By Carl Carter, APR
Let’s talk about corruption. Not the kind that involves bribery and kickbacks, but the kind that makes stuff stop working.
Remember what happened when a file in your computer got corrupted? Everything came to a halt, whether it was a document you couldn’t read, a program that wouldn’t run or (God forbid) an entire hard disk garbled.
The corruption I’m talking about is destroying our channels of communication. Public relations professionals used to refer to the “corruption of channels of communication” in our Code of Ethics, but it’s been sanitized in recent years to gentler language. I decided a few months ago to find out when and why it disappeared. I called a PR professor who teaches ethics and even the national office of the Public Relations Association of America. Nobody I talked with could remember.
Channels get corrupted in a lot of ways. Most of those ways involve lying in one form or another. And all of us learned from our mamas that if people catch you lying, they won’t believe you next time.
Our ways to communicate quit working.
Right now, the problem is much, much bigger than the lies of children. We can’t even trust communications are coming from our own friends, because phishing scams are impersonating them. As treasurer of an organization, I’ve received dozens of emails from the president, requesting that I send money to vendors. None of those actually came from her.
Our phones are inundated with junk calls from spoofed numbers that use our own area codes and exchanges, to make them appear local. Robocalls are disguised – with response programs – to appear to be real people. Facebook accounts get hijacked, and I’ve had to resort to vetting “friends” contacting me before I will communicate to them – usually asking a question only the real person could answer.
Just this week, the Washington Post nailed an attempt to trick the newspaper into running a fake story about Roy Moore. A couple of other reporters have been secretly captured on video talking loosely about their colleagues – mostly harmless stuff, but a good reminder that talking too much out of school can get you into trouble.
I had a phone conversation this week in which the organization on the other end of the phone told me they were recording the conversation to capture a voice print for use in confirming future conversations.
In that environment, who cares that the White House has become a fountain of easily documented lies? Who cares that the rules of logic are ignored? Terms are reversed and abused. Fact checkers can debunk a lie, but it doesn’t go away. Instead, the same lies can be repeated and amplified, and they work just as well. In short, we’ve developed a preference for lies over truth. This is why the labeling of legitimate media as “FAKE NEWS” is so destructive. In a society based on lies, the truth tellers must be executed.
Now, in the last two weeks of the special Senate election in Alabama, Roy Moore seems to have retaken the lead simply by repeating the words that “anything is better than a Democrat.” How did we reach a point where a public official credibly accused of attempting sex with a 14-year-old is preferable to anyone belonging to one of our two major political parties?
It only happens “when logic and proportion have fallen sloppy dead.” My God, I’m having to dredge up stoned-out Jefferson Airplane lyrics to make sense of it all.
I communicate for a living, and our tools for that have become so corrupted we can’t trust them any more.
Until we find a way to get them back, things will only get worse. I’m open to suggestions.