Monday, October 26, 2009

Is AANR Overstepping Its Bounds?

AANR Executive Director Erich Schuttauf in a blog post today addressed two hot button issues - the case of the nude coffee guy in Virginia, and the parents arrested for taking nude photos of their children in Arizona.
I’ll acknowledge that with most such cases, AANR faces a significant obstacle that must be overcome to respond to the news story properly: like all “merely mortal” readers, viewers, and listeners, we often do not have first-hand knowledge of the facts. Did the parents of the young girls take photos that came too close to the line? Did Mr. Coffee simply stumble around the kitchen preparing brew, or did he stand spread eagle in open doorways and a large plate glass picture window at 8:40 in the morning-and were mother and son taking only a small shortcut between two very public sidewalks from which one could have just as easily seen a purposeful display as has also been alleged?

Responding too quickly, without knowing all the facts for certain, brings peril if initial reports and assumptions turn out untrue. Yet the early innings of a story are usually the stage where our blood is boiling at its hottest. DAMN IT. If AANR knows about this it should be DOING something.

The media likes to hear us say “damn it.” “Damn it” makes us buy newspapers. “Damn it” keeps us listening over the commercial break.

I want all our members and clubs to be assured that AANR hears the frustration in your phone calls and e-mail messages. I cannot promise you that we will be goaded into premature action because doing so can all-too-easily detract from a reputation of providing a credible voice of reason for nude recreation.

But I do promise you that AANR will continue to track events, to take the extra time that it takes to research the facts, or find out what the jury determined so that we can continue providing reliable guidance. And that we WILL speak out in cases of clear injustice to nudists.
Yes, news stories like these have an affect on nudists and naturists because they are reflective of public perceptions and societal shifts, and they should be discussed openly and frankly by all concerned. This is why I write about strip club ordinances, child pornography, sexting and other issues involving the human body and sexuality, which are not directly related to nudism, but speak to trends and attitudes.

And I'm glad that the powers-that-be at AANR are also concerned about these issues, and keep track of laws and ordinances.

BUT (and you knew this "but" was coming), I think it's disastrous public relations for the Executive Director of The American Association for Nude Recreation directly linking his organization with potential crimes involving indecent exposure and child pornography. While it's perfectly OK for bloggers like me to raise these issues, or even for AANR members to discuss them in a forum, it's a huge mistake, in my opinion, for Mr. Schuttauf to take them on himself.

It's a good thing that AANR has not taken an official stand on these stories, but by even discussing them in an official capacity associates nude recreation with crimes involving nude people.

The public perception can only be that AANR is open to defending flashers and pornographers. Yes, when all the facts are known and the issues are found to have a direct bearing on nude recreation, issue a statement, but open speculation and "thinking out loud" is not wise. When contacted by the press about these sort of news stories, it's best to issue a "no comment" on the basis that there is no evidence that these people are practicing nudists, belong to any nudist organizations, or that their alleged crimes have any relationship at all to nude recreation.

[UPDATE: Clarification - when I recommend a "no comment", that's what it should be, just "no comment". The bases I described are reasons for keeping mum, not meant to be given out as part of the "no comment". Otherwise the "no comment" becomes a "comment." See my previous post on this issue, where spokesperson Carlyn Hawkins declined to comment on the specifics of the naked coffee guy case, but added some general defense of nudism in general. By making her "no comment" into a "comment", her words got into the news, and linked AANR with a guy arrested for indecent exposure.]

My guess is that members of the Naturist Action Committee cringed when they read Mr. Schuttauf''s public post, which devoted 15 paragraphs to these current news issues, while a post made on 10/24 about the San Onofre lawsuit defeat was only two paragraphs. There's plenty of work to be done on the public lands issue, and valuable time and resources should not be wasted in chasing down every hot button story that comes along. The NAC chooses its battles wisely.

