Sunday, June 10, 2007

Greens Cleaning Up

People have a natural trust of others that are similar and a natural distrust of those that are dissimilar. It's an unfortunate reality that the message is often clouded by the impression that is made by the messenger. The typical environmental activist, as seen on TV, is a young shaggy male with unkempt hair and very casual clothing. He may even have body piercings. To the typical middle class voter he may as well be from another planet.

The suburban straights (905'ers as we call them in Toronto) may judge such a spokesperson to be an extremist simply because of the way they look and dress. They may glance at this young bearded man advocating green policies and think that he's clearly some kind of a freak and his views aren't to be taken seriously. The environmentalists should learn from the mistakes of the PLO.

Israel and the PLO have had a public relations war as much as a real war between them for decades. The PLO would often supply a spokesperson who would be sporting a heavy beard, wearing a scarf or head dress and speaking in a heavy accent that was utterly alien to the average middle American TV viewer. Israel would have a clean cut man wearing a nicely tailored suit and speaking in perfect English. Regardless of the words spoken and the arguments made, the PLO would lose the public relations war. It's not until they started using that nice American-educated woman that they started to make some headway.

Similarly, the environmentalists need to understand that as forceful, convincing and obvious as they consider their positions to be on global warming, they weren't really taken seriously by the average American until a friendly middle class clean-cut man in a nice suit presented them in a powerpoint presentation. The election of Elizabeth May as the leader of the Green Party in Canada was a major step towards mainstream acceptance. They will very likely make some real progress in the next election but I hope that they remember to hand out razors with their candidate playbooks. Maybe they can also clean up at the polls.

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