Reading: Tropes and Networked Digital Activism #2: The Portability and Persistence of Tropes | Hapgood

From Tropes and Networked Digital Activism #2: The Portability and Persistence of Tropes | Hapgood

Mike gets down to cases to illustrate how propagandists use tropes.

In the hands of a propagandist, the way the Body Count trope works in propaganda is this:

Pick your villain
– As deaths are reported (your field) try to either find, imply, or manufacture a connection to the chosen villain.
– Aggregate the deaths, and with each new instance, claim that this is one in a growing body of deaths
– When there is pushback on any one death, point to the size of the list (the “body count”) and point out that even if x% of these were true it would be devastating

Body Count works well on two dimensions simultaneously: each new death is a “potential” connection which “eventifies” your claim and grabs attention. But the point is not the individual claim, but the “count” — the impression that there is a steady stream of suspicious deaths of such a volume that something is fishy here.

Mike is focused on how tropes move  through the rhetorical system. The same algorithms that media has used since they got them from earlier propagandists are employed by contemporary propagandists.

My interest is with how the tropes that spread are based on the mass comm model of “efficient” and “effective”: tropes that “work” are based on reductionism. Those two black boxes allow tropes to spawn and swallow up critical consideration. Consideration isn’t “efficient”. “Efficient” communication is communication that doesn’t need or encourage consideration.  That’s for tech manuals and Powerpoint Presentations (until something blows up) but never fine for critique. In short, tropes reify. Naturalize, essentilize. At a cost.

Narratives do the same thing. That’s not a way out.

A way to work with tropes is to unpack them, which Mike is doing by showing how they are packaged in the first place. There will be resistance: Tropes Don’t Need Interpreting. They State What They Mean.