Showing posts with label imus. Show all posts
Showing posts with label imus. Show all posts

Monday, May 7

Panning Parodies: Rush Limbaugh

Rush Limbaugh has seemingly revived the Don Imus debate despite coming under fire for very different reasons.

Whereas Imus made racially insensitive statements that some consider bad humor and others call rampant radio racism, Limbaugh has been airing a parody song entitled “Barack the Magic Negro,” a piece about African-American Sen. Barack Obama’s popularity with many white voters. While Obama's campaign has dismissed the parody as dumb and not something "anyone takes this too seriously,” some Limbaugh critics are attempting to do just that.

“We take these things seriously because there’s a consistent pattern of them making their way into the mainstream media and then the mainstream consciousness,” said Karl Frisch, a spokesman for Media Matters, as told to the Chicago Tribune. “It’s important to shoot these things down.”

The parody, which began in March, is receiving more attention now primarily because of the recent Imus case as well as increased threats with racial overtones being received by Obama. Such threats have prompted a special security detail to be assigned to him on the campaign trail.

The parody seems to poke less fun at Obama than it does Rev. Al Sharpton. The comedian singing the parody imitates Sharpton, bemoaning Obama’s popularity with whites who will, the lyrics predict, “vote for him and not for me ‘cause he’s not from da hood.”

As difficult as it is to do, an objective view might find that the parody is neither funny nor racist. It seems to be insensitive (perhaps ignorant and certainly offensive to some people) in its attempt to draw attention to presumed differences between the two men (Sharpton and Obama). Obama's campaign calls it right: it is not to be taken seriously.

In fact, taking the parody seriously, as Media Matters attempts to do, seems to risk more tension than the parody might generate on its own. It also seems to add more weight to a revived "PC" argument that censorship works. It does not.

No, I've never been a fan of name calling (especially along racial, religious, and economic lines), but I am a fan of the First Amendment. As such, I am predisposed to look at such issues differently.

Although name calling and unwarranted labeling causes an emotional reaction in all of us, I also think it makes more sense to let such rants stand because the words say a lot more about the name caller than the person or people being called a name. And if we overreact to other people's mistakes, it might say even more about us.

Case in point: I like Limbaugh all right, but perhaps he lost a little credibility airing this parody for so long. I used to like Media Matters somewhat, but it is becoming more and more difficult to like them when they pay a disproportionate amount of attention to what "people they like" say vs. what "people they don't like" say. It's silly at best and hypocritical at worst.

More importantly, we best serve ourselves by not giving in to our own fears by overreacting to people who call us names or poke fun at our faith, heritage, values, politics, professions, or even the color of our skin. Anytime you experience anger over what someone says, it might be worth considering where that anger comes from. Are we afraid they might be right or that other people might think they are right? Hopefully not; but often, sadly so.

I'm not saying we should ignore name calling or hate speech, but rather suggesting that there are ways to address ignorance without labeling it as racist (unless it is on its face). That might be more effective than censorship.

You know, at the end of the day, I'll probably disagree with Obama on politics, but today I agree with his dismissal of the parody. It was smart on his part. As for his heritage, it's as irrelevant to me as President Kennedy being Catholic or President Bush being from Texas. Try as some might to prove otherwise, labels and other nonsense sidebars really don't mean that much.


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Tuesday, April 17

Censoring Farce: WorkFarce

Sometimes it's hard to distinguish the heroes and villains of social media. It is the person or persons who moves to censor supposed blog bullies? Or is it the anonymous blogger penning satirical prose? Or maybe, there never were any heroes or villains to begin with. Maybe there is only a whole bunch of people who could accidentally send us into the dark ages.

Sure, most people outside of the recruiting industry have never heard of WorkFarce, which was an anonymous satirical blogger who some might say crossed the line of professional decency while others might say made pointed observations of the absurdness of the industry, the world, and human nature in general. But for people who did know him, the surprise success of his blog seems well-grounded in its objective: give people a good laugh without revealing himself, his employer, or making apologies.

Most people will never hear of WorkFarce because one or several people tracked him down and contacted his employer, demanding that, he says, "I publicly reveal my identity, (who I am, what I do and who I work for) and then issue a public apology." Hoping to circumvent harm to himself, his family, and his employer, he elected self-censorship in the face of threat and ultimatum.

I'm all for calling a duck and duck, and in this case, the duck was blackmail. WorkFarce's only crime was naivete.

Yes, it is extremely naive to believe for one second, that as an anonymous blogger, you will remain anonymous forever, especially if you have taken to criticism, whether or not such criticisms are labeled satire. It is as naive as sending a critical e-mail without the assumption that someone might turn it in to the person you are criticizing. It is equally naive not to recognize that the closer your satire or criticisms touch the truth, the more likely someone will attempt to embarrass, malign, or censor you.

I see censorship as, once again, a growing trend in America and this trend is something that needs to be much more than watched. Censorship, misrepresentation of statements made within a context, and blackmail are beginning to win over "truthful, accurate and fair communication that facilitates respect and mutual understanding."

All around us, singular comments are taken out of context or turned into something they were never intended to be. Bryan Ferry, Don Imus, and a host of others are all being targeted by censors, blackmailers, and people who prey on the fears of others.

To be clear, while I do not endorse or condemn (though I may question their style, logic, and word choice) what any of the above public figures have said, we must be more careful not to confuse the cries of censorship as more valid than the speech they attempt to censor. The remedy for the abuse of free speech is always more free speech.

