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Jul 14

The art of PR: lying without technical falsehood

Written by DJ on Monday, July 14th, 2008 at 9:21 pm
Filed under:Analysis, News | Tags:, , ,
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Reacting to reactions to a campaign that went too far, Amnesty International put the following disclaimer on its home page:

Amnesty International would like to make clear that it was not involved in the dissemination of a series of images that have been circulating on the web in relation to the Beijing Olympics. Amnesty International’s global website address is www.amnesty.org

The statement is not untrue per se. But some details were conveniently left out:

  • Amnesty International commissioned TBWA\Paris to produce those photos
  • It further granted permission to TBWA\Paris to run the ads once and enter them in the Cannes
  • The visuals were not final versions, and Amnesty International knew the wrong web address was a minor error

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40 Responses to “The art of PR: lying without technical falsehood”

  1. Buxi Says:

    I don’t really care about these images, per se. They’re only a symbol, not the problem itself.

    I think it’s more interesting looking at this:
    http://www.amnesty.org/

    Spotlight:
    – 60 years of universal declaration of human rights,
    – abolish the death penalty,
    – counter terror with justice,
    – stop violence against women,
    – Beijing Olympics.

    Now, which one of the above 5 doesn’t belong? The answer is obvious to me, at least. 4 of the 5 are admirable political campaigns that righteous human beings will want to support (at least in an ideal situation).

    What exactly is the “Beijing Olympics” doing on that list?

  2. Netizen Says:

    Amnesty International is dishonesty and extremist in its anti-China activities. It and Reporters Without Borders should be condemned by Chinese, at least Mainland Chinese.

  3. MutantJedi Says:

    Does anybody remember if AI spotlighted the Olympics in Atlanta with respect to US human rights abuses (death penalty) as it has with the Beijing Olympics?

  4. Opersai Says:

    hum, sneaky PR.

  5. MutantJedi Says:

    Oh, Buxi thanks for the observers.france24.com link.

    Too aggressive? You think? Holy crap.

  6. Daniel Says:

    http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=990DEFD71639F937A15754C0A960958260

    http://asiapacific.amnesty.org/library/Index/ENGAMR510591996?open&of=ENG-2M4

    I’m not sure how much they spot-lighted Atlanta during those times, but they did make some noise regarding the issue of the death penalty. With a little extra attention made to the minorities as well.

    Not just Amnesty International but I think other Human rights activitists spoke something about the housing issues, race relations, a lot of arrests being made on the poor people and others.

    I wouldn’t think A.I. is anti-China to the extreme, but idealistic. Another one of those “work-in-progress” type of groups. The part about stopping violence against women is necessary to act upon, something that should be enforce. Some other campaigns would require much more from the society than just the work of law-makers.
    I read some more articles about this organization, their stance and works as well as conduct with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. I’m pretty sure I can find someone who is involve with this group for more inside information.

  7. Buxi Says:

    @Daniel,

    I’d agree with you that the A.I. is blindingly idealistic, and not explicitly anti-China. Thanks to your link above; for fairness sake, here are the specifics of their campaigns related to the Atlanta Olympics:

    http://asiapacific.amnesty.org/library/Index/ENGAMR510591996?open&of=ENG-2M4

    Now, did they put commission a similar series of ads combining the Olympic rings with white capes of the KKK? Doubtful.

    @MJ,

    FYI, DJ is the one who together this post (with the france24.com link), not me.

  8. AC Says:

    Was there any ad campaign from A.I. similar to this one against the Atlanta Olympics or Gitmo?

    Anybody knows?

  9. JL Says:

    @ Buxi,

    Yeah, I think you’re right about that list. I really don’t think Amnesty is anti-China, but that list of spotlights was poorly thought out. If you click on the link though, I don’t see much to complain about: they mention some positive news, and there’s nothing else there that’s misleading or wrong.

    @ DJ

    Yes, they commissioned the ads, then realized they weren’t such a good idea. Surely they should be applauded for being self-critical enough to spot that? Regarding the entry into Cannes, did they have a choice? -I’m not sure what the normal legal situation is here, but I think it’s possible they could not have prevented the ads entry into Cannes. (I’m willing to be corrected on this by a lawyer).

