Many crises are not foreseeable, but civil unrest after the election is and leaders and organization should prepare for this.

On Monday, October 19, Logos president Helio Fred Garcia presented a pre-conference briefing on how to foresee the foreseeable and be ready for it when it happens around the US election at the Professional Speechwriters Association’s World Conference.

During this session, Garcia helped attendees understand a mindset to help leaders think through what to do and say ahead of election day, how to organize their thinking (and schedule) for various Election-Day scenarios, and how to prepare for and respond to five possible scenarios for what might happen immediately after the election.

Watch the full webinar here:

A version of this post appeared in CommPro.biz.

Last week Cornell University’s Alliance for Science published the first comprehensive study of coronavirus misinformation in the media, and concluded that President Trump is likely the largest driver of the such misinformation.

Lost in the News Cycle

In any other administration this would have led the news for at least a week.

But the report came five days after President Donald J. Trump nominated Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court. It came four days after publication of a massive New York Times investigation that revealed that President Trump paid no federal income taxes for years. It came just two days after the debate debacle in which the President refused to condemn white supremacy and seemed to endorse the Proud Boys. And it came just hours before the news that the President and First Lady had tested positive for COVID-19.

I wish the President and the First Lady a speedy and complete recovery.

But it is important that this news not be lost, and that the President be held accountable for the consequences of his words, actions, and inaction.

Language, Inaction, and Consequences

I am a professor of ethics, leadership, and communication at Columbia University and New York University. This summer my book about Trump’s language and how it inspires violence was published. I finished writing Words on Fire: The Power of Incendiary Language and How to Confront It in February. But since then the effect of Trump’s language has been even more dangerous.

In the book, I document how charismatic leaders use language in ways that set a powerful context that determines what makes sense to their followers. Such leaders can make their followers believe absurdities, which then can make atrocities possible. If COVID-19 is a hoax, if it will magically disappear, if it affects only the elderly with heart problems, then it makes sense for people to gather in large crowds without social distancing or masks.

There’s just one problem. None of that is true. But Trump said all those things. And his followers believed him. And the President and his political allies refused to implement policies to protect their citizens.

What The President Knew, and When The President Knew It

As I write this, 210,000 Americans have died of COVID-19 and the President is being treated for it at Walter Reed Military Medical Center.

But it didn’t have to happen. Three weeks ago Dr. Irwin Redlener, head of Columbia University’s Pandemic Resource and Response Initiative, estimated that if the nation had gone to national masking and lock-down one week earlier in March, and had maintained a constant masking and social distancing policy, 150,000 of fatalities could have been avoided.

Trump knew about the severity of the virus in February and March.

In taped discussions Trump told Washington Post Associate Editor Bob Woodward what he knew about how dangerous COVID-19 is:

  • It is spread in the air
  • You catch it by breathing it
  • Young people can get it
  • It is far deadlier than the flu
  • It’s easily transmissible
  • If you’re the wrong person and it gets you, your life is pretty much over. It rips you apart
  • It moves rapidly and viciously.
  • It is a plague

But he was telling the nation the opposite.

“Infodemic” of COVID-19

The Report Cover

President Trump likes to label anything he doesn’t agree with Fake News. But it turns out that he’s the largest disseminator of misinformation about Coronavirus.

Cornell University’s Alliance for Science analyzed 38 million pieces of content published in English worldwide between January 1 and May 26, 2020. It identified 1.1 million news articles that “disseminated, amplified or reported on misinformation related to the pandemic.”

On October 1, 2020 the Alliance published its report. It notes,

“These findings are of significant concern because if people are misled by unscientific and unsubstantiated claims about the disease, they may attempt harmful cures or be less likely to observe official guidance and thus risk spreading the virus.”

Its conclusion:

“One major finding is that media mentions of President Trump within the context of different misinformation topics made up 37% of the overall ‘misinformation conversation,’ much more than any other single topic.

The study concludes that Donald Trump was likely the largest driver of the COVID-19 misinformation ‘infodemic.’

In contrast only 16% of media mentions of misinformation were explicitly ‘fact-checking’ in nature, suggesting that a substantial quantity of misinformation reaches media consumers without being challenged or accompanied by factually accurate information.”

But Trump may be responsible for more than the 37% of the news stories that name him. The report says that

” a substantial proportion of other topics was also driven by the president’s comments [but did not explicitly name him], so some overlap can be expected.

