Posted by: katiecrawford | February 16, 2009

Wag the Dog

Wag the Dog

On Monday, February 9th and Wednesday, February 11th in Barbara Nixon’s class we watched the movie Wag the Dog. Our teacher explained before we watched the movie that it was created from the scandal with past President Clinton and an intern. After watching the movie, some of my classmates and I discussed the unethical parts and how the title fit in with the movie.

When reviewing the three basic value orientations from my text Public Relations: Strategies and Tactics by Wilcox and Cameron I felt that the orientations that best fit this film was “situational”. According to the text, “the situationalist believes that each decision is based on what would cause the least harm or the most good” (Wilcox et al. 73). In the film, the white house PR practitioner tries to cover up the scandal by diverting the attention of Americans by producing a ‘faux’ war with Albania. He continued to make decisions as more problems would arise to cover up the truth. He felt that the “situational” orientation was best because it protected the President from humiliation and loss of the next election.

Although the PR practitioner was trying to help the President, his actions were very unethical. According to the PRSA Code of Ethics, one of the most important ethical practices of a PR person is to be honest with the public. In Wag the Dog, the practitioner was anything, but honest. The scandal was diverted by lies upon lies. If he had done the ethnical thing, he would have kept the best interest of the client while staying honest with the public.

Within the first thirty minutes of the movie, I began to see exactly what “Wag the Dog” meant. The tail is the PR practitioner and he is waging the dog which is the public. By producing a fake war and building lies he is able to divert the attention of the public away from the Presidential scandal. It amazed me that he created a completely fake story and it was so believable that the public did not even question its authenticity. I feel that the PR practitioner unfortunately confirmed his role as a negative stereotype. Even though he kept the best interest of the client he was dishonest with the public which was unethical.

(Information in this blog was from:
Wilcox, Dennis L., and Glen T. Cameron. Public Relations : Strategies and Tactics. Danbury: Allyn & Bacon, Incorporated, 2008.)

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