I have a little more time this morning, so I’d like to explore further why the latest message is so self-defeating. It is obvious to me that a public relations professional would tell us several things. You don’t have to be a PR professional to understand the problems, you just need a little common sense.
First, understand that this is a printed message that uses words to communicate. Visually it’s OK: it doesn’t look cluttered or convey anything negative visually. It consists of twelve words, which is fine for this kind of message.
Understanding that, the organization offering this message must also understand that it will be processed within the two or three seconds it takes to read the words. In that very brief space of time, the reader will form an impression and either move on or be drawn in and encouraged to enter the site and explore further.
So what are the first words the reader sees: “You don’t need.” How do you feel when you read those words? If you’re like most people, you feel that someone is trying to preach to you. To understand how that makes a theist feel, try this: “You need God.” How do you feel reading those words? Do you hear some arrogant theist, as I do? If you’re like me, you immediately distrust the source, which is exactly what most theists will do. So to the extent that theists are our intended audience, the first three words dig a very deep hole, from which the message probably will not escape, keeping in mind that the goal has to be accomplished within a few seconds.
The fourth word, “God,” is at odds with what I take to be the intended message, which is that love and life are the things that matter. So why mention God? This is what I mean about mixing the message. It’s at cross-purposes with itself, all the more so because the author’s belief is that God does not exist. Did Ron consider how this message would sound to the approximately 85-90% of people in this culture who believe that God does exist? Apparently not, because this phrasing assumes God’s existence, having just told people that they don’t need Him. By the time most people read the fourth word, any hope at getting the intended message through to them is completely lost. An in-your-face message can be effective if it’s clever or inventive; this one is not. It will be received as a slap in the face, which is exactly how Michael’s mother received it. By now, most of the audience is lost.
If they read the final eight words, they probably won’t remember them. I’ve read them several times and I can’t even remember them. That’s because the first part of the message is so jolting that it drowns out what should be the closer: the statement of our values. Not only does this message ineffectively convey those values, it damages our association with those values in the minds of most people, because the first part of the message feels at odds with them. Ask yourself: do you come away from this message thinking about love? Most people won’t. Most people will think about the first four words. This juxtaposition reminds the audience of our association with solid values like love but puts that association in the context of a conflict. That is what I mean by a mixed message. It is not just merely ineffective, it is affirmatively damaging.
This is why I am so vocal about this. This isn’t just ineffective PR, it’s abysmal, destructive PR. It’s the kind of PR that our adversaries would write for us.
Then I look on Ron’s page at CFI and see his face planted onto the nude torso. What the hell is he doing? That is not the kind of image that someone puts onto a site dedicated to serious issues, if he wants people to take him or the organization seriously. He has no business doing it. This organization shouldn’t be a forum for his personal likes and dislikes. He is the leader but he is not acting like a leader of a serious organization. Supposedly there is a Board of Directors that decides who is going to lead us. What the hell are they thinking, and where are they? I’m sorry to be so bold, but this isn’t a close question. It’s a disaster.
I implore anyone who reads this to reach out to the CFI Board and ask that Ron Lindsay not issue statements on CFI’s behalf. He is doing damage to the organization, and this isn’t the first time. An organization that had potential for moving these issues forward has made a joke of itself. I have nothing against Ron. He’s a nice guy, who spent a substantial amount of time with me on the phone discussing these matters. He was courteous throughout. But he doesn’t know what he is doing, and as long as he continues to do it, he will continue to undermine this organization.