I find myself deleting, blocking and unfollowing more and more on social media these days. I’ve only had a couple of upsetting social media interactions myself, but they have left me, more than anything else, exhausted—and more than a little despondent about so-called “civil” discourse in the 21st century.
A couple of these interactions involved very intelligent people who, I thought, would be persuaded that they might have jumped to conclusions about a situation because they hadn’t yet read the latest developments. I naively thought that fairly irrefutable and verifiable facts would make a difference. One person politely agreed to disagree, the second blew her stack.
I really sound holier than thou, so let me be clear: I’ve fallen prey to fake news (that is, “real” fake news and not just facts that fail to support my point of view) and have been guilty of rushing to judgment … and sharing that judgment on social media. And while I never enjoy eating crow, I’ve tasted it before and generally will accept it again when I need to. Just pass the ketchup.
There’s a mob mentality online that has developed largely from the efforts of hard-working trolls. Most effective deceptions start with the tiniest grain of truth. Exaggeration and outright manufacturing are piled on again and again until the lie is presented as reality.
The result is that we perceive that the gulfs that exist between cultures, political parties, religions, etc., are not just unwieldy, they are insurmountable.
Which is exactly what some people want.
Soon, the 2020 presidential election will be just a year away, so I thought it was a good time to revisit a great piece of informational animation from acttv. The source is unapologetically left leaning, however, the content of this video is extremely balanced.
Sometimes the most outrageous and offensive information is accurate, but often it is not. Like the proverbial half-full/half-empty glass, it is a matter of perception, but even more diabolical, motive. A healthy distrust, and willingness to do some fact-finding on your own before commenting or sharing, is seriously lacking in civil discourse today, especially on social media platforms where people can be anonymous. Don’t borrow someone else’s outrage. We’ve all got plenty of our own.
You don’t know me from Adam’s housecat, however, this is America, so I am privileged to share my opinion with you and countless other millions who don’t give a crap what I think. Lucky you.
I am writing, of course, about the recent kerfuffle you started when you denied Larrison Campbell, and by extension, Mississippi Today, access to your campaign unless she brought along a male colleague. While I respect your commitment to live a life above reproach, I think you have misunderstood its implications and responsibilities. At least, I am giving you the doubt that your motivation is indeed a principle, however misunderstood, and not a political calculation. But that is another subject.
Believers make adjustments in their lives to accommodate an imperfect world. Our willingness to adjust is a sign of our faith. It is possible that the world might take notice, but essentially, those adjustments are for an audience of one: God. In short, they are a gift to Him.
Fasting is perhaps the best example. Wildly paraphrased, Scripture says believers are to be bright eyed and bushy tailed when fasting so those around them will not notice. Why? Because the fast is a gift for an audience of one. Others might notice and even remark on someone skipping lunch or foregoing dessert during Lent, but the act, the sacrifice, is not for them.
Your insistence that Campbell bring a chaperone to her own interview is placing the burden of your sacrifice onto someone else. Hint: that means it’s no longer your sacrifice; it’s hers.
You invoke the late Rev. Billy Graham as the standard bearer for your decision even while admitting publicly that your motivation is to deprive your opponents political ammunition against you. I have a feeling that Graham let go of what the world thought of him way back when he was still putting up his own crusade tents.
I know it is trendy to lob disdain on the media. As a former reporter, I do a fair share of screaming at screens and the radio these days. However, the principle behind the outrage generated by your actions is sound. Cherry picking which media gets access to you might get some supporters on your side, however, to become governor, you need to convert a lot of undecided voters. This move just makes you look uncooperative, and quite frankly, a little whiney.
Stand your high ground, by all means, but take the responsibility upon yourself, where it belongs. Hire your own chaperone. After all, it’s not much of a gift if there’s no sacrifice behind it.
I would never wish a gaffe upon anyone as big as the mistake perpetrated by President Trump on Independence Day, but as someone who loves history, I found it just a tad gratifying. Sound strange? People often have that response when reading my posts, so please bear with me.
I imagined cellphones being pulled out across the nation as people asked themselves, “Exactly how many years off was he?” I pictured very small children asking why various beverages had just shot from their parents’ noses when the infamous remark was made.
The fact that people, especially young ones, are curious enough to ask questions about the past is a life preserver of optimism to which I cling mightily when I see “on the street” interviews where over 18ers opine that the presidential cabinet is a piece of furniture.
In recent years, the question of America’s history, especially in the South, has been a topic of heated debate as leaders, and entire communities, have opted to remove statues, plaques and names from public spaces and buildings. The country’s brutal past of slavery and racial discrimination is by no means a Southern phenomenon, but I think it’s fair to say that, in many corners of the region, there is a tendency to deliberately misunderstand the opposition of such symbols.
