The Bandwagon EFFECT
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Social media can sometimes feel a lot like a schoolyard. Popularity often equals authority, and the opinion of the quiet kid with few friends tends not to count for much.
Online mobs can be just as vicious as schoolyard bullies, and similarly irrational. Many who have dared to express an even slightly unpopular opinion can probably agree.
Needless to say, this online world is hardly the ideal environment for careful thought and debate, and we can see the effects of this culture on our college campuses. As we prepare for a referendum on abortion, many students’ unions, instead of inviting debate and reflection, are organising events which casually presume that ‘everyone’ supports repealing the 8th Amendment.
A perfect example is TCDSU President Keane’s commandeering email to all students ahead of the September 2017 March for Choice. His email repeated the imperative “be there” to the point that it sounded more like a mandatory marching order than an optional invite, portraying just how far some unionists’ heads are stuck in the pro-repeal sand. Unbeknown to Mr Keane, silent majorities are a thing, and not everyone will “be there”.
“Enlightened” or votes-thirsty?
Our political establishment, which can’t ever seem to agree on budgets, housing solutions, tax rates or foreign policy, are for once united in their desire to legalise abortion, regardless of it being known as one of the most controversial issues of all time. If only such effort, agreement, and progress could be seen from our elected officials in other areas - perhaps areas in which lives are improved rather than ended.
On the other hand, those few politicians who stand for the right to life are constantly chastised. They refuse to follow the example set by many of their colleagues and announce a timely “enlightenment” when early polls seemed to show public support for repeal.
It is true that many “enlightened” politicians who now support abortion-on-demand had once, not too long ago (before repeal jumpers were a thing) not only condemned abortion but even asked for votes because of their pro-life views. It would seem as if the personal opinions of some politicians are only as steadfast and unwavering as inconclusive Irish Times opinion polls and the latest trendy jumper.
Vote No vs. the media
The media, unsurprisingly, has also adopted a near-unanimous view on the subject, which feeds through to how the abortion debate plays out in our newspapers and on our airwaves. It is rather ironic how those, whose very job it is to report unbiased news and present facts to the people, have for so long pushed a pro-abortion agenda.
As a giveaway, the National Union of Journalists were one of the leading participants in the most recent March for Choice, The Irish Times has a policy to only use “anti-abortion” and never “pro-life” in a news story, RTÉ Radio 1 has been known to afford 81 airtime minutes to those campaigning for repeal and just 4 minutes to the pro-retain side in the space of a month.
Being part of a crowd is a powerful feeling, but one that tells us absolutely nothing about the rightness of our cause. The only way we can objectively form an opinion is by stepping back from the herd, exercising our rationality, and thinking long and hard about all the arguments, principles, and difficult questions which face us. This will never be achieved if we only ever engage with one side of the argument.
Have we even thought about abortion?
We have all heard that abortion is necessary for women’s reproductive healthcare, but have we really examined the strange idea that an abortion – which is only deemed successful if a human life ends – can be classified as ‘healthcare’? We all have feminist friends who are pro-repeal, but have we ever considered the feminist argument against abortion? We’ve heard the demands for the ‘right’ to abortion, but have we asked what a human right is, or what introducing a right to abortion would do to another’s right to live?. And, being honest with ourselves, have we faced up to the reality of what an abortion actually involves?
Popularity is fleeting
It requires enormous courage to think outside of the perceived consensus. It won’t necessarily buy popularity, but popularity is fleeting, and the dignity of supporting a just cause endures. Standing on the right side of history is worth unmeasurably more than any amount of Facebooks likes, hearts, or shares.
The silent opinion
Yet, despite a perceived (and crumbling) outward consensus, most people remain instinctively troubled by abortion, even though they sometimes lack the courage to raise their concerns. Deep down most people know, or just need a little reminding to see, that no human — regardless of size, age, ability, or reason for existing — should have their life intentionally ended.
When we’re alone
Newsfeed trends matter little, but how we mark the ballot paper when we are alone, in a voting booth, with nothing but our gut to listen to, matters a great deal. There, our State will ask each one of us whether or not we wish to erase the right of some to live.
This referendum is an extraordinary opportunity for each one of us to exercise our own integrity and Vote No to the abortion bandwagon.