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September 21, 2005

ADAPT and The Wonkette

A bunch of you avid Edge-Centric readers (well, ok, several of you) have told me that Wonkette has been blogging about ADAPT's visit to our nation's capital. Mystery protesters, The Wonkette has called them. Which doesn't seem to say much for ADAPT's PR savvy.

Wonkette's operatives evidently first spotted them hassling Bill Frist. The theme, which started then, was that nobody could figure out what they were protesting about, other than the fact that they were LOUD.

What I learned in Communications 101 way back when: If the people you're sending the message to don't get it, you've not done the job right. Is ADAPT trying to send its message to the public? Reporters? Bloggers? Guess it's not working.

I learned in C101 that it doesn't make any difference that you've prepared scads of press releases; no matter that you've been burning the fax machine lines; no matter you've been emailing out the wazoo. If the folks you're trying to reach don't know what the heck your message is, it's YOU who needs to take a look at what you've done wrong. Because, for sure, something has gone wrong.

I think ADAPT's goals and mission are focused exactly on the problem. I've always liked ADAPT -- I interviewed Wade Blank back in 1983 and never looked back. I was thrilled when they took on the nursing home industry. They saw the problem clearly -- ADAPT has always been excellent at cutting through the b.s. to see what the problem really is. And the problem with getting folks to be able to live in their own homes and not nursing homes is really very simple: the nursing home lobby has CMS by the short hairs and most of the money flows right into the institutions' pockets. We can talk about waivers, we can talk about MiCassa, we can talk about redirecting the money... but in the end the feds and the folks in Congress won't take it away from the nursing homes. That's the problem, and ADAPT knows it and has named it. (CMS, by the way, is the Federal Centers for Medicare/Medicaid.)

But enough of that. THAT is what the folks who hear the noisy chanting ought to be learning, too, as they hear and see the group. ADAPT's PR and organizing work should be directed at that. Too often, I fear, it isn't... and what we're getting from Wonkette is the result.

Well, they're clearly not experienced flacks, says Wonkette. Underneath all her snide coyness, she's hit on something troublesome -- and true.

Wonkette oughta be blogging about the issue, not the noisy messengers. Folks hearing the chants should be thinking, "Oh, these are the folks who are angry that our government gives all the money to nursing homes." Then that thought oughta be followed in short order by this one. "Yeah, I'm angry about that too, and I want it to change, too. I'm going to (call my elected officials) (write that story for my newspaper) (report on it for tonight's newscast) " -- you fill in the blank.

But they're not. And that's because they're not really getting the message in a way that makes them think it's important. That makes them think that Things Are Wrong And Need To Be Changed. They don't realize, I don't think, that what ADAPT is angry about is, after all, a Public Issue that affects somebody we know already, and may very well affect us in the future.

The message isn't getting out. It didn't get out when they did the Free Our People march, either -- to my mind one of the most tragic wasted media opportunities our movement has seen in a long time.

Today's Wonkette installation manages to report on ADAPT -- but seems to find that the only coverage they've gotten -- other than from her -- is on their own site. This jibes with what I was told the other day about their press conference: no one from the media showed up.

I'll be tarred and feathered for sure for this blogging I'm doing today. I have to say, though: If I didn't really want ADAPT's message to get out -- really really want that -- I'd probably not say anything. ADAPT's cause is too important -- to all of us -- to leave its coverage to Wonkette.
COMMENT-AUTHOR:William Loughborough
COMMENT-BODY:We all suffer from the same "unnoticeability" you noted re ADAPT.

It's not so much that they "don't get it" as that they can't even get past the ugly PWD. "They" didn't hear that slaves should be free, they were slaves, after all. They didn't get it that women wanted equal rights, "we give them superior rights!". They didn't get it that gay people wanted safety/equality, after all they're just a bunch of queers.

The problem isn't with ADAPT's PR shortcomings, it's that they aren't considered human and since they (unlike everybody else on the planet) are "dependent" there couldn't possibly be any message there, no matter how it's presented.

To parpphrase McLuhan "the messenger is the message" and if it's couched in a wheelchair it can't possibly be of any importance/significance/merit.

When they get into direct contact with people like Bro. Frist they get head pats and pretend support but it's all wink/nod/nudge/ignore.

We tend to think that "they" are rational and perhaps caring and still make the mistake that if we speak slowly/clearly/rationally that they'll hear what we say. They won't.

The usual notion that because so many families have PWD in residence there might be "understanding" therein is so often proved erroneous that it's a wonder we still pretend that those close to PWD are supporters, even if they are friends.

It's not that "they" might become disabled at any moment, it's that they already are as evidenced by their arrogant stupidity/cruelty.

Like Mary Frances said "they're trying to incarcerate/murder us" and couching the message in other terms won't make it any better attended to.

COMMENT-BODY:You might have something here. It's as good an explanation as any.
COMMENT-BODY:You had it right the first time -- if you think you've communicated and the evidence is that you haven't, you haven't.

Blaming "them" for being dense is nothing more than the flip side of them blaming PWDs for having a disability. It's NOT just as good an explanation as any ... it's an explanation that leads nowhere.

The logical outcome of "they are just stupid, and cruel" (paraphrasing what WL wrote) is -- what? Might as well kill ourselves?

How do we establish any connection at all with people if we see them as stupid and cruel?

Why would those people care to listen to us? Once we accuse millions of people of suffering from intellectual (stupid) and moral (cruel) bankruptcy, should we be surprised if they tune us out?
COMMENT-AUTHOR:William Loughborough
COMMENT-BODY:Bro. Anonymous sez: "...it's an explanation that leads nowhere."

Actually it leads to more taking it to the streets just as it did for Stanton/Anthony/King. For many years the aforementioned arrogance turned deaf ears and blind eyes (how's that for PC?) to the "movement de jour", be it suffrage or suffering.

My rant had to do with the notion that is widely voiced in movements that holds we must not ruffle things too much - instead we should reason softly rather than chaining our chairs to their obstacles.

There's nothing inherently "wrong" about being stupid, but there's not much wrong with pointing it out. In fact stupidity disbles them and ergo they're PWD even though not a part of the DRM! We have met the enemy and they are us.


Posted by mjohnson at September 21, 2005 08:15 AM