Graphic from Cornell Alliance for Science Report

The most prevalent misinformation was about miracle cures. More than 295,000 stories mentioned some version of a miracle cure. (Note that the study looked only at stories that were published before the end of May, long before the president’s statements about a vaccine being ready by the end of October.)

The report notes that Trump prompted a surge of miracle cure stories when he spoke of using disinfectants internally and advocated taking hydroxychloroquine.

The second most prevalent topic, mentioned in nearly 50,000 stories, was that COVID had something to do with the “deep state.” The report notes,

“Mentions of conspiracies linked to alleged secret “new world orders” or ‘deep state’ government bodies existed throughout the time period and were referenced in passing in conversations that mentioned or listed widespread conspiracies. Indeed, President Trump joked about the US State Department being a ‘Deep State’ Department during a White House COVID press conference in March.”

The third most prevalent misinformation was about COVID-19 being a Democratic hoax, mentioned in more than 40,000 stories.

 

Human Consequences of Misinformation

The report closes with a warning: Misinformation has consequences:

“It is especially notable that while misinformation and conspiracy theories promulgated by ostensibly grassroots sources… do appear in our analysis in several of the topics, they contributed far less to the overall volume of misinformation than more powerful actors, in particular the US President.

In previous pandemics, such as the HIV/AIDS outbreak, misinformation and its effect on policy was estimated to have led to an additional 300,000 deaths in South Africa alone.

If similar or worse outcomes are to be avoided in the present COVID-19 pandemic, greater efforts will need to be made to combat the “infodemic” that is already substantially polluting the wider media discourse.”

In my book, I help engaged citizens, civic leaders, and public officials recognize dangerous language and then confront those who use it. I urge such citizens and leaders to hold those who use such language responsible for the consequences.

I wish President Trump a full and fast recovery. He and those closest to him have now been affected by their own denial of science. I hope that now he can start to model appropriate safe behavior.

But even as Trump is being treated in the hospital his campaign says it will stay the course, including an in-person rally for Vice President Mike Pence the day after the vice-presidential debate in several days. This is both irresponsible and dangerous.

I urge civic leaders, engaged citizens, and public officials, regardless of party, to stop having super-spreader events such as in-person rallies. And finally to begin modeling responsible behavior: Wear a mask, maintain social distancing. Masking and distancing are not political acts; they are a civic responsibility.

A version of this post appeared on CommPro.biz.

Leaders are judged based on how they deal with their most difficult challenges. Effective leaders rise to the occasion and ignite and inspire their people to a common purpose. Ineffective or malign leaders fail to rise to the challenges before them, and almost always make matters even worse. In two of my books – The Agony of Decision and Reputation Management – I describe the ten most common mis-steps in crisis response.

Crisis Mis-Steps #1 & #2

The most common mis-step is to ignore or deny a problem. In the aftermath of the U.S. government’s botched response to Hurricane Katrina, the late General Electric CEO Jack Welch reflected on a common pattern of ineffective crisis management. In a Wall Street Journal opinion piece, he described predictable stages of crises that are handled poorly:

“The first stage of that pattern is denial…”

Welch says that one of the hallmarks of good leadership is to acknowledge the reality of what is happening without denial. He says leaders need to,

“dispense with denial quickly and look into the hard stuff with eyes open.”

And he describes the temperament that is best suited to handle crises:

“a forthright, calm, fierce boldness.”*

*(“The five stages of crisis-management” by Jack Welch, The Wall Street Journal, September 14, 2005, p. A20. No longer available online free of charge.) The second most common mis-step is to diminish the significance of the problem. In The Agony of Decision I identify the U.S. Roman Catholic Church’s ignoring, diminishing, and hiding the systemic abuse of children by priests for decades as a signal example of these two mis-steps, and as one of the worst handled crises of all time. But now there’s another, and it may be even worse. As this post is published, the United States has just crossed the threshold of two hundred thousand confirmed COVID-19 deaths, with about one thousand two hundred Americans dying from the virus every day.

 

Trump Admits in March That He Is Downplaying COVID-19

In the last ten days, we learned that Washington Post associate editor Bob Woodward has recordings of 19 conversations with President Donald Trump, 18 of which served as the basis for his some of the content in his just-published book, Rage. According to Woodward, on January 28, 2020, U.S. National Security Advisor Robert C. O’Brien told Trump that COVID-19 would be,

“the biggest national security threat you face in your presidency.”

