Why the “March For Our Lives” Movement Is Persuasive

Unlike the “Women’s March,” last weekend’s “March for our Lives” was the culmination of a movement that has proven very persuasive so far. If you don’t think so, keep in mind that it’s already managed to move the needle, even if slightly, on Republicans doing gun control measures, as seen in Florida. We know what happens when Republicans move an inch to the left. This movement has already had some victories and it’s only a month old.

Sure, the actual “March for our Lives” was a morass of standard leftist virtue signaling, but unlike the “Women’s March,” it was focused. It (mostly) concentrated its forces around a single issue, and it definitely had ample social proof.

Most importantly, though, is that the “March for our Lives” movement is shifting the story surrounding guns. Since people don’t operate in logic, but rather in emotions and stories, let’s take a look at the story so far.

Up to now, the “pro-gun” side had a far better story than the “anti-gun” side. For lack of better terminology, let’s just go with those terms for now.

The “pro-gun” side’s story was that it was all about the essence of America. Owning a gun is equated to freedom. Owning a gun makes you the heir to George Washington’s soldiers that fought for their liberty and won our country. Owning a gun makes you the keeper of their legacy by imposing a grim check on a government that would like to run amok. By keeping guns, you keep America and yourself free.

Meanwhile, the “anti-gun” side has been about using fast-fading incidents in the media and maybe some statistics. Sometimes, they’ll use scary looking guns to make a point, but those scary images have thus far been part of a disjointed story that hasn’t been easy for people to follow.

The “March for our Lives” movement is changing that. Unlike other school shootings, some students have responded in an organized way to push a new story. That story consists of a simple choice.

  1. You care about owning scary looking guns.
  2. You care about the lives of kids in school.

Sure, it’s obviously a false dichotomy since neither of those two things contradict the other, but our brains are wired to fall into these kinds of traps. This is a form of making an audience think past the sale. When presented with a few choices, the tendency is to choose one. The sale, in the form of the false truism that there’s a chasm between loving your kids and owning guns, has already been made. As Robert Cialdini noted in Pre-Suasion, our brains look for confirmations, not disconfirmations.

Also, the “March for our Lives” movement has taken advantage of the priority that human beings put on faces by using the students from the school as the main characters in the story. Unlike previous incidents, it’s not politicians or media talking heads starring as the main characters for the “anti-gun” side, it’s the kids from the school that was shot up. As far as pure character work goes, the “anti-gun” side now has an edge over the “pro-gun” side.

March for Our Lives Students
These students are good characters for their cause.

Sure, these kids obviously have handlers that are coaching them and setting all this up. That obviousness does produce some doubts and hesitations on the part of the viewer. On balance though, it’s been very effective, and the “pro-gun” side doesn’t currently have characters that are anywhere near as good. Dana Loesch as an NRA spokesperson? Forget it. That matchup reminds me of the way Goldberg squashed Brock Lesnar at Survivor Series in 2016.

Whether any of this can be sustained in the long term is another question. The “pro-gun” side is still far better organized, has a lot more money, and still has the superior story. That dominance has slipped, though. For the first time in a long time, it’s losing in a persuasion category (characters). The “anti-gun” side’s story is also finally breaking out and could begin to catch up with the “pro-gun” side’s.

The “March for our Lives” movement is also testing some slogans, headlines, and kill shots. For instance, the “March for our Lives” headline itself is superb. It’s a call to action with simple, direct language that caters to an emotional need. There are confirmation bias traps being laid by the movement and spread gleefully by its handlers and allies in the media. For example, the “mass shooting generation” is a phrase that’s gained some traction. In real terms, the phrase is absurd. Kids today have a much lower chance of being a victim of gun crime than even I did when I was a kid. Still, the phrase is just true enough that you take a second look at it, and whenever a mass shooting occurs, especially in a school, the phrase hits you with confirmation bias. When looking this movement over, it’s clear to me that there are experienced persuaders involved in it. Opponents underestimate it at their peril.

This past week gave me doubts for the first time about the 2018 midterms. Between this and the horrid omnibus spending bill, Republicans, now including Trump, are doing what they do best – squandering their electoral mandate while their opponents get their shit together. To avoid making their mistakes in your own life, read Stumped, the lessons of which these pussies are totally ignoring while their enemies are starting to learn.

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