I was scrolling through my Mastodon feed and saw a catchy and punchy post pop up:

Fuck yeah, right? I'm really sick of watching homeless encampments get rumbled, the people living in those camps losing their shelters, their belongings, their tenuous grip on survival, and told to move on without being given any clue where to move on to. So they move on to the next place they can set up a camp for a while, and the whole cycle repeats itself.

And these camps aren't broken up as a matter of policy, they're broken up because locals complain. "Property values" decrease, people get worried for their safety, for the safety of their stuff, and instead of trying anything to help, tens (in some cases hundreds) of thousands of dollars are spent on police operations to clear them out.

But posters like this will not fix the problem. In fact, they're likely to make it worse.

I get it. I feel the frustration too. I wish I could shame people into giving a shit, or dunk on them so hard that they become a better person, but in practice, that's not how it works out. Instead, people tend to get angry, and worse, they tend to get entrenched. Then, instead of a chance at persuading them, you've got a fight on your hands, against someone who is more dedicated to their cause.

This poster, while well-intentioned, is actually very likely accomplishing the opposite of what it's setting out to do. Here, let me give you an example. Let me rewrite that previous paragraph in the tone of the poster:

Posters like this are fucking garbage. They don't make their intended audience change their minds, they just make them angry and less likely to help. Sure they make you feel good, but you're already on your way back from your bougie-ass hipster cafe with a overpriced coffee – you're taken care of! Shouldn't the point be to help the fucking homeless, not yourself?
What the fuck is wrong with you?

See, doesn't that suck to read, when you're the target? I don't want to agree with that guy, regardless of the merits of his points, I want to fight him!

I like to joke that my alignment has progressed over the years from "Lawful Good" to "Awful Good," because I really love hot takes like the one on the poster, but I've also grown to realize that despite how good it feels to indulge in righteous anger, it doesn't actually do any good for your cause.

What works better, and what is much, much harder, is to try to step back, find some common ground, and write from that shared perspective. Nobody's ever going to think "You know what, maybe I am an asshole! I guess I'll change! Thank you random poster!" But you might get a few to think "You know what, maybe I, a caring and decent human being, could show that decency in a few ways I hadn't yet considered! Thank you, random poster!"

I'll leave a rewrite of the poster as an exercise for the reader, but again consider the target audience. How do they see themselves? How can you rewrite the issue of tents as something they could align with? What are they afraid of or mad about? How can you show them addressing that fear or anger as a virtue?

Maybe just don't call them an asshole, though.

Photo by Sarah Kilian on Unsplash