After all, in many areas of the South, it was commonplace to refer to the Civil War as “the recent unpleasantness,” into the 20th century.
We have an opportunity here, not to erase history by tearing down monuments and removing plaques, although in some cases I think that is entirely appropriate, and in just about all cases, I think a community is well within its right to make such a decision. Additionally, I am certainly not suggesting that we engage in group denial and giving into political correctness.
The opportunity is to get the story right … or at least as close to right as our faulty human nature will allow.
Ripping down statues is quick and easy. Putting history into context takes time and strength of will. And in some cases, it takes exploration. There are many important people who were so disenfranchised during their lifetimes, their stories are not yet fully known.
It is 3:19 p.m., and I have no idea what I was doing at this time 30 years ago. I was living in Elizabethtown, Ky., at the time, so chances are I was doing Saturday errands, maybe making plans with my mom. Perhaps we were on our way to Magnolia to see my grandparents. I simply don’t remember.
Hours later, however, around the time when May 14 was ending and May 15 began, that memory is crystal clear. I was awakened from a deep sleep, told some dreadful news by my boss, and sent on an eerie drive north to Carrollton. I was a reporter then, for the News-Enterprise. The bus carrying a group of kids and a few chaperones to and from Kings Island that day was owned by a church in our county. The story was national, but for us, it was very local.
By now, the facts are rote: a Carroll County resident, with a blood alcohol level of more than twice the legal limit in 1988, got into his pick-up truck and began driving. Traveling north on I-71, Larry Mahoney no doubt was unaware that he had steered his vehicle across the grassy median and onto the southbound lanes of I-71. He hit the bus head-on, and the impact was in the worst possible location. The fuel tank, situated just behind the front exit, was ruptured, and the bus became a fireball. Investigators said the temperature inside rose to 1,500 degrees, and that toxic fumes from the burning seat covers became as deadly as the flames. In just a few minutes, 24 children and three adults were dead.
With the anniversary in the news, last night I found myself remembering the details of my “first big story,” as a reporter. Five years ago, I’d heard about the release of a documentary on the tragedy, Impact After the Crash. Although I wanted to see it, mostly because crash survivors were instrumental in the production, I wasn’t eager to revisit the story, the names, the faces, the devastating facts.
I watched it for the first time last night. It is available on Amazon via streaming or DVD. There is also a Facebook page dedicated to the film, the memories of those lost, and to the ongoing journeys of the survivors and families.
The film is very well done. It is unflinching without being gratuitous. It is touching without being cloying. It delivers a powerful message without preaching.
It is the definition of authenticity.
Of the many survivors interviewed in the film, I had met two. Weeks after the tragedy, the most critically injured remained in Louisville hospitals. I made the drive from E’town not knowing if any of the parents would speak to me, let alone permit me to talk to their hurting kids. I wouldn’t have blamed them if they’d kicked me out on sight.
The parents were gracious. I think with the outpouring of love from home, they wanted to give the community some sort of an update. I remember not really knowing what to ask Harold Dennis and Ciaran Foran (now Madden), at the time. Another survivor in the film is Carey Aurentz Cummins. She and Harold were producers on the project. I spoke with Carey’s dad at the hospital in 1988.
The word “strength” is tossed around a great deal when describing people who have come through tough times, whether it’s illness, the death of a loved one, financial ruin, and sometimes a combination of obstacles that can be described as anything from “struggles” to “horrors.”
But sometimes, even the word, “horror” fails to capture the reality. For Harold, Ciaran, Carey, and the other survivors, they have more than earned the right to be described as strong.
These kids about whom I wrote so many years ago are now adults. Most are parents, and have other distinctions. They speak with emotional intelligence, and a combination of world-wise weariness and keen awareness of everything good in their lives.
In 1988, I wasn’t old enough to be their parent, and I was young enough to remember, in detail, my own church trips to Kings Island, Opryland, and Six Flags, riding in a bus as old and as combustible as the one that erupted in flames that terrible night. I was too young to be responsible for the poor design of the bus, or even the tepid penalties for drunken driving on the books. But, I was old enough to feel, deeply, that somehow we had failed these children, and their families. I wondered if anything good would come out of the mess.
Without question, buses are safer now. Drunken driving laws are tougher. Those are very good things.
Viewing Impact After the Crash led me to realize that many, many of the survivors, their families, and the families of those lost, took ownership of that outcome beyond those obvious positive responses. A thread that runs through their comments is about taking control of one’s attitude and optimism.
