Strategery and Framing on the Blogs

(NOTE: consider this a bit of a reference piece concerning impeachment. People are objecting to the idea of impeaching Bush at this time as ridiculous, and of course, it is. Bush will not be impeached at this late date. So why put forth the idea? Read on!)

How does blogging work to influence the national discussion? How do you achieve political change from the margins? How can a small group of people make a difference? ….WTF are we spending all this time typing for???? Here is my take.

The main “products” of blogging are ideas and information. Now there are very few “new” ideas, and the information that the blogs “produce” is mainly from other sources such as the Main Stream Media, which the blogs “package” for their readers outlook and interests. In other words, something happens and a blogger takes the source where he learned of this new information and repackages it for his or her blog. It is basically the same with ideas. Though there are a few new ideas that are produced through reactions to new information, there are in these days since The Enlightenment and the growing ease of disseminating new ideas through whatever the newest media are at the time, very few truly original ideas. Ideas that have not been previously thought of. So we are essentially repackaging ideas as well.

This is, as you know, called framing, or reframing.

Socialism, for instance, is not a new idea, but it is now being reframed or repackaged. Both to meet the demands of the new circumstances under which it will be applied …and… to make it palatable and acceptable in its new form to the “consumers” (voters, pundits and bloggers) who will “use it.”  To those who need to “buy it” for it to be accepted and for it to work. To put it bluntly…to sell it.

Though it is a crass reductionism to say so, blogs are a marketplace of ideas, a marketplace of political framing. We are trying to sell an “idea” (or frame, or take, or iteration of an idea) in this marketplace. If we are successful, it “goes viral.” It is taken up and spread by others and support for it grows….and this new idea becomes part of the national…and now worldwide, public discussion, it becomes part of the public consciousness. It changes the world, mostly in a small way, and sometimes in a big way. But even if it is in a small way, that idea has changed the world.

In other words, as we like to say here, it produces ripples.


Those ripples spread and impact whatever they strike and pass through on their journey through the blogosphere and the public consciousness. Ripples are essentially vibrations. If those vibrations meet others and are reinforced in sympathetic vibration, they grow stronger and spread farther. They spread the change that those ripples represent farther.

The portion of We The People who have embraced and participate in blogging have a desire to change things, We see the way things are now, are unhappy with them, and sit down to write about that on the internet. We introduce our individual take, our individual framing on some issue. Others read it and agree or disagree. If it is a good idea, and idea that can succeed in the marketplace of ideas…it resonates. If it’s vibration resonates, the People it resonates with will take this idea up and refine it and reframe it and disseminate it further. (If it is a bad idea, people will tell you that in, um… colorful… ways and move on.)

A successful “idea” leaves the blogs. Its ripples resonate powerfully enough to make the leap to the larger media…since the larger media reads the blogs, and reads them for one basic reason, to get “new ideas.” Even if that idea is simply information on how the bloggers are thinking and feeling. If an idea from the blogs resonates with them, with the MSM, it spreads through the MSM and then the ripples from THAT spread out even farther. To the General Population AND to the world and the nation’s leaders, whose job it also is to traffic in information and ideas. A politicians job is to listen to the ideas that are out there in the marketplace and then to integrate them…through reframing them to his or her message, and put them into action. Obama won the election by framing, packaging and selling “his” “ideas” to the nation. Politics is in this sense…a Battle of Ideas. In a democracy ideally, (if the repubs and media do not succeed in making it about personality and identification) the People choose which candidates ideas they think are best. The candidate then attempts to make those ideas into reality.

This is, in my opinion, how blogging works….at its best. Bloggers introduce an idea, it resonates and spreads, gets picked up by the media and Gen Pop, and is eventually adopted and made into (or influences) policy.

A successful ripple changes the way a few people think, they then reinforce that ripple by propagating it in their thoughts and writing. A very successful ripple changes the way a lot of people think. A “victorious” ripple in the battle of ideas changes the way everybody thinks…about an idea or an issue. Which changes the way they think about everything.

Of course it is rare that it transpires so purely as all that. After all it is a battle of ideas, in a very unregulated marketplace. As we have seen during the last eight years when some of the ideas that have “won” have been just plain horrendous.

Which is of course, why what we do DOES matter so much. Even if, as some people maintain, what we do has little effect, even that little effect is important. Vitally important. Since we have seen since WW2 what America has become with practically ALL of its ideas produced by “the elite.”

Until now.

