Check out Know The System’s two new sample animated videos here. Each is under five minutes in duration and is targeted for the general public.
The overarching thesis is that, while specific policy prescriptions are a good thing, it’s not what voters need to hear about in order for them to understand and (potentially) support reform.
In a limited-attention economy, politicians and candidates for office can only hope to get slogans and sound bites aired. Worse, for candidates in particular, the subtle differences between their and other candidates’ proposals must be emphasized whenever there’s a mic in front of them. But what if the public is not even clear about what the problem is, that your solution is supposed to solve?
All that most voters can do is to decide whether they are for or against reform, by mentally weighing the partisan tropes (e.g. Big Government, or Indifference to Suffering) against each other.
Meanwhile, policy and advocacy organizations do publish a few informational videos “for the public.” I’ve studied a lot of these, though, and they generally fall into three categories:
- Reaction to a relevant news event (e.g. a Trump tweet, a new poll, a speech, a lawsuit).
- Partisan outrage generation: explaining how the other side is Indifferent to Suffering, or wants Big Socialist Government.
- Public relations that, in actuality, is mainly for donors, journalists and other policy wonks… essentially to advertise one’s smartness in plain-sounding language (that non-experts nevertheless can’t easily absorb.) “Look at the cool things we are producing.”
There is nothing wrong with the last category per se; however, are any such organizations interested in measuring the direct effect their videos are having on the public? Not really. They certainly hope to maximize views. But virality is driven by entertainment value or by “singing to the choir.” Mainstream voters don’t see them.
The net result is that voters never really come to understand the underlying societal problem – its realness, its extent, its degree of urgency, its cause. Today, though, providing that understanding—thanks to the web, and social media, and advances in e-learning—has never been more practical, scalable, and achievable.
And when voters have that basic understanding, then finally they will demand and want solutions, and finally they will be interested in hearing about specific plans from Democratic or Republican politicians.