One of these days I would like to sit in on one of those gatherings where this conversation blossoms among progressives disillusioned with the lack of progress on an unpopular initiative, such as animal rights or global warming:
“Blimey, Jim, I don’t know what to do. The public just doesn’t seem to care enough about [insert progressive agenda here]. The polls keep slipping … I’ve just been racking my brain and I can’t figure out how to get ‘em revved up again.”
“Well Bart, sometimes it takes a little extra push to help people see the TRUTH of the matter. Make them see the REAL SITUATION in all its urgency, know what I mean?”
“I know, but…we’ve already used all the really scary words. ‘Crisis,’ ‘deadly,’ ‘danger,’ ‘abuse,’—they’re getting old. We’re running out of—”
“There’s only one thing left to do.”
And then, somehow, taking everyone’s clothes off ends up being the logical conclusion.
In a recent photo essay, the magazine Der Spiegel called Greenpeace’s chilly 2007 demonstration an example of “sexing up” the debate – others may call it a bizarre phenomenon that, on top of appearing strangely cult-like, seems to have very little to do with sex.
These demonstrations have, unfortunately, caught on among progressives. They’ve famously been almost indispensable to PETA in a more sex-saturated form for about 20 years. While the topics range between anything from the war in Afghanistan to offshore drilling, a quick survey of these unsightly protests finds one thing in common: none of them are for conservative causes.
While nakedness occasionally has something to do with the progressive topic at hand, it’s usually a stretch. The point, leaders admit, is to detonate “mind bombs” – graphic images intended simply to shock, to intstill an emotional reaction in their favor. No other meaning necessary.
But even if progressives don’t think they’re sending a message, they are. The mere fact that they think it’s a great idea to throw around naked human bodies as a convenient media tool is, so to speak, extremely revealing. Bodies indelicately slumped over tree branches. Naked women “shrink wrapped” in meat packages, others crammed in “chicken” cages. Why is this shocking?
Why, because it’s portraying people as things, and not people. And they see nothing wrong with this.
Another perfect example of this vast blindness to human dignity erupted (ha) in the incredibly disturbing video promoting the UK-based 10:10 campaign last October. Portraying schoolchildren and others very realistically exploded into flying chunks of flesh and drenching traumatized onlookers in gore was supposed to be met with giggles. Funny, right?
Once again, the climate change crowd realized something, but not quite profoundly enough. “Oh yes, show people being brutally killed – THAT will get attention.” Sure it will. But why does such a thing get attention? Because your average person likes other people, thinks that people have intrinsic value, and doesn’t want them to die. The disturbing thing is that it took the 10:10 campaign three tries to apologize in a way that made them appear remotely aware of how a normal person reacts to radical objectification of other people.
Even if they never do quite get it, I hope progressive activists realize just how naked these shock campaigns render their own numbness to the dignity of the human person. Anything to make them put their clothes back on.