Narrative Building & Winning

One of the more fascinating things about the Kia’i/Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) protest movement has been the use of narrative building as if it was an element of war.  

Since even before the current standoff at Mauna Kea happened, there was a lot of work being done by the TMT opposition to create a narrative that went beyond just opposing the telescope. It went into Hawaiian history, Hawaiian perspectives on issues and even the plight of the Hawaiian in modern society. It blended a number of different elements into a story, and then when released, gained traction.

Don't Shoot
Passionate people have this type of drive on ideas.
“Don’t Shoot” by MTSOfan is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 

Then with that narrative built, released it into the social media world where, as you know, those messages can take a life of their own. The mere fact that we are having a debate on whether any one place in this state is sacred or not, and having real passionate discussions about it, proves this point.

A lot of those stories, packaged together in easy to think of pieces, spoken by people who have titles like “Ph.D” or “Kumu” or “Kupuna” have indeed make a large impact on how the TMT is seen.

In many ways, the building of the “Narrative of the Mauna”, or whatever you want to call it, without any other voice to counter it, is winning the hearts and minds battle that this protest has become.

The Kia’i and the TMT opposition have successfully won a battle to define this place.
Picture by S. Fichtman – Aug. 2019

Therefore, ya’d think by now that the pro TMT groups – the only power to counter this narrative building by the Kia’i, would have figured this out by now and come out with messages to counter them point to point. Instead, their messages feel weak, not inspired, and not going toe to toe, challenging the Kia’i on their ideas.

So, in essence the Kia’i have already won a battle, this time of words. They took the high ground and influenced enough people to follow along with it. Make no mistake; this was not done by accident. The Kia’i who have done this had four years to put this together while TMT was busy re-applying for their building permit.

Whether or not this ends peacefully or not, it will be interesting to dissect how the Kia’i managed to create a narrative, have it stick and win the high ground on messaging with literally none of the traditional resources available – money and amplification. Maybe someone should do his or her Ph.D. dissertation on this.