At any university, many different groups of people with different ideas come together and debate those ideas with each other. Some of these people might be prone to use fear and intimidation to get their points across or to try to achieve a goal.
In Utah, Planned Parenthood clinics don’t get many protesters. But in Denver, Colo., this was not the case, as was evident at Denver’s regional Planned Parenthood conference this year. The conference attracted such protesters as a woman standing on a ladder holding a picture over the fence and shouting, “Abortion is murder!”
Why do people embrace scare tactics? One opinion is because we are impatient humans and passionate about our desires, deciding that terrorizing our audience is the best way to get what we want in the fastest way possible.
Glenn Beck is a great example. By 2008, nearly every episode of Beck’s show on HLN and later Fox featured one common theme: Any time Democrats or liberals said or did anything he didn’t like, up on the screen appeared images of the Nazis and Adolf Hitler. Beck claimed he wasn’t trying to compare liberals to Nazis while he was showing clips promoting the idea that liberals and the Nazis had the same agenda.
But in the end, do scare tactics really work? Religious fanatics cannot necessarily change pro-choice views by showing photos of dead fetuses. Beck was using scare tactics to try to get an audience response to remove liberal policymakers and achieve Beck’s political desires. Four years later, even conservatives call Beck a nutcase, Fox News dropped his show, and many in his audience of sheep have dispersed.
Arguably, PETA used a similar method with the Glass Walls exhibit, which was recently available on our campus. The situation is obviously different from Beck’s fear-mongering, but not so different from anti-abortion activists showing horrifying pictures of mutilated fetuses. How much these tactics actually sway people’s hearts and minds, as opposed to just guilt-tripping, horrifying and vilifying, is debatable.
The main problem with scare tactics is that the people using them forget one critical component of achieving what they want: compromise. Most of the time, you will only get some of what you want. Planned Parenthood has worked with anti-abortion churches in Africa who, though they disagree on abortion, were willing to work with each other to provide people with more birth control and condoms, which will ultimately reduce the need for abortion. Sounds like a lot more productive strategy than flashing unsuspecting people with pictures of dead fetuses, doesn’t it? And if Beck had maintained logic-based arguments against liberal policies instead of his emotional tirades, then he might still have his show and his dignity.
At the end of the day, compromise and rational arguments are what win people to your side (whatever side that might be), not scare tactics.