The campaign to save the library in Troy, Michigan is Internet famous. It’s famous because it used reverse psychology. At least, that’s what most people highlight about the campaign. I won’t argue reverse psychology was used. However, the brilliance of the campaign is it motivated people to change the established conversation, remember (individually) why the library is important, and become motivated to take action to save it.
BATTLEGROUND: ETHOS & LOGOS
Taxes are easy to understand. They can be simplified to ‘taxes take money out of your pocket’. Libraries on the other hand… well, try simplifying the value of libraries in 35 characters (as in the taxes statement I just made). How about 140 characters as in a tweet? In a battle against a driven political force focused on the bottom line, libraries will always flounder in nuanced arguments and academic spokespeople.
RE-IMAGINING THE BATTLE: PATHOS
The problem is, people saw the battle of library vs. taxes as a political war. In many ways it is. However, the folks trying to save the library saw it as a PR/PA war. They needed to get people talking less about taxes and more about the library; specifically why it should be saved and how they could save it. People were inspired to act because the campaign was built around why rather than what.
Sometimes dealing with the facts, with what we know, only complicates the issue. Or, as Albert Einstein famously said, “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” [UPDATE: A friend sent me a link to a post which suggests this quote has been wrongly attributed.]