The truth, the whole truth and anything but the truth

Craig Hall, Publisher
Craig Hall, Publisher

I know. I messed up the saying. Frighteningly, for some in this day and age I will have to finish it. It’s the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. These are the words that apply to someone before a panel or court when they’re sworn in before taking their seat and giving their testimony as it relates to a particular incident.

That I have to explain that to some (and believe me, I do) speaks volumes about where this country is today. For many in our younger generation, telling the whole truth isn’t what it’s about any more. It’s about parsing words, deflecting questions and just how much can be gotten away with to benefit one’s self, one’s constituents or one’s cronies and still keep your job.

The examples are myriad today, and they don’t all have the last name Clinton, although if you do have that last name it’s a pretty sure bet you are involved in the whole “What difference, at this point, does it make?” movement.  We now live in an age where hearing the term “public relations,” or PR, means just how much or how little do we have to say to make this go away. And if we lie, can we get away with it? There was a time when PR was about the truth. That’s what “getting out in front” meant to an incident that could have a negative effect on a person or entity. Now it’s more about what statement does an entity make to avoid controversy and blame —  especially when they’re at fault.

About 15 years ago when I was finishing my degree at the profit factory known as the University of Phoenix (that’s an article for another day, because it sure wasn’t about “education”) I took a course in PR as part of the curriculum for my degree in business management. The example the course used involved the problem with O rings on the space shuttle that resulted in the explosion of the Challenger shortly after takeoff. What was discovered over the course of the investigation was that many scientists at NASA knew the new O rings could possibly have problems given certain conditions during a launch. The dilemma for NASA resulted because even though it knew of the problem and potential for disaster, no one had the temerity to stand up and say “fix this first” because there was a shuttle launch scheduled.

The problem was further compounded because the reason the rings might not hold up was due to government regulations regarding asbestos and making its use illegal. You see, asbestos holds up really well against heat, but has been linked to cancer (at least that’s why there’s billions in a fund that is still paying out to this day), and the material that was best suited for the heat integrity of O rings could no longer be used, resulting in defective O rings. We’ve all seen the proof.

Unless you’ve taken that class, this info is probably a little shocking. NASA allowed a shuttle launch to occur knowing full well the O rings could fail and the Challenger could blow up. And it was all because of government policies that this occurred. Simple as that. But that’s not what we were told. It is also a microcosm on how our society has changed. Because while the question of what went wrong was rightly asked, the secondary questions were never asked: Why didn’t the folks that knew about it speak up and demand new O rings or cancel the launch? And as Americans, why weren’t we given the truth about the whole incident?

The fact is today’s PR can be summed up in two sentences: It’s not my fault. And: When all else fails, deflect the question or just lie about it. This works particularly well in the political arena.  Those two sentences describe Hillary Clinton in a nutshell, and she’s running for president. This is proof positive that personal responsibility and the truth matter little on the national political stage.

And as with snakes of this magnitude, it rots from the head down. Just look at our local school board election to understand that truth in PR and politics is dead.  And yes, the District 51 school board is beyond political.

Under the new PR model we have a candidate, Paul Pitton, who might very well have been elected by the time you read this, running in the wrong district. So instead of resigning from the race due to his mistake (which may or may not have been on purpose to get two union candidates running) he said he used an outdated map when he applied and that he was still running “for the sake of the children.”

As for District 51, it’s just as concerning. The district knew about and did nothing until others started asking questions. And just what did the district do instead of declaring the candidate ineligible? It blamed the vagueness of the law, deflected questions and started sending out press releases about the great job it does.

There are only three scenarios here: 1. Pitton made an honest mistake. 2. Pitton isn’t smart enough to use a current election map. 3. Pitton did this on purpose. All three say withdrawal or be disqualified. Yet, District 51 let a judge decide.

Apparently, the PR of individual responsibility and the truth are for the rest of us.