It’s very important to understand how things are presented. What you see on TV is presented as being the whole truth and nothing but the truth, but it is easy — so very easy — to make the camera lie if you know anything at all about cameras. For a quick lesson, watch or read “The Bonfire of the Vanities” and note how the camera angle was just wide enough to capture the five protesters marching, but cutting off the fact that they marched in a circle. The impression? Lots of people were protesting. The reality? Very few were.
If you think that pressure groups, especially those without a lot of members, don’t know how to skew the game, you’re wrong. Take for instance the tactic of packing out the hall. It’s quite easy to do, really — just make sure that your members and supporters take up ALL the seats in the audience at the public meeting, committee meeting, town hall, or whatever. You monopolize the debate by default, because no-one else of an opposing viewpoint can sit down. If the meeting requires you fill out forms to speak, just show up early enough to fill out a majority of the speaking forms. That way, there’s not enough time on the agenda for other viewpoints to be heard — only yours.
If that doesn’t work, then another tactic is crowd censorship — that is, behave like boors and shout down anyone else who tries to speak. Your numbers will intimidate the few speakers, and there’s always the threat of violence or death threats if your crowd size doesn’t make a strong enough case.
Sometimes, groups get lucky by having those who film the event reach out to them, provide them with tips on how the event will be filmed, or even work with them to vet questions (here is an example of that). In that case, the reporting already favors you. All you have to do is act as you usually would.
I am sick of conservatives and Christians not understanding how evil works. Folks, this is how it operates. People don’t look at an auditorium and think, “Oh, that’s 200 people saying something because 200 people from a town of 50,000 showed up.” No, they think, “Wow, look at all those people! The community must really believe in this!” Furthermore, they feel distantly threatened, because a mob is always emotional and emotion can justify anything. So the crowd lays the knife up against the neck of the viewer.
Here are a few ideas on how to combat these methods of crowd censorship.
1) For every townhall, open meeting, committee meeting, or whatever, place the meeting into perspective. Tell everyone how much in advance this was advertised, how it was advertised, the population of the local area (or city), the time at which it was held. Tell everyone if registration was required, who was admitted, how you will choose questions, and so on. This is very effective if the event is live and this cannot be edited out. The people who see the event must have the whole truth in order to accurately weigh the effect of what they see.
2) Demand and enforce civility. Do not allow people to be shouted down or spoken over. Call out and shame the mob. Relentlessly throw out people who disrupt the event.
3) Do not hold meetings soon after a tragedy. Give people time to process their feelings.
4) Never allow a news organization to host/sponsor/run a public meeting — NEVER. The committee, county board, whomever, should control the meeting, not some outside source, and especially not an outside source with a perspective to sell. Allow the press in, allow them to film, but do not give them any control over what questions are asked, or who can ask them. Retain all control over whom asks questions and be public about your method.
If there is any hope for this nation, one of the things that must happen is to recover the spirit of civil discourse. If that is gone, then violence will rule, and we must either forcibly separate or take up arms.