By letterhead | December 6, 2009
It's tough to pinpoint when the PR profession "jumped the shark." But it has, and in spectacular fashion.
Outsiders are seldom privy to the inner workings of the global spin machine. But every once in a while someone leaves the door ajar and you can peer in to see just how twisted are its guts.
Such is the case with newly released documents in the ever-widening Sarah Palin ethics quagmire. Seems that Andree McLeod just won't give up, even if it is all the result of a "falafel fight." Well, 'tis her right. And accrues to our benefit.
Take the recent emails she unearthed. (Posted by Sam Stein on HuffPo)
Get the Pepto-Bismol ready and then read the following. It's from an internal email, from one of Palin's communications staffers, asking the campaign for clarification about what the candidate believes:
"On abortion, she is pro-life, but does she oppose exceptions for rape and incest? On sex education, does she favor an abstinence-only approach or does she allow for contraceptives?"
Here is one
PR staffer flack asking another PR staffer flack to tell him exactly what Palin is supposed to believe. At least, in public.
This is how the game works folks. In black and white. Couldn't be any clearer. Many of Sarah's supposedly deeply held ideas about the moral issues of the day are a confection.
In reality, most public "messages" and images are manufactured to achieve a specific goal, and very rarely are: 1) the messages true to the speaker, and 2) the stated goal of the speaker and her true goal one and the same.
All the feigned certitude by politicians and business scions is just that, feigned with an institutional purpose. All thanks to the "conscience" of the world: its highly paid flack army.
CANONIZING SAINT STALIN, FOR A HEFTY RETAINER FEE
Jack O'Dwyer's Newsletter recently reported that Russia hired a PR firm to rehabilitate the reputation of one Josef Stalin. Yes, that one: he of the ruthless, repressive, dictatorial 30-year reign. He of the Great Purge, and Gulags, and secret Pogroms. 20 million dead. Maybe more… who knows.
According to Eurobserver.com, the program is being run by the state-owned Russian news agency in partnership with a private outfit called RJI Companies… which offers no definition of itself on its website, only that it provides "strategic communications" according to the following ideal:
"In the international game of strategy, winning is the result of global intelligence, expertise, and bold vision. Today, the stakes are higher, the strategies more subtle. With RJI on your team, you bring unparalleled experience, subtlety and integrity to the table."
Interesting that the word "subtle" is the only word (other than "the" and "and") used twice in this short primer. In other words: secret, hush-hush, under-the-radar propaganda. Visit the website and see if its clandestine look and feel doesn't give you the shivers.
Eurobserver reports that RJI has tried to recruit heavy-weight PR firms to the cause:
"A senior executive at the PR firm in question recalled one particular exchange with the RJI Companies envoy: 'I asked him "Do you want us to say that Stalin was not such a bad guy?" And he said "Well, I know it will be difficult." I said So, you want history to be rewritten? And he said "Yes, in a way."'
"'Expect to see more articles in European newspapers saying that Stalin had his good points as well,' the PR executive said."
Inside Russia, such efforts are apparently "well underway," including the rewriting of high-school history books. Outside Russia, it's all a lie or course, according to a flack for the Russian news agency. She told Eurobserver that no such PR contracts exist. Whom do you believe?
(And for the record, Russia's PR firm in the U.S. is Ketchum.)
ENOUGH ABOUT "CONSCIENCE" ALREADY
We need to stop lionizing the PR profession as some sort of "conscience." It's self delusion that only masks PR's terminal disorders and prevents effective treatment.
We've talked about how PRSA chairman Cherenson loves that sort of baseless happy talk. But even the admirable gadfly Wendell Potter still encourages PR professionals to consider themselves the "'conscience' of their employers," according to the Nov 18 issue of O'Dwyer's. Apparently Potter and Arianna Huffington were on a panel together at a PRSA event in San Diego and were of the same mind.
Sadly, as LiteralMayhem has chronicled, when a corporation (or any center of power) is pressed to the wall by outside forces, PR pros have little to no influence in how the powerful respond. Rarely does conscience enter into C-Suite or political decision making.
And all too often PR pros are eager to do any bidding, no matter how foul; say anything any create any image, no matter how stilted; and devise any talking point no matter how obfuscatory; in short, do anything necessary to serve the client/boss… and secure a fat retainer/pay check.
As a result of PR's Machiavellian misadventure, the public is all the poorer… Public discourse corrupted for a pfennig, a corner office, and a lucite memento of the deal. It's a shame really because there is such potential for good.
But maybe I am making a mountain out of a molehill. Perhaps it's just human nature. After all, manufacturing a vice presidential candidate or rehabilitating a vicious dictator is small potatoes compared to American conservatives' efforts to rewrite the Bible.