We’re going to discuss some hot topics, but we are not going to be discussing the hot topics themselves but rather the reasons why certain tactics succeed and other tactics fail. Anyone attempting to steer the debate into discussion of yea-or-nay / pro-or-con ethics / morality will be ignored.
Go post your own blog.
It has been asked, “Why does the dentist who killed a lion receive more outrage than a video showing Planned Parenthood discussing what they do with aborted fetuses?”
The short answer is that in the case of the lion killer, we have not one but two names: Cecil, the grandfather patriarch of his pride, and Dr. X, the guy who thinks it’s big fun to use his human intellectual and technological advantage to track and kill animals for sport.
In short, we have a story with two characters in it, and it’s pretty easy for the average person to grasp the principles involved: Lion, minding own business, killed for fun by guy with money who has to cross an ocean to do it.
The story would gain no traction if
Cecil didn’t have a name and a backstory.
There have been dozens of photos posted on the Internet of people proudly smiling over their trophy kills (and we define a trophy kill as a kill where the prey will not be eaten by the hunter’s family, or a demonstrably dangerous animal stopped to keep it from harming others, but simply an animal death used as bragging rights). There have been attempts to gin up outrage against them, often identifying the hunters by name and in some cases causing no small amount of discomfort to them (there have been the occasional apologies and one or two examples of C-list celebrities losing a gig because of it).
But in those cases the animals were anonymous and therefore generic; there was no identity that people could glom onto.
Cecil, by mere fact of having a name,
immediately became a character.
That’s the short answer, but the longer answer builds off that: The case against Dr. X worked because it was possible to bring direct pressure to bear against a specific individual, and only because that individual depended on public good will to be able to afford his lethal hobby.
If Dr. X wasn’t a dentist but instead was a safari outfitter / hunting guide, no amount of public outrage would affect him directly for the simple reason that his business is based on customers who have already demonstrated a desire for his services.
to a professional hunting guide
does them no harm;
their client base will
keep coming back
regardless of your
Convincing the client base that there’s no honor
in big game trophy hunting, however…
There is where you have your leverage.
The case of Dr. X is going to impact big game trophy hunting to this degree: It’s going to dissuade more people who are on the fence regarding this issue than it will persuade.
Yeah, there will be some contrarians who had never given serious thought to big game trophy hunting before who will now support / participate in the sport, but they will be small in number to the group that thinks, “Y’know, it is kind of a punk thing to do…”
And again, let us draw a sharp distinction between those who hunt and fish to provide food for their family and those who do so just to brag they’ve done it.
Eventually, the anti-big game trophy hunting sentiment will succeed: As trophy hunting becomes less and less of a publicly admirable activity, fewer and fewer people will take up the sport. The fewer people who take it up, the less resources will be available to support it. The less resources available to support it, the fewer people will be able to enjoy it, etc., etc., and of course, etc.
Why then does the anti-big game trophy hunting sentiment gain traction while the anti-police brutality and anti-abortion sentiments apparently fail to do so?
In both cases the main factor is that it is extremely difficult to bring direct pressure to bear on those police who brutalize civilians and those people who provide abortions for the simple reason that they are providing a service to a client base that wants exactly those things.
Despite their motto, the police are not there to protect and serve citizens as a whole: They are there to protect and serve property owners.
When the property owners perceive
a particular group or individual to be
a threat to them and their property,
they have the police act against them.
Look at the history of unionization in this country, the brutal suppression of freedom of speech and assembly, the blatant murder of many and legal lynchings of others, the destruction of workers’ homes and families for the heinous crime of demanding fair working conditions.
Rarely are police held accountable for brutality today, and when they are it’s almost always the result of them being caught on video in a blatant misuse of authority, and even then the system that permits such things is protected while the individual officer is thrown to the wolves.
Look how the narratives are acted out: If it is at all possible for the brutalized citizen to be presented as in the wrong, they are. When it becomes impossible to hide the officer’s illegal brutality, their personnel records are leaked with emphasis drawn to all previous infractions.
Basically, it’s a race to see which story gains traction first: The “they were a thug so they deserved it” story or the “he was a rogue cop” story, and generally the thug story is given a lengthy head start.
If anything is to be done about police brutality, it has to be through indirect pressure: The property owners must become aware there are far greater risks to authorizing excessive force than in reducing use of excessive force.
Same thing with the failed coup
against Planned Parenthood.
Planned Parenthood is in the business of providing health services to women; abortion procedures accounts for only 3% of their case load. They don’t promote the procedure, but they do make it available to a client base that is actively seeking it.
Now, the great irony is that Planned Parenthood and other providers of comprehensive sex education have done far more to reduce the number of abortions that the anti-abortionists.
By providing comprehensive sex education and making safe and reliable forms of birth control easily available, they have greatly reduced the number of unwanted pregnancies and as a result have greatly reduced the number of abortions.
They’ve also greatly reduced STD rates, infant mortality rates, domestic and child abuse rates, and divorce in those states where comprehensive sex education and family planning are available, all of which also contribute to the overall drop in abortions by removing or lessening the factors that contribute to people seeing abortion as a viable alternative.
Trying to bring direct pressure to bear
on Planned Parenthood is futile.
First off, there is no narrative involving “characters” as we used the term above re Cecil the lion and Dr. X.
Without names, without specific backstories, it becomes extremely difficult for people to identify with either the fetuses or the mothers seeking to terminate their pregnancies.
It’s like outrage over photos of anonymous big game hunters posing over dead zebras and giraffes: Yeah, the majority of people aren’t impressed by that and may even find it petty and distasteful, but they’re not going to be moved to action because of it.
Attach a name and the narrative now becomes a story about a character, and the unfortunate truth for the anti-abortionists is that while their opponents can point to real living / breathing / thinking / feeling women with names who have made a desperate choice, the anti-abortion side cannot do the same regarding fetuses without their narrative looking ridiculous.
The only way to reduce the number of abortions
is to convince those people who are on the fence
about the issue not to do it.
But the big difference between women seeking to terminate their pregnancies and big game trophy hunters who spend a lot of time and money engaging in their lethal hobby as often as possible, is that it’s the rare case where a woman seeks multiple abortions.
And most multiple abortion cases are the result of medical complications that threaten the life of both mother and fetus unless the pregnancy is terminated to save the mother.
So Planned Parenthood’s client base for abortion is not a group of people who think it’s a really cool thing to do and are happy to brag about it, but desperate once-in-a-lifetime cases who would just as soon not have their decision broadcast to the world.
You see the difference in motivations? You see why the big game hunters, many of who need public approval in order to fund their hobby, are much more susceptible to shaming than women who are in a desperate personal situation?
Do you see why pressure against Planned Parenthood directly will always fail, and attempts to shame women seeking abortions will ultimately backfire?
As stated above, this post is not to debate the right or wrong of any particular situation but rather to examine what strategies and tactics work (i.e., produce the desired stated result) and which do not work (i.e., either fail to produce the desired result or create blowback).
Choose your path accordingly.
Calvin And Hobbes © Bill Watterson