Sunday, February 19, 2012

Pro Shark Finning Talking Points - Got Counters?

Yeah but...
If there's one thing that a recent media bomb in Singapore exposed it was pro shark finning talking points. The ones being proposed last week were, by any standards, pretty good.

The person uttering them was Dr Choo-hoo Giam at a recent conservation round table that pitted Dr Giam against anti shark fin groups seeking shark fishing/finning bans in the region.

We're not going into the side show of last weeks misquotes, or media responsibility here, that's been covered by Da Shark and David quite aptly.

We want to talk about the fundamental currency of mainstream and social media - Talking Points.

TP's are the short media friendly quips that move media sources to write stories and create content. They also help on social media sites.

Talking points are the main arsenal for groups seeking to sway public opinion.

In this world, unfortunately, readers don't care for bulky PDF's filled with researched facts, they want a sound byte, they want instant raison d'etre.

It's a media currency traded by Sea Shepherd and PETA to great the short term. If talking points are currency then these two orgs represent the Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac of the talking point world. Dispensing a treasure trove of toxic media to unsuspecting masses, bundled and sold without any thought to the future, just the media meme of "the now".

The problem with talking points is that they have to be factual. Your media opposition will take your talking points and, like a grenade thrown too soon on the field of battle, pick up and lob back into your position.

For the many grassroots shark conservation groups who have been growing, morphing, and relying on Facebook and other social media platforms to save sharks over the past two years the media staple of the talking point became horribly skewed along the way.

We have all seen talking points that have reverberated in social media eco chambers around the world to create free standing monsters made of whole cloth factoids that make no sense and provided the opposition like Dr Giam a treasure trove of his own talking points that actually resonate.

Does anyone remember the following media samples?

1. 100+ million sharks killed

2. Sharks = Oxygen

3. Asians are evil

4.90% of all shark species are now completely extinct

5. Japan kills all the worlds sharks

The list goes on and on with some unfortunate racist undertones to boot. Many in the shark conservation world disavow any responsibility for these talking points, "what happens in chat rooms or how people comment is up to them, we operate to a higher calling, just read our bulky PDF's on the issues and you'll know".

It's not good enough.

There are some seriously flawed media talking points out there and they are the current shark conservation meme. And yes, any group involved in shark conservation has the direct responsibility to disavow these gross misrepresentations and start, today, by doing the following:

1. Full review of the most egregious talking points out there.

2. Broad bi-partisan reworking of all media talking points. Let's all get on the same table.

3. A separate media educational track to the shark conservation base to redirect and refocus.

4. A disavowing of all racist talking points, "Hate the Policy - Not the People".

5. Create and promote talking points that are compelling and make sense.

You can still have talking points that have an impact. But we have to get savvy quickly on this issue.

Thankfully Dr Giam has educated all of us to our glaring media Achilles Heel.

It's not too late to clean house and reverse two years of fundamental media mismanagement. The fact is we got a lot of mileage out of , "100 Million Sharks Killed" but that sound byte has just landed back in our foxhole and we don't see anyone out there in a leadership position throwing themselves on that particular media grenade.

Which is too bad, because when it goes off, everyone will take a piece of it - like it or not.


Save turtles borneo said...

The point you raise is a good one and was exploited by Jenkins from the pro shark fin campaign during the recent in debate in Singapore (NOT Malaysia as in your article). Fortunately neither of the two anti shark fin speakers used any of the unsubstantiated claims to put across their points. All the speakers were agreed that to manage shark populations a wide variety of regulations would be needed in many different countries. The most accurate summation of the facts about sharks is on the shark savers blog.
The point about memes and the media is very valid. From 30 minutes of saying that shark fisheries are unsustainable the press took a meme from me which said the exact opposite.
Prof Steve Oakley, Speaker at shark fin debate in Singapore.

Horizon Charters Guadalupe Cage Diving said...

Thanks Steve for the update, changes made. By Malaysia we had thought this was a larger regional discussion not a local one.

This post was directed at the entire conservation community the Singapore media last week was a catalyst. Dr Giam's points were gleaned from a variety of misrepresentations he had read all over the net and elsewhere.

I am pretty sure you and your team came fully prepared with facts not hype.

Not 24 hours later the mainstream press attributed the 100 million figure to Shark Savers in another article with Senator Loren B. Legarda:

Now these factoids are out there changing the tide will take a big effort.