So, I just skimmed through the Family Research Council’s “Gardasil: What Every Parent Should Know About the New HPV Vaccine,” I noticed something irritating. It wasn’t the FRC’s misleading half-truths, or their constant insistence on circling back to abstinence. Though irritating, those aren’t things that I just noticed, but rather are what I have come to expect from the FRC.
What I noticed was the number of irrelevant photographs that they inserted into the pamphlet. There were a total of six pictures in the pamphlet itself (not including the cover art and the grinning photo of Tony Perkins). Of those six pictures, not a one had anything to contribute to a factual report on Gardasil. The pictures are as follows: Two teenage girls smiling and pointing at the camera, three teenage girls looking at one another and laughing, four teenage girls admiring something in a shop window (the object in question isn’t shown. I like to think that it’s the latest WeVibe product), a different set of two teenage girls smiling at the camera, a middle aged man happily talking to a smiling teenage boy who has been washing a car, and a teenage girl gazing pensively at the camera while an older woman looks frustrated in the background.
So, what do those pictures have to do with the HPV vaccine? Not a whole lot. I suppose the argument could be made that since the pamphlet is geared towards the parents of teenagers, having pictures of teens makes sense. I can see this line of logic, I suppose, if one were to include one or two pictures of teens, to remind people that this is a pamphlet about teen health, not a biology lesson. But to have these pictures all over the pamphlet gets redundant.
Frankly, I think it’s pretty obvious what the goal of the FRC is in including these pictures of smiling teens. They want you to think about YOUR teenage child(ren). Now, imagine what your child might do if they have a vaccine against an STI. They might have THE SEX! The dirty, dirty sex. Parents in general tend to be a little touchy about their childrens’ sexuality, and parents who are likely to have an FRC pamphlet on Gardasil are doubly so.
In the end, this comes down to an appeal to emotion. The FRC wants to make sex as dangerous as possible, but that’s the usual malice that I expect from them. What makes this especially annoying is that it is a persuasive tactic with no substance, forgoing the formalities of pseudo-science they usually put forth. Just like Martin Ssempa showing the most extreme gay porn he could find to get a gut reaction of homophobia, the FRC showing you pictures of happy teenagers while talking about Gardasil has nothing to do with the question at hand. Rather, it is a crude appeal to visceral emotion, this time the emotions of adults that are uncomfortable with the sexuality of teens.