Image Is Everything: How The Anti-Registry Movement Has A Potential Public Relations Image Problem

Today I read in the news where an elementary student in Florida was bullied for creating and wearing a homemade version of the University of Tennesee shirt for a “college colors day” school event. But what happened next was a complete surprise for the student at the University of Tennessee adopted his design, making it an official design which has been the highlight of anti-bullying sales. It is where negative development suddenly became a positive experience for both the student and the community. Mainly, it was an excellent lesson learned moment in how to image and public perception quickly manifests into a unique public relations opportunity.

But anti-bullying sometimes has a two-way street. A discussion with doctorate students tackled how the sex offender registry seems to be along with the same tactics of bullying towards a specific group of people — mainly registered offenders. However, many in the discussion group also emphasized where anti-registry organizations tend to become rather intimidating in return towards the opposition. But an interesting sociological research discovery has quickly identified that anti-registry advocacy websites, in dates ranging over fifteen years, are defined as targeting its primary membership or followers. Rather than emphasizing policy indifferences, the discovery of rhetoric or discourse became personal in nature and parliamentarian. This led to further discussions that anti-registry advocacy, in general, isn’t focused upon the core legislative or policy of facilitating open dialog. Anti-Registry members often create quasi-registries identifying individuals within their advocacy. I was unsure how to approach this because of my relationships within anti-registry support and being harassed by a specific individual from the past. But the consensus of the doctoral level discussion group left me with a feeling that anti-registry organizations have a public relations snafu on its hands, and the internet is not very forgiving upon removing past discussions. It is viewed in the interim moment as a disgruntled group of people that seem to cannot come together to remedy a complex issue. A core reason to take away from our discussions over the past three weeks was anti-registry groups appear solidly disgruntled in general. This was a disturbing revelation to me and provided me insight on how the future of anti-registry movements must become more diplomatic and rational in discussions to maintain a close dialog with leadership rather it be opposite or within scope.

Sociologist, psychologists, communications, and policy scholars researched the internet and media sites deeply to discuss our topic of registry image and effect. The assignment provided research tools from an outside perspective that presented insight that I was unaware of. Rather than guiding others on how they viewed the sex offender registry, I wanted to gain knowledge of how they saw the registry by seeking “anti registry only materials or websites.” What the group discovered was a dark and often vicious bully styled dialog or information about the opposition or policy. There was little to no alignment towards sharing commonality or similarities that would perhaps open a dialog towards “being in the same room” to discuss how to remedy many situations where registrants may have a voice. Instead, scholars came to the same conclusion that anti-registry advocates don’t appear to want to facilitate change or chip away at issues. Instead, the consensus was it was an all or nothing gamble with an amplified noise effect of laying claim to victimization. I am unsure if I agree with these assessments. But as a researcher, I must keep an open mind that our image is our cause. One nasty comment or bullying tactic from within about others reflects upon us all and will ultimately set back any hopes of navigating forward.

To best address negativity within the anti-registry movement, there must be an act of forgiveness for the actions of others. This began with lengthy discussions with various members of Congress, state representatives of multiple states, and candid dialog with sheriffs, attorney generals, and pro-registry organizations. This is a reset for the organization I represent but also how I can influence change among a persuasive university. So far, the motion is working, and some legislation has been tabled, deleted, or challenged. Is it an absolute win? Not always. But the open doors has managed to develop into a transparent dialog and small steps towards better resolution and outcomes. The days of bullying one another have significantly ended. Congressional, state and municipality leadership now has credible representation to perform diplomatic relationships where each side has a value in being heard and respected. The outcome has both positive and negative results. However, the benefit is that there is an opportunity to be continually heard without the need for bullying, petty name-calling, and allowing discussions to be facilitated among professionals rather than amateurs. This is where mastery level and higher scholars collectively agree that anti-registry organizations must do more to expand among other organizations that have dotted line influences to determine best that registry advocacy and its effects are among all walks of life, race, religion, and gender.

