Let's say someone makes three serious,
specific accusations of wrongdoing against you. We'll call them
Accusations 1, 2 and 3. These allegations are true. You
have no defense. How do you respond?
You follow the old saying, "The
best defense is a good offense." (That's a particularly apt
strategy when you have no other defense to offer!)
So instead of denying Accusations 1, 2
and/or 3, you completely ignore them, and instead, accuse
your accuser of himself being guilty of serious Counter-Accusations 4, 5,
and 6. It's best if your Counter- Accusations 4-6 paint your accuser
as committing the very type of violations that your accuser has charged you
It doesn't even matter if your
Counter-Accusations 4-6 are false, or even absurd to someone who knows the
facts. Just making them will force your accuser to expend time and
effort denying them, and thereby distract attention from the charges against
As an additional move, you should also
claim that you do Good Deeds A, B and C in the area of endeavor that
Accusations 1-3 against you involve. It's okay to engage in broad
generalizations here. The benefit to you here is, that while not
requiring you to falsely deny the truth of Accusations 1-3, claiming you
have done Good Deeds A-C creates the impression that since you do such good
deeds in this area, how could Accusations 1-3 be true. (Many
people won't realize that even if Good Deeds A, B and C are true, that
doesn't mean at all that Accusations 1, 2 and 3 are not also true!)
The above primer on advanced public
relations has been carried out to a tee by the Ringling Bros. and Barnum
& Bailey Circus in its public relations war with the animal rights
organization People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).
PETA has long accused Ringling Bros. of
inflicting many varieties of horrific cruelty on the animals it uses in its
shows. Three of its major specific accusations, which we can here
label Accusations 1, 2 and 3, are:
- Ringling Bros. keeps animals
chained to the ground or confined to tiny cages at least 20 hours a
- Ringling Bros. forces animals to
perform actions which are completely unnatural to them.
- Ringling Bros. repeatedly
disciplines elephants by jabbing them with sharp metal hooks in
sensitive areas behind their ears and knees.
Ringling Bros. has apparently just
decided to wage a major public relations counteroffensive against
PETA. The circus ran a full-page ad in The New York Times and
other publications earlier this week which implemented the above "best
defense is a good offense" strategy quite professionally. The ad
takes the form of "An Open Letter to Animal Rights Groups." [text
First, the Ringling Bros. ad
completely ignores PETA's specific Accusations 1-3 above.
Second, the ad makes
Counter-Accusations 4, 5 and 6 against PETA:
- PETA unnecessarily euthanized
over half of the 2,103 pets it "confiscated" in 1999.
- PETA wastes money on ineffective
lawsuits, vulgar ads and publicity stunts.
- PETA doesn't develop
relationships with individual animals.
Third, the ad then presents Good Deeds
A, B and C which Ringling Bros. performs in the area of animal welfare:
- Ringling Bros. has established
the Center for Elephant Conservation, a breeding program for
endangered Asian elephants.
- Ringling Bros. develops
relationships with each and every one of its individual animals.
- Ringling Bros. makes sure that
its animals are "healthy, well cared for, and content."
And there you have it. Ringling
Bros.'s public relations firm should get an "A" for effort.
After ignoring the specific charges against it, Ringling Bros. makes
counter-accusations that it is actually PETA which harms animals, and also
claims Ringling Bros. is the one really doing the good deeds in the animal
Ringling Bros. should be also be
awarded a special Gold Star on its report card for having the chutzpah to
claim that PETA, a group recognized as the most effective animal rights
organization in probably the entire world, is doing its job poorly, and that
PETA should take Ringling Bros. advice on how to help animals!
But anyone seeing through the smoke
and mirrors of the Ringling Bros. letter, and therefore still wondering
about the truth of PETA's specific Accusations 1-3 against Ringling Bros.,
would have to give the esteemed circus an overall "F" for the
effectiveness of its response.