How do we fight a hearts and minds war?

This is a question I ask as a response to mainstream media pushing the narrative that Antifa is a terrorist group and that the Nazis somehow aren’t completely horrible.

Note: I am a firm believer that even bigots and racists have the right to speak as they wish. That is their constitution given right as Americans. They however neither have the right to be paid attention to nor should they be given the time of day.

The devil of it, as I see things, is that any opposition will be met by lumping ‘us’ in with the Occupy movement, snowflake, SJW trash, pointing out how we should get jobs, dismissal as useless millinials, and so forth. That sort of rhetoric given by ‘respected’ sources erodes any support we may have. Furthermore defensive behavior either backed with facts or going with a more emotion driven narritive is rejected out of hand with ‘you demand we respect you but you won’t respect us, so why should we care what you think?’

How do we win the hearts and minds of America? Not just parroting in our own echo chamber, but actually fighting back in a way that denies bigots their base in the first place so it dies on the vine. I run too tempermental and too angry to do this. I do not understand how people work. I’m good at spotting problems, but not good at finding a solution.

Help me out here guys.

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I think you are trying to do too much.

Winning the ‘hearts and minds of America’ is a different thing from denying ‘bigots their base in the first place so it dies on the vine.’

The one you can perhaps manage in the sense that you may be able to get to a point where most Americans agree that racists and bigots are idiots whose views are not worth listening to.

Getting bigots not to listen to other bigots is a step beyond and I don’t think it is possible.

Ironically, most people thinking that the neo-Nazis are idiots is probably what got America in the state it’s in.

‘If they’re just idiotic losers then the people turning up to protest them must be even bigger idiots.’

It doesn’t help that the most vocal anti-Nazis are not surprisingly anti-fa. Anti-fa is particularly at a disadvantage in terms of mainstream opinion because they are tarred with the ‘left-wing extremist’ brush.

The US right wing has been particularly good at painting all political debate in terms of where you stand in relation to them.

If you agree with them, you are sensible and moderate.

If you don’t, you are by definition a ‘liberal’. Which means un-American, unrealistic, and worse - probably a communist.

There is no room in their narrative for a political middle ground.

By allowing that idea to take hold, any opposition to anything they espouse becomes an attack on America, on mom’s apple pie - even on baseball!

The fact that this paints them into a corner where they support Nazis because people they think of as scary, dangerous left-winger nutters oppose them is an inevitable consequence.

In addition you have the problem that most people like to think of themselves as pretty good people all in all and that their neighbours are pretty ok all in all.

Any discussion of US fascism and racism (like any discussion of racism anywhere) has to involve some very unpleasant discussions of the many ways we all feed into the institutional racism of our societies.

Basically if you publicly oppose Nazis other than by ignoring them and denying that they exist or have meaningful influence, you force Americans to consider their attitudes and require them to accept that society is fucked up in many ways and that lots of the things they do and consider beneficial are in fact harmful to lots of other people. See confederate flags, statues, standing for the National Anthem, etc.

It’s a lot easier for people to accept the narrative that they don’t need to start thinking that maybe they’ve been behaving like assholes for the last several hundred years and that instead it’s the people making them think that are the problem.

So having laid all that screed out, do I have any suggestions. Not really :frowning:

I think there is merit in pushing against the everyone who isn’t either a Republican or even further right is a communist hippy traitor narrative.

But can that be done - especially without severing ties and cutting off support from/to the actual left wingers and anti-fa? Doing that just plays in to the Nazis’ hands.

One thing that can be done but won’t be quick is to show that just because you are left wing doesn’t mean you’re a rabid communist who wants to abolish all private property and set up gulags in which nice people from Idaho will be interned.

The DSA seem to be doing a fairly good job of that with local outreach activities and so on.


If by “we” you mean antifa then maybe not looking like a paramilitary group would be a great start.


To be fair that doesn’t seem to be hurting the far right.

Maybe antifa just need to get some natty army surplus uniforms and practice foot drill a bit more. They do always look so scruffy. /s

More seriously, yes an image change would help. If mainstream America gets pictures of “nice, young folks” getting the crap beaten out of them by neo-Nazis, opinion might shift.

Unfortunately that does involve a degree of pacifism which most people (including me) are not capable of.

Simply dropping the black clothing, hoodies and face coverings would help image-wise and I’m not sure the outfit does that much in terms of preventing reprisals.

It certainly makes it look as though they consider that their activities are ‘wrong’ and that they need anonymity to ‘get away with it’.