Now, bloggers have entered the marketplace, joined the battle. Are making our voices, and our ideas, heard. Our ripples felt. Like ripples, they do not impact the shore with the force of a tidal surge or a hurricane…but they do imapct it. And the better we can market those ideas, the more effectively we can spread them, the more impact they will have.

One of the ways that we can make an impact is through the strategies of negotiation. The Overton Window is perhaps the best, haha, packaging of the idea of negotiation.

The Wiki entry:

The Overton window is a concept in political theory, named after its originator, Joe Overton, former vice president of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. It describes a “window” in the range of public reactions to ideas in public discourse, in a spectrum of all possible options on an issue. Overton described a method for moving that window, thereby including previously excluded ideas, while excluding previously acceptable ideas. The technique relies on people promoting ideas even less acceptable than the previous “outer fringe” ideas. That makes those old fringe ideas look less extreme, and thereby acceptable. Delivering rhetoric to define the window provides a plan of action to make more acceptable to the public some ideas by priming them with other ideas allowed to remain unacceptable, but which make the real target ideas seem more acceptable by comparison.

The degrees of acceptance of public ideas can be described roughly as:

   * Unthinkable

   * Radical

   * Acceptable

   * Sensible

   * Popular

   * Policy

The Overton Window is a means of visualizing which ideas define that range of acceptance by where they fall in it, and adding new ideas that can push the old ideas towards acceptance merely by making the limits more extreme.

We, my fellow bloggers on the Left, are that fringe. The window during the Bush years slid FAR to t the Right. It is our job as “the fringe” to move it back.

Impeachment has always been an Overton tool. At least since the perfidious Pelosi took it off the table. If the one person who could initiate impeachment wasn’t going to, no matter what the latest heinous crime Bushco perpetrated, then the idea of impeachment became a negotiating tool in the battle of ideas.  

When you go to negotiate, you don’t start by asking for what you think you will end UP getting, you ask for MORE, in hopes of negotiating down to what you want, or at least what you find acceptable.

Impeachment is asking for, negotiating for, justice. Full justice would be the trial conviction and imprisonment of Bush and his cronies. We are NOT going to get that at this late date. But by “asking for” (insisting on) impeachment, we are moving the battle lines in the battle of ideas.

It is moving the Overton Window, negotiating for a new position, ideally making SOME form of justice possible, at a time when most have (as evident by the responses on Dkos) given up on the idea that justice can be completely. Or are counting on the Obama administration to do the right thing….without being pressured to do so.

Insisting on impeachment IS applying that pressure. It is shining a light on the very concept of justice for Bushco, at a time when the temptation is to push “the past” into the darkness.

Impeachment is a loaded word. It provokes an emotional response. That emotional response causes a reaction, that reaction is a….ripple. A ripple that carries the idea of justice for their crimes.

(Crimes by the way, that are NOT in the past at all, but are still occurring, as much as folks don’t seem to want to even think about that.)

By causing the ripple that is created by dropping the word “Impeach” into the pond of the public discourse, we are changing the pond. Or at least the surface of it. The emotional response to the idea of impeachment makes people HAVE to think about justice, about the crimes of the past and the ongoing crimes. They have to think about it…in order to say how ridiculous it is to try to impeach Bush now. It would after all be a miracle if Nancy Pelosi and her cohorts actually did their legal duty and upheld their Constitutional oaths to protect the Constitution at this point.

But that doesn’t mean that the concept of justice need be forgotten….just that it needs to be sold correctly, packaged correctly for public consumption. Part of that is presenting the fringe edge of the Overton Window so that then “the reasonable people” “the serious people” can move to a “reasonable and serious” position on prosecuting justice for these criminals against humanity.

(Including us, lol, as we settle in negotiation for a Truth Commission or the like.)

That diary caused a ripple at Daily Kos and added to the ripple moving through the blogosphere that David Swanson and The Pen and elsewher are causing. If the ripple gets large enough, it WILL cause pressure towards obtaining justice.

That is how I think things work, here in Blogistan. How ’bout you?


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  1. Photobucket

    • Edger on November 10, 2008 at 9:07 pm

    The idea of ripples, seed ideas that sprout, spread and grow to bear fruit that drops more seed ideas that sprout, spread and grow to bear fruit that drops more seeds, etc. etc. etc.

    The main “products” of blogging are ideas and information. Now there are very few “new” ideas, and the information that the blogs “produce” is mainly from other sources such as the Main Stream Media, which the blogs “package” for their readers outlook and interests.

