Technology, journalism, social media and social responsibility
The ongoing intentional disruption of the President’s “Town Hall” meetings on health care reform are fomented, in large part, by well-financed, industry-backed conservative public relations strategists who have centered their massive communications efforts on several fear-based distortions or outright lies regarding health care reform.
No effort is being made to encourage reasonable debate; instead, the program is entirely designed to incite disruption and chaos, at the least. At worst, it could re-ignite the simmering hatred of fringe lunatics who are capable of far greater damage. The disruptions have already resulted in at least one riot and several other acts of violence.
Any responsible conservative or GOP official, right-leaning political journalist or analyst would issue a call for calm and rational discourse. Instead, however, nationally recognized conservative talk show hosts and personalities have actually wratched up the vitriol hoping, it would seem, that defeat of the health reform effort will translate to votes in the 2010 elections.
In some situations, calls for civil disruption are understandable. Rarely have we seen such calls organized by well-financed front groups using paid public relations professionals, but it does happen.
However, this case is extreme. The calls to action are intermingled, intentionally and with clear foresight, with demonizing and references to Hitler and Nazis — clear signals to fringe activists, who are already shouting, emailing, twittering and calling public servants with death threats and encouraging others with suggestions to take arms. This can only lead to regretable results which any thinking conservative can well imagine.
I appeal to sensible public relations practitioners in, and outside of the political sphere to make your voices heard, and help our colleagues behind these campaigns to understand exactly how far beyond the bounds of ethical public relations they have walked. They leave a blazing trail of accountability, should anything more sinister develop.