Suffrage hits our cinema screens this autumn. This film about protest got me thinking about slogans, and how effectively they rally people to a cause. These 6 political slogans show how to express the pure essence of any message.
All those still reading say 'aye!'
I love Tony Robbins. I love the hypnotic quality of his voice. But I really love it when he makes people scream 'aye!' when he describes a feeling they've experienced.
Aye is Tony's slogan, his chant. It's a rallying call for his movement. It says 'shout this and join us.'
A slogan is the frustrations and demands of a cause distilled to a handful of words – designed to build a following and create energy.
Here are 6 of the most potent political protest calls.
1) We are the 99%
Once upon a time, people believed statistics. It was a time when, 60% of the time, they worked every time. That's because statistics are data, and data impresses.
The Occupy statistic forces you to imagine the most one-sided fight of all time. Victory seems inevitable with numbers like these.
99% captures perfectly the imbalance and injustice that sparked the protest, and draws the battle line very clearly.
2) Four legs good, two legs bad
Yes, this one's fictional. And yes, in the end, twisted to evil. But there's beauty in Animal Farm's maxim.
It plays on our basest fears of the 'other'. It appeals to the most paranoid, angry, uneducated goat on the farm. It says, 'They don’t look like us, so they’re not with us.'
Awful, xenophobic stuff. But very succinct, and very effective.
3) Deeds not words
The more militant elements of the women's suffrage movement couldn't have summarised their frustrations any better.
Deeds not words is a demand for direct action by the movement's members, and by the people who can give them the vote.
It urges suffragettes to smash windows and go on hunger strike. And it demands that supportive politicians put their money where their mouths are.
4) One, two, three, four. We don't want your fucking war!
What's great about this? What's not, more like. The elementary math, the reminder that it's their war, the 4/4 rhythm, the profanity.
The profanity offends, it grabs attention. The rhythm and rhyme are catchy and easy to chant in unison.
It states a grievance, points a finger, and lodges deep in the memory.
5) We are the people (Wir sind das Volk)
On 4 November 1989, half a million people gathered in East Berlin's Alexanderplatz to demand reform in East Germany.
But their slogan spoke to Germans on both sides of the wall. We are the people. We are the people. We are the people.
Wherever you place the emphasis, the message is the same: you govern for us, and this is what we want. The wall fell 5 days later and the slogan became 'We are one people'.
6) The people wants to bring down the regime (Ash-shab yurid isqat an-nizam)
Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Lebanon, Syria, Bahrain, Palestine, Jordan, Sudan. The Arab Spring took hold in numerous countries across a vast region.
With differing grievances and demands for political and social reform, a single chant united these groups.
Let's have an honourable mention for Community's Annie Edison...
When political or social aims are distilled into a chant, and repeated over and over, it becomes a mantra. And it gives spectacular energy and momentum to the movement.
In the words of Troy and Abed for GCTV:
This is interesting. Annie Edison has reduced her platform to one issue and turned that issue into a sound bite. And it rhymes, and people love it.