In a call Trump made to Woodward on February 7, Trump described what he knew about COVID-19:

“It goes through air, Bob, so it’s tougher than the touch. But the air, you just breathe the air. That’s how it’s passed.”

He then explained that COVID-19 is more deadly than flu:

“It’s also more deadly than even your most strenuous flus. You know, people don’t realize this, we lose 25,000, 30,000 people a year [to the flu] here. Who would ever think that, right? This is more deadly. This is five percent [death rate] versus one percent or less than one percent [for the flu], you know, so this is deadly stuff.”

A Washington Post analysis by reporters Robert Costa and Phil Rucker notes,

“At that time, Trump was telling the nation that the virus was no worse than a seasonal flu, predicting it would soon disappear and insisting that the U.S. government had it totally under control.”

On March 19, when there were 265 confirmed COVID-19 fatalities in the U.S., Trump told Woodward that he was aware that young people and children could catch the disease:

“It’s not just old people, Bob. Today and yesterday some startling facts came out. It’s not just old people. Young people too, plenty of young people.”

But he also told Woodward that he was playing down the risks:

“To be honest with you, I wanted to always play it down. I still like playing it down, because I don’t want to create a panic.”

It is not clear what he meant by creating a panic, since many observers have pointed out that Trump doesn’t mind scaring people about other topics. My own sense is that he was worried about panicking Wall Street and causing the stock market to crash. Indeed, the S&P had fallen 34 percent in the month before this interview, and the Dow Jones Industrial Index was about to complete its worst first quarter since 1987. Woodward notes that the tone was set at the top, but that others in the White House also denied the severity of the pandemic. He told The Post’s Philip Rucker:

“I think there was denial across the board… [Trump is] a one-man band [who is] going to do what he wants to do on impulse or on information he has… He’s a bulldozer to the staff and, quite frankly, to the country… And he just says what he wants, and so there’s no control. And this is one of the problems of the Trump presidency, that he doesn’t build a team. He doesn’t plan.”

On April 5, 2020, Trump told Woodward,

“It’s a horrible thing. It’s unbelievable. Can you believe it? It moves rapidly and viciously. If you’re the wrong person and if it gets you, your life is pretty much over. If you’re in the wrong group; it’s our age group.”

On April 13, 2020, Trump told Woodward,

“It’s so easily transmissible. You wouldn’t even believe it… This thing is a killer if it gets you. If you’re the wrong person, you don’t have a chance. So this rips you apart. It is a plague.”

Crisis Mis-Step #5: Lie

The fifth common crisis mis-step is to lie. The Washington Post has documented the scope and frequency of Trump lying while president: In his first 827 days in office he told 10,000 lies or false statements, he told 10,000 more in the next 444 days. By July 2020, he was averaging 23 lies or false statements per day. And Woodward’s book now reveals just how dangerous Trump’s lies were. In his interviews with Woodward, Trump acknowledged knowing the following about COVID-19:

  • It is spread in the air.
  • You catch it by breathing it.
  • Young people can get it.
  • It is far deadlier than the flu.
  • It’s easily transmissible.
  • If you’re the wrong person and it gets you, your life is pretty much over. It rips you apart.
  • It moves rapidly and viciously.
  • It is a plague.

But he was telling the nation the opposite: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TgZAazfHo7k

The Consequences of Downplaying the Severity of the Pandemic

As the president was downplaying the pandemic, there was no whole of government response, no national testing policy, no national masking policy, and no agreement on the severity of the disease. And tens of thousands died. On September 10, Dr. Irwin Redlener, founding director of Columbia University’s National Center for Disaster Preparedness and its Pandemic Resource & Response Initiative, told The Daily Beast that Trump,

“has blood on his hands.”

Dr. Redlener elaborated,

“If we had the leadership we needed, I’m pretty certain we would have been under 100,000 fatalities—and probably under 50,000 if we had been aggressive from the beginning.”

The Daily Beast explained,

“Redlener didn’t just pull that number out of thin air. In a May study, Redlener’s Columbia University colleague Jeffrey Shaman and co-authors simulated aggressive, coordinated, ‘counterfactual’ U.S. responses to the pandemic. They asked what might have happened if Trump had followed expert advice and locked the country down no later than early March. In that case, 35,000 American lives would have been saved through early May, Shaman and his team found.

Dr. Redlener extended that calculation through September, and concluded that as many of 150,000 of the fatalities to date could have been avoided, but were caused by Trump’s incompetence.