In an effort to keep this confined to a manageable topic, I was not a fan of WorkFarce and rarely read his material. Many people, however, did. We had an engagement once or twice, but nothing beyond that. On occasion, I freely admit there was something relevant in the writing and the wit could sometimes, er, once in a great while, be appreciated. No, I am not a fan of anonymous blogs, but far be it from me to judge what others feel they must do for the preservation of their jobs and livelihood. Being anonymous is their burden to bear, not mine or anyone else's.

I am also not a fan of blackmail. And in this case, the move to supposedly unmask, embarrass, and censor WorkFarce was pathetic at best, an exercise in malice at worst. Given WorkFarce has gone to great lengths to protect his employer (and hopefully did not attack others in the industry simply for the potential benefit of his employer), the only harm that could have been done to anyone was only what they chose to infer from his posts.

In fact, by most accounts, WorkFarce was not a potential shill, backed by people with political or business agendas. So given that the apparent unmaskers are hoping to conceal their own identities in doing so suggests to me the ultimate in hypocrisy.

Let me say it again: the remedy for the abuse of free speech is always more free speech, lest we forget the immortal words attributed to Pastor Martin Niemoller:

When the Nazis came for the communists,
I remained silent;
I was not a communist.

When they locked up the social democrats,
I did not speak out;
I was not a social democrat.

When they came for the trade unionists,
I did not speak out;
I was not a trade unionist.

When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out.


Ergo, be careful with cries for censorship. For when the worst comments go largely unanswered except for censors, even the worst ideas are more likely to take root within the fabric of the people for all time. Yes, though I am disgusted by the notion, moving to censor hate speech will only lead to more hate speech.

Sure, some might say it seems I am contradicting my own advice on message management within the context of strategic communication. But for me, the difference is exceedingly clear: message management is about trust, honesty, and consensus not fear, force, and censorship. Good night and good luck.

Friday, April 13

Surviving Animal: Mr Moustache

Some professionals might think twice about appearing on radio show with a host sometimes called the "shock jock of the recruiting industry" and refers to you as "Mr. Moustache," but not me. I say go ahead and feed the Recruiting Animal. Sure, some people will claim he bites, but I think you'll respect him all the same.

At least that was my experience on his show "The Recruiting Animal Show", where for a little more than an hour we discussed whether or not there is such a thing as bad publicity. While there seemed to be some consensus that not all publicity is good publicity, not all who called in agreed.

While we agree on a great many things, Laurence Haughton disagreed on this point. Haughton, a writer, a speaker, and a management consultant, said that all publicity is good publicity because visibility is everything. I disagree, largely because publicity (especially bad publicity) is mostly a random roll of the dice and has the potential to mangle any message or established identity out in the field.

It seems to me that not all publicity has paid off in recent months. While JetBlue has captured headlines, it is fighting to reverse the negative impressions of a February storm. Steorn, which used publicity to market the claim of having free, clean and constant energy, has been slow to regain its credibility after a publicity stunt last year. The blogger Spocko, who was responsible for his own publicity as well as the negative publicity surrounding KSFO radio, has slowly dropped from his once glamorized position as a top search tag.

While these cases can be seen as extreme forays into crisis communication, I believe they have some commonalities. It seems to me that people, places, products, and companies that benefit the most from publicity are those who have exposure in their areas of expertise or in ways that closely align with their brand and identity. The further away the exposure is to their brand or identity, the greater the potential for damage or maligning their own message.

Don Imus is experiencing this now, after making statements that have been labeled racist. While some might argue these statements have given him exposure and may have briefly increased his ratings had he not been fired, several advertisers would NOT bank that all publicity is good publicity. They pulled their advertisements off the air. Staples Inc. and Procter & Gamble Co. were the first to leave, refusing to associate with the radio show host despite apologies. Would others have risen to replace them? Maybe. It's a dice roll that didn't happen because CBS wasn't interested in taking chances.

We touched on Imus briefly during the show, but with such an abundance of topics we sort of took a "salad bowl approach," as Amitai Givertz, called it before raising several brilliant points, including the benefit of transparency for companies who are mindful of their messages. He also helped me frame my feeling about the show: If there is one good thing about salad bowls, it's that someone will always find something they like in them: lettuce, carrots, radishes, dressing, and even a few Garbonzo beans ... we talked about them all.

Likewise, Dave Manaster made several excellent contributions, reinforcing the idea that there is indeed another step: you have to know what your message is before you can shape it. He's also right that crisis communication is often reactive whereas strategic communication is proactive.

"If you don't manage your message, your message will manage you." — Richard Becker

Manaster reminded us that crisis communication is not the norm and helped move us in a direction that takes communication to an individual level. Communication management is also where Animal seemed most skeptical, likening it to a Big Brother approach or creating company shills. It's a topic I'll save for next week, much like I'll work up a more definitive definition of the difference between publicity and public relations.

A thanks also to Jason Davis, who asked about the monetization of blogs that I alluded to but hardly fully answered. Of course, this makes sense given our salad bowl discussion (I think that's funny). While some questions were answered, many more questions were raised that could not be easily answered in the confines of a single show.

Good thing Animal and I were shamed into a second show together, er, some day, to address his millions of visitors. With no bite marks to speak of and not a single silver bullet spent this time around, I survived to live another day. As for Animal, as I have said before, he has a real winner of a show. The program, which is available online, is one several great segments that not only cover but also transcend the recruiting industry. Kudos all around.

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