A Short Manifesto for the Budding Manifesto Writers of the World (Story #11)

I don’t do research.  I tell my clients that up front.  If the young men—they are almost always young men and they seem to love aviator glasses—have something they really want me to include, they have to spell that thing out for me.  My job is to provide the words that glue their heady ideals together.  Nothing more, nothing less.  It’s the first lesson you learn in this business: don’t get involved in the message; craft the message.  The job is hard enough as is.

Another thing I’ve learned: keep it simple.  Clarity and jargon-free writing helps get the message out because as anyone who’s watched the news lately knows, journalists are none too bright, and they’re lazy to boot.  Simple language will help mentally deficient anchors read your clients’ message on-air without stopping to look at the camera with confused and scared faces.  If the anchor seems like she understands what you wrote, then people pretend they understand, as well..

For this same reason, keep your manifestos, press releases, charter statements, etc., short.  A lot of my clients, they get caught up in length.  It’s a little like a locker room with these guys.  Like I said, most of my clients are men and men, extremist or not, pious or not, are still little boys at heart.  Length doesn’t matter when it comes to their privates, I tell them, and it doesn’t matter when it comes to their message either.  But do they listen?  No.

I try my best.  When my clients come to me with their aviator glasses falling off their sweaty noses, excitedly pointing with one hand at the small sheaf of paper they are holding with the other, screaming that I have cheated them, I try to explain that long statements are not for the digital age.  No one sits down and reads 100-page explanations, even the FBI has computers to do that for them.  But my young men, they just don’t get it.  They bring up the Unabomber, Hezbollah’s charter from the 80s.  Some even go old-timey and bring up Marx.  It’s all I can do not to laugh, which isn’t a good idea when you’re dealing with young, sweaty men in aviator glasses.  But the truth is that the only revolution around here that’s ot a chance is a digital one.  One day, not too far off, I’ll get paid to tweet a manifesto to the world.  That’s a bit extreme even for extremists.  I mean, I’m no magician and 140 characters is short when you’re trying to change the world.  But that’s where things are heading.  Take my word for it.

All of this brings me to my last point, the most important lesson: don’t expect people to like you.  People like categories–they need them.  And for the manifesto writer, there are none.  We truly are that rare breed.  Left-wing, right-wing, who cares?  To be in this business, you need to be double-winged or ambi-whatever the word for wings is.  You also need to be an extremist Christian, Muslim purist, and/or a radical Hindu, Buddhist fascist, and Sikh revolutionary depending on the week.  Not that it’s always about religion.  Sometimes you have to be an environmental activist and a gun nut on the same day.  That’s exactly what happened to me a couple weeks ago.  I was multi-tasking this NRA thing while writing a mission statement for an ELF splinter group  all while drafting a press release for a protest on an abortion clinic in Dallas.  That was a busy day, I have to say, but if you’re good, you’re going to be busy.  Everyone has a cause nowadays.

The only other thing I’d add is that you should avoid letting people know what you do.  In general, people don’t get that the only thing a manifesto writer should care about is product.  We’re like road-builders.  The guys who made the 101 freeway don’t care if people use the road to get to LA or San Francisco, which are about as opposite places as can be.  I live in one and I’m from the other, and no San Franciscan would ever want to admit that the same road that goes right through the heart of his lovely city is connected to downtown LA, or as he would probably put it, the Heart of Darkness.  But the 101 does connect both cities as different as they are, and what’s the point of denying it?

There is no point.

So think of your words as roads.  They’re one-way roads, I’ll admit.  The good people at the NRA aren’t trying to have a two-way dialogue with the Earth Liberation Front.  The roads we build go out into the world and there’s no return traffic, which I guess makes the road analogy a little less than perfect.  OK, I admit I’m a little rusty when it comes to metaphors, not that it matters.  Remember, manifestos don’t require metaphors.  Metaphors are for when you’re trying to make something ordinary seem extraordinary in one way or another, but the groups I write for and that you want to write for, already do some pretty dramatic stuff.  If you’re going to blow something up or take a hostage, you don’t really need metaphors.  You need facts.  That’s what everyone wants, right?  That’s what the dumb-dumb journalists want.  That’s what the true believers in the aviator glasses want.  That’s what the world wants.  And what’s the point of denying it?

Yup.  That’s right.  There is no point.


Tags: , , , , , ,

Categories: fiction

Author:the circular runner

g. martinez cabrera currently lives in San Francisco with his lovely and talented wife. He holds degrees from Columbia and from the Harvard Divinity School where he spent three years thinking about lofty things. Since then, he tries to write some lofty and some not-so-lofty things down so others can see how lofty he sometimes is. When he’s not writing or spending time with said wife, he tortures young people with learning. He blogs at www.circularrunning.wordpress.com and Tumbls at www.circularrunning.tumblr.com

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