“The pandemic didn’t have to be so bad. Other countries with better leaders avoided the worst outcomes. America has suffered among the worst possible outcomes because, in Trump, America has a weak, dishonest leader, Redlener said.”

Dr. Redlener noted,

“This is criminal negligence. If [Trump] didn’t have this thing called sovereign immunity, I would see this as basis for being charged with criminal negligence.’”

The President Continues to Model Irresponsible Behavior

  Two days after Bob Woodward’s release of the audio of President Trump acknowledging that COVID-19 is airborne, transmitted through breathing, and is deadly, President Trump held a campaign rally in Michigan. There were thousands of people at the rally, with no social distancing and very few masks. CNN asked some of the attendees why they were not wearing masks. One said,

“Because there’s no COVID. It’s a fake pandemic, created to destroy the United States of America.”

Told that President Trump had admitted to Bob Woodward that there is a virus and it is deadly, the Trump supporter said,

“That’s his opinion. The truth is that the CDC says that only less than 10,000 people have died from COVID.”

Another said,

“I’m not afraid. The good Lord takes care of me. If I die, I die. We gotta get this country moving. What are we going to do? Wear masks and stay inside for another year? Where will that get us?”

Several days later, Trump held an indoor rally in Nevada, also without social distancing and with few masks. This was a violation of Nevada law, but Trump went ahead with the rally. The Washington Post warned that the rally could become a superspreader of the virus. It said that Trump’s,

“… appearance Sunday was not a misunderstanding but a deliberate defiance of rules intended to keep people safe, rules that were advanced by Mr. Trump’s own White House…. Mr. Trump’s rhetoric was also disconnected from the reality of a nation still staggering under the pandemic wave, with at least 191,000 people killed and 6.5 million infected. ‘We will very easily defeat the… virus,’ Mr. Trump sunnily declared. ‘That’s what’s happening. And we’re already making that turn. We’re making that round beautiful last turn, but it should have never happened.’ Mr. Trump plays a huckster’s game, thinking he can fool enough of the people all of the time. The clock is running out on this gambit. The nation is long past his misplaced bravado and happy talk. Behind it lies reckless abandon with people’s health and well-being.”

Failure to Pass the Leadership Test of a Lifetime

In their March 19 interview, Woodward named COVID-19 the leadership test of a lifetime, but Trump disagreed. And Trump continues to speak and act in ways that are contrary to what he told Woodward about the disease. And people continue to die. In an August 14 interview, when the death count was more than 168,000, Trump told Woodward, about his leadership of the COVID-19 response,

“But nothing more could have been done. Nothing more could have been done.”

  With two hundred thousand American fatalities so far, three quarters of which could have been prevented through decisive and consistent leadership, Trump’s handling of COVID-19 may be more than the failure of a leadership test of a lifetime. It may well be the worst handled crisis, and the most significant failure of leadership, in United States history.

New York, NY (July 30, 2020) – Last week, the fourth edition of Reputation Management: The Key to Successful Public Relations and Corporate Communication was released, providing much needed guidance for those charged with managing reputation in today’s environment.

Reputation Management is a how-to guide for students and professionals, as well as CEOs and other business leaders. This book provides a field-tested guide to core challenges in managing all the ways organizations engage their stakeholders to protect, maintain, and enhance reputation. When the first edition was published in 2006 it was the first book to take on reputation management in a systematic way.

“In Reputation Management, my co-author John Doorley and I strive to educate our readers on how to bolster their organization’s reputation,” said Logos Consulting Group president and co-author, Helio Fred Garcia. “By combining core principles, expertise across disciplines, and real-life examples from the field, Reputation Management is an invaluable resource for those tasked with building, protecting, and managing reputation.”

The fourth edition of Reputation Management features refreshed chapters from previous editions, as well as new information vital for communication professionals today, such as social media management techniques and communication in the age of globalization. This edition also features contributions from 36 leaders in the field, including from The Arthur W. Page Society, the International Communications Consultancy Organization, the PR Council, CVS Health, Edelman and Ketchum.

This edition also features scholarship from several members of the Logos team. In addition to four refreshed chapters by Garcia, this edition also features a refreshed chapter on corporate responsibility by Anthony Ewing and a new sidebar on social media and crisis by Holly Helstrom. Logos Institute Press authors authors Jeff Grimshaw, Tanya Mann, Lynne Viscio, and Jennifer Landis also contributed a chapter on organizational communication.