    @ Netizen
    I wonder if you enjoy believing that “the West” is invariably and fatally biased against China? -I can appreciate the appeal of believing in a grand contest between China and the West, in which plucky misunderstood China sticks up to the bullying monolithic West. Unfortunately, it’s a little simplistic.

  10. DJ Says:

    JL,

    This post is primarily a reaction to the “disclaimer” itself. It is blatantly evasive and designed to mislead. This attempt at PR is rather pathetic.

    I wouldn’t necessarily “applaud” AI’s eventual decision to discard this campaign. Let’s just call it a sign that some sensible minds exist in that organization. However the fact it had to go through an “internal debate” before deciding so perhaps also demonstrates a lack of common sense within some members at the management of AI as well.

    As for the question of AI’s control of these visuals, all serious reports (i.e., with contacts/questions made to people in AI) so far clearly stated that TBWA\Paris had to request permission for entering the contest and AI granted so.

  11. Charles Liu Says:

    According to Cannes Lions entry rule, the work must be published or aired. If this ad was not used by AI, how did it qualify? Perhaps the 1 airing was by AI France, not AI itself?

  12. Anon Says:

    So what exactly is the issue with the statement by AI? It is perfect PR, in the same way that other entities and nations (including China) use PR to justify their action. So what?

  13. JL Says:

    DJ:

    Ok, I’ll believe you about Amnesty granting permission to TBWA\Paris… It seems a bit odd that they would -perhaps permission was granted by whoever commissioned them before the decision was made not to use them. Of course this lends itself to conspiracy theories -a grand plan for AI to have its cake and eat it too. But I think the answer is a much more mundane case of miscommunication and internal differences.

    Every organization has a few people who lack common sense. This was a bad move on behalf of AI, but I’m glad they didn’t proceed with the ads, and this hasn’t made me want to stop being a supporter of AI.

  14. Jana Says:

    Olympics is on there because CCP said it would improve its human rights atrocities up before the Olympics .. Truth is it hasn’t and its deteriorated even further in the lead up to the Games. So why not Olympics on the list/

    The world knows what the Ccp is – all the leaders know. The question is why do you think the Ccp needs these Olympics?

  15. Charles Liu Says:

    Wow, Jana Shearer, FLG official spokesperson and *former* Epoch Times reporter is gracing foolsmountain with her presence.

    But becareful you all, she might use her 3rd eye to out you as “Chinese spy”:

    http://falungongpolitics.blogspot.com/2007/04/epoch-times-reporters-gone-wild.html

    I’m, like, so busted 😎

  16. Buxi Says:

    @Charles,

    I’d like to try to keep previous conflicts/battles off of this blog if possible. We’ll give Jana a chance to say her mind here, and judge her on the merits of what she has to say.

    That said, Jana, your comments in this particular thread so far is not impressive. I don’t think the CCP “needs” these Olympics at all, but I know many Chinese people would like them.

  17. MutantJedi Says:

    Thanks Buxi – sorry DJ for not reading the gray text carefully. 🙂

  18. Jana Says:

    Re Buxi,

    Well I don’t know really Buxi because everyone i talk to does not want the Olympics in China and i am sure there are way too many Chinese who are suffering have suffered and will continue to suffer because of the maniacal need of the Ccp’s validation of power from the Chinese people. Like i said the world know what sort the Ccp is..Sudan Burma North Korea Tibet Christian Monks and Falun Gong, and the list is endless inside China today..Until you have a decent GNP for each Chines citizen then Chins is still a third world country. GNP per person in China is US$4 in USA its 4000.

    Times and regimes are really going to change soon….

  19. Netizen Says:

    Jana and the like Fa Lungongers are totally self absorbed, total irrational, and lying easily to the end of the world in order to make themself feel good. How many millions of CCP members have quit the party now? It’s farcical but they don’t realize it or don’t want to.

