I really do. Naturally occurring, home grown “Oh, my God, REALLY?” outrage in response to the news, or bad behavior I encounter in the wild, or things that hurt my friends and family. The outrage in these cases is real, and often leads me to do useful things to help the people who are being affected by… well, whatever it is. These are outrageous times, after all.
But… There’s so much manufactured outrage in email subject lines. And it does exactly what it’s NOT intended to do, which is to make me click DELETE. Which means I’m not getting to the really important part of these emails, the fundraising part. The way to loosen my purse-strings is not to make me angry, and I wish more email campaigns got that. Outrage (and its cousin, Mind-numbing Fear), and combative team spirit don’t work on me these days. I’m not sure they ever did. How do these subject lines hit you?
- NANCY PELOSI IS CRYING, MADELEINE! Is Speaker Pelosi actually weeping? I doubt it. I think she’s made of tougher stuff. Usually the email is about something that happened last week, anyway. Probably Pelosi has a plan to deal with it, and it doesn’t involve tears.
The cousin to this one is:
- IT’S ALL OVER. (One might ask, if it really is all over, why are they even bothering? Why aren’t we all packing our suitcases and looking into permanent residence in Sweden or something? But no, it’s all over if you don’t give money.)
Then there’s the various appeals to my political team spirit:
- MITCH MCCONNELL IS GLOATING! (Usually accompanied by an unflattering photo of McConnell which makes him look like the Grinch. Admittedly, not a difficult task, but seriously, low hanging fruit). Again, this winds up being a several days old news item of the Minority Leader doing what he entirely predictably does: keeping legislative progress at a standstill because he can. Outrageous? Sure. News? Not really.
If that doesn’t work, how about vengeful triumph:
- PRESIDENT TRUMP DESTROYED! Meant to imply that some death-blow has been dealt to the former President and his aspirations to destroy Democracy (I lived in the same city as Trump for 25 years or so… my belief is he doesn’t care about Democracy and/or it living or dying. He cares solely about himself. Democracy is just collateral damage). In any case, I don’t doubt Trump is furious about something, but if death blows have been dealt, why isn’t he going away? This is related to the emails in which a fan-favorite legislator (mine is Elizabeth Warren, your mileage may vary) proposes a solution to a problem personified by a fan-favorite villain (Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk, etc.) and is portrayed as Laying Down the Law or otherwise DESTROYING that person. Not the problem, mind you. The person.
- Finally, there are the appeals to guilt. WHY DIDN’T YOU ANSWER OUR QUESTIONNAIRE, MADELEINE? WHY DIDN’T YOU SIGN OUR PETITION? Or ARE YOU READING THIS? Or DON’T YOU CARE? I’m not signing your petition because I don’t think you want my name: you want my dollars on the all important “Now Take the Next Step and Send Money” click through.
In fact, I do care. A lot. But I also get dozens of emails of this sort every day–as fast as I opt out of them, more appear. And the approaches they take–guilt, outrage, an appeal to team spirit (the “my team must DESTROY!!! the opposing team”) don’t work for me. I don’t want to destroy anyone. Not really (sometimes in a private moment I wish that certain political operatives would just… move to an alternate universe. Or see the light. Or even get prosecuted and convicted for their crimes. But I don’t want to see their blood and brains all over the sidewalk).
What does work for me? Got an email from Barbara Lee asking what my legislative priorities are. I opened that one. Got an email from Gavin Newsom that simply clicked through to the California.gov site for locating and signing up for COVID boosters. An email with an overview of a legislator’s plan to deal with a specific issue.
As I was writing this an email appeared in my inbox: SENATE WARNING PLEASE MADELEINE. It turns out it was a fundraising appeal for Mark Kelly, a candidate I generally support. But you’d never know it from the subject line. I might send Kelly some money–but I will not do it in response to that email. I just… can’t.
Here: Have a photo of Mitch McConnell looking like the Grinch.