Monday, April 22nd, 2013
Nate Bell’s Poor Timing, Ortiz’s Interesting Timing
Listen up, red, blue and tea party hat wearers. Take them off and put them in the corner. We’re talking about communication mistakes, not politics.
I debated whether to write a blog post following what Arkansas state representative, Nate Bell (R) posted last week on twitter when the city of Boston was in a frenzy. With With a suspect dead, another in custody and an apology now posted, I think the waters have cooled enough to point out the clear and total bumbling of a message.
The post above was written while the city of Boston was on lock-down as authorities were still looking for the second suspect. Mid crisis is never a time to make a political statement. This type of inflammatory remark and create greater fear, and a dozen other potentially dangerous situations. A person who is already in poor health may slide backwards in a state of panic. Someone who did have a weapon could have felt inspired to go out and attempt vigilante justice, meet the armed suspect or a police officer who sees the weapon and shoots first, before noticing it’s just a citizen who wants to help. Feelings of hopelessness and looming danger can put some people on edge, where it only takes a small phrase or nudge to make them do something they wouldn’t otherwise do.If you’re the one doing the nudging you have some responsibility for the outcome. Not all…but definitely some.
As one respondent to the tweet challenged all readers, name one time when police or other law enforcement officials ever asked residents to grab their guns and come help make an arrest. It doesn’t happen, because common citizens aren’t put through the same high intensity, high risk training that members of our law enforcement have. They aren’t taught to manage their heart rate, or response time, or ability to do immediate risk assessment before pulling a trigger. Law enforcement receives that kind of training, regularly.
Bell has since apologized on both his Twitter and Facebook pages, and deleted the original Tweet from his feed.
If you have strong political views about any issue, great. That’s the beauty of being an American and having the right of free speech. But as T-Shirts sold at the Newseum in Washington say: “Freedom of speech is not a license to be stupid. “ (I happen to own one of those shirts, by the way.) Be thoughtful about what you are saying. Are you doing more harm than good. What is the risk of what you are saying being taken out of context or too far?
Consider the timing of what you say. Commenting on the battle over gun rights in the middle of high stakes manhunt when lives are still in danger is less than optimal. It’s not striking while the iron is hot, it’s pouring gasoline on a fire that is already raging out of control. You can still say what you want, just decide whether you need to wait, tone down or modify your comments for the sake of public safety.
Now change the channel to The Red Sox game Saturday when David “Big Papi” Ortiz decided the F-word was the perfect punctuation point to his inspirational message to the fans attending the game against the Kansas City Royals. The FCC has clamped down on individuals and organizations for similar such offenses. They’ve even issued fines. Those of you old enough to remember the days of Guns ‘N Roses stumbling on stage severely drunk at the American Music Awards in 1990. They’re the ones who forced the need for a time delay. The folks in the control room couldn’t kill the mics fast enough.
I thought it was interesting that Big Papi received cheers, kudos, plenty of applause and not a peep from the FCC. Now, that is in part, because the rule applies to the station and not the individuals, but it also shows there was a clear appreciation for the stress, fear and danger this community has just lived through.
For the record, cursing in front of any open mic, live audience, or even small group is never a good idea. Not even if the audience is a forgiving or agreeable one. Find the real inspirational words to express yourself, and you’ll still come out on top.
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