Monday, March 27, 2017
Nicholas Reid reflects in essay form on general matters and ideas related to literature, history, popular culture and the arts, or just life in general. You are free to agree or disagree with him.
HOW TO GET PUBLICITY
Some weeks back, an Australian conservation and wildlife lobby announced the patently idiotic idea that the Australian rock group Hunters and Collectors should change its name, because 300,000 waterfowl (i.e. ducks) are shot for sport in Australia each year. To call oneself Hunters and Collectors is, said the conservation lobby, to encourage such ornithological slaughter.
Most people could see that the idea was a silly one, and there were a few choice jokes about how, in the interests of natural ecology, the band Midnight Oil should change its name to Midnight Solar Power and in the interests of promoting peace, Guns and Roses should become Gluten-Free Scones and Roses.
Perceptive people realised at once that the lobby’s suggestion was no more than a practical joke to gain publicity. And, had such a thing as honest journalism existed, there the matter would have ended.
But journos are desperate for beat-ups and space-filling material so, lo, I heard a pundit on National Radio one Sunday morning earnestly questioning a lobby spokeswoman about the propriety of seeking to rename the band, as if he wasn’t in on the publicity stunt. And of course, giggling and pretending to be really nonplussed that some people didn’t take it seriously, the spokeswoman got exactly the publicity her lobby had craved and gave her spiel on the iniquity of shooting birds.
Let me make it clear that I am not a duck-hunter. Indeed I am not a huntin’, fishin’ shootin’ guy of any sort; and while I understand the skill of marksmanship, I’ve never understood why people get a thrill from shooting animals. But I am concerned at the way that flashy stunts are now the means of getting attention in the media. It’s a variant of the “if it bleeds, it leads” mentality that dominates television news. We get lots of violence up front because there’s juicy footage of it. We get lots of lobbyists rabbiting on about their cause on radio and television, not because it is necessarily the cause most worthy of attention, but because the lobbyist has cunningly devised an attention-getting stunt.
This is naturally only a small part of the current media malaise. When Donald Trump and his cohorts talk of “fake news” (and then generate much of their own), their opponents virtuously claim that there is a difference between real, fact-checked news and partisan fantasy. But alas, even on the most respectable and anti-Trumpian of media, what is presented as news is often driven by how loudly lobbyists and partisans can shout, and who is able to come up with the wackiest of attention-grabbing stunts. Why else do people now don crazy costumes in what are ostensibly protest marches, or strive to devise slangy and/or comical protest signs?
I long for day when newspapers run (as very minor story on, say, Page 7) such headlines as “Lobby Pulls Lame Practical Joke to Get Publicity” and leave it at that.
It’s not going to happen, though.