[O]ne of my chief problems with our partisan moment is that people are constantly, relentlessly, and transparently saying things we know they don’t really mean. And then, when you call them on it, they fall back to a position contrary to their actual words.
… Activists constantly overstate their case because—if they don’t—no one will pay attention to them.
Say What You Really Mean - The French Press. It’s a very good and honest column.
French goes on to describe a decade when he was an activist with some fundraising responsibilities:
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 …
… [A] giant amount of giving and activism is based on raw fear. There is virtually no market for a problem that isn’t a disaster. Your public will veer toward putting out the raging fire over tossing a few cups of water on smoldering wood. A crisis is thus a terrible thing for a fundraiser to waste, and if a crisis doesn’t exist, it must be made.
I know who one of his employers was. I was affiliated with them in a less intense sense. I got some of the fundraising letters he may have had a hand in, and the stridency offended me. I told them so. I no longer read their fundraisers.
I have resolved since then to support worthy causes with a preferential option for those whose fundraising is sober in tone and to give to the Chicken Littles—including the group French and I were variously affiliated with—if at all, on a resolutely fixed schedule using my own envelopes lest they think they can figure out what terrifies money out of my pocket.
UPDATE: Actually, I understated it inadvertently. When I give to Chicken Littles, I do it anonymously through a charitable gift account.