How to Handle a PR Crisis: Mongoose Edition

So, Mongoose has issued a response. Overall, this is phrased very well. There are a few specific bits I want to highlight, because they show how you should respond when offence is caused.

“We regret any offence given either in private e-mail by myself or on our forums.”
This does not deny that harm was done and owns up to it. This is a genuine apology.

“Finally, it has been reported that some… individuals (I would hesitate to call them people) have been sending threats of violence to others. We have nothing to do with that, condemn it utterly and, frankly, those individuals should be ashamed of themselves. There is nothing big or clever in what you have done.”
This is a clear condemnation of the e-mails I have been receiving. As far as I’m concerned, this is a thing of beauty.
Moreover, the apology thread (from my understanding) got just as abusive and hairy as the poll did. You will notice that the only response remaining is Sprange’s initial statement. This is the correct response. By refusing to allow abusive and hateful language on their forum and their thread, they show that it will not be tolerated. Sprange may not like what I did, and he may very well hate me. That doesn’t matter. What matters is that he recognizes that I am a human being who does not deserve a torrent of abuse for holding an opinion.
If this had been Mongoose’s first response, there wouldn’t have been any issue. In fact, their actions would have been laudable. Unfortunately, that was not the case and there are still consequences to how they initially reacted. We’re going to talk about rape culture.
Here is an excellent post on rape culture, if you want the 101. We’re going to be talking about a slightly more advanced concept, to wit how rapists behave and how easily encouraged they are.
Meet the Predators and Predator Redux cover in layman’s terms some very important studies on both detected/incarcerated and undetected/unconvicted rapists. One of the most important parts, from Meet the Predators is this:
Change the culture. We are not going to pull six or ten or twelve million men out of the U.S. population over any short period, so if we are going to put a dent in the prevalence of rape, we need to change the environment that the rapist operates in. Choose not to be part of a rape-supportive environment. Rape jokes are not jokes. Woman-hating jokes are not jokes. These guys are telling you what they think. When you laugh along to get their approval, you give them yours. You tell them that the social license to operate is in force; that you’ll go along with the pact to turn your eyes away from the evidence; to make excuses for them; to assume it’s a mistake, of the first time, or a confusing situation. You’re telling them that they’re at low risk.
This is what happened in the Mongoose poll. The first several posts were abusive, and more importantly, were abusive in a specific, gendered, and sexual way. Whether by intention or inattention, Mongoose allowed these attacks to remain and remain unchastised. This was all the affirmation the predators needed. From their perspective, Mongoose supported them, so they would support Mongoose. I do not say this in condemnation of Mongoose, but to illustrate how deeply disturbed these individuals are. (I think Mongoose has made their position clear regarding rape threats, see the second bolded quote at the beginning.)
Like a nuclear chain reaction, once something like this starts, it cannot be stopped. Sprange likely had the best intentions in condemning the threats, but because of Mongoose’s previous perceived “support” his condemnation is being read by the predators as caving to “PC” pressure. Because Mongoose “supported” them before, clearly they do now, and just have to be more circumspect about it. How do I know this? Because that’s what they’re e-mailing me. Rapists say the darndest things.
I’m posting about this so companies don’t make the same mistake in the future. There is nothing wrong with taking a few days, assessing the damage, and deciding upon your position. That is almost always the right way to handle things. No matter how angry you may be, it is never okay to allow violent or hateful language to be directed at others. There is no such thing as “just the internet”. Those people on the internet have feelings, and more frighteningly, some of those people on the internet are dangerous individuals looking for validation. You never want to be the person or company who inadvertently gives that validation. Although Sprange may be angry with me, I have no doubt that he feels terrible that people are e-mailing rape threats in his name.
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1 Response to How to Handle a PR Crisis: Mongoose Edition

  1. Bruno says:

    It is a pity that Mongoose caved in to your rants. While you are entitled to free speech and criticism, your blatant lies, deceit and unfounded accusations (not to mention basic lack of understanding of a certain type of humor, and what its target is) are absolutely inexcusable.

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