In a culture of soundbites, the repeal campaign may struggle to be heard

Newstalk political correspondent Sean Defoe on the launch of a bitterly divisive campaign

In a culture of soundbites, the repeal campaign may struggle to be heard

The official Together For Yes poster campaign for the upcoming 8th Amendment Abortion referendum, 09-04-2018. Image: Eamonn Farrell

In a culture of soundbites, the pro-repeal side may struggle to get their message across.

Together for Yes launched their first posters of the campaign yesterday - with signs that say “sometimes a private matter needs public support. Vote Yes.”

They are bright, colourful signs with the word YES dominating a third of the space - and maybe that’s all that matters; the sheer presence of the posters doing their job to keep a yes vote in people’s minds.

After all, who lets a poster decide what way they’ll vote?

The official Together For Yes poster campaign for the upcoming Eighth Amendment abortion referendum with co-director Grainne Griffin | Image: Eamonn Farrell/RollingNews.ie

But it doesn’t put forward any argument. It doesn’t convince or cajole. It’s a vague reference to abortion and the idea that women should be trusted to make the right choice.

That vagueness could be a problem. Very few of the arguments being put forward by those who are pro-repeal are short enough to fit on a poster.

While for those who want to save the Eighth it’s a different story. And they don’t mind if they have to offend or upset people to get their message across.

Take some of their poster slogans:

“In Britain 90% of babies with Down Syndrome are aborted”

“Keep Ireland safe for women and babies”

“One in five babies in the UK are aborted. Don’t let that happen here.”

“A licence to kill” accompanied by a photo of a foetus.

Eight Amendment campaign posters in Dublin. Image: RollingNews

Frankly it doesn’t matter if they are true or if they are misleading - those statements are out there and will compel people. They illicit a gut response.

You are much more likely to think of the uncomfortable image of a foetus than an obtuse statement as you go about your daily routine.

Ailbhe Smyth from the Together for Yes group said the campaign isn’t about ‘sloganeering’ – noting that when given platforms like radio or TV debates, many of the repeal campaigners put forward well thought out and compelling arguments.

But that won’t be enough to cut it in the soundbite culture we now live in. Attention spans are shorter than they have ever been and people drift away if not compelled quickly.

Not every voter is going to fully educate themselves during this debate. Choices will be made on what they hear in passing and what they see on posters or online.

Not ‘sloganeering’ and wanting a proper debate is a noble idea, but it might not be the right one if they want to win.