Our initial findings quickly identified that anti-registry movements must promptly develop a strategy to reach out to media outlets to discuss the problematic stigmas but also reasonably address how to facilitate effective public policy. Merely throwing a target to media that the registry must be abolished was not the most effective methods in starting that conversation. Next, there must be a face representation and aligned embodiment of the same language, script, and calm delivery that changes the stigma that all registrants are angry individuals with a motive to shout down legislation or policy leaders. Again, the consensus was that anti-registry issues had to become personal where others are deeply affected, but those individuals would be required to come forward to advocate from their perspective. Lastly, image means everything in today’s media-filled world. The delivery must be polished and well-rehearsed. Too much data doesn’t get the message delivered. The public image wants to visualize rehabilitative, reformed, and well thought out diplomatic individuals willing to calmly work with the most strenuous opposition. There must always be a methodology of cohesiveness and respectful disagreement but complimentary as not to alienate from within or the intended audience. Again, image and easy to follow scripts are the keys towards successful and credible conversations. If the public relations perception fails to change, then so will the same result become increasingly clear that the registry or similarly policy-driven initiatives will remain for decades to come.

Disclosure: doctoral-level students of law, public policy, sociology, and communications researched in depth about sex offender advocacy websites to best determine if they could understand the cause and effects of registrants, families, and allies. Their findings were not influenced by myself. The research group studied scholarly and anti-registry organizations solely based upon web-searches The assessment presented is only based upon their discoveries and document sharing. No interviews were necessary for this academic workshop. The purpose was to learn how credible information may be introduced, and the impact researchers can be emotionally influenced as a particular cause may have significant issues that distract from the core cause of the organizational framework. This is not a scientific published study. However, the communications and sociology departments have discussed perhaps pursuing a scholarly project. 

The Uncivil War On Sexuality

The sex offender registry and draconian laws aimed at offenders has destroyed lives of individuals and families. Today a new form of offender registration has transpired. This new offender registry creates life sentences using the internet as its delivery method carefully skirting libel and slander policies under the blanket of free speech. Naturally, this is not a registry, but social movements are utilizing social media platforms to quasi-create a public registry with no hopes of being removed or deleted, and it’s creating more harm than good.

A recent news segment mentioned an R&B superstar named R.Kelly. Kelly is one of pop music’s best-selling artists, with hits including “Ignition,” ”I Believe I Can Fly,” ”Step in the Name of Love,” ”Same Girl” and “Bump N’ Grind.” He has also written hits for Celene Dion, Michael Jackson, and Lady Gaga. He was acquitted in 2008 of child pornography after a video circulated appearing to show him having sex with a teenage girl. However, as he continued to score hits and sell out stadiums, more women have come forward in recent years accusing him of sexual misconduct. Kelly had been scheduled to be among the performers at popular concert venues but was dropped as efforts by organizers of #MuteRKelly gained attention with support from Hollywood’s Time’s Up campaign. Overnight Kelly has been the target of an issue 10 years old creating a delayed response or condition. Many are wondering if the #metoo campaign has gotten out of control?

Society is witnessing improved tactics to create and facilitate registry styled methods using constructive hashtags and meme styled photos comparable to police lineups. All these methods are protected by free speech rights. There are disturbing trends with guilt by association tactics using political individuals seen in pictures or appearances with individuals accused but never charged with sexual improprieties in guilt by association tactics. The same strategy is being used on individuals as a result of news and information shifting from regular publishing sources to social media.  Social justice movements have designed strikingly similar registry models by combining low-level offenses with significant offenses presenting an appearance of guilt for anyone mentioned. Additionally, to be associated with the accused, guilty, or suspected has created a panic based fear that will eventually become more violent as anger and social stigma increases. Does this imply that we should stop listening or supporting Elvis Presley because he dated a 14-year-old girl? Moreover, does it suggest that hearing or being an Elvis fan makes you a supporter of statutory rights? The question is, “when does the conversation begin?” or is this electronic vigilantism stirred by social movements with no real agenda or cause? Are freedoms of choice under assault? Arguably there is enough evidence to present a spiraling out of control agenda with taking no prisoners mentalities. It is excessively dangerous with no end in sight.

If the sex offender registry was not enough to restrict movement and liberties, then the internet has an interesting way of making life nearly as difficult for those not on the registry. Spotify and Pandora are sizeable online streaming music services. They recently removed artists from its collection where fans must search for specific content. Movies starring accused or guilty offenders have been quickly removed from major content providers. Art has recently been removed from galleries because corporations or entities do not wish to be spotlighted with pressure from social movements. Most interesting, social movements or mob justice campaigning efforts are shaming those that listen, watch, or support such artists. That has many inquiring who is the bully or aggressor in this case? It has become an uncivil war on sexuality.

