September 17, 2012

Erasure Eraser.

Ellen L. Barton's article "Textual Practices of Erasure: Representations of Disability and the Founding of the United Way" has a very noble cause: unmask and denounce rhetoric that negatively alters our perceptions of the disabled. Barton says this rhetoric uses pity and fear to "evoke readers' feelings of good fortune, their suppressed fears of vulnerability, and their pride in American values and institutions" (195). Although campaigns operating this way (for example the United Way's) are most often  successful, Barton cautions that it "regularly diminishes the experience of the people with disabilities and ultimately diminishes the understanding of disability by society at large" (195).
I absolutely agree with Barton in this respect; she provides a variety of campaign posters/articles that exaggerate the negative condition of the handicapped in order to amplify some effect on the reader.

The rhetoric used to obtain support and money for the disabled is done so in a degenerative way, rarely championing their self-respect and enduring personalities. HOWEVER, my disagreement with Barton concerns what degree this is wrong. Yes, exploiting a child with polio as a poster scare tactic is wrong; amplifying disability to a level that generates crass stereotypes is wrong. Yet.. at what cost? If the united way's tactics ultimately generate more money to help these individuals through this form of rhetoric, is it  wrong? Being an american, and knowing the lax degree of concern most americans have for most causes, I feel campaigns that use pity and fear are a well needed kick in the ass to spur the apathetic to action. Much like our discussion concerning changing Truth's original dialogue, does ultimate honesty always yield the best results? In terms of "the beautiful lie" do the ends justify the means?

1 comment:

KatieLatchford said...

I agree with what you're saying-- exploiting children by making them poster-children of a disease or disability in the name of funding is wrong, but in the end, it leads to a good cause. There have to be limits in how far they will go, because there are good ways to evoke feelings of empathy in people, and there are bad ways of exaggerating and making a child look pathetic. It depends on how severe the means are to justify the ends, because foundations like Make-A-Wish, Children's Miracle Network, Relay For Life, and other highly successful donation-driven organizations use personal stories of their patients. I think the same question would go to them as well-- are they being exploited? Most would say no, so that leads me to another question while reading: What is the line that should be drawn between envoking sympathy versus straight up pity and fear?

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