  20. Netizen Says:

    Just read WSJ China Journal Best of the China Blogs July 15. I totally agree with Chinese netizens that TBWA should be condemned and boycotted for taking from both sides. If VISA uses its services, it should be boycotted as well.

  21. Jana Says:

    Neitizen, so the short list of a long list i wrote in my previous comment means nothing more than lies irrationality and self absorbtion?

    You have lost the ability to know right from wrong..and for that i am truely sad for you..

    No need to answer back its pointless..

  22. FOARP Says:

    @Netizen – ‘Anti-China’, ‘Should be condemned . . ‘, ‘extremist’ – tell you what, why not in future simply give us a link to whatever the Xinhua position on things is, that would spare you the trouble of writing it out. If you think there is no human rights angle to the Olympics you are simply ignoring the urban clearance and various crackdowns which have been ‘justified’ using the Olympics.

    @Buxi – Jana did at least have a point in that greater human rights were promised in the wake of the Olympics, and it now appears that these promises will not be met – hence your number 5 there.

  23. Wahaha Says:

    “The world knows what the Ccp is -..”

    Except 1.3 billion chinese dont know what CCP is.

  24. snow Says:

    FOARP,

    “@Buxi – Jana did at least have a point in that greater human rights were promised in the wake of the Olympics, and it now appears that these promises will not be met – hence your number 5 there.”

    Who should be the one to say whether these promises will or will not be met in the wake of the Olympics? the majority of Chinese or a few foreigners/foreign organizations/media? Does the CCP’s job performance during the earthquake count? Isn’t it that saving lives at the earliest time possible and at all cost is the first and foremost human rights issue in the face of a natural disaster?

    Personally I found reading and discussing with those extremist anti-CCP commenters rather wearisome and frustrating.

  25. snow Says:

    “The world knows what the Ccp is -..”

    Perhaps the 1.3 billion chinese know what CCP was, is and will be better?

  26. yo Says:

    This is somewhat off topic, but i notice that if China does something questionable, like FOARP mentioned eminent domain(People don’t use that term but that’s what it is) and “crackdown”, people will call those actions human rights violation.

    However, let say the U.S. did it: evicted people from their homes to build a shopping mall or highway, or France leading a crackdown against poor Muslims a couple of years back. Many people did not call these actions human rights violations.

    I believe the phrase has meaning, but people now and days are over generalizing the term, and selectively using it to pigeonhole issues.

  27. Jana Says:

    Any Government that takes and maintains power thru the barrel of a Gun against its own people is illegitimate in all eyes .

    Why would you say “well maybe the human rights issues will improve after the games?” Is that wishful thinking?

    One of many things the Communists fear: the Chinese people who haven’t been bought off by regime-sponsored wealth. About 800 million of them.

  28. Wahaha Says:

    Jane

    “One of many things the Communists fear: the Chinese people who haven’t been bought off by regime-sponsored wealth. About 800 million of them.”

    Communists are not afraid of people being poor, they are afraid of people being wealth.

  29. Fencer Says:

    Technically speaking, Amnesty International “was not involved in the dissemination of a series of images that have been circulating on the web in relation to the Beijing Olympics.”

    They saved a bundle in publicity costs, because they probably anticipated that angry bloggers would circulate the images for them.

  30. Therese Says:

    Yo: I don’t know where you come from, but people *do* call all of those human rights violations. People also call environmental racism or injustice a human rights violation, as well as the death penalty and many other things that happen in the world that are not China.

    I know several people on the China team at Amnesty here in Hong Kong. They’re all nice people and all love China and Chinese people; they just have different views regarding how to better the lives of the Chinese people.

    I personally don’t think that these ads were the best idea, but, for their purpose, the ads themselves are quite brilliant.

  31. Buxi Says:

    @Therese,

    I know several people on the China team at Amnesty here in Hong Kong. They’re all nice people and all love China and Chinese people; they just have different views regarding how to better the lives of the Chinese people.

    Sounds like a good description of the Communist Party members that I know, as well.

    I personally don’t think that these ads were the best idea, but, for their purpose, the ads themselves are quite brilliant.

