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20 for 20, Part 4: How to benefit from Missourians’ addictions to victimhood and smartphones

Yesterday, in Part 3, we covered Missouri’s political theater — through a pro wrestling and heel heat lens. Today we’ll identify how you and/or your clients can benefit from Missourians’ addictions to victimhood and smartphones.

13. The COVID-19 pandemic injected some Missourians with a victimhood vaccine that protects them from personal accountability. COVID’s value to Missouri political journalism was straightforward: It expanded the victimhood narrative beyond the usual winners (e.g., people who check multiple diversity boxes) to literally everyone in the state, including white men and women with middle incomes and above. This latter group, generally left sitting on the sidelines during Woe-is-Me Olympics, was finally handed a bulletproof excuse for why they got fat(ter), why they were “depressed,” why they couldn’t balance their household budget. It also enabled easy transfer of heavy pre-COVID emotions. Feeling guilty about parking dear old mom in that smelly nursing home? Blame Gov. Parson when she croaks.

John Combest

14. Actionable item: The decline of COVID cases will lead to a gaping victimhood vacuum that can be filled by YOUR political issue. A peek behind the boo-hoo curtain: Victims live in the low-frequency emotions of apathy, grief, fear, lust, and anger. Journalism’s enablement of the two lowest, apathy and grief, will be dominated in coming years by health reporters and is therefore beyond the scope of this piece. But two spoilers: See point #2 and observe upcoming pharmaceutical sponsorships of “anxiety relief” content, with pills as the primary and preferred prescriptions. (Exercise, diet, prayer/meditation, and sunlight have lower profit margins.) And as COVID wanes, some health reporters on the daily case update beat won’t be able to resist finally putting the spotlight on themselves. They’ll write first-person accounts of their own job-inflicted physical and mental maladies, some quite real, as the rest of the world moves on.

Back you to, dear reader. Forget apathy and grief — your bread can be buttered by promoting primarily fear (“I’m worried”), supplemented with lust (“I need MORE”) and anger (“Why is that person getting more than me?”)

Here are the top four opportunistic victimhood angles through the 2024 elections:

1H 2022: Missouri expanded Medicaid in 2021, but experts are worried that it was too late. Victim archetype: Russell Resthaven, who chose to be obese his entire adult life, was recently diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. He is in poor health not because of his lifestyle decisions, but because Missouri waited so long to expand Medicaid. The solutions include more funding from the Missouri Legislature for in-home care (so Russell’s family members and friends can get paid), educational materials and outreach, etc. Use data to show demographic disparities, then insist that programs hire workers to “resemble the communities they serve” and give preferential treatment to “local vendors.” Media coverage to include third-party quotes from health care advocacy organizations (see sponsored journalism in #1 above), ironically overweight health care policy analysts from liberal universities, and token Republican comments recycled from previous coverage.

2H 2022: Missouri legislative redistricting (“gerrymandering” when Republicans run the show) and ballot security laws have experts worried about a “chilling” effect on voter participation. Victim archetype: Sasha Thumper threatens to not vote because she heard the process is too confusing and cumbersome. The solutions include the Missouri Legislature appropriating money for voter outreach programs and mail-in ballot educational campaigns. Missouri progressive groups can appeal to national voting-rights organizations about the need to lay the groundwork (read: send cash!) in preparation for 2024. Media coverage to include third-party quotes from out-of-state university political science professors, national vote-by-mail groups, local League of Women Voters geriatrics, and token Republican quotes recycled from previous coverage.

2023: Missouri voters approved recreational marijuana in 2022, but experts are worried that minorities will be left out in the cold. Victim archetype: Henny Loc and Bootney Lee Farnsworth dumped their combined life savings into their $20 Sack Pyramid storefront location before trying to secure a vendor license, and they find the application process to be tedious and therefore unfair. Even worse, they see other urban entrepreneurs profiting from the cannabis market and suspect foul play. A potential solution involves funding from the Missouri Legislature to provide training programs for the application process. More urgently, there’s a wide-open opportunity for profiteers to market cannabis “educational” materials to potential applicants, including print and online training materials copied from other states. Media coverage to include third-party quotes from cannabis industry washouts and 2021 permit losers, plus no-context data on Missouri cannabis lobbyist campaign contributions.

2024: President Kamala Harris’ first election campaign at the top of the Democratic ticket has experts worried about a potential surge in “hate crimes.” Victim archetype: Harris is half-Jamaican and half Indian, but any non-Caucasoid Missourian can fill the victim role. One solution is for state lawmakers to take a “fresh look” at critical race theory, which was banned by the legislature in 2022. Media coverage to include third-party quotes from race victimhood groups, high school students seeking special treatment based on their minority status, and Democratic lawmakers lamenting the lack of critical race theory in Missouri schools. There will be a market need for “CRT-lite” curriculum that focuses more on minority accomplishments and achievement (with a strong emphasis on government intervention) and less on the straightforward anti-white rhetoric that aroused Caucasoid parental pushback in 2021-22. 

15. From desktop computers (2001) to laptops (mid-2000s) to smartphones (2008-present), we’ve allowed our fear of missing out (FOMO) to keep us tethered to devices and craving nonstop visual stimulation. Internet addiction has been covered extensively in popular media and is beyond the scope of this piece. Still, most of us realize that news organizations have adapted to the now-cliched “24-hour news cycle” and they feed the beast with scheduled tweets and well-timed posts. Some news organizations and most Fortune 500 companies track the speed at which users scroll content pieces, and implement those learnings. tl;dr:  we scroll aimlessly until we see something we like, often on a primal level.

16. Actionable item: User-generated video content can be a lucrative niche if you’ve got the right look. The My First Million podcast calls it the “cute girl side hustle” for brands and can be worked/twerked into Missouri political campaigns, issue advocacy efforts, and even media companies. In short: Content consumers (you and me) are increasingly blind to slick ads, and marketing data shows that user-generated (i.e., “selfie”) content outperforms overproduced commercials. A/B testing shows that both men and women prefer selfie content from a cute girl-next-door or boy-next-door type rather than an unattainable hot model.

Take a look at Lane Koch’s Instagram videos. Watch a few of the reels (both hands on your phone, gentlemen) and you can start to imagine the potential. Listen to the My First Million segment and think of how you can implement this approach into issue advocacy, fundraising, even news.

Topical note: Snapchat’s October 2021 announcement of its “Run for Office” tool will be ignored by whichever geriatrics probably run your local Republican, Democrat, or Libertarian party organization. So make yourself the go-to expert on Snapchat within your party organization or your consultant realm. Republicans, move quickly and extract whatever value you can from “Run for Office” as soon as possible. I imagine that holding incorrect opinions will get conservatives banned from this new tool at some point during 2022.

Whew, that was heavy. Chronic victimhood and smartphone addiction. They are facts of modern society, whether we choose to profit from them or simply look away. Speaking of looking: Tomorrow we’re holding up a mirror to you, dear reader, and it may or may not be pretty. Proceed with caution.