I. Thou shalt track only one activism cause at a time.
Choose your cause carefully. Stay focused. You can be a more efficient activist when you keep your eyes on the prize. Jumping from cause to cause only leads to burnout.
II. Thou shalt be cautious with thy graven image selection.
Being clever is not the same thing as being clear. In the golden age of visual media, the image that your cause selects to broadcast can make or break your message. The world is watching. The lonely activist standing in front of the advancing tanks at Tiananmen Square sent a compelling message of courage. The activists desecrating funerals of veterans with tacky, homophobic placards just makes them look like assholes.
III. Thou shalt not troll.
Everybody gets pissed off. It is just going to happen. Activists are a passionate, intelligent group of people. They are going to fumble once and a while. Since you are part of that group, just assume that when you are angry, it is entirely possible that you are the one who is fumbling. If the group is pissing you off so much that you feel that trolling is justified, move to another group. Do not waste your time trolling. When you get angry, move slower and take a step back.
IV. Thou shalt not utter a sentence in an organizational meeting that begins with the words, “I have a great idea if some one wants to take this on …”
Look around the room, sweetheart. Your fellow organizers are only sitting at this meeting because they needed some rest and relaxation. Most of us are running from event to event between tending to our jobs and our families. If it such a great idea, you take it on.
V. Thou shalt use the media to thine best advantage.
Activism is all about communication. Use Facebook, blogging, website and Twitter to broadcast your message even if you hate electronic social networks. Send carefully worded press releases to newspapers, TV stations and radio stations even if you think that they are owned and operated by the “man”. Get the word out. Change the world.
VI. Thou shalt be annoyingly repetitive.
Stick to your guns. Stay focused. (Did I mention focus already? Good.) Pick one or two phrases to throw around to stick in people’s heads. Keep it short and sweet and say it again and again and again.
VII. Thou shalt be respectful.
Think back to the reason that you joined this cause in the first place. Wasn’t it because someone or group of someones treated you disrespectfully? You are trying to change that. You can’t teach respect by being a dick. Gandhi said it best, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”
VIII. Know thy audience as thy self.
Figure out the key players in your activism cause. Speak to them on their own level. If you are trying to persuade knitters to use bamboo knitting needles instead of rainforest depleting teak wood, visit knitting clubs in your community. Find out why they are making the choices they do. Find out what is important to them. If your target audience is much larger, consider communicating with one section of the population at a time. This includes knowing who oppose you. Your “enemies” are just as excited about this subject as you are. Maybe they know something you don’t.
IX. Thou shalt use strategies that businesses employ.
Businesses spend billions of dollars to figure out how to get people to buy their useless crap every day and they get results. You are trying to sell an idea that is actually useful on the coins rattling around in a donation jar. They did the work for you. Pay attention to advertising that works. You don’t have to reinvent the activism wheel, you just have to see what the population is interested in this year. Use buzzwords from big business. Use marketing ploys from big business. Use advertising cliches from big business. Be smart. This is about success. Consult the experts.
X. Thou shalt not use violence.
Take a look at the revolutions that lasted. Take a look at the revolutions that are still respected. Take a look at the revolutions that made our lives better. All of these revolutions used non-violence. Non-violence is not the same thing as non-action. We want something lasting for all our efforts. Non-violence is simply the way healthy, smart revolutions behave. It’s okay to be angry. Just don’t be stupid.