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@GeoffLiving’s Dishonest Misuse of PRSA For Partisan Cover


Up until today I had a lot of respect for Geoff Livingston. His book “Now is Gone” is an excellent read on new media that every executive should consume. However, his latest attempt to wade into political waters makes him look truly out of his element.

This week’s lipstick incident demonstrates The GOP has brought back the smear in earnest, a tactic reminiscent of the Bush campaigns from 2000 and 2004 (image by Mae Li). Personally, this kind of abusive use of communication powers — while effective — should be condemned.

This kind of manipulation should not be a surprise given these recent events:

Livingston goes on to discuss (without irony, it seems) the PRSA’s call for the campaigns to practice ethical behavior with regard to PR.

The use of innuendo, incomplete information, surrogate messaging and character attacks, whether in political discourse or other forms of commercial free speech, raises serious concerns for our organization and its 32,000 members, each of whom signs a pledge to the PRSA Code of Ethics. In fact, ethical practice is the most important obligation of PRSA membership, and we maintain that our obligations extend not only to those we represent, but also to the publics they serve.

The PRSA, it seems is also without a sense of irony.

Everyday, PR practitioners like Livingston go to work selling Americans millions of products we don’t need by carefully walking a thin line between what they call “ethical” and what the FTC calls “deceptive trade practices”.

Livingston fits right in. He quotes a favorite liberal factoid – McCain votes with Bush 88% of the time – but neglects to acknowledge that by the same measurement Obama has voted in lockstep with liberal leadership 97% of the time.

He uses his own distant relative as a tool to invoke Godwin’s Law in his own post, then claims to not be comparing McCain to Joseph Goebbels.

He hints at the nasty extremism of the GOP, yet fails to mention the nasty extremism of the far left – and specifically fails to mention that Obama is further to the left than a bicyclist on the autobahn. He also fails to note Obama’s free association with radicals like Reverend Wright and Bill Ayers, a 60s radical who used bombings on American soil to protest bombings in Vietnam.

Livingston denounces the McCain campaign for suggesting that Obama’s “lipstick” comment was a blatant sexist remark, but apparently has no trouble with Obama “tak[ing] the fight to [John McCain]… on the big issues that matter to the American people.” Who knew that computer literacy in our president is of critical concern to voters?

Livingston decries the fact that “this country will vote with religious zeal rather than informed decision.” but doesn’t bother to speak out against the Democrats efforts to layout ballots in a certain order because they know the uneducated generally vote Democratic.

Is Geoff Livingston an effective PR practitioner? Frankly, I don’t know or care. Is he a hypocrite willing to use PRSA to try to score a political point? It appears so. Is that demonstrative of the ethics he claims to fight for? Absolutely not.

UPDATE: For a blogger, Geoff seems to have pretty thin skin. I tried to engage Livingston in some discussion of his post. I a) linked to the same FactCheck.org article mentioned above, and b) stated that given Obama’s history of voting with Bush 41% of the time, perhaps Geoff didn’t want 100% change, but only 59% change. Those comments drew this response.

Turk made an additional character judgment in this post about me. The Buzz Bin has a clear policy about personal attacks, and between the linked to post in the above comments and the now deleted comment, this line has been crossed. We will not be seeing additional comments from Turk.

This is the trouble with debating the left. Pointing out that their guy is full of crap is somehow a character assassination against them personally.

I would have thought that a guy who practices public relations would have a slightly higher tolerance for people disagreeing. I weep for his clients.



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Written by Michael Turk