Standing trial in the court of public opinion

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Here’s a social media 101 lesson that seems to continually escape people, whether they be unpopular celebrities who ask to be memed, politicians and political parties who attempt to run hashtag Twitter campaigns, brands that show up for live online events, etc.:

If you are unpopular, do not submit yourself to stand trial in the court of public opinion.

You would think this would be a logical, obvious conclusion to reach, but it’s apparently not. It should be a logical conclusion for politicians, especially in the United States: 47% of the population, regardless of your party affiliation, dislikes you because of the label you wear. It should be a logical conclusion for someone who has committed notorious, very public crimes. It should be a logical conclusion for someone who takes an unpopular position.


Who can stand in the court of public opinion safely? People with raving fan bases and relatively little dissent. A celebrity like Taylor Swift, who has her own army, can safely do so because there’s a large base of ardent defenders. A revered public figure like His Holiness the Dalai Lama can do so because he’s largely inoffensive to everyone except the government of China.

If you still need to engage via social media or other digital channels even though you’re unpopular, use some common sense. Appear in moderated forums where you can answer legitimate criticism without having to deal with an army of poorly-informed dissenters. Publish with the comments off for a while. Own the mistakes you’ve made and find ways to make good on them – and if you can’t, if there’s no possibility for redemption, then get out of the limelight.

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3 responses to “Standing trial in the court of public opinion”

  1. I wonder what prompted this blogpost. You must have seen something that made this blogworthy.

    What this reminds me of is a lesson that I learned the hard way. It resulted in me unfriending and blocking a 20-yr friend on Facebook. I thought we were going to have a conversation out in the open (silly me). But when his friends jumped in with nasty personal attacks that he subtly encouraged, it was too much.

    Your blogpost offers another view. It wasn’t only that his friends were so nasty. I wasn’t conscious of the fact that I was taking an unpopular position, and it was on his turf where he’s got ardent followers. I goofed.

    1. It was a celebrity’s agency/agent setting up a “meme the celebrity” thing… which only ended badly.

  2. I don’t necessarily know that I care what other people think at this point in my life, as most if not all don’t truly know me. Of course, this is probably the minority opinion, and I should therefore step out of the limelight, however, a nice shade of green would go great this time of year….

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