Co-author John Doorley is the former head of corporate communications at Merck and is now an associate professor of strategic communication at Elon University. He created and taught the first undergraduate course in reputation management, at Rutgers University in 2003, and the first graduate course on reputation management, at New York University in 2007. He served as academic director of New York University M.S. in Public Relations and Corporate Communication for seven years.

Co-author Helio Fred Garcia is an adjunct professor of management in the New York University Stern School of Business Executive MBA program, and an adjunct associate professor of management and communication at New York University’s School of Professional Studies, M.S. in Public Relations and Corporate Communication.  He is also an adjunct associate professor of professional development and leadership at Columbia University’s Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

The fourth edition of Reputation Management is available on Amazon here.

New York (June 30, 2020) – Today, author and communication professor Helio Fred Garcia released his new book Words on Fire: The Power of Incendiary Language and How to Confront It.

Words on Fire is about the power of communication to do great harm, and how civic leaders and engaged citizens can hold leaders accountable to prevent such harm.

“Words on Fire serves as a guiding light during this dark moment in our history,” said Gold Star Parent Khizr Khan. “During this time of pervasive rhetoric of hate and division in our blessed country, at a time when such original analyses and solutions are scarce, every citizen should read this book if we are to save our democracy.”

The book details President Donald Trump’s increasingly dangerous rhetoric, from his campaign through the first 2 ½ years in office, and how some lone wolves were motivated by that rhetoric to commit violence.

“In my teaching and research, I study patterns: patterns that help leaders enhance competitive advantage, build trust and loyalty, and change the world for the better. I also note patterns that predictably, even if unintentionally, lead to hurt, to harm, and to violence,” said Garcia. “In reflecting on the President’s language, I noticed a pattern: He was using the very same rhetorical techniques that had preceded previous mass murders, including genocides. I worried that, left unchecked, he would continue, with increasingly dire consequences.”

Words on Fire opens by documenting the history of incendiary rhetoric and identifies twelve forms of communication that historically precedes acts of violence up to and including genocide. President Trump uses all twelve forms. The book closes with a call to action: We can learn the lessons of today to prepare for tomorrow, to help civic leaders, engaged citizens, journalists, and public officials recognize the phenomenon and take steps to hold other leaders accountable in the future when they use such language.

About the Author

Garcia is the founder and president of the crisis management firm Logos Consulting Group. He teaches leadership, ethics, crisis management, and communication at New York University and Columbia University. For more than 35 years, he has personally coached more than 400 Fortune 500 CEOs, plus thousands of other high-profile individuals in other complex fields. He is the author of four prior books on communication, language, reputation, and trust.

Media Contact:

Maida Zheng

Logos Consulting Group, LLC

646-338-0422

mzheng@logosconsulting.net

New York (June 9, 2020) – The Chinese language edition of The Agony of Decision: Mental Readiness and Leadership in a Crisis was featured in the 311th issue of Sino-Manager (经理人 in Mandarin Chinese) magazine, a leading business publication in China.

This book is about how leaders and the organizations they lead can maintain reputation, trust, confidence, financial and operational strength, and competitive advantage in a crisis.

“This book is written by an expert with more than 30 years of crisis management experience,” wrote the Sino-Manager editor about the book. “It’s recommended for all government and non-government organizations, higher institutions, business managers, and public relations professionals.”

Helio Fred Garcia, the author, presents the lessons from this book to a multitude of audiences, ranging from one-on-one sessions, seminars, and interviews.

“It’s an honor to be recognized by one of the major business publications in China,” said Helio Fred Garcia, the author of the book and the president of Logos Consulting Group, “I hope it will help leaders in China navigate through difficult times.”

Sino-Manager is an elite business magazine intended to provide C-suite executives and senior managers with the latest business news and management solutions. Launched in 1989, the magazine is available both online and in a physical journal. The Agony of Decision was featured in the “CEO Bookcase” section, a monthly reading recommendation list.

-END-

For media INQUIRIES please reach out to Maida K. Zheng, mzheng@logosconsulting.net or at 315-368-4287.

 

About The Author

Helio Fred Garcia, known as the Global Crisis Advisor, has helped leaders build trust, inspire loyalty, and lead effectively for more than 40 years. He is a coach, counselor, teacher, writer, and speaker whose clients have included more than 400 CEOs of some of the largest and best-known companies and organizations in the world, in dozens of countries on six continents.

