Shock tactics derail activist movements

Image by Wesley Fryer via Flickr

Stephanie Piedrahita | Opinion Director

It’s that wonderful time of the year where pro-life activists will try to convince students that anyone who considers abortion as an option for women is on the same level as Nazis. I really wish I were lying and making this up but after an interaction I had with one of the volunteers, I feel that it is my right to express the disrespectful and illogical methods these people were using to advocate their beliefs and how it’s backpedaling any progress we’ve made in changing harmful societal perceptions of activists.

When walking on campus I saw a sign that said “Warning! Pictures of genocide up ahead!” I felt relieved at first because of two reasons: first, I assumed that it was a project raising awareness of actual human rights violations happening because of ISIS, Boko Haram, or Ferguson. It made me feel proud that there were students still bringing social issues to our attention in an effort to make us more informed individuals about the world around us. Second, the warning also gave students an opportunity to avoid any graphic images which is something I could initially respect.

Once I began walking through, I noticed it was a gallery of bloody fetuses and a comparison of abortion to the Holocaust. As a reporter, philanthropist, and overall compassionate human being, it was downright disappointing to see how misleading this presentation was without having spoken to anyone yet.

I want to introduce the idea of logical fallacies (faulty reasoning) and how it was incorporated into how this gallery was set up. Appealing to emotion, rather than logic, was the foundation of their reasoning, and when it comes to raising awareness, shock value works, but to a certain point. It was no surprise to see how fast students would walk past in order to avoid what I am about to describe.

For example, using the words “unborn babies” and displaying graphic images (that may not be real) to describe what to others might define as a fetus is already guilt tripping someone for initially having a different of interpretation of language. The word “baby” also has no scientific value to it, and using this term of endearment as an emotional trigger is a cheap way to make the listener feel bad for just having another perception. How you say things is just as important as what you are saying, especially if your goal is to persuade.

If you had to post a disclaimer stating that you’re not calling pregnant women nazis BUT you are saying medical technicians are the same as death camp doctors, you must’ve expected negative reactions to this before which is the opposite of the outcome you want. Do you know how insensitive it is to use the suffering of an entire group people in the past to make a point in your biased argument?

You’re implying that abortion doctors have the same intention as death camp operators, a vile generalization to anyone who aspires to be in the medical field, since you’re basically calling them murderers (something I’ll cover in my next point). In addition, filming without the consent of others as a “security measure” further proves that whatever message you have is getting severely misinterpreted and is detrimental to the work you are doing to begin with. What’s the point of making it harder for yourself to convince people after you’ve insulted them?

When you work under the assumption that everyone has the same definition for terminology being used in the conversation, you’re portraying whoever is willing to listen to you as automatically “incorrect” or “immoral” if their definition doesn’t align with yours. Because of this, you paint any opposing opinions in an exaggerated manner which falls underneath the strawman fallacy.

According to the Legal Information Institute, murder is defined as unlawfully taking another human beings life with malicious forethought (abortion is legal at the federal level by the way). When pro lifers claim abortion is murder, this automatically condemns those who had needed to abort in the past due to health reasons, rape, unstable financial/living situations or supporters of it to the same level as serial killers. There is obvious disagreement on what falls under murder and genocide anyways, so why would you express such an outrageous assumption of someone else’s character and still expect them to want to listen to you?

The point is they won’t. You may have captured attention and started a discussion about the topic but ultimately, it will not work in your favor. You will not change anyone’s mind if you disgust them, make false accusations and downright insult your audience. Taking a moderate but factual approach is the best way to persuade someone; save your propaganda for those who are foolish enough to believe it.



4 Comments on "Shock tactics derail activist movements"

  1. “I want to introduce the idea of logical fallacies (faulty reasoning) and how it was incorporated into how this gallery was set up.”


    The purpose of logic is to discern reality. How about this for a logical syllogism to consider?:

    Premise 1:
    Abortion (except to save the life of the mother) takes the life of an innocent human being without proper justification.

    Premise 2:
    Taking the life of an innocent human being (without proper justification) should not be legal.

    Abortion (except to save the life of the mother) should not be legal.

    The displays presented by the Genocide Project force the viewer to face reality. Those images are so very shocking only because we have been indoctrinated to believe abortion does not take the life of a human being. Of course it has an emotional effect when that fallacy is exploded. But the purpose, and the result, of those pictures (and they are in fact of actual aborted humans) is to reveal the truth.

    Logos indeed.

    • Leland,

      Your definition of abortion in your the first premise of your logical syllogism is false. As abortion is legal, proper justification is defined by the person having the abortion. You are insinuating that the only proper justification for having an abortion is if the mother’s life is in danger. That is not a FACT, it is your OPINION. The mother herself defines what she feels is ‘proper justification’, and proceeds to have the abortion after doing so. Therefore, legal abortions cannot be defined as “taking the life of an innocent human being without proper justification.”

      We are entitled to our own beliefs and opinions. Putting up pictures of aborted fetuses and comparing abortion to mass genocide isn’t going to change my thoughts on abortion. I would go on a rant about why, but I think Stephanie did a very good job for the both of us.

  2. Leland,

    While I agree with your concept of logos. If you want to start a debate, let’s have at it. What is a human being, and what makes a human being innocent? At what point are we considered “human”?

  3. I just know that every life is sacred. Filming without consent doesn’t even matter if what you are trying to defend is as precious as life it self. Have you heard about the planned parenthood scandal they were selling the human organs, obtained from the abortions they performed. They were violating the law and putting the lives of these women at risk, because they would performed banned abortion procedures in order to obtained intact organs. They would sell these as human organs. I don’t understand, if the child is in the womb is still not human? but the organs are sell as human organs. All these was discovered Thanks to filming without consent, and that is why I’m pro life now. Have you seen the statistics in 99% of abortions cases there has been sexual consent from both parties.

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