K Street spins PR for questionable leaders
When Gadhafi began trying to improve his image in the west, he renounced weapons of mass destruction handed over the Lockerbie bombing suspects and hired K Street lobbyists in Washington to reshape public opinion.
Gadhafi’s hired PR spin doctors included The Livingston Group and the well known law firm White & Case. But, this approach to reshaping one’s image is not new. From Equatorial Guinea to Saudi Arabia, world leaders are no strangers to K Street. They often turn to the PR machines in Washington to reshape reputations. Does money trump morals and politics when it comes to PR? Graham Wisner, an attorney at Patton Boggs, a law firm in Washington, explained that lobbyists are careful when taking new clients. They weigh many items and use a multifaceted approach to ensure their own reputations are not destroyed in the process. “If you go into the State Department and make a case for a human rights abuser and don’t fully reveal the depth of those problems, you will be laughed out of the State Department. You have to recognize there are certain ranges in which you can operate,” he explained. Larger more commercial nations are more appealing for lobbies, as are new and growing markets and regions where there are possible joint ventures with the US. “You can’t paint a pig by a different color and expect that you are going to trick anybody in the State Department,” said Wisner.Many nations, even those who are close to the US, make mistakes, and as they take place you have to address them and move forward on common group where people can understand one another, he explained. “Every country, including our own, has made mistakes in the past,” Wisner said. “They deserve, as we say, a day in court.”In addition to PR spin for dictators, the media often spins information on conflicts and protests. The media uses ‘weapons of mass distraction’ to spin the story, including the reality behind protests in the Middle East and North Africa. Larry Beinhart, the author of “American Hero” which was later adapted into the film “Wag the Dog” explained the media uses key terms and concepts to stretch the truth and speculate about what could be or may be. “The media is getting whatever it can,” he said. “With media doesn’t report on reality. They are a conduct for press releases.” In turn, the media fills the silence not filled by press releases with spin.