bureaucracybusters

PUBLIC RELATIONS: FEAR VS. LOVE

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on June 10, 2020 at 12:08 am

Donald Trump believes himself to be a genius at public relations and salesmanship. And Julie Talenfeld, an award-winning and highly respected marketing communications professional, agrees with him.

Calling Trump “our generation’s greatest salesman,” the president of BoardroomPR writes:  “…In Trump we have a true master marketer. He tore through the U.S. presidential election process and, without spending much – if any – of his own money, and cast aside an impressive line-up of Republican contenders on his way to beating Hillary Clinton.”

Julie Silver Talenfeld

  Julie Talenfeld

How did he do it?

Talenfeld lays out four reasons:

  1. He captured the news headlines from the very start.
  2. He mastered wordplay.
  3. He’s all about image and stagecraft.
  4. He’s a master of the media.

But on June 1, Trump’s mastery of the media failed him. 

On May 25, 2020, George Floyd, a black unemployed restaurant security guard, had been murdered by Derek Chauvin, a white Minneapolis police officer. While Floyd was handcuffed and lying face down on a city street during an arrest, Chauvin kept his knee on the right side of Floyd’s neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds. 

Cities across the United States erupted in mass protests over Floyd’s death—and police killings of black victims generally. Most of these demonstrations proved peaceful.

But cities such as Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York City saw stores looted, vandalized and/or burned.

On June 1, President Trump ordered police, Secret Service agents and National Guard troops to violently remove peaceful protesters from Lafayette Square, which borders St. John’s Church near the White House. 

The reason: To allow Trump to have a photo opportunity outside the church.

“We have a great country,” said Trump. “We have the best country in the world…we will make it even greater. And it won’t take long….It’s coming back strong. It’ll be greater than ever before.”

Why Violent Protests Work

Donald Trump at St. John’s Church

“I imposed a curfew at 7pm,” tweeted Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser. “A full 25 minutes before the curfew & w/o provocation, federal police used munitions on peaceful protestors in front of the White House, an act that will make the job of @DCPoliceDept officers more difficult. Shameful!”

Video of the assault spread quickly on social media and news outlets, sparking nationwide outrage. 

In addition, Trump turned the normally well-protected White House into an armed fortress. Blocks of tall, black reinforced fencing were erected. Military vehicles patrolled Pennsylvania Avenue.

Lafayette Square, across from the White House—normally occupied by selfie-taking tourists—was fenced off and filled with heavily-armed National Guard troops and Secret Service agents.

Even worse: on the night of May 29, Trump was briefly taken to the White House underground bunker as protesters gathered outside the Executive Mansion following George Floyd’s death. He was there for a little under an hour.

But the PR damage was done. For millions, he would now be “The Bunker Bitch.”

Contrast that with the example of Sheriff Christopher Swanson of Genesee County, Michigan. 

Walk with us!': Sheriff in Michigan shows solidarity to protestors ...

Sheriff Christopher Swanson

Confronting a mass of aroused demonstrators in Flint Township on May 30, Swanson responded: “We want to be with you all for real.”

Swanson removed his helmet. His deputies laid their batons down.

“I want to make this a parade, not a protest. So, you tell us what you need to do.”

“Walk with us!” the protesters shouted.

“Let’s walk, let’s walk,” said Swanson. 

Cheering and applause resounded.

“Let’s go, let’s go,” Swanson said as he and the cheering crowd proceeded. “Where do you want to walk? We’ll walk all night.”

And Swanson and his fellow officers walked in sympathy with the protesters.

No rioting followed. 

Appearing on The PBS Newshour on June 1, Swanson said:

“I can tell you that that night on May 30 made history on how to handle protests in a way that was honorable. Our city is already under enough oppression. We are already dealing with economic issues, a water crisis, and a pandemic.

“And it was just the right thing to do. As a veteran police officer who knows the community, I saw acts of kindness with fist bump, a small hug. And I went to my right, and I saw that. And I said, I’m taking the helmet off. We’re putting our batons down and I’m walking in the crowd.

“And when I did that, that act of vulnerability, probably wasn’t the best tactical move, by any means. It sent a message. And that message was that I need to say, we don’t agree, that’s not who we are, what happened to Mr. Floyd.

“And when I said that to the crowd, the second question, what do we need to do now is to walk with us, that changed everything, because now they had a voice. And they wanted somebody to listen to, and that’s what was the change agent. 

“I love my people. I love the people of the community. I have served them for my entire adult life. I felt comfortable, although not the best tactical decision, as I mentioned. But I knew that, if I laid down my weapons and I walked in, in a position of vulnerability, they would see this as an action, not just words.”

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