If you live in or around the Hattiesburg area, or are Facebook or Twitter friends with anyone who does have a connection to Hattiesburg, you’ve heard about the circus that was our 2013 Mayoral election. I won’t get into all of the gory details, just get on Facebook or Twitter and search #haelex, or visit a local news website and you’ll quickly get filled in. What I want to talk about is the discussion surrounding the election – specifically from a public relations perspective.
In my Public Relations Theory class on Wednesday afternoons, the lecture always becomes a group discussion. For me, I learn best when I can take a concept and apply it to something in real life – and current events are always hot topics of conversation. In discussing one of our theories, the topic of slander came up. Everything everyone was saying related directly to the election (he said/she said). In my attempt to bring it to a topic, I said “Isn’t this exactly like what’s going on with the election?” A hush took over the room and everyone just looked at me. A fellow student who isn’t from the area wasn’t sure of the details, so I further elaborated on the situation (without taking a political side), simply stating the facts about what was going on. Someone responded “Maybe we shouldn’t get into a political debate.” In order to keep the class discussion moving, I stepped down.
The problem was, this wasn’t a political debate – it was a discussion of a public relations side of a current issue. Unfortunately, many people have a hard time separating a discussion and a debate, especially when it comes to politics.
This is the primary reason I choose to stay out of politics as much as possible. A group of (what should be) informed adults fail to be able to discuss a topic without turning it on its political side. Apparently it’s a sad but true story.