Canvassers and campaigners are making local artists angry with their posters

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This is a picture of Environment Maine employees plastering their giant posters over a bunch of fliers about local shows, events, and arts-related activities. For some reason they are stapling two posters, each at least 17 inches high, onto the board so as to to cover the entire thing.

The posters are promoting summer canvassing jobs. Canvassing is defined as “the systematic initiation of direct contact with a target group of individuals commonly used during political campaigns.” A campaign team will engage in face-to-face personal interaction with voters in particular geographic areas.”

I should be clear that I have no problem with Environment Maine in particular. I generally support their politics and I have worked with groups that have partnered with them in the past. Also, having worked as a canvass director on several occasions, I know that canvassers are imperative to the work that these groups do. Canvassing is evil, of course, and I wouldn’t wish it on anybody, but it does help to get things done. I bring this up because Environment Maine are not alone in this practice by any means.

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This is another picture of Environment Maine posters that have taken over a board (with one of their own posters partially covering another of their own posters, I believe).
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These posters aren’t even on the board, they are between it. As such, they were bound to get torn down minutes after I took this picture.

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This one is particularly cute, as there is one of their posters covering another one, and two that are in between the board on the left-hand side of the picture. They had already been covered by the time I got around to taking this.

You get the idea.

I brought this up via Twitter, and Environment Maine responded immediately via Twitter:

Environment Maine Tweet

That is awesome, and I appreciate them getting in touch so quickly. I hope that they do immediately change their behavior because canvassing groups are notorious for this and it is bad procedure.

I am friends with a great deal of musicians and local events organizers who use these boards to promote the amazing events they are putting on around town. I have spent a lot of time putting up fliers myself. While it might seem trivial to outsiders looking in, getting these fliers up is an exercise in tact and diplomacy. The people who do it tend to try to do their best to navigate around a sea of other posters while honoring the hard work of other people doing the same. They attempt to avoid covering up fliers for events that have not yet happened. They walk this line out of respect for other organizers and artists, and because it is a small town and you don’t want to be known as the a-hole who promotes your thing at the expense of other people. It happens, of course, but there is something of a code.

If there is one community that political groups, particularly lefty feel-good one, should want on their side, it is the local arts scene. But imagine how it strikes the arts community when political canvassing season comes about and all of their efforts are [literally] plastered over. I posted the image of the two gentlemen doing their thing above on Instagram and Twitter and it received a heaping helping of disdain from musicians and artists who have been repeatedly put off by this behavior.

The point is that this approach, no matter who is responsible for it, is tactless and especially counter-intuitive for groups who are trying to ingratiate themselves to a local community. Again, I bring it up because Environment Maine are not alone in this practice by any means. A number of outfits and organizations that have an agenda to push end up doing exactly as they have done here.

Those looking to change their behavior should consider re-investing their budgets into the local arts and music community itself. Start getting in front of the community you are looking to recruit and mobilize by putting some of that printing money into sponsoring some of these local events instead. Campaign money can be spent on better things than posters that are inevitably going to get spite-covered anyway, and groups guilty of this owe the community something for their years of transgression.

So stop it with the poster thing, canvass operations, campaigns, and fly-by-night carpetbagging operations. It is pissing off the locals, and it isn’t doing you any favors.

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Alex Steed

About Alex Steed

Alex Steed has written about and engaged in politics since he was an insufferable teenager. He has run for the Statehouse and produced a successful web series. He now runs a content firm called Knack Factory with two guys who are a lot more talented than himself.