There’s a maturity about accepting consequences, and how one single decision can alter the course of countless lives. You hear the wisdom of talking through pain, letting go of anger, and perhaps most important, recognizing that the talking and the letting go sometimes have to happen more than once.
Yes, in a way, these individuals will always be kids to me. They are cute tweens with their 80s glasses and hairstyles, smiling back from grainy yearbook photos, images taken before they knew anything about how school buses are built, or what debridement and skin grafts are.
I’ve learned, however, that they are so much more.
*feature photo at top from (Louisville, Ky.) Courier-Journal by Bill Luster
Note: The author is a resident of the El Conquistador condo community in Louisville, Ky. Her views are her own and do not represent anyone else at El Conquistador, Casa Granada, or Planet Earth.
There are several reasons I’ve never been much of a “joiner” when it comes to causes, no matter how worthy.
I tend to get too emotionally invested, which often interferes with good judgment. On many issues, I clearly see both sides. And, rather than considering the rightness/wrongness of an issue, I often ask myself how likely will a vocal opposition result in a positive change? Outrage for the sake of outrage, to me, is wasted energy. I dislike the sound of my own voice. I prefer to express my opinions at the ballot box or perhaps by writing a check.
When something hits close to home, naturally I take notice, but even then I try to be circumspect. Is this something to be fought, or something to be accepted?
Every once in a while, however, I run across something so clearly in opposition to respect and common sense that the outrage, and the organized opposition, comes quite easily.
It’s a sweet deal for a small group of people. Reportedly, it’s worth about $1.5 million for the current owner of the property. And, with an average daily traffic volume of more than 31,000 vehicles, it’s about low-hanging fruit for SpeedWash. The business model here touts bargain basement prices; exterior washes start at only $3/car, and self-serve vacuums are free. The only way SpeedWash makes a profit is to process as many cars as possible in the 12-13 hours it is open, seven days a week.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m all for people making money. Also, it would inject a few more low-paying jobs into the local economy. However, the list of pros is pretty short compared to the cons in store for hundreds of people profoundly affected by the project.
Full disclosure: I have a dog in this fight. I live at the El Conquistador Condominiums. If this car wash goes in, I’ll be looking at it out my front windows. The value of my financial investment will plummet.
But, unlike many of my older neighbors, I have options. I can sell out, cut my losses, and move elsewhere to lick my wounds. For many residents, the condos are the last homes they will ever have. For many, they invested a lifetime’s worth of savings and pensions into purchasing a home they thought would be a safe and pleasant place to live out their years. For many, they spend most of their time each day within the walls of their condos, making those homes incredibly important to their quality of life.
I daresay none of the residents moved in dreaming of the day that a high-volume car wash would be built across the parking lot, adding traffic, grit, heat, and unfathomable noise to their everyday lives.
This is very much a David and Goliath story. Many of my neighbors are ill, or so advanced in age, they don’t have much fight left in them. I’ve heard them express great concern even while struggling to sign their name to a petition. As I write this, my eyes well with tears. It’s just not fair, especially to them. Where is the protection for our elderly that our society claims to prize?
I’ve tried to get the attention of local media, and senior citizens advocacy agencies, but so far, few people outside Hikes Point, and the two condo communities, are aware of the project and its implications.
Chip: “It’s just PRUE* making her ‘infuriated’ sound.”
Aussie: “Did someone say ‘fur?'”
Chip: “Not the same thing.”
Aussie: “What happened? Who screwed up? Was it me?”
Brandy/Chip: “It was me.”
Brandy: “I peed on the carpet by the dining room table.”
Chip: “I thought that meant I could go, too, so I peed by the TV.”
Brandy: “Oh, so it’s my fault you peed next to the TV?!”
Chip: “Just sayin’.”
Aussie: “Look, her face is turning red and, wow, that’s a lot of paper towels there.”
Prue: “What in the world do you think it means when I put on your collar and leash and take you outside in the dark in my bare feet and nightgown at 11:30 at night? It means TAKE CARE OF YOUR BUSINESS!”
Brandy: “What’s she saying?”
Prue: “And then, what does Aussie do, first thing this morning? I take her outside and she does nothing, zero, zip, nada. Just sniffing and taking a sightseeing tour of the same spots she sees four times every fricking day of her life.”
Aussie: “I heard my name. I thought she was mad at you two.”
Brandy: “What’s ‘fricking?’ Uh oh. She’s getting more paper towels.”
Chip: “Here comes the lecture.”
Prue: “And now here I am trying to work and you all are looking at me like ‘I need to go out. When are we going out? Why can’t we go out?'”
Brandy: “Her voice changed on that last part.”
