…It’s just that the definition of freedom has changed
It’s sobering to see such staggering ignorance about free speech and freedom in general on display on American campuses this week.
The special snowflakes of the Snowflake Protests (Yale, Mizzou, etc.) are providing a window into the results of the progressive takeover of our education system — from pre-school all the way on up to college and beyond. (Common Core will just streamline the process a little more.)
Alarming, but in keeping with findings about Americans’ demand for freedom, or lack thereof, detailed in The Frontier Lab’s recent study, “Freedom Buzz.”
Ask Americans about freedom, as we did in this study, and you get what seem like familiar responses: freedom is the American Dream, the ability to worship and speak freely, or to choose your own path in life. Pretty standard.
Nearly 100 hours of research interviews, and a national survey to test the findings, revealed two trends in how many Americans perceive the value of freedom.
While the first segment has a familiar relationship with freedom, the second, “serenity-seekers,” have a buzzword relationship to the concept of freedom. The American Dream, the freedoms enshrined in the Bill of Rights, etc., — these aspects are all important to the “serenity-seekers” because they provide something else, primarily: “stress relief,” the ability to seek out entertaining activities, travel to exotic locales around the world, and the right to a serene existence, free from judgment.
Terms like the “American Dream” rolled off the tongue, but when it comes to describing the true value of freedom, a new picture began to form. You see, the “serenity-seekers” believe in, and say they support, freedom — it’s just that they’ve revised (or had revised for them) the definition of what freedom is.
Missouri’s Brenda “I’m tired of the First Amendment” Smith-Lezama’s call for “safe space” perfectly exemplifies the concern among serenity-seekers about being protected from conflicting ideas.
There simply is a lack of demand for freedom as we (used to) understand it. The simple insight may be worth pondering because I believe it explains why efforts to convince Americans that more freedom is desirable are really wasted — for example, in the “serenity-seeker” universe, they’ve already got plenty of “freedom” — it’s other things they demand. (Follow the link to read the survey results about demand for freedom and how the demographics played out.)
It’s a big change from the premise from which most, if not all, of my colleagues working to promote freedom, begin their messaging efforts. Low demand for freedom suggests a strategy not about connecting how progressives’ policies reduce freedom, but assessing how to build demand for true freedom.
Here is a glimpse at some of the recommendations for communicating with “serenity-seekers” from “Freedom Buzz”:
1) Paint a picture of a life encumbered by restrictions and drudgery when TRUE freedom – the rights of the individual – dissolves.
Offer scenarios where they viscerally feel their serenity threatened: for them, this would be most compelling if it were to affect their life of unending choice, their protection against being judged, or their ability to maintain financial security.
MESSAGE: Ambitious and adventurous Americans look forward to a life where they make their own choices, but this life is being taken away without them noticing.
2) Evoke the stress that comes with freedom by undermining the fiction that life is judgment-free in this state.
The values research revealed it is because the Serenity-Seekers are assured they will not be judged (and therefore can decide on their own morality) that they find freedom to be so compelling. Therefore, showing that judgment occurs, even increases, when their definition of freedom without individual rights succeeds, will be jarring and frightening to their stress-free existence.
MESSAGE: Community bonds dissolve and life becomes complicated and restricted when freedom strays from its foundation in individual rights.
3) Remove the confidence that “Freedom is the default” in America and that they can rely on this reassurance.
Believing that freedom has been on a peaceful train ride throughout the history of America without derailing allows Serenity-Seekers to avoid responsibility for its maintenance, and disengage from freedom’s true meaning. Therefore concrete examples of the derailment of freedom should be communicated within the framework of its ramifications on the predictability of Americans’ future.
MESSAGE: Life is more unpredictable and unstable than at any time in America’s past because we have failed to see the crumbling of freedom.
So as we observe the Snowflake Protesters in action these weeks, I hope we all assess whether our communications strategies need to change, radically.DONATE
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