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. 

Registrant Apartheid: A Warning on Government Infringement

There is a saying that every man’s home is his castle. This saying originated from ancient Rome and later became a part of values with regards to privacy and security. There is a certain amount of honor in having a space to call your own. Rather it is a house, apartment, mobile home, camper, tent, motel room, shelter, or couch surfing home is where you should feel welcome, comfortable, and safe.

quid enim sanctius, quid omni religione munitius, quam domus unusquisque civium?
What more sacred, what more strongly guarded by every holy feeling, than a man’s own home? —Cicero

Upon visiting the doorsteps of others, there is often a welcoming greeting mat awaiting your either expected or unscheduled arrival. The welcome is clear that you are valued as a person with the freedom to engage with others unrestricted without the need of chaperon or assistance. However, society has turned from its welcoming mats to a sorted inquisitive band of uncertain litmus tests using a scoring mechanism only they understand. It is as if people that are supposed to be our trusted friends and allies have suddenly become narcissists?

There are plenty of narcissistic people on the planet (perhaps you know a few on Twitter?). But a home whether permanent or temporary shouldn’t be subjected to emotional strain and narcissistic behaviors in the forms of businesses sharing guest information with police.

A few years ago the hotel chain Motel 6 began a voluntary program sharing hotel guest information with police. Police would then run the guest information by national criminal computers to check for outstanding warrants, immigration, and sex offenders perhaps staying on its properties. Many of those snared took the issue to court and won massive legal settlements against the hotel chain.

Motel 6 will pay $12 million to settle lawsuit after sharing guest info with ICE

Recently the state of Florida introduced a legislative bill mandating that hotels or forms of lodging check all guest information for potential sex offenders visiting the state or seeking shelter. Florida already has the worst conditional restrictions for those visiting or living in the state. But to go a step further creeping into the privacy of a business to share its guest information with police is far reaching into dangerous territory. Sooner or later the police checks will expand into other sensitive details allowing firms to cherry pick who it chooses to allow as guests. We can see it now that as an example of the story of John Smith. John Smith is visiting Orlando on business. Back home in Texas he has a lovely wife and two wonderful children still in school. However John planned a discreet rendezvous with a lovely lady he met through a phone app. He checks into the hotel; the hotel runs a check and police come busting in because John Smith shows as a registered sex offender from Texas! However, it is the wrong John Smith. Now his embarrassment surfaces on a TMZ Odd Storys TV segment. His marrigage is instantly shattered placing his infidelities in public light. His future to mend ways with his wife and family are in peril. Rather than quickly blaming John for his poor choice of action or blame upon the police, the hotel is the key responsible party for sharing his mandated data. Sure, Mr. Smith was in the wrong for cheating, but his rights to privacy and his castle was violated. If Florida wants to check guests staying for 30 days or more, then that may be a bit more reasonable than staying overnight or a few days? Mr. Smith may have a civil claim with some very interesting litigation potentially placing a hotel chain in bankruptcy from the settlement he could receive? Nevertheless, the business has a duty and responsibility to protect consumer data, its property, and its guests. The hotel didn’t call the police. Instead, the law supersedes the business ability to act within autonomous actions by making a warrantless searches much easier.

Apartheid (segregation; lit. “separateness”): a system of institutionalized segregation characterized by an authoritarian political culture. It entailed the separation of public facilities, social events, housing, and employment opportunities. Complex laws are created to suppress and punish both individuals or supporters.

All this unnecessary panic legislation has taken liberty and freedoms this country embraces into a practicing police state. The nation and states already have a public sex registry tied into schools, employment, apartments, and volunteer organizations. It is frustrating enough to pay extra fees to the government to take part in PreCheck amenities to prove I’m not a flight risk to go through airport security. But laws similar to Florida are opening a door to only the privilege that PreCheck styled services or data sharing between businesses and police will extend to hotels, car rentals, U-Haul, gyms, hospitals, and perhaps to retail stores with fitting rooms.

For decades Americans have tried every method possible to rid of policing within bedrooms or homes. It is one thing when a person commits a criminal offense. But to begin a trend instructing a person where, when, and how they may live is unAmerican. When any government branch instructs by policy a business to share user data for a paid services without consent and expectation of reasonable privacies, it endangers free movement and prohibits choice. Services aren’t the same as purchasing bullets, dynamite, drugs, or restricted materials. The castle that we choose to make our home will always be a human right. The defense of that castle is a government facilitating registrant apartheid no different than blockbusting tactics and a revision of sundown towns.

Sundown towns, also known as sunset towns or gray towns, were all-white municipalities or neighborhoods in the United States that practiced a form of segregation—historically by enforcing restrictions excluding people not white via some combination of discriminatory local laws, intimidation, and violence.

There are many sex offense laws on the books with residential restrictions, employment exclusions, public space constraints, social media limitations, and the list goes on. If someone made a smartphone app to provide legal information to registrants or the curious, it would be inconceivable to develop. It is perhaps why there won’t be an app for that particular purpose because updates would have to occur daily to keep up with legislation, legal decisions, and refined interpretations. Pretty much the future of iPhones would require a Tesla vehicle battery pack to keep up with sex offender laws on any given day!

America is no longer the home of the free. Instead, it may reconsider changing it to Home of the Fee. There is nothing more disgusting than watching America with a populist agenda sway from the governance of law to experiment with socialist criminal law, embracing utilitarian principles. We are a society on a pathway towards the destruction of individual liberty but for the beginning of government interference upon capitalism and autonomy thanks in part to states such as Florida leading the way to mandate sharing consumer information without any probable cause.

Surely the utilitarian must admit that whatever the facts of the matter may be, it is logically possible that an ‘unjust’ system of punishment—e.g. a system involving collective punishments, retroactive laws and punishments, or punishments of parents and relations of the offender—may be more useful than a ‘just’ system of punishment?H. J. McCloskey

Sure, the notion of every man’s home is his castle is undoubtedly questionable as America continues its quest to legislate freedoms. Perhaps it should say, every man’s home was once his castle.

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