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. 

You Can’t Handle The Truth!

Decades ago turning on the television was a race at 6 PM each evening to host what would be the nightly headline. Of all the media segments, it seemed, as if all the major networks were delivering the same news stories injecting its interviews or overlapping interviewing at press conferences. There was an overall sense of trust in the media that the information we received was the truth without bias or political leanings. However, the most significant part of American journalism was that all people, regardless of political compass, seemed restrained enough to invoke his/her part of a discourse by not forming a quick opinion until all of the evidence, over time, had been delivered.

Today journalism isn’t what it used to be. Instead, the art of journalism extends to anyone with a laptop, cell phone, and blog to post anything or whatever they want without much need for articulation or fact-finding. The death of trust in the media came to an abrupt halt once the internet took over. American culture and society have shifted from print newspapers, magazines, and credible orators or writers towards an a la carte version of subscription-based or safe-space journalism. I would be willing to assert that our knowledge base of reporting only the facts and what was said rather than injecting our thoughts are perhaps a critical reason that the free press isn’t open anymore to seek an unbias delivery. It has become chaos driven by entertainment-based journalism so that media sustains its membership somewhat like a drug with adverse effects. Media, along with public policy, has shifted from a balance of compromise towards a social trust barrier that no matter how much evidence there is to support one thing, we believe the opposite entirely.

Social trust is a belief in the honesty, integrity and reliability of others – a “faith in people.” It’s a simple enough concept to describe. But it’s never been easy to figure out who trusts, or why

When America Online and CompuServe introduced instant messaging on computers, we witnessed the first-hand scope of what the future of news would be. When CNN began its cable news network and launched the scroll at the bottom of the television screen our attention was no longer on the actual news, but we suddenly became ADHD candidates for absorbing information without synthesis for what is fact versus bias. When Facebook and other social media companies began sorting how data would be disseminated and delivered to individuals, it perhaps then was the reason many credible news agencies faltered, and print media eventually died. Our confirmation bias began to shift that news media took too long or wasn’t instantaneous. Therefore, people texting, posting on social media (with video clips), and presenting its version of accounts must be the truth because it’s the first to break the story in a live format. Society no longer cares about the fact because there is no need incentive to becoming truthful by American standards anymore. Politics has created a deep divide in America that the truth is only relevant if you belong to “our way” of thinking or diplomacy.

Confirmation bias is the tendency to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information in a way that confirms one’s preexisting beliefs or hypotheses. It is a type of cognitive bias and a systematic error of inductive reasoning.

Some may suggest that “all products have a shelf life” and are replaceable to the next new thing. The problem is that the next best thing isn’t actually our best delivery for the truth or truth. I would argue that our lives are too filled with news instead of stories of how to remedy the problem. As a society, we are entertained with emotion and reality measurements to either celebrate or vilify the images we see on our smartphone, in media, or splashed on a television screen. All it takes is less than 15 seconds of a story, and society has managed to make up its mind in an armchair jury fashion as if they have all the evidence they require. It is a scary indication of how humanity has suddenly reinvigorated the verso pollice as its measure to rate other human beings without much fact-finding or critical decision making. Our minds have become the outsource of anyone behind and camera, keyboard, or microphone.

If America or the rest of civilization in a globalized world intends to become diplomatic and end repression, hunger, crime and justice reforms, violence, and begin growing virtuous to all of humanity with equal effort. It must start to think critically from all sides and embrace an ear of understanding to become better citizens for all instead of self — humanity isn’t entertainment of suffering or scorn. Hopefully, we have grown mentally as a society since the ancient Rome days?

Pollice verso or verso pollice is a Latin phrase, meaning “with a turned thumb”, that is used in the context of gladiatorial combat. It refers to the hand gesture or thumbs signal used by Ancient Roman crowds to pass judgment on a defeated gladiator.

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