Versions of this post originally appeared on Daily Kos and CommPro.biz on May 25, 2020.

To me Memorial Day is personal.

And today I’m angry.

But I get ahead of myself.

West Point

I grew up in the 1960s and 70s at the United States Military Academy at West Point, where for 25 years my father was a civilian professor, and where he and my mom are buried.

My Dad was very close to his students. They often came by the house to get a bit of a refuge from the stresses of cadet life: take off the uniform, smoke a cigarette, have a beer. Talk literature and music and language. And my brothers and I often played with them: throwing around a football or playing catch with a baseball. They were young men, 18, 19, 20, 21 years old. They seemed so grown up to me.

At the time, 1967, I was ten and had only a vague idea of what the cadets were. I knew they were students and were about to become soldiers. I was taken by the spectacle of the parades, with cadets in grey uniforms and high-plumed hats carrying rifles or swords and marching in tight formation.

Cadets on the Parade Ground, USMA, West Point

Cadets at the time were not permitted to leave the post, nor to have visitors from off post. But when they graduated in June there was an influx of civilians, of friends and family to watch the graduation parade, to attend the graduation ceremony at the football stadium, and then to watch their cadet get married.

During June Week, as it is called, it seemed as if there was a different wedding every hour at the Most Holy Trinity Church, colloquially known as the Catholic Chapel. My two younger brothers and I were altar boys.

As it happens, we were the only family with three altar boys. And because serving a weekday wedding required getting pulled out of school, the church found it easier to use my brothers and me for all three-altar-boy events. The church got standing permission from our parents. Then, like clockwork, a military sedan driven by a soldier would pull up to the school, the principal would pull each of us out of class, and we’d be driven the three miles to the church. We’d serve as many weddings as were scheduled, and then either be driven back or walk home.

In June Week in 1967 my parents attended many of those weddings. Some of their favorite students were getting married. And we kids had gotten to know the grooms quite well. They also typically brought their brides and both sets of parents to the house to meet my folks the day before the wedding.

The typical career path for a newly-graduated cadet was this: Quick honeymoon, then report to Fort Benning, Georgia, for infantry training with their new platoons. Then deployment to Vietnam as second lieutenants commanding platoons of about 30 men.

Tet

Battle of Hue, 1968

In late January 1968, eighty thousand North Vietnamese and Viet Cong troops launched a coordinated attack on more than one hundred cities and towns in South Vietnam. It started on the lunar new year, known as Tet, and this attack was dubbed the Tet Offensive. Although it turned out to be a tactical failure by the North, it cost Americans dearly. In the first week alone the U.S. lost 2,547 killed in action, making it the deadliest week of the war. That year more than 16,500 American were killed in action, making 1968 the deadliest year of the war.

Many of those killed were new second lieutenants from West Point.

Starting in mid-February and continuing throughout the year, the green military sedan would pull into the school parking lot, and my brothers and I would depart to serve at a funeral, which also requires three altar boys. As often as not, we recognized the families. We had served their weddings the prior June.

The funeral took two parts: a funeral mass, and then a formal burial at the West Point Cemetery, about a mile from the Church. There was a funeral procession, including muffled drums, bugles, and a part of the West Point Band, on the route between the church and the cemetery.

As the senior altar boy I led the procession, carrying a large crucifix as if it was a flag. Behind me my brothers walked side by side; one carrying a censer filled with smoking incense, the other a silver pitcher of holy water. The priest would later use these at the graveside, waving the censer to diffuse the smoke from the incense and sprinkling holy water on the coffin. Then the honor guard, flag bearers, the hearse with lights on, and then the long line of cars, also with their lights on.

Along the route of the procession we marched in solemn slow steps, accompanied by the rolling beat of the muffled drums, echoing out continuous four-beat rolls: rrr-rrr-rrts (pause), rrr-rrr-rrts (pause)… a full mile to the cemetery.

At the cemetery, after the priest had performed his rites, the military took over. Each funeral was the same. First, a column of seven soldiers fired a three-volley 21-gun salute. Then a bugler some 100 feet away played Taps. Then the honor guard, standing around the coffin, ceremonially lifted the American flag, folded it in half lengthwise, and then diagonally twelve times, making a tight triangle with the blue field and white stars facing up.

L to R, My brother Chuck, not yet an altar boy, Tom, and me.