    I don’t think anyone would dispute that. From a technical perspective, other than the cop’s rather poor uniform, the ads are amazingly well done.

  32. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Netizen:
    you seem sensitive to the condemnations of AI and the calls for anti-China boycotts. But you seem enthusiastic about condemning Reporters without Borders and boycotting TBSA and VISA. So it’s only ok when you do it?

  33. S.K. Cheung Says:

    I don’t think this should be about the art of public relations; it should be about the art of publicity. AI commissioned an ad, disavowed it, it cost them no $, and look at the mileage they’ve gotten on this website alone. If their point was to cast a light on China, and promote awareness of their cause, mission accomplished. I’d say they’ve jacked this one out of Pac Bell Park, without the steroids 🙂

  34. Jay Says:

    “Now, did they put commission a similar series of ads combining the Olympic rings with white capes of the KKK? Doubtful” You miss the point here. The KKK in American is NOT a government organization or affiliated with any government local, state, or federal. Amnesty international attacks GOVERNMENT human rights abuses. Whether it be Guantanamo Bay, women in Saudi Arabia, or free speech advocates in China. During the Atlanta Olympics, there was no Iraq or Gantanamo Bay and the U.S. wasn’t asked by the IOCC to meet certain human rights accords to be awarded the Olympics like China was and promised AND ignored.

  35. Netizen Says:

    @SK Cheung,
    What’s your logic? Only they can boycott us, but we can’t boycott them? Where is your cheese-monkey surrender mindset coming from?

  36. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Netizen:
    the logic is that if you’re going to complain that a boycott is wrong, then don’t go engage in one yourself. Otherwise, one side is the kettle, and you’re the pot. So where does your confrontational juvenile mindset come from?

  37. Jana Says:

    So many of the worlds people have chosen to support the illegal and immoral legitimacy of the communist regime and what they have done is hurt the Chinese people and even more so the conscience of our world. What is worrying is that all the appeasement that has been given to Ccp has run out; our Govt’s have nothing left to barter with anymore, so what’s next?

    I have a faith, as you know, i am a Falun Gong practitioner and what i understand is this..It is no longer a battle between Ccp led China and the world but a battle in each of our minds and hearts. There are good people in the Ccp just as there are bad people in our countries too. The good people do not like what is going on and from what I can see have made that choice in their limited power or environment to actively condemn this evil that has spread thru humanities conscience.

    We have insider news that many Ccp members are working hard to dismantle the Ccp from within . So far over 40 million Chinese have resigned from the Ccp and its affiliated orgs. Mostly under changed names but never the less a promise from their heart and conscience which is what counts .

    http://en.epochtimes.com/n2/t/quitting-the-chinese-communist-party/

    http://en.epochtimes.com/n2/canada/ottawa-rally-celebrates-40-million-chinese-quitting-the-communist-party-1045.html David Kilgour was a this recent rally

    http://ninecommentaries.com/

    This is why the Ccp cannot “eradicate” Falun Gong because everything we have done to stop their persecution against truth compassion and forbearance has been done legally, peacefully , morally and with good conscience . No power can stop this..

    What denotes people in today’s world as good people is they still have ability to know right from wrong. And in each org, each country, each govt, and each media they are everywhere. This has been my experience. It takes one good person to destroy a thousand evils..We will not lose this battle.

    What will happen during and or after the Olympics? This affair is coming to a close very soon.

    Kindest regards Jana

  38. Virginia Says:

    Re: MutantJedi comment

    “Does anybody remember if [Amnesty International] spotlighted the Olympics in Atlanta with respect to US human rights abuses…as it has with the Beijing Olympics?”

    NO they did not! And come on, Atlanta?? Ebenezer Baptist Church is in Atlanta. The church was a former holding pen for slaves and was where Martin Luther King preached.

  39. ramadan dates Says:

    Spot on with this write-up, I really think this site needs much more attention.
    I’ll probably be returning to see more, thanks for the info!

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  1. China Journal : Best of the China Blogs: July 15

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