In the Save the Arts campaign cartoon by artist David Shrigley, a farmer gives impassioned advice to his son about the government cuts to the arts: “Obviously fire-fighters and hospitals and schools and that are vital, but so are the arts. The arts allow us to look at ourselves. They delight us, transport us, surprise us. They allow us to see something unique, something unusual and interesting something different from the Hollywood teenage vampire bollocks and reality TV.”
There are two live arts-petitions against the governments proposed funding cuts – each petition aims to get 100,000 names, here they are : Save the Arts and I Value the Arts . Personally, I’ve signed both because I believe that the arts are a dynamic part of contemporary living, they spice up how we socially interact and are delightful because they amplify our experience of life. So what would motivate you to sign-up?
Emotional appeal is known to be effective in campaigning. It has been used powerfully in marketing and public relations for a long time. (It’s well worth checking out Adam Curtis’ typically excellent documentary ‘Century of the Self’, which includes a section about Freud’s nephew, Edward Bernays, who applied psychology to propaganda and coined the phrase ‘public relations’). A new WWF report ‘Common Causes: The case for working with our cultural values’, indicates that emotional appeals to our cultural values has far more impact on our decision making than we recognise. It makes that case that with bigger-than-self campaigns, “Civil society organisations should develop an explicit awareness of the values that their campaigns serve to activate and therefore strengthen.”
Nothing is neutral when it comes to cultural values. There are implicit cultural assumptions in everything. For example, in my subjective reading the Shrigley cartoon depicts a farmer showing his son how to sustain a farm because that fits with the core argument that the arts need long-term sustained cultivation. Where it grates a little for me, is in the casual dismissal of Hollywood and reality TV, which feels like it nods towards a form of cultural snobbery that switches so many people off the arts. Although I sure many people particularly like that bit. It is certainly worth watching but if you prefer more facts and elegant diagrams you might want to check out the Arts & Business publication ‘Funding in a Cooler Climate'.