Meme Debunking #2: Publicity
August 20, 2010 11 Comments
I liked my post on the toxic immigration meme that I think I’m going to turn it into a series. I won’t say “regular series,” but when I come across phrases and memes that deserve a little skeptical examination, I’ll spend a little time debunking them. Consider it a paltry companion to Bronze Dog’s Doggerel series.
You know that saying “any publicity is good publicity”? People actually believe that. I see it a lot in discussions about bad comics especially: “it may be bad, but at least it has people talking.” And that sort of thing.
And yet, it’s obviously false. Painfully obviously.
Think about it this way: if there’s no such thing as bad publicity, why are there PR firms? Why does the term “damage control” exist? Why is there such a thing as spin?
When oil started pumping into the Gulf of Mexico, BP started running frequent ads championing their efforts to clean it up. When Toyota had to recall a bunch of their cars because of gas pedal problems, they released ads championing their responsibility and safety record. When GM was just coming out of a bankruptcy scare, they released ads about their stability and commitment to innovation.
If any publicity really were good publicity, would any of these companies spent so much money to contain the potential damage to their images?
It’s true that bad publicity gets people talking, and in some cases, to some degree, it might get people checking out the subject out of morbid curiosity. Hell, it’s why I saw “The Last Airbender.” But there’s a point where people aren’t just talking, they’re talking about how bad the subject is, and that has a major negative effect.
We’ve seen how bad PR has directly negatively affected vaccination rates, GMOs, High Fructose Corn Syrup, nuclear power, and various other topics under the typical skeptical purview. There’s no reason for anyone with the capacity for critical thought to believe that it’s true. So I think it’s high time we put this meme to bed–or at least subjected it to some bad publicity.