Slogans, Caricatures, and Symbols

One approach to galvanizing a group of supporters is with the use of popular slogans, or catchphrases, and easily identifiable symbols that communicate a message; one that will exemplify and extoll the political stances of its constituents.

All popular slogans have these 2 qualities

  1. It has to be short and to the point. The reason for this is that must be long enough to convey a message, but still short enough that the people who may not think exactly the same as the rest of the group will still have a message they can support and express. The shorter the better. 2 words got Barrack Obama elected: “Change” and “Hope.”
  2. It should express an opposition to something. In order to get a group of people to rally together, generally they have to have something to oppose. It can be anything from one person to an administration, or to an entire subset of a population. “We are the 99%” doesn’t just mean that we’re part of one group. The implied message here is, “We are NOT part of the 1%”

Cartoons and Caricatures have a similar effect, but they they point out differences between those seen in a position of power and the everyday individual. These caricatures have a similar purpose, but they go about it in a somewhat different way.

  1. They exaggerate the subject to a point of silliness. This isn’t to mock the individual, necessarily, it’s to bring them down from our own perceptions and making them mortal again. Generally these are people in very real positions of power, but by exaggerating their flaws they are brought down to a level from which they seem assailable and human.
  2. Unlike slogans, they generally have a negative bias. People by and large will not ridicule something they are in support of. While slogans will more often than not have a bias against someone or something, it is very indirect and so very hard for the opposition to take offense to. One needn’t look very far to see examples of caricatures that when taken at face value, can be understood to be patently offensive and highly charged towards one specific person or group. For an extreme example, see the 2006 Danish cartoon depicting Muhammad with a bomb-stylized turban.

Symbols, in the political arena are very similar to slogans with one very important difference. Slogans are topical and fleeting, symbols are intended to last. The Democratic Donkey, the Republican Elephant, even the American flag itself are all symbols rally behind and show allegiance to a group, except these have been around since 1870 and 1874 respectively. The concept of the American flag having stars and stripes has been alive since 1775 (Though it came with a slogan itself: “Don’t tread on me.”)

Continue reading the 198 Methods of Nonviolent Action.

Also check out The Politics of Nonviolent Action Part One / Part Two / Part Three.

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