Yesterday I saw a video that shocked me. It’s a Scottish current affairs show, which first regales the viewer with (sceptically voiced) insights into bicycle infrastructure in the Netherlands, then descends into a debate (from 5:00) over whether Scotland should invest in safe bicycle infrastructure.
Representing safe cycling: the chair of CTC Scotland who (not mentioned) is an experienced trauma surgeon. Representing mockery of cycling: a ‘journalist’ (not mentioned: motoring journalist) who is (also not mentioned) a member of (anti-bicycle organisation) the Institute of Advanced Motorists.
Takeaway: willful ignorance delivered in a charismatic and light-hearted fashion wins against dull facts in a monotone.
Have you seen the (frankly excellent) film Thank You for Smoking? The debate reminded me of this scene where the highly effective tobacco lobbyist demonstrates to his son how to win an argument.
Compare (academic, scolding) anti-obesity ‘education’ with slick, we-bring-joy campaigns from Coke, McDo et al.
Compare tobacco marketing – pushed by ‘cool‘ friends, based on fashionable role models – with (academic, scolding) anti-smoking campaigns. “Don’t guilt-trip me! Don’t lecture me! I can make my own decisions, thank you!” (To see a good use of persuasion, cast your eyes over this guilt-free, norm-acknowledging anti-smoking campaign from Canada here.)
Compare (academic, lecture-y) climate change warnings with the emotion-based ‘common sense’ of denier literature.
Compare Bike to Work Day campaigns – healthy, fun, statistically safe! – with your average slick car commercial - freedom, status, power, control! (The Cycle Chic movement and, here in NZ, Frocks on Bikes are largely on to the right idea.)
Takeaway: ‘Education’ is largely a pointless waste of money, unless we deliver it with charm, humour, laden with meaningful human values, delivered in an entertaining way and with a single-minded focus on the benefits that will win over the audience. Hearts (as well as minds) demand to be won.