2014 SXSW Interactive Session Spotlight: Breaking the Mold – How to Thrive When Allies Turn

Written by Megan Simpson | January 23, 2014

At SXSW 2014, Joanne Bamberger talks about what to do when your allies turn against you

In March 2014, the SXSW Interactive Festival will present more than 800 sessions on the cutting edge of technology, communications and digital evolution. Today’s installment of the Session Spotlight explores, “Breaking the Mold: How to Thrive When Allies Turn,”, a panel led by Joanne Bamberger @JLCBamberger from Chevy Chase, Maryland. A prolific blogger, Bamberger is also the author of PunditMom's Mothers of Intention: How Women & Social Media Are Revolutionizing Politics in America.

SXSW: Please briefly explain the session that you’re hosting at the 2014 SXSW Interactive Festival.
Bamberger: It's great to be a thought leader when your perceived allies are on your side. But how do you stay true to your ideals when allies decide you are a traitor to "the cause" and throw you to the wolves? Whether you are a feminist who disagrees with Sheryl Sandberg's "Lean In" movement, a progressive leader who agrees with Bill O'Reilly, or a political influencer who decides it's better to approach opponents with love rather than vitriol, innovators and voices of influence can't afford to go along just to get along.

SXSW: Have you spoken on this topic before?
Bamberger: No. This is a new session topic conceived by myself and the other two speakers, Sally Kohn and Jehmu Greene, based on our recent experiences. There are many "media training" sessions that talk about the basics, but this is a deeper look at how to handle negative publicity and negative feedback from one's own community when thought leaders don't agree with the mainstream. This is a topic not covered by other media sessions and is an important one, as we live in a dog-eat-dog media world.

SXSW: You mentioned that there are two more speakers on your panel. Can you tell us more about them?
Bamberger: Sally Kohn is a journalist, speaker and commentator. Sally came under fire this year for daring to be a progressive commentator on Fox News who treated her "opponents” with kindness rather than vitriol. She now has a TED talk video on that same topic. Jehmu Greene is also a journalist, speaker and commentator. Jehmu is a progressive commentator who dared to agree with some of her Fox News conservative "opponents," and took much heat from her progressive feminist community. Sally, Jehmu and myself are trained and skilled thought leaders who have had to navigate for ourselves the dangerous waters of daring to take an approach to issues that our compatriots don't. All three of us can help train the audience for the pitfalls of negative media notoriety and show how to turn it into a positive.

SXSW: What made you want to give this panel talk at SXSW?
Bamberger: I was prompted to propose this session after I wrote a USA Today op-ed criticizing Sheryl Sandberg's book and so-called movement, Lean In. As a long-time feminist, her thoughts and advice came across as elitist and out of touch with most working women -- the precise audience she is seeking to win over. While I didn't expect everyone to agree with me, I did not expect a landslide of negativity and mockery at my opinion piece. The personal attacks were something that I had never experienced; especially from a community that I thought was generally a supportive one. As I discussed this with others, I learned that my fellow panelists had also experienced similar negative experiences. As three media savvy and media-trained commentators, we were all a bit shell-shocked as to how to deal with the unexpected onslaughts and were trying to figure out how to turn them into a positive.

SXSW: What do you think the most exciting part about this topic is?
Bamberger: What excites me about this session is the opportunity to share openly with others what to expect if they dare to step outside the commonly accepted ideas of their communities. I am very excited to share and help others so that they do not become the victims of serious attacks and negativity that I, and the other panelists, have experienced. The benefit to all of this, is to give people the tools to stay strong to their beliefs and messages as media commentators, even when their allies attack.

Watch this website for more installments of the 2014 SXSW Interactive Session Spotlight. Click here for the complete list of programming for March in Austin. Register now to attend “Breaking the Mold: How to Thrive When Allies Turn” and other programming at SXSW Interactive 2014.

Photo by Kimberly Petro, Joslyn Place Photography.