The optics are unfortunate, but it’s actually so that they don’t get arrested by fascist-friendly police or have their families murdered by fascist thugs.


Yeah, I get that.

I’m not sure whether it’s terribly effective at doing either.

Let’s face it - the fascist thugs aren’t going to be too discriminating in target selection. If you look at bit lefty/anarchy, they’ll happily attack you without needing confirmation that you’re anti-fa.

I also don’t know how effective it is at avoiding arrest.

There is also an argument that avoiding arrest is part of the image problem.

For the mass of people whose opinion singletona082 is trying to find ways to influence, running around trying to avoid being arrested is itself evidence that you are doing something that justifies arresting you.

These are people who do not accept the idea that the police is itself part of the problem or inherently dangerous. They think the police are there to protect them and anyone who is in trouble with the police is ipso facto a criminal and therefore dangerous to them.

You can’t persuade them otherwise unless they get to see ‘nice, wholesome young people’ who could be (and ideally are) their own children getting beaten up and arrested for doing things that they support.

As you highlighted in another thread, one nice middle-class looking white old lady getting trampled by the police has far more PR impact than any number of bandana-wearing, hooded kids getting pulped while fighting with Nazis or the police.

At the end of the day, it’s obviously up to them how they choose to try to protect themselves. I can’t say they’re wrong to think it’s necessary.

The PR impact is one factor to weigh in that decision though and quite a major one.


The mask thing isn’t about protection during protest; it’s about avoiding reprisals afterwards. The fascists are putting a lot of effort into photographing faces and online doxxing.

(BTW, I don’t want to derail this thread with hardcore protest tactics, so I’ll shut up now)

Fair enough.

My memories of them from the 80s is that they didn’t really bother about who they attacked. Just looking a bit like the sort of person they thought needed a kicking/having their house/shop burned down was enough.

As for derailing with hardcore protest tactics is concerned, I think the sad reality is that ‘hearts and minds’ won’t get won without the more hardcore approach.

What’s the old saw about the Civil Rights movement? They spoke to Martin Luther King so they wouldn’t have to speak to Malcolm X?

Which of course rolls right around to the point that even on that it’s debatable whether ‘hearts and minds’ were won over or whether it was just a case of the absolute minimum in concessions being made to avoid mass violence.


Some thoughts on the actual topic, though:

  1. Spend less time thinking about the PR weaknesses of your own side, and more time looking for propaganda gaps with which to attack the other side.

  2. Remember that half of the country are neither Democrats nor Republicans. Those non-voting workers are a lot easier to reach than trying to appeal to soft Trumpists.


This exactly.

It’s very easy to get caught up in hyper-partisan views when so much of the media has decided to be hyper-partisan, pushing the LEFT OR RIGHT! narrative, making every issue into either Democrat or Republican, with-us-or-against-us. That narrative is loud and blaring on both sides, even if the extremists are a small group.

The truth is that at least half of the country is far more influenced by what Ellen and Jimmy Kimmel say than what’s on MSNBC or Fox News.




I’d also say that an approach to those people based on the assumption that their non-voting is caused by laziness or stupidity is rightfully doomed to failure.

These people are not Democrats:

They aren’t politically disengaged.


I realise that RR is probably a bit more radical than @singletona082 was thinking of, but this is a very good demonstration of how to do messaging to the far right:

Similar approaches can be toned down for less hardcore targets.

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I find it easier to talk about this stuff without euphemisms. So…

That podcast is not just a very good demonstration of how to detect and resist propaganda. It’s also a very good demonstration of how to do propaganda.

Those guys sound like they’re chatting, but they aren’t: every word of that was carefully chosen. Note the bit where they’re advising the Nazis to show up unarmed? Note the gradual ramp-up of the seriousness of content? Note how they begin by discussing their own failings, from a centrist-friendly POV, then gradually move to leftist critique?

The reason that it is so good is that it is completely honest. There’s nothing false in there; all they are doing is choosing their content and framing well.

People have this idea that propaganda is bad. It isn’t; it’s neutral. Propaganda means nothing more than the use of communication to achieve political goals. It’s no more innately unethical than rhetoric.

It’s a tool. The ethics all depend upon how and why you use it.

The fact that propaganda has a bad reputation is itself the result of propaganda. Folks have been told that the culture and society that they grew up in is natural and normal, and that all other views are an attempt at propagandistic subversion.

But most of them don’t realise that they’ve been swimming in propaganda for their whole lives. Everyone does.


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