Ruling topics off limits for anyone to talk about at all and derailing the direction of existing discussions (as a distraction from the main points) are both forms of trying to control a narrative.
People who say there shouldn’t be “finger-pointing” after anything happens are more concerned with making sure the finger doesn’t point back to them than with making sure similar events don’t happen again.
And people who say we shouldn’t “politicize” tragedies are more concerned with making sure their political beliefs go unchallenged and unquestioned than about preventing future tragedies.
Narrative control is not neutral. It’s the most effective and aggressive form of politics.
That which is not discussed is not acted upon, in any direction. That which is not permissible within the acceptable parameters of public discourse is ignored until the parameters are altered to include it.
If that weren’t true, at least on some level, politicians and consultants wouldn’t spend millions of dollars every year testing messaging and talking points and framing.
This weekend, after yet another ideologically-inspired mass shooting, we’re being treated to the less common two-pronged narrative control effort, beyond the usual solid, single front.
Not only are we being told not to talk about or politicize guns — as usual — but loud voices are also demanding that we not consider the misogynistic, MRA-backed wider context that led to an extremist attack by a male supremacist.
As I said in my popular essay after Sandy Hook:
I’m tired of being silenced […] because I’m supposed to only be joining the collective mourning. I’m capable of holding more than one thought in my head at a time, and so are the rest of Americans.
As I also said, those who say not to finger point or politicize these tragedies are either invested in preventing discussion — or they sincerely have their hearts in the right place but don’t understand that they are enabling the continuation of a political status quo by their silencing action.
If you’re in the former camp, I’m not going to persuade you. But if you’re in the latter camp, I hope you’ll at least take this political communications perspective into consideration.
Official neutrality is always a decisive political position, of a kind — just a third one. Be wary of which side benefits most from your neutrality and from active efforts to impose neutrality on others.