Guest blogger Fr Harvey Nicolaitan SJ, is a master of modern media. With a degree in Communications, he is a well known author and guest on reality TV shows, Fr Nicolaitan is the author of My Little Rainbow Bridge- a children’s story about being kind to trolls. He has been invited to speak at many of our nation’s greatest Catholic intellectual powerhouses. A member of the Vatican Confectory for International Dissimulation, he advises bishops on effective mis-communication. Fr Nicolaitan is contributing a series on “Rules for Radicals or How To Be A Successful Catholic Dissident Today”. 

This course has been so affirming and welcoming! All are welcome!

If you are just catching up on our course on “How to Be a Successful Catholic Dissident Today” you are welcome! You can find links to the first six sessions here. Today we want to focus on another aspect of communication: social media.

Social media is so important because you can communicate instantly on a global level. However, you have to make sure you do not go into too much depth. People today don’t like depth. They want the appearance of depth. Twitter is very good at this because you can post a few words which sound profound and wonderful. They will make your readers not only feel good, but they will believe they have also thought things through at a deep level.

You want the sort of thing they used to put on inspirational posters like “To journey hopefully is better than to arrive.” or “We are all climbing the same mountain, but by different paths.” or “The sun will come out tomorrow” or “When the going gets tough the tough get going.”

My old friend and room mate, Fr James Martin SJ is a master at this, so I would like to use an example of his. On Twitter someone was critical of the fact that a man who had turned himself into a woman had been elected as an official in California. He asked what one should do to prepare one’s children for this new world and Fr Martin replied, “Here’s a possible answer: everyone, no matter who they are or what they look like, is a beloved child of God, with infinite dignity and beauty, and should be reverenced as a beautiful creation.”

You want to use beautiful statements like this that no one can possibly argue with. It doesn’t matter that the reply does not answer the question or deal with the particular issue at all. In fact that’s a good thing. When there is a difficult moral question or a tricky ethical problem or a complex relationship to simply cover the whole thing with a sweet statement that everyone can agree with. This should always include the idea of love in some way.

Use this technique to promote your agenda. It always works. To use my constant example of the trolls under the bridge who eat baby goats–if anyone criticizes the trolls send out a Tweet that says, “God made trolls and God makes all things good!” Everyone must agree with that, and the critics of trolls must be silenced or else they will appear to be nasty people who do not think God made everything good.

Your readers in the meantime, by agreeing with you will not only think themselves wonderful people, but they will think you are wonderful too.

You see how it works. Other writers on communication have called this the deception of light. Shine enough bright light in their eyes and you will confuse them. Others call it the sugar high. Give them enough sappy, sentimental, sugary propaganda and they will go all gooey with delight because you have made them feel so good. What they will not do is stop to think things through.

There are some pitfalls however in this approach. You want to make sure you avoid all really difficult moral problems. So if you are confronted with a thoroughly unpleasant person just keep silent. Let’s say you are faced with  a serial killer who cannibalizes his victims, or someone who mows down innocent churchgoers or an Islamic terrorist who beheads little girls after he rapes them or maybe an abortionist who dismembers and beheads babies before selling their body parts.

If you say, “everyone, no matter who they are or what they look like, is a beloved child of God, with infinite dignity and beauty, and should be reverenced as a beautiful creation.” You will find your audience may turn on you.

Of course such people are also God’s children, but dealing with them would mean you would have to start discussing the horror of the human condition. You would have to face the fallen, wounded and sometimes depraved human beings, and that would require some depth of both theology and compassion and we don’t really want to go there.