Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Truth Hurts, and Works Best

Mark Ballard in the Baton Rouge Advocate used the occasion of a Chris Moore speech on the way advertisers should operate to launch into a diatribe against re-elected Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal. Moore was taking the governor to task for some questions about budget, but that is not what caught my eye.

It's the all-purpose crowbar into anything anyone in the public light does that Moore's comment provided. According to Ballard's set-up, Moore said of ethics and advertising that reputable brands "almost never lie.". Ballard quotes a transcript of a speech at the Advertising Educational Foundation website that includes:

"So we tell the truth - but not always the Whole Truth."

Say it ain't so, Chris.

It harkens back to a piece of advice given by former University of Arkansas chancellor John White, caught on video tape for all of posterity, in which he gave out the typical politician's advice. To paraphrase, don't answer the question they asked, answer the question you wanted them to ask.

Let's not be naive - both Moore and White spoke a truth. And as a result, both will be tagged with those quotes forever.

Maybe it's not exactly magician's code, but it does resemble giving away the "trick" when it gets said.

Let's not overlook the use of a good meme by a journalist either. When you read the whole speech, you can see the presentation is a lot more nuanced than portrayed. Moore gives us some great examples of how there is truth and there is Whole Truth. He gives great detail of a famous Volvo commercial, in which to recreate what really happened at a monster truck competition required quite a bit of "faking".

Or, to use another quality cliche, truth is often stranger than fiction.

Thus, not all PR professionals are flacks. Not all politicos liars. And, to get myself into the quote mill, not all truth is created equal.

I spend some time with students at the beginning of each semester when I teach American history going over what is history. It comes in three slices - little h history, capital H History and what happened. Unless you were there, you don't know what happened, and even if you were, chances are the event was so large you cannot have a full scale understanding of the entirety of it. Quickly, the small h is what got recorded in documents and big H is what we as historians do with both what happened and the small h.

Moore become caution and lesson. Be careful what you say, it can and will be used against you in a court of public opinion. And, for the consumer side, stay skeptical and frosty out there.

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