Dec. 18th, 2016

athousanderrors: from 'Spirited Away' - soot sprites, clutching confetti stars, running about excitedly. (Default)

I made these in response to hate crimes in my community. They are full size and free to download and print if you’d like to use them, too.
athousanderrors: from 'Spirited Away' - soot sprites, clutching confetti stars, running about excitedly. (Default)


I know, I know. I get it. But I also believe that you gotta relate to people via the stuff they care about. You have to get people to care using the language/metaphors they already understand.

This is why scientists and science communicators are coached to use “natural” numbers - you don’t say something’s 200 meters long; you say it’s the length of 2 football fields. You say that something is as small as the period at the end of this sentence and that if you put all of the thing from end to end, it would stretch to the moon and back. People don’t think in microns and lightyears; they just don’t. You have to give them stuff that means something.

You don’t say that someone has a 20% chance of dying from the disease; you say that four out of five people survive it. You use the things people understand, even if the words sound painfully silly and you are dying of embarrassment just using them, because it just works better. The people can understand it, it’s meaningful to them, they’ll remember it, they will use it in their lives now.

It would be nice if everyone cared about research and data - if everyone was informed and engaged, and came out of the womb with a good grasp of the scientific method and a working knowledge of the civic institutions of their country. But they don’t and they’re not, so what are you going to do about it? Hopefully, you’ll give them the knowledge you have in a way that makes it easy to receive.

So when I ran off the rails in a tumblr post, getting overexcited about the impact of a restructured Supreme Court on the welfare of the USA in the next 50 years, I used Harry Potter metaphors. I cringed a little, because I feel like the SCOTUS is so interesting and important that we shouldn’t have to relate to it through the lens of decade-old YA literature, but I did it.

I said we “haven’t destroyed Scalia’s horcruxes” (Meaning: we can’t undo the legacy of a Justice even after their death, because the things they create to survive them are functionally immortal - except in very specific situations where people work together to deliberately destroy them in a special way.)

and “why are you focusing on your Defense Against the Dark Arts Teacher when the Wizengamot is corrupted” (Meaning: the temporary influence of a relatively powerless private individual is not as important as the stability of the functionally immortal, unchanging, supreme decision-making body that dictates the very fabric of society.)

In both cases, the metaphor is actually shorter than the meaning, and more people will get the impact - and even an interestingly nuanced context to remember it in. I know, it sounds so immature. I know, it shouldn’t take a spoonful of sugar. But if you believe the important thing is the message… then you’ll spoon out the sugar, act it out with sock puppets, take the kids on a field trip on a magic fucking school bus to make that message accessible.

And you know that I hate pop culture. But I’ll use it. I’ll use anything - sports references, Harry Potter, memes, ALL CAPS DISCOURSE, Miss Fucking Frizzle - even if it’s irritating to lots of people, if it means it makes a difficult thing accessible to people who otherwise can’t get it. 

So I guess what I’m saying is that it’s worth it, if the message is.

But I totally get it if you roll your eyes.

This makes sense, though. Most people don’t have first hand accounts of anything we’re dealing with. People who have studied history (not just historians) can make connections to the past. People who didn’t take an interest in past events beyond passing a class have popular culture to turn to to understand their world.

Why does it work? Because art imitates life. Even when that art has dragons, it still holds some commentary on what’s happening around the creator. So when we liken Trump to Voldemort it clicks with some people more than if we liken him to Hitler. Its basically the same thing because of the parallels between Voldie and Hitler.

Using references people understand isn’t dumbing things down. It’s stating the same case in a way that is a more effective information disseminator.


athousanderrors: from 'Spirited Away' - soot sprites, clutching confetti stars, running about excitedly. (Default)

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