A CASE STUDY TO CITE NEXT TIME SOMEONE SAYS ‘ALL PR IS GOOD PR’

‘All PR is good PR’ is one of life’s great oversimplifications to be filed with ‘History is written by the winners’ and ‘Brexit means Brexit’.

 

But now, at long last, we have a robust case study to reference the next time those frivolous words are uttered.

 

I’ll set the scene.

 

Step 1) Liam Neeson admits to a week-long racism binge 40 years ago. He’s been promoting his latest film and seemingly thinks it is acceptable to recount a time when he wanted to “kill” a “”black bastard””.

 

He provides a wider context to his remarks (he’s ashamed etc) and asks the interviewer to be fair in the corresponding coverage (or he’ll use his special skills to find her and kill her blah blah blah).

 

 

Step 2) But the wider media isn’t massive on context and naturally responds, alongside the rest of the world, with a big old: ‘WHAT THE FUCK?’.

 

He is roundly condemned – mainly for the initial racism – but also for his outright stupidity for admitting it in the context of emerging far/alt-right forces and heightened racial tensions.

 

Former footballer John Barnes eloquently comes to Neeson’s rescue in an impassioned interview on Sky News, citing the cultural forces at play at the time of the racism binge (Neeson would have done well to watch this before Step 3).

 

 

Step 3) Liam’s PR people arrange for him to go on an American TV show to try and make amends.

 

Neeson hugs a black man before saying that if his friend’s rapist was ‘a Lithuanian’ he would’ve ‘done the same’. In doing this, he conflates nationality and ethnicity to expertly show a total lack of understanding for the remarks he made a day prior.

 

Surely, though, a few more hugs and handshakes would make it job done, right?

 

 

Step 4) Wrong!Neeson cancels his appearance at the premiere of the film he was supporting in the original car-crash interview.

 

It’s not looking good, illustrated in part by Lily Allen dedicating her song ‘Fuck You’ to Neeson at her Sydney gig (she usually reserves this dishonour for Donald Trump).

 

 

Step 5) 48 hours on and I can’t for the life of me understand how this all came to be. Neeson has again reiterated he isn’t a racist. Many people don’t believe him. Many people do.

 

But irrespective of whether you think the 2019 Neeson is racist or not, surely we can agree that for sheer stupidity alone, he deserves to be under cosh.

 

In any case, let it be said: all PR is not good PR.

 

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Hugh Thomas