Thursday, January 12, 2012

Can Cheerleading Go Too Far? Debate On Rust Wire

Seems a bunch of Cleveland area bloggers got together to talk about the pros and cons of civic boosterism. Things got heated and from what I can tell, a bit ugly.

From Rust Wire:

It's always a question, how much one should focus on the positive and ignore the often obvious problems out there?

A long quote from Cleveland blogger, Bridget Callahan:

"On one hand, the Boosters have understood this better than the rest of us. In their social media based world, it is important to stay on message, that’s how all good and effective propaganda works. You pick the message, in this case how awesome Cleveland is, and you pound it into people’s brains ad nauseum until it becomes unacceptable to believe anything else. The Boosters, by and large, are marketing people. They have a product, and they are pushing it. It’s not frank intellectual discussion, it’s not nuanced civic strategy. It is just straight up emotional reaction, and they want you to have it. The world has over and over again proved the effectiveness of propaganda. Most recently, let’s all think back to a certain recent Presidential election that had those Hope posters plastered on every rusty bridge and alley from coast to coast. Hope is not the way you run a government, but it is a way to get people emotionally involved. It breeds a feeling of us versus them, of camaraderie. It is true that lots of Clevelanders feel stupid telling people out of town where they are from. It can’t hurt to seed some civic pride. We’re a fucked up city, but lots of cities are, and the Boosters’ main mission is to convince other young people with expendable income to either move here or stay here because really it isn’t so bad. And for that particular population, it really isn’t so bad. Speaking from that class level, it’s pretty okay here.

( However, when you decide to bully people on their own blogs about their suspected lack of devotion to your message because they point out other people live here too, or when you yell at someone to leave town? That’s trolling. )"

My big problem with many boosters is what they are selling.

The real problem with professional boosters is that they are often promoting the wrong stuff. What their bosses say is good, whatever the latest new fad or project, the foundation and government crowd is chasing. Often, this turns out to be bad stuff. A good example is press stories about a corp or agency "investing" so many million dollars. In the short run, that's certainly great if you are a contractor working on the project (or a politician cutting a ribbon.) Rarely do stories look under the hood at what the long term positives or negatives are.

Cleveland needs boosters as long as they have their eyes open.

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