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May 30, 2007

Bad words

Today’s Downsizer Dispatch . . .

We admit it. We write subject lines to tease you to open the message. Problem is, we then have to provide content that justifies your curiosity.

So what about “bad words?” Are we going to use bad words in this message? Are we going to shock and titillate? Well, maybe. Try on these “bad words” for size . . .

Hillary. Bush. Kennedy. Rumsfeld. Pelosi. Rove. Fallwell. Robertson. Gay. Humanist. Atheist. Christian. Fundamentalist. Liberal. Conservative. Evangelical. Red. Blue. Terrorism. 9-11. Islamo-facism. Family values. Illegal immigration.

Do any of these get your juices flowing?

For millions of Americans these words work like the sound of a bell did in Pavlov’s experiments with dogs. Pavlov conditioned his dogs to start salivating when they heard a ringing bell. And many millions of Americans are conditioned to respond in much the same way to one or more of the “bad words” listed above.

They are words that are use to evoke hate, fear, and resentment.

Talk show hosts and pundits can use these words to make their audiences march in lock step. And fundraisers use them to open wallets and extract money.

Do we wish we had similar words to use on you? Frankly, no.

We prefer to sell a strategy and then work to deliver results that reflect the furtherance of that strategy. It may not be an approach that always scratches an emotional itch, but it has the advantage of being honest and non-manipulative.

We also think it will have long terms benefits. If we can persuade people of the viability of our vision then we’re far more likely to foster the team work and sense of meaning and purpose that will be required to get where we’re going in the long term.

The bad words that provoke an emotional response change with the seasons, but strategies shouldn’t be so ephemeral. Which is why prefer to focus on non-emotional words. Try these on for size . . .

Huge army. Operation Everywhere. Overwhelm Congress.

Notice that these words are not designed to spark hatred or fear or resentment. Rather, they are designed to inspire the imagination. What would things be like if these words could be given concrete reality? And what do we have to do to achieve that reality?

Even though the month of May doesn’t end until tomorrow this is the last of our month-end fundraising messages. We’ll make do with whatever this message generates today, and start back to work on educating, recruiting, and harassing Congress with the start of the new month.

Of course, if we don’t make budget again this month we’ll be limping rather than running.

We still need about 25 new monthly credit card pledgers to launch the “One Subject at a Time Act,” and about $4,000 in one time contributions to make budget for May. Can you help? It would be especially nice if someone reading this felt moved to contribute $1,000, but anything you can do will move us further toward achieving our ultimate goals. If your comment is off-topic for this post, please email us at


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