A member of the honor guard, in dress blue uniform, then walked to the widow or parent, knelt, bowed his head, and holding the flag between open white-gloved hands softly said, “This flag is presented on behalf of a grateful nation and the United States Army as a token of appreciation for your loved one’s honorable and faithful service. God bless you and this family, and God bless the United States of America.”

For me the Vietnam War was personal. I experienced the war not only on TV, not only, in the post-Tet coverage, when President Johnson announced that he would neither seek nor accept the nomination of his party to run for president again. I experienced the war through the tears of widows holding newborn babies, and the widows and Gold-Star parents of my Dad’s students, clutching blue triangles with white stars, holding back tears at the cemetery.

Today

Vietnam news coverage featured what was known as the Five-O’clock Follies; the nightly news briefing in Saigon where military leaders spewed nonsense about how we were winning the war. One Associated Press reporter at the time called it “the longest-playing tragicomedy in Southeast Asia’s theater of the absurd.”

Today we have the same, where the President spews absurdities about how he’s winning the war on COVID-19. He rambles about injecting disinfectants and promotes a dangerous and unapproved drug. He calls for houses of worship to open even as his public health experts argue that it’s still dangerous for large groups to gather.

This weekend we are approaching the same number of American fatalities as we experienced in the Vietnam and Korean wars combined. But we have suffered these losses in two months rather than in 25 years. The New York Times Sunday devoted its entire front page to the names and information of one thousand of them. That’s merely one percent of the fatalities so far. It just happens to fall on Memorial Day Weekend.

More relevant, we have a president who dishonors those who wear the uniform.

He viciously attacks Gold-Star families.

Trump called for a “total and complete ban” of Muslims entering the United States. Five thousand Muslims serve in uniform; we are fighting next to Muslim allies in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and elsewhere.

He calls immigrants “animals” and an invasion. Today 65,000 immigrants serve in the U.S. military, putting themselves on the line for their adoptive country. That’s about five percent of all who wear the uniform. More than 20,000 of them are not U.S. citizens.

Some never will be. Military Times reported in 2018 on a U.S. Government Accountability Office report:

“Over the past couple of years, stories of non-citizen veterans being deported have made major headlines. As it turns out, there is a process in place that provides extra consideration for those immigration cases, but federal officials haven’t been following it.”  A review of the GAO report and others suggest members of the military, before and after discharge, face increasing risk of deportation, naturalization denials and slowdowns, and/or expulsion from the military due to their immigration status under the Trump administration.

Duty, Honor, Country

U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Cody W. Torkelson

So on this memorial day, my thoughts are with the families of those whose weddings and funerals my brothers and I participated in. And with all Gold-Star families.

And with one family in particular: Khizr and Ghazala Khan, immigrants from Pakistan, whose son gave the last full measure of his devotion. Captain Humayun Khan, who was Muslim and an immigrant, served in the U.S. Army in Iraq in 2004. He saw a suspicious car approaching a guard post. He put himself between his troops and two suicide bombers. He and the bombers were killed in the explosion. His troops were saved. He was posthumously awarded a Bronze Star Medal and a Purple Heart. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery. True American hero.

NEW YORK (May 13, 2020) — As the nation begins implementing plans to reopen, Logos Consulting Group will continue practicing social distancing while also providing the personal touch our clients expect.

“Connecting closely with clients is and always will be our highest priority, in whatever form that takes,” said Helio Fred Garcia, president of Logos Consulting Group. “These are some of the hardest times for many leaders and organizations, which is why it is more important than ever before for us to be available.”

Logos Consulting Group helps leaders and their organizations manage choices when stakes are high, communicate effectively when trust is on the line, and strengthen leadership skills to inspire action.

“We have been advising institutions and their leaders directly in the midst of COVID-19,” added Garcia. “Right now, we’re providing immediate counsel to clients in both our crisis management and crisis communication practice, as well as virtual coaching for multiple leadership levels and designated spokespeople.”

Logos Consulting Group has also been studying trends on leadership in COVID-19 and has written and spoken extensively about these findings. Logos associates have spoken publicly at a variety of webinars, virtual conferences, and coaching sessions including the Defense Innovation Network, Public Relations Society of America, Professional Speechwriters Association/Executive Communication Council, and others to include events for our clients. Topics have included best practices in communication during COVID-19, maintaining powerful presence in a remote environment, effective social media messaging, and more.

“This is not the end of the crisis, it is the end of the beginning,” said Garcia. “We are not slowing down, and if anything, we are making ourselves more available than ever before by guiding our clients through this crisis.”