Chip: “That’s supposed to be us talking.”
Aussie. “Weird. I don’t remember saying anything.”
Prue: “I have zero sympathy for anyone too stupid to empty his bladder and bowels when he KNOWS that is specifically why he is being taken outside!”
Aussie: “We’re girls. She’s talking about you.”
Chip: “You wish. ‘He’ means all of us.”
Brandy: “That’s sexist.”
Aussie: “What does it mean when she puts her hands on her hips and her glasses slip down her nose?”
Prue: “You know what? You three can just deal with it. Clench those sphincters like we higher mammals have to and DEAL WITH IT!”
Aussie/Brandy/Chip: “What’s a sphincter?”
Prue: “Don’t you sass me!”
Chip: “She’s really ticked off.”
Brandy: “Is that like ‘cheesed off?’ Our people say ‘cheesed off.'”
Aussie/Chip: “Cheese? Where?”
Prue: “You think you call the shots around here? I don’t think so. You can’t just do your business whenever you are in the mood. It’s not like I’m here to be at your beck and call.”
Chip: “Silly woman.”
Long silence. Paper towels. Spray bottle. Trash can. Paper towels. Trash can.
Chip: “Uh oh. We’ve moved on to the seething one-syllable replies.”
Aussie: “What’s a syllable?”
Chip: “Now comes the silent treatment. Girls, it’s time to cue the adoring looks, and, go!”
Writing for Thrive Global, Gigi Falk recently shared a post filled with links to great articles about cyber bullying and the generally toxic online environment we have today. There are fascinating advances in technology working to pinpoint trolls and shut them down. Additionally, mental health experts are going on record that the uncontrolled rage exhibited in online discourse is resulting in symptoms of anxiety, depression, and other ills. (Go figure.)
It is easy to fall into the trap of passionately arguing a position without listening to those with whom we disagree, however, when that occurs, we are only making noise. If the point of our discourse is to persuade others to agree, or at the very least, understand, our point of view, it makes no sense to unload profanities, obscenities, insults, and other toxic rhetoric. What troubles me is that, for the worst of the trolls among us, there’s really no interest in persuasion. Having been given the capability of free and instant expression, the best that many of us can do is to use it as a weapon.
Falk’s post points out that, in addition to the technological advances in fighting cyber trolling, a group of German activists have developed a program, Zero Trollerance, to actually reform cyber bullies. Time will tell if the program has legs. If so, I hope it will be replicated on a global scale.
Illustration: Trolls don’t think very fast. This one has been caught by daylight and is now becoming a mountain. Lore tells us that most Norwegian mountains are made of trolls like this one. (Copyleft: This is a free work, you can copy, distribute, and modify it under the terms of the Free Art License http://artlibre.org/licence/lal/en/)
I ran across this Facebook post recently and felt compelled to share it.
Bill Penzey Jr., CEO of Penzeys Spices, has been very outspoken about his disapproval of the new president. First and foremost, Penzey is in the business of selling spices, herbs, and extracts, but he is managing to get his political views out there while keeping his eye on the ball.
No doubt many marketing experts will find his attempt clumsy and longwinded, but I was delighted when I read it. Make no mistake, it’s a long stretch to connect the product to the politics but I found the result genuine, and even a little charming.
And by the way, no matter your politics, I recommend Penzey’s products. They really are wonderful.
Following is Penzey’s post on the company Facebook page regarding a recent promotion of its spice blend “Tsar Dust Memories.”
A sitting US president’s administration is being investigated by the Justice Department and the FBI for colluding with Russia to deny American voters a free and fair election? We have a blend for that. It’s Tsardust Memories, and it’s tasty. And through Midnight Tuesday April 4, a $6.95 value jar is free with any $5 purchase.
At the heart of cooking is the idea that when you take care of people in need, the world becomes a better place. It is this idea that makes us human. And much like the caring, empathy, and kindness of cooks create better futures for those around them, the caring, empathy, and kindness of America has long been creating better futures for all those that share this planet. Our kindness brings us much good will. It would appear it’s this good will that Russian leadership hoped to undermine in helping to get our current administration elected.
Now is the time for Tsardust Memories, because now is the time to be reminded of the humanity of even our adversaries. Tsardust is an amazingly good blend. These are flavors that Americans are familiar with, but how, over the decades and even centuries, Russian cooks evolved the way they brought these flavors together to please those they cook for really is something worthy of our attention and respect. The Russian people are not our enemies. This time, if the allegations prove true, the enemies of Democracy are very much our own.
