I know that some committed movement advocates, such as elements of the pro life and animal rights communities (as just two examples), think that graphic and bloody ads have the ability to change minds and hearts of those who are not believers. This is a highly questionable premise. In fact, I think that such shocking ads do far more harm to the causes being promoted, than good.
I bring this up because there is apparently a bloody new anti abortion ad running in DC. From the story:
ABC News’ Devin Dwyer reports: An anti-abortion candidate running for D.C. delegate to the U.S. House is airing what is arguably one of this election cycle’s most provocative TV campaign ads, featuring extremely graphic images of aborted fetuses. The 30-second ad for Missy Smith will air 24 times on local broadcast network affiliates across the greater Washington, D.C., metropolitan area. It is so explicit that it’s preceded by a 15-second warning that was added by the stations’ administrators.
Over gruesome images of bloody and lifeless premature bodies, Smith says she had two abortions but has turned against the practice. “I was told it’s not a baby. They lied to me. They exploited me. Then I learned the truth and I’ve suffered for years,” she says. “And believe me I am angry. My heart has been ripped out. Obama, Pelosi, Reid, Norton they all support the murder of babies and the abuse of women by abortion. It’s time to make child killing illegal again.” YouTube has pulled the video from its site, posting a notice that it amounted to “a violation of YouTube’s policy on shocking and disgusting content.”
Advocates who engage in such tactics are so committed to the cause, they believe that if only others can see what they do, the entire issue will be turned in the “right” direction. But that isn’t true. When people are forced to see graphic depictions involuntarily, it certainly shocks, but they are far more likely to hate the messenger than cause the target audience to change their minds.
And this has always been true. When the Abolitionists graphically depicted the horrible treatment of slaves—they were absolutely right—but it only made them more unpopular—their advocates were mobbed, their printing presses were thrown in rivers, and even occasionally, mobs murdered abolitionist agitators. And that was in the North! It wasn’t until the Civil War that they became a generally accepted group and anti slavery, a popular cause.
Here’s the point: Good communication comes from where the audience is. And the general audience does not want to be forced to see such things no matter how true they may be. Far better for pro lifers to stay positive , such as the image to above of the gestating baby, then showing aborted fetal remains on a tray. Animal rights activists do better when they show empathetic looking cows, rather than cattle that have been slaughtered and butchered. Indeed, when you force people to look at blood and gore who haven’t asked to see them, you are likely to be the one most likely to be scorned.