I’ll let you in on a secret—the reason why activists are constantly overstating their case is not simply because they’re short-sighted or dishonest or hypocritical. Activists constantly overstate their case because—if they don’t—no one will pay attention to them.
At scale, public indifference and apathy all too often swallows up nuance and precision.
I came to journalism from the activist world. I left commercial litigation in 2004, and from that moment until I joined National Review in 2015, I worked for nonprofits. I mainly litigated constitutional cases and managed constitutional litigators, but I also helped raise money and tried to raise public awareness of our work. One of my jobs was to help my employers break through the background noise of daily life and stand out from every other worthy cause to persuade you to click a link, sign a petition, or write a check.
Readers, that is hard. Narratives get simple, fast. And unless you’re a particularly deft communicator, you quickly learn that shades of gray don’t raise funds. It’s good guys vs. bad guys, and there are two states of being—victory or crisis. The good news is that not all giving is fear-based. There are people who look for hope and give money based on success. Victories raise money. Victories increase engagement.