Tuesday is also the last day for free Penzeys Minced Garlic, also with $5 purchase. If you are coming into one of our stores today, make sure to bring this Facebook post with you. Spend $5, and you will get your choice of Tsardust or Minced Garlic free. Spend $10, and you will receive both.
Online it’s pretty much the same good deal. Visit us at penzeys.com, and after spending at least $10, proceed to checkout and enter 28552C into the apply code box while checking out for your free Tsardust Memories and then 44350C to get your Garlic. If you spend just $5 you can have your choice. Regular shipping and handling will apply, but regular shipping is always free on orders over $30.
And if tomorrow is Election Day in your community, please vote. It makes all the difference.
This week’s Marketing Monday post won’t be for everyone, especially if you have a weak stomach, so that’s why I decided to post today. For this week, let’s designate today, Wretched/Retching Wednesday.
In Hamlet Act 1, scene 3, Polonius offers this pearl of wisdom to his son, Laertes: “To thine own self be true.”
I’m sure the Bard would get a migraine at the thought of someone such as myself applying his words to a discipline as “dubious” to some as marketing, but as you read on, you’ll see that, at least I’m “keeping it in the family.”
Kentucky Shakespeare has quite the track record. The company was formed in 1949 as the Carriage House Players, and in 2013 welcomed Matt Wallace as only the seventh artistic director in its history. There are many impressive aspects to Kentucky Shakes, and the marketing geek writing here considers one of them the promotional campaign for their upcoming production of Titus Andronicus.
Don’t know much about this play? Get in line. It’s one of the Bard’s lesser-known (yet quite commercially successful) works. I daresay the former is, in part, because of the subject matter.
Scholastically speaking, it’s a gore fest.
How bad is it? Likely one of the reasons it isn’t performed very often is that the budgets can’t handle the cost of all the fake blood necessary to pull it off.
That said, despite my usual lack of enthusiasm for artistic works that involve dismemberment, rape, cannibalism, and mass death, I am actually considering going to this production because the marketing campaign, I think, is inspired.
Kentucky Shakes has embraced the gore and added more than a dash or two of dark humor in the process. For your consideration …
It scheduled the production in October, when the public’s tolerance for the macabre is higher than say, Christmas or Easter.
Equally important with timing is location. As it happens, Louisville has the perfect spot for a tale of bloodletting and dismemberment: Butchertown. With such a name, I’m sure you’ll be shocked not a bit to learn that this part of the city is the former location of the Louisville Stockyards and adjoining meat packing plants. The production will occur in one of those long-empty-of-livestock warehouses.
Still not enough atmosphere? Consider this amazing poster that relegates any/all iterations of the Saw movie franchise to the “cute” category.
A little uncomfortable with the visuals? Keep in mind that Kentucky Shakes hasn’t used its marketing to try to convince a prospective audience of an importance to Titus Andronicus beyond the value of the work itself. Would it make sense to treat the romance as an “aside” in marketing Romeo and Juliet, and instead try to sell it as social commentary on the enormous problem throughout the centuries of rich, powerful families bickering at one another in public?
Know yourself. Be true to yourself.
Key to that is a concise mission statement. (Kentucky Shakespeare’s is 25 words. Not bad for an organization centered around the works of arguably the most prolific and important writer in the history of the world.) How ever complex your work may be, you must be able to articulate your mission quickly and clearly.
Be aware of your surroundings, the calendar, and the news of the day as it relates to special events and promotions. Look for ways to capitalize, (such as the Halloween season and Butchertown for Titus,) and be sensitive to potential problems. (Example: after 9/11, Hollywood scurried to back burner the release of films about terrorism, airline disasters, and other subjects that could distress audience members.) Don’t try to create an edgy campaign in a vacuum. Get professional assistance, and make your pitch to a small, trusted group before spending big bucks and/or going public.
Critics will say that promotions similar to Kentucky Shakes’ Titus are lowest-common-denominator marketing. Certainly that type of promotion exists, but I don’t think it applies in this case. This disgusting-yet-compelling campaign is wedded, faithfully, to the roots of the play itself. As an outsider to theatre marketing, I would speculate that promoting without pandering is the brass ring of selling the works of William Shakespeare in the 21st century. I think our local company here has grasped it perfectly.
While I cannot offer blood, guts, and dismemberment for you and your cause (nor do I really want to!), I am here to help you develop a plan to market or promote your business or organization. Just give me a call.
About the images: “Chandos portrait” of Shakespeare, named for one of the work’s owners, James Brydges, 1st Duke of Chandos. (Public Domain)
The poster for Kentucky Shakespeare’s upcoming production of “Titus Andronicus” was created by Rosie Felfle, a board member and professional marketer/communicator with Kindred Healthcare in Louisville.