Good Idea, Bad Idea

Mr Skullhead was one of the greatest characters on Animaniacs, and, in addition to his brilliant Hamlet performance, it was his Good Idea, Bad Idea shorts that were among the more brilliant of the show.

Whistling is just one of the many things that you can do well or very poorly. Take public relations. You can do what Nike has done with their Human Race campaign (from the Herald Sun):

On August 31, one million people will run for charity. Twenty-five cities will hold a 10km run – including Los Angeles, New York, London, Madrid, Paris, Istanbul, Shanghai, Sao Paulo and Vancouver. Each race will start on the same day, with the first starting in Taipei and the last in LA.

This is a race that is quite simply cool. Not only can you participate in these selected cities, but you can even race on your home street in unselected Boise, Idaho—if you have the proper gear. This effort will build Nike’s & Apple iPod “+” brand, by association and by sales, already culminating into a movement that makes even participating cities feel simply honored to be graced with Nike’s presence.

Or you can be like the Memphis Police Department that is trying to use coercive powers to go after a blog site that has been critical of the internal practices and policies of the department. Of course, this is based on just what I read, and I am sure there is another side. Even so, it is unfortunate for MPD that it appears in the public’s eye (through traditional and nontraditional media) that these officers are happy to protect citizen’s rights, as long as the expression of these freedoms don’t make them look bad. As noted in the previously referenced article:

‘Dirk Diggler’ […] (the collective pseudonym of the bloggers who write on the site) has posted copies of the subpoena sent to AOL that seeks any and all identifying information for the blogger in question. In another blog post, Dirk Diggler wrote, ‘It pains us to believe that we live in America and a Director of Police Services can use his position (and possibly tax payers dollars) to launch a personal vendetta against this site and the 1st Amendment.’


If the case proceeds, it seems unlikely that the MPD will be very successful in unearthing the information it wants. In 2005, the Delaware Supreme Court overturned a lower court’s decision requiring an ISP to turn over the identity of an anonymous blogger who was heavily critical of local politicians.


Free speech advocates believe that the same principles apply to this case. ‘You can complain about the government, and you should be able to do that without fear of retaliation or threatening actions on the part of the people in these positions,’ Electronic Privacy Information Center associate director Lillie Coney told the Memphis Commercial Appeal. ‘I guess they’ve kind of annoyed them at some level, but you really don’t want to see law enforcement or government resources spent in this way.’

You’d hope that the police department isn’t simply annoyed and trying to silence any dissidents; if this is their approach, that’s really just a bad idea. The government officials are, of course, insisting that that is not the case, as noted on a local site:

Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton said today there are ‘serious issues’ behind police Director Larry Godwin’s legal quest to uncover the identities behind a blog critical of the police department.

‘There’s no attempt to try to squash, you know, whistleblowers or that kind of thing,’ the mayor said in response to reporters’ questions during an event at Medtronic. ‘There’s some serious issues here that I think will surface as it moves forward.’

What these serious issues are, it is unclear. Until they come forward, the message communicated again and again is likely a reaffirmation in many minds about the abusive powers of the local officials. Instead of trying to create a groundswell of support (as seen with Nike), they are creating a barrier of negative sentiment that they will have to break through.


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