Monday, March 30, 2009

Shock Value: Is it Really Worth it?

Walking to class today, I was confronted with some disturbing images.  Despite the warning I had already gotten (via Twitter) to avoid the Tate Plaza today, I basically had to walk through there to get to my class in the SLC (I refuse to start calling it the 'MLC'... it just doesn't sound right).  For those of you who don't go to UGA, the Tate Plaza is basically an open forum on campus where various interest groups usually congregate and try to get out whatever message they are passionate about (and the SLC/'MLC' is our Student Learning Center, recently renamed the 'Miller Learning Center' after a former Georgia Governor).

So as I came down the stairs into Tate, I was bombarded with horrifying images of aborted fetuses.  Not just horrifying, but HUGE - the billboards must have been 20 feet tall (where do you even go to print something like that?).  There was a tiny sign in front of the display that said something to the effect of "Caution: Disturbing Images Ahead," but by that point there was no way you hadn't already seen the images.  There were posters with all kinds of facts about abortion, and a man preaching to passersby about why abortion is wrong.  

Abortion is a controversial issue, and I'm not going to get into my own views on it.  However, no matter what your views are, this display got your attention.  I understand what the protestors were going for - hoping to shock people into thinking abortion is wrong.  But how effective is that really?  The display definitely got people thinking and talking about the issue, but could it really change someone's mind?  When it comes down to beliefs about such personal issues, can something as simple (albeit shocking) affect their decision?

The main reason I'm so curious about this is that these exact abortion displays came up in our focus group for my Campaigns class.  We were discussing how to really get the attention of UGA students when it comes to the anti-poverty effort in Athens-Clarke County.  One student brought up graphic images like the ones in the anti-abortion displays.  Students agreed when something is so big and staring you right in the face, you can't ignore it, which I agree with.  However, it's one thing to create buzz and get people thinking about an issue, and it's another thing entirely to get them to act on these thoughts.  Would oversized posters with images of impoverished children and statistics about dropout and pregnancy rates in Athens get attention on campus?  Sure.  But the real question is, would these posters actually drive people to join the anti-poverty effort?

No comments:

Post a Comment