Earlier in the week, I had an experience with a recently added member to one of our closed Facebook groups where he offered some criticism about our strategy of publicizing the need for Family Law Reform with Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and within the blogosphere.
Basically, I get the sense he's an old school guy who has spent years busting his tail to actively and publically protest against the corruption within our Family Court system, and I more or less got the feeling that he thinks what we're doing isn't bold or dangerous enough to attract any significant attention.
And then this morning, I was having another conversation with a friend of mine about signing a petition. Here's how it went:
“I don't know if any of you have experienced this, but for every petition I've signed or letter written to members of our government, I get back a generic email stating this is not an issue for that specific branch to deal with. I am then resending the petitions and asking "why not?" As long as they keep saying "not me or my problem" they continue to push our children aside. Our children should be cared for at a local, state, and federal level. If gov't officials aren't worried about it, they should be. After all, who's going to be making the laws and caring for them when they're retired and need care? I don't want my kids being that callous. We take care of them now, they learn to care for others later.”
“I'm not a big fan of these petitions; at least not yet. I probably get asked to sign 10 of these a day, from groups splintered all over the place, and I've gotten to the point where I don't even bother, because they can't generate enough political weight to be taken seriously - The conditions and the timing aren't right.”
“I agree to a point. Right now, everyone's wondering about the upcoming election and they're treading lightly. I also agree these petitions don't carry much weight. We are inundated with so much every day, we're blocking a great deal of it out. But, I also know there will never be a "right time" in someone's eyes. So, I keep bugging until someone listens. Someone, somewhere will say "now it's time" if we keep asking.”
“Well, in my opinion here's the deal. And I say this, because professionally, I deal with this a lot.
Politicians aren't going to start taking us seriously until the Media starts taking us seriously.
And one of the first things the Media does when it wants to assess the newsworthiness of a cause is check FB, Twitter, etc. to see what kind of following the cause has. Hey, Media people are busy, and that's a quick and dirty way for them to evaluate the potential public interest in a story, and these protests, petitions, etc. don't have the physical weight to work well yet.
Sure, they do generate publicity, but not a significant amount, because the reality is the Media simply sees 20 or 30 people jumping up and down outside the Court house, who they perceive are merely pissed-off about having to pay child support, and they just don't think this is newsworthy. Of course we know this perception is wrong, but, this is the majority one today- rightly or wrongly, it is what it is.
Now, the reason why that Bank of America petition earlier this year worked so damn well is because nearly everyone LOATHES banks, especially big banks. They nickel and dime us, they hide fees, the charge interest, they sue us, foreclose on us - whatever; they tend to frequently piss EVERYONE off. So, a petition like that already has the base and the energy, and that’s why, especially in today’s economy, it flew off the radar.
We're not there yet.
Truthfully, there are millions of us who’re angry about that injuries that have been done to us and our children, but most aren't seriously activated, and many are simply too afraid to speak out for fear of reprisal from a justice system relies heavily on secrecy and draconian measures to enforce its will.
But even more important, there are also one hell of a lot of folks who have a LOT to lose if reforms are actually made, and they ARE activated.
The National Organization for Women (NOW) has just under 40,000 Facebook followers. Our two primary Lobby/Activist groups: Fathers and Families (just under 4,000 followers) and The American Coalition for Fathers and Children (just under 1,500) are not even close in terms of political capital. And nothing significant is going to happen to accomplish our goals until these numbers come up.
So first, we have to continue to work on coming together. And as we do this, we have to realize that it's unrealistic to believe we will ever persuade those who don't agree with us. But we can influence the middle, and they too, will begin to listen once we can show social proof in the form of numbers."
Do I think petitions and protests are valuable tactics in affecting strategies for Family Law Reform?
However, times change, and what worked yesterday, may not work as well today.
Petitions and protests certainly have their place, and as I mentioned above, they do generate publicity. However, we must ADAPT to the conditions of today.
So, let me try putting it this way: If NOW started sponsoring rallies against Family Law Reform, and The American Coalition For Fathers and Children started sponsoring rallies for Family Law Reform; which group do you think will be awarded greater credibility by the Media and the Public at large?
Effective strategy means adapting and exploiting current conditions to your advantage. Petitions and protests appear to offer that quick fix we so desperately want, but the problem is, the conditions aren't optimal for those tactics to work well yet.
Social networking platforms like Facebook give each one of us the power and the ability to publicize the truth without having to depend on the Media to do it. And interestingly enough, it's that very power that, these days, will actually work to attract the attention of the Media in the first place.
Statistically, each one of us knows at least two or three people within our group of Facebook friends who've been screwed over by the Family Court.
Have you reached out to them? Have you pointed them toward a group, page, or cause that can offer them love, support, and an opportunity to get involved?
The lesson here is a simple one: work on setting up and building the right conditions, then any number of tactics will have great power.