The way facts are brought under notice…

“It is not then, the facts in themselves that strike the popular imagination, but the way in which they take place and are brought under notice. It is necessary that by their condensation, if I may thus express myself, they should produce a startling image which fills and besets the mind” Gustave Le Bon, The Crowd, p. 42

Le Bon’s discussion of the ways in which the imagination of crowds are influenced by startling and clear images reminded me of activist attempts to bring the problems of the HIV/AIDS crisis into the public mind. In an article in E-Misférica, Marita Sturken describes how ACT UP and Gran Fury created interventions into public space that attempted to communicate the urgency of the crisis and its reach beyond solely homosexual men and Haitians. To follow Le Bon, we might say that reasons for why the crisis was not felt by the general public had in part to do with the fact that “this veritable hecatomb was not embodied in any visible image, but was learnt only from statistical information furnished weekly.” ACT UP/Gran Fury then attempted to embody the crisis in visible images – bloody hands stenciled on sidewalk curbs, stickers on payphones reading “a person with AIDS used this phone,” and facsimiles of hundred dollar bills whose backs read “White Heterosexual Men Can’t Get AIDS…Don’t Bank on It.”


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