In addition, there is no evidence that the story of Naked Coffee Guy or the one involving the parents in Arizona will result in any changes to any laws. If anything, the public appears to be far more sympathetic to the people arrested in these cases, and outraged that they would be charged with crimes over things we've always taken for granted. Chances are these already overblown cases will quietly go away on their own.

Again, I'm glad that AANR keeps up to date on current events involving nudity issues, but unless there is some direct affect on nude recreation, nudist rights, or changes to anti-nudity laws and ordinances, officers in the organization should avoid making unnecessary public comments, in my opinion. The general population is already confused enough with the merging of swinging and nudism at some clubs, and AANR needs to remain focused on promoting positive nudist family values, and not be distracted by every viral story that comes along.


Paul Rapoport said...

Re: "it's best to issue a "no comment" on the basis that there is no evidence that these people are practicing nudists, belong to any nudist organizations, or that their alleged crimes have any relationship at all to nude recreation."

The news stories under discussion, preferably with enough details known, affect naturism as much as sexting, the FCC, etc. (even if less than other matters). Whether or not the people in the news stories identify as nudists is surely unimportant, for both individuals and organizations.

To suggest that AANR give the above reasons for no comment is to reinforce its habit of taking an interest only in those who pay it allegiance. Why shouldn't AANR, like NAC, protect all naturists? Otherwise it appears to be interested only in itself, not naturism.

Nudiarist has cogently argued that when you have no comment, you should either say "no comment" (and no more, otherwise you're making a comment) or say nothing at all.

Nudiarist said...

I'm not saying at all that AANR, TNS, and all nudists and naturists should not be concerned about these stories, only that in an official capacity, the national organizations should refrain from making ANY public comments.

When I say that AANR should issue a "no comment" on certain bases, that does not mean that they need to make those reasons public. A "no comment" should be just that.

The problem is that these viral stories happen every week, and then they go away. Very few of them result in changes to laws or ordinances. While prime fodder for bloggers like me, and discussion boards, they are not necessarily important enough to merit comments from the Executive Director of AANR.

National organizations need to choose their battles wisely, else whenever there's a nudity incident, reporters will try and get comments from nudist organizations. AANR was already called by the Washington Examiner about naked coffee guy, and while their spokesperson did not comment on the specifics of the case, she made some general statements about nudism which inadvertently linked nude recreation with this guy.

Like I said, these stories are likely to play out and fade away without any changes to the law. AANR needs to concentrate on issues which truly affect nudist and naturist rights.

Nudiarist said...

Paul, I added a clarification to my post which confirms what you are saying, that a "no comment" should be just that, and any other clarifications or explanations to explain the "no comment" actually become a "comment".

John A said...

So it seems like AANR is "damned if they do and damned if they don't". I say kudos to AANR for injecting some reason into the discussion when the whole web was "a twitter" about the persecution of the "naked coffee guy". AANR can't claim to be a "credible voice of reason" and at the same time have no comment. The fact that the press immediately went to AANR for comment just demonstrates how successful AANR has been at establishing themselves as an authoritative voice. If AANR only chimed in when an attack dog role was called for then they would lose the "credibility" perception. When you're a known subject matter expert than on occasion a lawmaker (or more likely staffer) will run some potential legislation by you to see if it makes sense before it becomes bad legislation and the attack dogs become necessary.

Nudiarist said...

John A.,

No, the reason the press turned to AANR about the naked coffee guy is because some reporter associated a guy nabbed for indecent exposure with nude recreation. Sometimes being a credible voice means keeping your mouth shut. Monitor these hot button issues, let it play out in the press and on the internet forums, but refrain from making any official comments until it becomes a clear issue which affects nude recreation. As I pointed out, in both of these cases there is unlikely to be any changes to laws which affect nudity.

Eric Schuttauf is the Executive Director of a national organization. Anything he says has official status. Merely by talking about these issues links nude recreation with indecent exposure and child pornography in the eyes of the press and the public.