Burning Books: A Lesson in Effective Social Media Campaigning

nazis burning books 1933 berlin

For those who are about to launch a social media or online reputation management campaign in the face of overwhelming negative or unfavorable counter-campaign or public opinion, take a page from the playbook of these clever activists from Troy, Michigan and reframe the issue/conversation entirely.

These guys clashed head-on with the loud Tea Party movement in their city August of 2011. For those unfamiliar with U.S. politics, the Tea Party is a wing of the Republican Party in the U.S. out to slash civil society advances in the last 100 years or so (social security, unions, Medicare, public schools, etc.) in the name of fiscal responsibility, deficit reduction, and lower taxation. The Tea Party’s game plan, of course, is to avoid exposing the negative and extreme effects of their agenda on people’s lives and livelihood by framing every conversation in a way that pictures them as sane people out to protect future generations from the effects of irresponsible spending today.

No health care, no health insurance? Can’t afford to send your kids to college or struggling with student loans? Facing foreclosure? Needing reproductive or prenatal healthcare? Tough luck, don’t turn to government for help. Government shouldn’t meddle into all that says the Tea Party. Fiscal responsibility, no new taxes, deficit reduction, and all that jazz.

When you really think about it and take what these Tea Party people are proposing to its logical conclusion, it all comes down to zero government services for those who need them the most and zero funds for government to maintain basic social services and safety nets. In short, to each his own and let private corporations take the hindmost.

Back to the campaign in Troy, MI. The Tea Party once again was out masquerading as the fiscally responsible voice in the debate. Their target at the time was the award-winning city library of Troy that was in danger of being permanently closed if a lifeline 0.7% tax wasn’t approved. 0.7%!

As usual, they tried to frame the conversation and keep the focus on taxes — inundating the airwaves, social media channels, and the city streets with their opposition to the zero point seven percent tax.

Hopeless to go against them, right? These people are just too loud and who can argue about fiscal responsibility anyway?

Fortunately, the people who loved the library and what it represents and wanted to keep it open decided to frame the conversation into what it really is: the Tea Party was out to burn books. Not literally maybe, but padlocking the library, auctioning off books, and selling the bulk of its collection as paper scrap, not really much of a difference.

It’s an awesome display of political judo, exposing the opponent’s extremist goal and using their own strength and momentum against them. In the end, they not only trounced the Tea Party at the polls and saved their library, they showed us how reframing the conversation and bringing the opponent’s argument to its logical unpalatable conclusion will do the job. Here’s how they did it:
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