Friday, January 12, 2007

The Ignorance Factor 

There comes a time in public relations when one should cut off debate because argument is removed from reality. This is such a case. There may be good reasons for not showing Al Gore's movie in a classroom, but this is not one of them. Yet, committed individuals can create a fuss and slow or stop civic actions with objections removed from the realm of fact.

It seems we stretch too far at times to hear opinions from all sides. We're afraid to move, if there is the least bit of opposition. In our society, however, one must always expect opposition. The question leaders should ask is where the majority stands and go with that. Otherwise, nothing gets done.

In our little town, for example, we have a deer problem -- too many of them. This is a constant headache, at least in Northeastern states. There is really only one way to cut down on the size of herds to prevent starvation in the winter and ruined gardens, flower beds and lawns in the summer -- thinning. Thinning means shooting with arrows or bullets. Opposition to killing deer kept our town from acting for years while does and bucks wandered through backyards, on roads and in driveways. Finally, the town council funded a report that revealed deer were dying on the reservation next to the town because they lacked food. This was enough to get herd thinning started over objections. But, there are still those who would shut down thinning to "save the deer."

The town pulled a typical PR move by funding a study. They could hide behind conclusions of the report -- and are. But, would it have been better and faster had the town moved earlier rather than spending money to produce a foregone conclusion? From a political perspective, probably not. From a personal perspective, the town's leaders were not showing much leadership. On the other hand, town leaders can say they have finally solved the problem. This doesn't mean "Bambi" protesters have gone away, but their arguments no longer carry as much weight. The outcome was correct, but it took too long to get there, it seemed to me, because town leaders tried too hard to listen to all sides. There is a point where directions become obvious and one needn't look at a map any longer.

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