 book The Shock Doctrine: The rise of disaster capitalism —
  1. from attacking the 'enemy without' (an Argentine military junta)
  2. to attacking 'the enemy within' (in the collective form of the National Mineworkers Union and the political left in general)
Klein wrote of the results:
".... the disorder resulting from the war allowed her to crush the striking miners and to launch the first privatisation frenzy in a western democracy."(3)
Feminists at the time of the Falklands War, I had been told by a pacifist woman close to the Greenham Common Peace Camp women, were considering whether a male UK prime minister would have been so warmongering in their response to the Argentine invasion?

Signposting in writing, openness about past errors, and 'this changes everything'

There may be many reasons why people who go to this blog go to this blog. This blog reached an all-time high record number of 'viewings' in one day yesterday from around the world. With very few people ever commenting on what brings them to viewing a blog, it can be hard to say what really draws them in.

Graph of Blogger page views
Numbers of 'viewings' of this blog from its beginning in May 2010

This is a blog hosted by Google, and Google's administrator panel tools can be very helpful in identifying the 'referring sites' that bring people to a blog, and it seems that yesterday the main referring site was Google itself. That is arguably because of the use of the 'labels' used in composing the blog pieces or 'posts' as Google prefers to call them. So it's good to have something relevant for use as the label, as if Google was a 'dating agency' for readers. It was through that influence that our anarchist friends from Bow in the East End of London joined Kilburn Unemployed's recent demonstration in support of Tony Cox in Kilburn, North-West London.(4)(5)(6)(7)

So Google 'labels' as 'search keys' can help direct people to a blog as 'sign posts'. Making optimum use of relevant words in the 'permalink' to a page can be another essential aid in attracting viewers.

'Signposting' in writing has more traditionally been focused on headings, subheadings, minor headings and resultant 'tables of contents' and indexes originating from paper-based reading matter. Subheadings and minor headings can help break up a long piece of writing into more manageable chunks. They can also help prepare the reader for what they are about to read, and help them remember the content more easily.

As a person with very slow reading speed and thus lower 'reading stamina' than probably most of the people who read London Green Left blog or Counter Punch regularly, I was reminded of that point as I scrolled through pane after pane of the Bernie Sanders blog post.

It did strike me though that that blog post could have benefited from such headings as 'Freedom to change one's viewpoint and retract a previous commitment'. Beyond the specifics of the polling and the party politics though, it struck me that there was very little or no argument specifically to back up the 'run as a Green' part of the post's title. I believe linking in matters of global warming as they have impacted the U.S. of A. since 2012 could have complemented the article's attack on the 'industries' that are the megabucks corporate backers of presidential front-runner candidates, and the attacks on Hilary Clinton's 'dodgy dealings'. That would have made it all much more convincing and more appealing to a potentially wider audience. 

A quotation that comes to mind about freedom to change one's viewpoint is by Alexander Pope about one being 'wiser today than yesterday'.(8) Relatively short statements stand out in the mind more than long sentences; take Alan Clark's, "Margaret Thatcher is twice the man that Ronald Reagan is" as a case in point.

Another important, very pithy and very short phrase though is one used by Naomi Klein as the title of a book on the links between the wrongs of global corporations and the urgency of tackling global warming: This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs the Climate.(9)

"Leave them wanting more"

I remember the advice of a Casting Director Richard Evans to aspiring actors and performers in the 1990's. He told 'The Art of Selling Yourself' workshops that I attended, "Leave them wanting more."

[Earlier pause in writing: So it's goodbye from me for now. I have to get in some more sleep at 04:49 in the morning and later eat before going to a weekly medical appointment.]

Most specifically he was referring to the length of the CV (Curriculum Vitae) or resumé (career summary) that the actor or performer would send the employer, and the self-selected audition pieces chosen. "Keep it brief and keep it memorable," he argued, as these were but parts of a recruitment process, serving as introductions.

Transferring that advice to electoral politics one of the main means by which politicians attempt to 'grab the voter's attention' is by way of the 'sound bite', where brevity rules but can be taken too far with over-simplification. (In blogging I attempt to keep sentences as simple as possible and paragraphs not too long. That makes the content not only more digestible, but also easier to proofread for errors!)

Sound bite brevity  helps to engage the listener's attention, and it is clear from the 'Dear Bernie, don't give up ...' blog post that Sanders has grabbed the attention and engagement of many previously disaffected voters. Moreover, he has kept 'on message' but not bored his audience. 

Listening to people is also a great way of engaging their attention, and goes hand in hand with the campaigning and direct action of Kilburn Unemployed Workers Group. The more that people are helped with their cases — whether by direct intervention by us or by 'signposting' referral to other agencies such as Z2K where truly expert legal advice is called for — the greater the public 'goodwill' attached to our name and the more consistent our meeting attendances.

To conclude this article here and now though, I emphasise that Bernie Sanders seems to have become a spokesperson for people either entirely new to electoral politics in a very 'corporatist' two-party state, and 'first past the post' electoral system where minority voices are too often marginalised and the holders of those voices become very disenchanted.(10)

So perhaps Sanders showing a greater loyalty to that audience than to the Democrat party-political-allegiance in a corporatist 'two party' State really can help to 'break the mould' of American politics and leave people the world over wanting greater political engagement?


  1. http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/06/10/dear-bernie-dont-give-up-run-as-a-green/
  2. http://londongreenleft.blogspot.co.uk/2016/06/dear-bernie-dont-give-up-run-as-green.html
  3. http://www.naomiklein.org/shock-doctrine/excerpt
  4. http://kilburnunemployed.blogspot.co.uk/2016/06/support-for-tony-cox-thurs-9-june-at-10am.html
  5. http://kilburnunemployed.blogspot.co.uk/2016/06/placards-in-support-of-tony-cox-and-the-right-to-be-accompanied-at-jobcentres-and-benefit-entitlement-assessments.html
  6. http://kilburnunemployed.blogspot.co.uk/2016/06/tony-cox-update-10-june-2016.html
  7. http://kilburnunemployed.blogspot.co.uk/2016/06/kuwg-plus-anarchist-friends-in-support-of-tony-cox-thurs-9-jun-2016.html
  8. http://www.quotationspage.com/quote/28702.htm
  9. https://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/sep/19/this-changes-everything-capitalism-vs-climate-naomi-klein-review
  10. http://kilburnunemployed.blogspot.co.uk/2016/06/legitimacy-of-electoral-systems-vs-illegitimate-and-vicious-government-policies.html

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