Is there a place for anger in progressive campaign messaging?


For a while now, campaigners have been talking about the need to message in a hopeful way in order to get cut-through with public audiences and to build a sense that things can change. I am left wondering what the place is for anger in our campaigning if the guidance from strategic comms experts is to centre around hope?

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Asked on February 3, 2021
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great question! 

i think we're increasingly seeing the need to recognise and get comfortable with discomfort broadly, and that includes anger and rage. as with all these things, my view is that how you handle these things depends on your community (both 'innies' and 'outies'), how you frame it, and how you prepare for it.

anger and rage are a natural byproduct of an oppressive system and are perfectly typical and acceptable emotions in themselves... so long as they don't slip into active violence. the judgement or silencing of tone or the expression of anger/rage is a form of oppression in itself. there are clear issues with rage and gender, rage and colour/race, and rage and neurodivergence/disability, where what is heard as acceptable language/tone for some is considered violent language/tone from others. that's all down to the homogenisation of culture (all strong emotions are bad, yo) and the perpetual silencing of *some types of voices*. 

you cannot forcefully silence generation on top of generation and then expect them to not be a bit pissed off about it. however, you also need balance and to not ostracise those within your community who haven't yet worked this out, or for whom anger/rage are triggering because of their own lived experience/embodied trauma. 

i'd suggest having a conversation with your community to see what they feel about this. you could do some work around discomfort, rage, tone policing, deep listening, and somatics (the safe release of trauma that's stored in the body), to get your people thinking and practicing around it all first. and then maybe arrange an 'angry day' where it's specifically set up to allow for that anger to be expressed, safely (i.e. in a way where everyone who's involved in the campaigning is prepared to not just release their own anger but compassionately manage those who join the event/posts and demonstrate their own rage, and safeguard those who might be triggered by this activity). 

some wonderful books around Love and Rage that I've been recently diving into:

* Love and Rage - Lama Rod Owens
* Rage Becomes Her - Soraya Chemaly
* See No Stranger - Valarie Kaur

and I highly recommend Resmaa Menakem's fantastic work around somatics and antiracism practice: My Grandmother's Hands (there are some short intro course videos also on his website

make sure you're clear on your safeguarding policies, too, and include online safeguarding in those if it's not already accounted for. (I'm currently part of a crew coproducing a new resource on online safeguarding and will share it here when it's live).

good luck, stay safe, rage proudly xfee

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Answered on February 10, 2021