I was surprised, to say the least, when I saw this headline a while ago on the Spanish newspaper El Mundo (“The hunter of Cecil’s, the emblematic lion of Zimbabwe, macabre tweets”). Granted, I agree that the tweets shown as an example of this person’s lack of empathy are not those of someone who knows his way around PR and they (he) shamelessly tried to shift some of his guilt? to indicate that indeed, there are worse things going on in the world or have gone on in the world. I am not the first one to talk about it and will not be the last.
Having said that, I do not want to comment on whether I think that Dr. Hunter should be made to roam “naked ” (as if Cecil wore clothes in his normal day to day routine) to be hunted with arrows. Or whether he should outsource his marketing and PR department. What I would like to point out in this entry is the choice of words of the journalist and how by choosing certain adjectives, she has published a complete and utterly biased and charged piece of writing. The comments of those who left their opinion were not far off the tone set by the journalist, however cruder and more passionate (“I wish for him to be eaten by a lion”, “…what is truly important, [is] the vile and cowardly murder of a large mammal at the hands of a millionaire mess”, etc…) are but a reflection of the feeling stirred by the writer.
I do however, believe that this piece of journalism (?) is a piece of propaganda. And the journalist is clearly jumping in the bandwagon caused by the hunt of this lion. Propaganda, in all its forms, has always been most effective way of stirring and influencing the public opinion (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Propaganda) and depending of the goal, can be positive (i.e, the current push of the DVLA in the UK to stop taking drugs/drinking and drive) or negative (any war related one or some tabloids, any for that matter). It is important to undertand that propaganda does not only works with the intellect, but primarily with feelings. The all-so-important feeling of connecting with a group of like minded people, perhaps with people with whom there is common denominator (basically an urban tribe). It is not unlike a trendy artist communicating with his/her followers(singer, band, painter,…) Think of the Banksies, Justin Biebers, Julio Iglesias, Monets, Toulousse-Lautrecs, Lady Gagas, etc… of this world. If we were to analyze what is sung/said/painted… we would perhaps censor intellectually what we accept in our minds, but since we are drawn to the message by its package, its ribbons, the person who conveys the message,the warmth it brings to us, we are happy to let it in and become part of it. I would like to think that generally we dissaprove of violent, sexist or anything perceived as negative or detrimental to the community. But what about if we only approve of some of the content within the package? Would be more willing to accept a whole with the hope that we would not participate in all of it? Is it more like when you cast your vote to any given party because you agree with most/ some/ you like the jingle in that campaign?
A while ago I read a really interesting article about dehumanizing language (please forgive that I can not remember the source) and how the first step to commit to most horrendous of crimes (of any colour) is to first remove the humanity of the target. It should send shivers down anybody’s spine when we read the accounts of Lt Colonel Romeo Dallaire in his chilling book about the Rwandan genocide Shaking hands with the Devil, and the role played by the radio station Mille Colines calling the Tutsi minority “cockroaches”, “tall trees to be chopped down”, or when the terrorist band ETA called the Spanish police and armed forces “dogs”, and many other horrific examples.
It is interesting -and terrifying- to see how language is used in normal day to day situations to degrade people and stir (willingly or accidentally) a feeling of animosity. Football will be a clear and horrendous example where players and coaches alike vent their verbal diarrhea and nobody calls for responsability and accountability (Mourinho being, in my opinion, the worst exponent of this form of communication, yet not, by far the only one). It should be concerning to hear the British government call the oposition leader a “threat to national security”. Shameful. Having said that, David Cameron’s picture for the previous link is nothing but propaganda!
May this be my humble calling to responsible communication. There are already plenty of horrible examples trying to shift our interest out there.