Renounce Bullshit in 2008

What if PR/communications types said to ourselves and our clients — our New Year’s resolution is not to peddle bullshit. Wouldn’t that be cool? Mightn’t that raise the standing of our business in our own eyes, most importantly, and also in the eyes of others?

Two examples I can’t get out of my head.

1. Lying Christian Soldiers

The Rev. Mr. Huckabee has a little truth problem, and even the Good Grey Lady, The NY Times, felt moved to point it out today. Huck has said a couple of times in interviews recently that the National Intelligence Estimate had only been out for less than eight hours when he was asked about its conclusion — that Iran was not pursuing nukes — and said he hadn’t read it. In fact, it had been out for more than one full day — 30 hours — when he was asked about it. The Times calls these “misstatements” — as close as they’ll come to saying the guy is full of crap on this one. Not the biggest deal, but these long campaigns show a person’s character, and here’s Mr. Moral Plurality simply lying — twice. Where are his communications people? One of them should say, “Uh, governor, what you’re saying is just not true. Cut it out.”

2. Maybe They’ll Swallow This One

In the continuing morality play of Carol Molnau, a December 13 Strib story recounted Molnau being MIA quite a bit since the I-35W bridge collapse. The bridge fell Aug. 1 — Molnau, the Lt. Gov. and commissioner of the Department of Transportation, was out of town, returning Aug. 3. The Strib got a look at her calendar and reported “her calendar is blank for seven of the next 16 days.” The calendar shows a lot of meetings on other days — the paper’s point was that it was at least a fair question to ask if she was attending to business, given that she appeared at speeches and ribbon cuttings but skipped legislative hearings on the collapse and its causes. A MnDOT spokeswoman is quoted in the paper saying Molnau’s calendar reflected “major meetings and events” but was not a “minute-by-minute diary.” OK. Seven blank days, and, um, not minute-by-minute. Some serious distance between those two points. Didn’t somebody in the communications office say, “Wait, that’s a pretty big stretch, from minute-by-minute to nothing at all. Maybe we should say something closer to reality so people don’t laugh at all of us.” Who thought this up, and convinced himself or herself to buy it?

Yes, there’s the snicker test — will people snicker if we say this? Neither of these examples passes that test. Remember what T. S. Eliot wrote in The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock: “I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker/ And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker/ And in short, I was afraid.” Let’s not have moments of greatness flickering.

But there’s a higher test. Is what we’re saying bullshit, regardless of how anyone might react? Then let’s just not say it, nor let our clients say it.

-Bruce Benidt