Friday, October 16, 2009

VERITAS: FUMBLE - WESTERN STYLE TAKEDOWN


Another university, our very own University of Western Ontario (UWO) failed in a communications play this week after the violent arrest of a student was widely viewed on YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=17mj553jzhM). Pictures don’t lie. And if you watch the video, you see a half dozen campus police at times wailing away on a young man with batons, at other times kneeing him repeatedly. When asked to explain it, spokespersons for the campus police and the university could only say that people who watch the video cannot possibly understand what was going on. Again, really? I think anyone who watches the video will know exactly what was going on. Gitta Kulczycki, a spokeperson for the school, said: “The view of the video itself is somewhat disturbing without knowing the context of the full situation.” The problem was that nobody went on to explain the context. The head of campus police, Elgin Austen, told media that his officers were trying to subdue the student being arrested and “keep other people around safe,” yet on the video there are no other students even remotely near the arrest – in fact the hallway is empty. Austen also said that people watching the video “may not understand what the officers were actually doing.” The communications lesson? We don’t believe it’s ever wise to tell people they shouldn’t believe what they’re seeing. Unless we’re talking about a magic trick. If UWO officials were going to make the case that something else was going on here, they needed to be clear about what that was. If they couldn’t be, they would have been better off to say the arrest was under review.

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