Hello from the Republic of Stories

In the Republic of Stories” is a 6 month experiment to apply a narrative critical mind to the Presidential election process as it is covered by the mainstream media. What makes it distinct from the other political blogs out there is that we are playing the role of the NARRATIVE ANALYST, not the pundit or someone who has any particular party preference. We are the Center for Narrative Studies based in Washington DC and our mission for the past 14 years has been to “shape the stories that shape us.” Go do www.storywise.com for more information.

What has prompted reviving this by-line from the old CNS NARRATIVE MATTERS Newsletter is the frquent use of the word “narrative” by our TV pundits and experts. For intance, they speak of “Obama’s narrative” challenging Clinton’s” or “McCain’s narrative” not exactly fittiing the conservative agenda. If the so called experts are now using “narrative” in their prime time lexicon, we feel its time that narrative practitioners enter the fray to demonstrate that a narrative approach is more than just throwing that word around as a new cliche. We want to demonstrate that “story” is both a tale told and a method of meaning-making. We want to show of and demystify “story” as the dominant strategy driving the election and an increasingly popular metaphor to desribe it.

We set ourselves some specific goals. This analysis must prove that

  • It is relevant,
  • It is not just a rip-off or a recycling of the chatter from the commentariat.
  • It must add light and not just heat to the dialog.
  • It must also carry its own explanatory power to help us understand the drama that is unfolding.
  • It must demonstrate not only explanatory value but predictive power.That is not to say that we can predict the winner or the loser but we can predict how certain stories will unfold. Stories give us reliable maps.
  • Lastly, with millions of other blogs out there, we want to test to see if we can attract an audience and draw collaborators who will take off the political lens, or the media masks and get as curious as we are in the Presidential election as an epic unfolding in real time.

Democracy is a story in which the hero is the people, not just the winning candidate. When the people vote, they are making their voices heard. In French, the word for vote is the same as voice. In the Republic of Stories, we want to champion a view of democracy in which every voice counts, and every story has a right to be told, not just the Stories that come blaring out at us from CNN and FOX.

The Republic of Stories is what makes our democracy vibrant and our election process exciting. But some stories are dangerous, some stories drown out or disqualify other stories, and some stories deliberately feed our fears. The “story of power” can too easily boil down to “the power of story,” where millions are being spent by the electoral spin-meisters targetting us as their uncritical story consumers. This column offers a form of consumer protection from those stories that threaten to turn the Republic of Stories into a Tyranny of the Deaf and the Dumb!

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