The only thing worse than the hasbara activist’s default apologetic posture is his tendency to go to the other extreme. Always-being-right is the ultimate turn-off for today’s audience*. Here are the top three reasons why.
- Fake news era — It’s becoming increasingly difficult to trust those who are armed with microphones. To insist that you’re right is to expose yourself to skepticism. And to insist that you’re always correct is to lose all credibility.
- Post-modernity — Today the term “truth” is considered not objective fact but a subjective accounting, description or perspective. In a world where people see contradictory narratives as parallel legitimate truths, old-school approaches based exclusively on history, facts and accuracy lose a lot of traction. If you rise and proclaim that you’re right and someone else is wrong, then you’ll most likely be perceived as obtuse, insensitive and possibly condescending. The more you focus on being right the less receptive your post-modern audience will be.
- Share-ability — There’s something very superficial about the way people consume information. People relate to people, not to facts. Would you prefer hanging out with a statistic spewing professor or a comedian? Are you more likely to share a Wikipedia entry or a viral video? When your prime directive is to be informational and correct even the choir you preach to starts losing interest.
Of course, this is all very tricky. If being right is an increasingly unpopular approach to winning over hearts and minds, should it be replaced with cheap, shallow, emotionally charged and intellectually bankrupt media posts and memes? Is this a numbers game or a matter of principle? Is it quantity or quality?
Here are some pointers to help you avoid the highly damaging always-being-right #hasbarafail without compromising the value of your message:
- Become more informed. Know your topic. Even when everybody’s doing it, fake news renders everything you say meaningless. Keep in mind that “I’ll have to check that for you” is far better than knee-jerk inaccurate information.
- Frame the discussion – Even when people disregard the notion of objective truth, they can learn to appreciate where you’re coming from. The challenge here is to carefully identify those motivating factors. Why is the issue you’re tackling so important to you? Why does it matter? Telling people that you’re a Zionist leaves you with the same friends and foes that you had going into any given discussion. Articulating what makes you tic is far more likely to leave an impression.
- Be approachable. You don’t have to be funny for people to like you. You don’t have to be a victim for people to commiserate with you. But if you want people to be receptive to your message you’ll need to be approachable. Being accessible doesn’t mean responding to trolls and staying up late on a Facebook-binge. It means that you need to be genuine in your conversations, sincere in your presentations and honestly reflective when asked a thoughtful question.
To sum up, there’s nothing wrong with being right. It’s always-being-right that distances you from your audience and your goals.
Be informed, learn the art of framing a discussion and be approachable. That’s where you,as an individual or as a collective, can add meaningful value to the Israel story.
*Disclaimer: When addressing the public make sure to know your audience. This #hasbarafail installment is geared towards a Western, English speaking audience. In societies where propaganda is an accepted form of communication, “always being right” may be a useful approach.