Soft Power, Hard Power and Smart Power

There are two basic forms of power. There is “soft power” which involves more subtlety, persuasion, and a different line of thinking; and there is “hard power” which uses might, strength and aggression to push forward ideas

When you combine the two, you get what Joseph Nye refers to “Smart power”. We in the MRM need to start generating a bit more smart power and we need to do it fast. The sooner we harness smart power the sooner we can get rid of people like Mary Kellet.

The first part of smart power is soft power. Soft power involves the spreading of ideas, creating allies on all sides, and from time to time a bit of schmoozing. Think tanks, lobbyists, and scholars are solid sources of smart power when it comes to generating thoughts into the people’s minds. Strong PR campaigns portraying those that support an idea in the most positive manner possible are another must in the world of soft power. Essentially, it is a more passive manner of creating and enforcing a group’s influence.

The smart power department needs to focus on a few things. The first is spreading the word. It is straightforward and anyone can partake at any time. Even when someone overhears a conversation smart power comes into play. The second is working with politicians. Yes, we have to suck up sometimes and try to make the appeal that a politician will get votes by backing an issue. We have to show our cause is good for political strategy. The third aspect is working with feminists.

I know that this is an idea that is a bit more unpleasant to most of the people who are reading this. I am not saying we should get behind their activism, but we need to answer questions and have serious open discussions with those that are willing to talk about things. We have had a lot of bad luck in this aspect of smart power. Perhaps it is my youth to the movement, or, a bit of idealism but if we don’t keep our door open to working with those that are genuinely curious about us, and are not interested in playing the “who suffers more game”, we are going to have problems. NOW is a force to be reckoned with and we have to be a bit more tactical. We can work around feminism at times but dealing with feminism is inevitable. We will butt heads and it will be ugly. It’s the job of those who use soft power to try to get things done in a peaceful manner before things turn from bad to worse.

I for one, feel more comfortable in the field of soft power.

When things look bad for the opposition, they turn to the kinder, more tolerant sources of soft power. Soft power will be merciful, but its desire for subtle influence and compromise are not as prominent. That cute cuddly kitten also has sharp teeth. Soft power knows that you have no where else to turn and will take you for everything it can.

However there are two major flaws of soft power. The first is its lack of constructability. Yes, we can have idealists, theorists, bloggers, and authors spreading ideas but soft power is very much spontaneous. All of one’s soft power can be doubled or destroyed in a single day. A few bad apples and wrong moves and a growing movement’s credibility will vanish. A few strong moves, charitable donations, and occasionally siding with the opposition (if we actually agree on an issue) can expand one’s sphere of influence in the blink of an eye. If there is a disaster that we can use to our advantage (like what is going on with Kellet) issues become more visible to the public, and support is easier to gather.

The second weakness of soft power is its limited extension. If people aren’t willing to listen, or some doctored videos get out, then soft power isn’t rather useful. There are also things that cannot be done without the use of force. This is where hard power comes into play.

Hard power is the muscle of a movement. When things go wrong and legislation isn’t passing, hard power is used. This is where we see our protests and rallies. Those that gather information events to oppose and fight are often in the hard power aspect, as they are excellent at riling up the masses to fight for a cause. When there is a need to place pressure through the form of anxiety on a certain politician or organization, hard power is looming in the background. Those in control know the hammer will come down if they sit around and do nothing or go against the people’s will.

While debating is used in both hard and soft power, hard power challenges the opposition. The purpose isn’t necessarily to antagonize, but rather to weaken the enemy by proving a point or the wrongdoing of others to the public. By bringing out public awareness to injustices in society and directly fighting against them, hard power shows its optimal use.

An excellent example of hard power is A Voice for Men Radio. Those that disagree are challenged by Paul, and it is there for everyone, friend or foe to hear the injustices and abuse felt by the modern man. When a single issue is tackled, solidarity is brought to a movement and the focus brings other people in.

Hard power is by no means is flawless. When activists clash things get ugly. There can be name calling, and sometimes violence. This puts soft power in a great state of jeopardy. A protest that gets out of hand can easily turn into a riot. And when this happens, the spontaneous nature of soft power works to its disadvantage. If not harnessed correctly, hard power can easily destroy a group’s credibility. However, without its pressure nothing can get done.

When the two merge together, we get smart power. Smart power is the use of a balance of hard and soft power. Without soft power, hard power is a destructive force with little room for passive coercion and negotiation. Without hard power, soft power has no way to reinforce its advocacy. By blending brains and brawn smart power appears, and with smart power we see real change.

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