On Monday the 26th of April Birmingham Friends of the Earth held a discussion about campaigningand shock tactics. We started off briefly mentioning various groups that used shock tactics and which we repeatedly talked about throughout the evening. These groups included PETA, The Occupy Movement, Kony 2012, Equality West Midlands, People and Planet, Greenpeace and of course Birmingham Friends of the Earth. All of these organisations to some extent try to shock the general public into following their cause through one means or another.
As a group we discussed the reasons that lobbyists like the ones I mentioned try to shock people. For example, PETA threw fake blood over catwalk models to protest against fur. Birmingham Friends of the Earth try to shock people through means such as videos depicting possible effects of climate change. We try to shock people because otherwise people would not listen to our message. We want to influence the thoughts and actions of people for what we perceive to be for the better. There are so many different lobbyists vying for the attention of the masses that without shockingthem our distinct message would be crowded out and forgotten about.
However we did note that people could easily be turned off by the actions of such groups. PETA have dug up graves of humans. Did that form of eco terrorism really further the animal rights cause? On the other hand shock tactics can work. The recent cases of Kony and the Occupy Movement achieved great support in a short amount of time. They both shocked a large section of society withtheir initial campaigns, capturing the public’s imagination, but lost the momentum they had won by not being able to successfully follow through with their subsequent actions.
By this point we were agreed that shock tactics can work in the right circumstances to capture support from society. The question we then approached was; “what is the right approach to take?” The consensus we came to was that a multi-tiered one was for the best. We brought up Greenham Common to demonstrate our case. The women who occupied the military base helped raise public awareness for their cause of having nuclear weapons removed from the site. After many years the nuclear weapons were removed. We would argue that Greenham Common helped. In isolation the Camp did not have the nuclear missiles moved, but in combination with many other factors pushed towards the happy ending. The Suffragettes also gained our attention. The Suffragettes used terrorist methods to fight for a cause that they (and we) deemed to be right. It was not the Suffragettes in isolation that won the vote for women, but a range of groups and views that eventually led to equality in voting for the UK.
Relating this to Birmingham Friends of the Earth and the environment, in the discussion we agreed that whilst there is a place for shock and possibly extreme tactics, it does need to be coupled with other tactics. Greenpeace can occupy an oil tanker to get public support. With that public support Birmingham Friends of the Earth will go to MP’s and lobby them for improvements. Shock tactics alone will not win the day, but can help towards the end goal of a more sustainable society.
One point for final discussion. We did not go into depth about where we draw the line on extreme measures. We agreed that Greenham Common was worthy but is physically hurting people too far?