    In January 2006 Jeralyn at Talkleft wrote a post about exactly that: The Intersection of Bloggers and Journalists, quoting Jane Hamsher Of FDL:

    …bloggers serve the function of analysts. Or re-analyzers, more aptly, who attempt to contextualize as they sort through available data and look for patterns, inconsistencies and greater truths.

    ….From our standpoint we’re trying to come up with new ideas and theories as we try to sort through the available information and expose the systemic bias from which it comes. We’re not afraid to be wrong in our speculations, nor are we afraid to interact with people who like to think along side us.

  2. I thought is said “Blog Farming” interesting slip of my mind because it implies we can plants the seeds….

  3. …of course.

    And, eh, because it must be said I think: the authenticity of ideas also has power, great writing has power, and education has power.  All three of these things are not necessarily dependent on — and potentially antithetical to — an approach which works by managing impressions and providing more weight on an edge in order to move the center.  Sometimes the radical truth because common by dint of the fact it is recognizable to everyone, by the preperation of their own lives and experience.  Our best writers may not move the window but they move us and they tell a story we’re better people for hearing.  We educate people who may never, in fact, apply what they’ve learned beyond their own lives.

    Just sayin :}

  4. your persistence on this impeachment thingy is truly admirable in a weird way.  It really does deserve to be rewarded somehow…

    • Edger on November 10, 2008 at 9:44 pm

    Grab Milton Friedman by his ankles, turn him upside down and shake well…

    What does a think tank blog do? Does it educate? Advocate policy? Should a think tank blog focus on short-term or long-term goals?

    Among Joe Overton’s many contributions, he was instrumental in defining the role of the Mackinac Center in particular and think tanks blogs in general. He understood that, regardless of how persuasive the think tank blog, lawmakers are constrained by the political climate. Therefore, Overton concluded, to be truly successful, the Mackinac Center blogs should not focus on direct policy advocacy, but instead should focus on educating lawmakers and the public in an attempt to change the political climate.


    Perhaps the Overton window theory is best summed up by a quote from Milton Friedman in his preface to the 1982 edition of Capitalism and Freedom: “That, I believe, is our basic function: to develop alternatives to existing policies, to keep them alive and available until the politically impossible becomes politically inevitable.”

    A long-term focus on shifting the Overton window allows a think tank blog to follow its ideals and perform a genuinely positive public service, instead of being constrained to merely advocating those policies that are currently possible. When the window of political possibilities is moved along the political spectrum, the impossible becomes desirable and the simply desirable becomes imperative. This is the true influence of a think tank blog – shaping the political climate of future legislative and legal debates by researching, educating, involving and inspiring.

    Moving The Overton Window: How Ideas Become Political Reality

  5. …from tiny ripples grow!

    Great ideas, beautifully expressed.  Thanks buhdy!

  6. I can relate to windows both electronic and real life. The Overton one has hung around in my mind for years. I’ve watched countless example of how we were aided in accepting the unacceptable by the media, pols both Republican and Democratic, and even the judicial. They have all contributed to the reality that pumped nationalism, fear and non democracy as a solution for non crisis’s that enabled the corporations to bring us to THIS! The reality we inherit. Can we counter act the fake reality we are still presented with, yes we can!  It’s a non partisan issue I can relate to.

    • ctrenta on November 11, 2008 at 2:48 am

    …. where you ask? Here are some good examples.

    * They helped Ned Lamont beat Joe Lieberman in the September 2006 primary.

    * They helped get the word out on Cindy Sheehan’s camp out in Crawford, TX. Look at how successful that was!

    * They helped elect several other netroots candidates. Too numerous to name, my favorite example is Carol Shea-Porter in New Hampshire.

    * There’s the fund raising for other candidates like Elwin Tinklenberg… even though he lost.

    * At this year’s Netroots Conference, look at how many politicians came to speak. They realize we’re a force to be reckoned with.

    * Here’s my favorite, a local blogging success story from Vermont. A blogger at Reason and Brimstone writes on her blog that it looked like the GOP candidate for Congress, Martha Rainville, plagiarized someone elses environmental policy. It spread all over the Vermont blogosphere and Rainville fired the staffer who was responsible. I’m sure it made an impact on her 2006 defeat.

    Go read Kos’ new book. “Taking On the System.” That’ll give you some good examples where blogging makes an impact.  

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