Demographics, Voting blocs and wishful thinking

NB: This post was first published on another blog and imported into this one. Please forgive any formatting issues.

A video from a 2014 marketing summit and a Sri Lankan political opinion piece from the start of this week provided some thought-provoking insight into a form of reductionism and generalisation. This kind of thinking is not just misleading, for campaigns it is a dangerous trap that can undermine communications and marketing.

As Adam Conover points out, the term “Millennial” is about the need to flatten and simplify demographics. In fact, this has a long history stretching back to the ancient world. The whole video is worth watching, despite the comments regarding social media seeming a little dated in 2018.

Moving to Sri Lanka, this huge simplification of the 2105 election is another egregious example of reductionism.

a small band of dreamers, united in the idea of democracy and freedom, prevailed over a juggernaut that was propelling Sri Lanka towards full-fledged autocracy.

Reimagining the diverse coalition that constituted the Yahaplanaya campaign as a “liberal project” is absurd. The political grouping that toppled the Rajapaksas primarily constituted of the oldest party in Sri Lanka (a Western-orientated capitalist one), had elements of support from the next oldest party (one with a socialist and nationalist base) and a number of other constituent parties including ethno-nationalists and had the tacit support of Marxists. The idea that majority of those who voted for this diverse coalition were western-style liberals seems a vast stretch.

Why then would the political editor of a major Sri Lankan newspaper make such an obvious misclassification? Why the reductionism and generalisation? As with the term millennial, it is a convenient tool that fits the prejudices and worldview of the person using it. Projection like this is a danger that any savvy campaigner must avoid!

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