Sabrina Joy Stevens: […] we’ve got to be thinking in terms of relationship, we’ve got to be thinking in terms of who are we actually connected to, versus trying to say, convince the people who are spreading the false information intentionally. Our goal can’t be to try to change their minds, but rather to think about, when we’re talking to our friends, our communities, our professional communities, all of these places, these are all opportunities for us to be either upholding narratives that are going to help people find, claim, use their power well or are going to be upholding narratives that cause people not to use their power well. And so, every time we’re making those choices, we need to think about how are we helping set people up to take the kind of action they need to, in order to help blunt this sort of movement?
Something that I remind people of consistently is that bad actors are outnumbered. That is why they work so hard to…trick the rest of us into repeating their framing, into repeating their messages. And it’s focusing on the things they want us to focus on. Because there’s an opportunity cost; when we’re focusing on what they want us to focus on, we can’t also be focusing on what we want to be focused on. Rather, we can’t have people thinking about two different things at the same time.
And so, a lot of the work that I do is in helping people understand how to be doing double duty with their communications. How are you talking about your communications in ways that are not only neutralizing, are not only moving your own agenda forward, and they’re helping people build the world they want to see, but are also neutralizing the lies and misinformation that they’re getting from so many other places?…that’s a lot all at once.
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…it’s obviously a very challenging moment, but it’s also really exciting because I think more people than ever are realizing the importance of being really intentional about this kind of work. Because you don’t accidentally do a good job of fighting against disinformation. You actually have to make a choice. This is what I want to be talking about. And despite the concerted efforts to pull me off of my message, to pull me off of my narrative, to pull my focus away from what I can do, and to either pull me into doing something that’s unhelpful or demoralize me so that I do nothing, because that’s really what’s going on here. There’s a divide and conquer attempt. There’s an attempt to mislead and misdirect people into unhelpful action. And then there’s an attempt to just overwhelm people so that they don’t do anything at all.
And so, when I know that that’s what’s going on, that gives me a new sense of agency and urgency, to be really, really intentional about how I’m using every single opportunity to communicate. I think about this kind of stuff when I’m talking one on one in the grocery store line. I think about th[is] sort of thing when I’m communicating en mass to my email list, when I’m on TV, et cetera. We want to help people get that mindset that they’re seeing every opportunity to speak as either upholding something that’s going to help people use their power well or that’s going to undermine people’s ability to use their power well.