How Far Is Too Far?
With the often-mocked, yet wildly popular debut of the 2009 Westminster Dog Show on Monday, came a surprising protest from PETA. Jumping off of Alan's post about their SuperBowl hijinks, we all know that PETA is anything but a straight-and-narrow non-profit. Their stunt in front of Madison Square Garden on Monday, however, took them to a whole new level of innapropriate.
Two PETA activists, dressed in full Ku Klux Klan regalia, handed out fliers comparing the American Kennel Club to the white supremacist hate group. Their line of reasoning was that the AKC supports pure breeding of dogs, just as the KKK supports the purity of the American race. Really? This move is wildly offensive, and lacks any sense of compassion for a large population of New Yorkers. PETA's point is entirely obfuscated by their flashy stunt, and the move relegates them to the level of the National Enquirer or Jessica Simpson- anything to get media attention. In my opinion, they just wrote the book What Not to Do in Order to Gain Public Supporters.
While PETA achieved one goal- they did get a ton of attention- they also raised an important point about non-profit strategy. Often groups feel the need to make themselves stand out, a gargantuan task in this media-blitzed society. The use of video, spoofs, and blogs are all new (and often effective) tools in the non-profit arsenal in order to get the word out about a cause. These can all exist, however, without being coupled with insensitivity and sensationalism. I stand by the opinion that combining positive work with web 2.0 methods is a great way to go for non-profits- but I question how far down that road you can go before you start boomeranging back to ineffectiveness.