Social movements do attempt a subtle effect on placing the spotlight on specific issues – and should be commended for bringing a problematic issue forward. However, at the same time, such causes have a responsibility to educate and allow occasional discourse to remedy problems from becoming out of hand.  Those that differ should have an opportunity to be heard. Sex offender registries have harmed individuals, families, and supporters. The same stratagem occurs with social justice campaigns damaging artists, fans, companies, and the innocent. Just as offender registries lump all into one category, social movements are incidentally and sometimes purposely doing the same creating additional harm because emotion and sometimes interpretation is a contributing factor. While #metoo and #timesup campaigns initially were valid, that effect has morphed into anger, antagonism, and losing focus on the opportunity for open dialog and discussion. Maybe its time to stop and take a moment to #ListenToMe where a constructive dialog helping shed pain, frustration, and integrity are reintroduced?

In my #metoo experience from my childhood, I have learned how to cope, educate, forgive, and advocate for myself and others. What seemed like years of pain was a reality of several instances. I cant spend my entire life with an agenda to destroy another person because I want justice. If anything, sharing my personal experiences openly and candidly is the real #metoo movement. It is vital so that victims do not feel alone and non-victims become educated advocates.

Sexual Fascism

The debate about sex offenders seems to have taken adrift from criminal reforms to possibly a new form of sexual fascism.

 

Let’s be crystal clear that sex offender laws are created with fear-based rhetoric and political trepidation from both sides of the political spectrum. The recent opinion column, Damaging justice to make a point about rape highlights the potential failures of judicial independence and underlying rationale. Dr. Klein strikes a perpetual chord that sex offender registries AND people that support such registries are equally villainous and culpable.

 

Sex offender registries were initially created with the intention of notifying the general public about potential violent sexual offenders being released from incarceration. Today’s registries display a hodgepodge protuberance from public urination to sexually motivated murderers. Registries no longer serve the purpose to separate based upon tier status. Instead, registries serve only a goal of humiliation and opprobrium patterned behaviors.  Public defenders, law enforcement, politicians, and the general public insist on labeling convicted sexual offenders as predators, aggravated, pedophiles, or recidivists. Citizens rush to judgment by inaccurately identifying all on the registry as predators and/or pedophiles. To add insult to injury, many registrants are listed for life allowing community leaders to exclaim or assert a need to do more to segregate registered offenders from public view.

 

There are a sprinkling of message boards on the internet that advocates positively for sex offender reform. But the question remains, “why is advocacy for registries shunned or free from the civil discussion?” The answer may possibly be that fascism and martial styled government tactics are the reason. It may sound like harsh words, but aren’t the same tactics used to loosely describe sex offenders in general? Creating a new level of indentured servants with annual registration fees on a registry free to the general public poses another issue of conformity. Not allowing registered offenders to live near or access to schools, daycare, public parks, bus stops, shopping malls, churches, and sometimes jobs are another form of authoritarianism in a nation built upon freedoms and human rights. When there cannot be a rational discussion or an alternative viewpoint, then there is no real privilege or opportunity to exercise free speech or equitable and fair dialogue.

 

Candidly speaking I personally find law enforcement leaders that reach far and beyond what the law allows to be labeled as predators. They seek to groom the general public about false safeties, securities, and protections no differently than a seasoned pedophile. Sometimes the general public can be labeled as social-recidivists because they may share inaccurate and anti-social styled patterns. These social-recidivists use offender registries not to educate self or others. Instead, they use registries to instill disengagement and separation as a weapon. I would argue that those that support registries are somewhat equal to predators, pedophiles, recidivists, and fascists. An individual doesn’t have to be convicted to be guilty. That individual can show all the signs and symptoms of criminal behavior but hasn’t been caught.

 

Martin Niemöller was a prominent Protestant pastor who emerged as an outspoken public foe of Adolf Hitler and spent the last seven years of Nazi rule in concentration camps. He wrote the following:

First, they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

 

Dr. Klein is right to assert the time for sex offender bullying, and overlegislation must end. It can be challenging for any registered offender to find the strength to advocate for themselves and perhaps others that share his/her similar situation. However, “when will you speak for yourselves or other registered offenders?” There are a few advocates to start the campaign to end unjust laws and a horribly constructed sex offender registry. When will YOU begin to notice the real offenders of reform and fairness under the law are those in power acting in a role similar to predators, pedophiles, and recidivists?  I encourage you to share your stories about how laws and the registry have done more harm than good. Your voice is powerful and will be heard.

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