To explore how Logos Consulting Group can help you, contact us via email here or via our website here.

 

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

Global Crisis Advisor and President of Logos Consulting Group, Helio Fred Garcia, on Meat Processing Crisis:

“Corporate Negligence”

NEW YORK (May 7, 2020) – “The meat processing crisis is an example of leaders knowingly putting their people at risk,” said Helio Fred Garcia, Global Crisis Advisor and President of Logos Consulting Group. “This is a combined failure of public policy and business leadership. The nation and businesses need to do better.”

For media personnel interested in interviewing or featuring Helio Fred Garcia as a crisis expert commentator, please reach out to Maida K. Zheng, mzheng@logosconsulting.net or at 315-368-4287.

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Helio Fred Garcia, known as the Global Crisis Advisor, has helped leaders build trust, inspire loyalty, and lead effectively for more than 40 years. He is a coach, counselor, teacher, writer, and speaker whose clients have included more than 400 CEOs of some of the largest and best-known companies and organizations in the world, in dozens of countries on six continents.

We focus on our clients and tailor our services to their needs.

Learn more at www.logosconsulting.net.

*Featured photo source: https://www.beefmagazine.com/livestock/covid-19-crisis-forces-partial-closure-jbs-souderton-plant*

This post was originally published in the Daily Kos, a progressive political opinion site. This guest column was adapted from material in my forthcoming book, Words on Fire: The Power of Incendiary Language and How to Confront it.

Almost exactly a month ago, I raised the alarm about the increase in incivility against Asians and Asian Americans, provoked in part by President Trump’s use of “China Virus” or “Chinese Virus” to describe COVID-19. The FBI has since warned that a wave of hate crimes against people perceived to be Asian or Asian-American is under way.

Now, this incivility has turned towards our healthcare workers and government officials.

It began nearly two weeks ago, as people began protesting outside of government buildings demanding that states reopen. Resentment has been building about stay-at-home orders since early March, encouraged by conservative media and some government officials – including President Trump.

On April 16, Trump announced new guidelines from his administration on how states should lift stay-in-place orders to restart the economy, titled “Opening Up America Again.”

“Based on the latest data, our team of experts now agrees that we can begin the next front in our war, which we’re calling, “Opening Up America Again.” And that’s what we’re doing: We’re opening up our country.  And we have to do that.  America wants to be open, and Americans want to be open. As I have said for some time now, a national shutdown is not a sustainable long-term solution.  To preserve the health of our citizens, we must also preserve the health and functioning of our economy.”

The guidelines outline a phased process that governors would lead based on their specific circumstances. This came days after Trump claimed he had “ultimate authority” to reopen states, as governors across the east and west coasts vowed to not reopen their states until the pandemic subsides.

 

Incendiary Tweets

The next day, Trump flipped his script. Several small protests had popped up across the country against the stay-at-home orders. That morning, Fox News aired a segment about a group called “Liberate Minnesota,” which planned to protest the state’s stay-at-home order outside of the governor’s house.

Minutes later, Trump tweeted,

“LIBERATE MINNESOTA!” followed by “LIBERATE MICHIGAN!” and “LIBERATE VIRGINA, and save your great 2nd amendment. It is under siege!”

This apparent endorsement of the protests, in direct violation of public health guidelines issued by Trump’s own administration, was seen by some as a signal. Far-right extremists believed Trump’s tweets were a call for armed conflict, an event referred to as “the boogaloo.” The term “Boogaloo,” shorthand for “Civil War 2: Electric Boogaloo,” had been documented in February of this year as a new and growing movement of far-right extremists calling for a new Civil War. Hours after the president’s “Liberate” tweets, more than 1,000 tweets were posted using the term “Boogaloo.”

And, in fact, the 2nd Amendment was not under attack by any governmental or political leader. But protesters took the cue and began showing up in public heavily armed, including with semi-automatic assault weapons.

Washington State Governor Jay Inslee immediately recognized the threat posed by Trump’s tweets:

“The president’s statements this morning encourage illegal and dangerous acts. He is putting millions of people in danger of contracting COVID-19. His unhinged rantings and calls for people to “liberate” states could also lead to violence. We’ve seen it before.”

Inslee continued:

“The president is fomenting domestic rebellion and spreading lies even while his own administration says the virus is real and is deadly, and that we have a long way to go before restrictions can be lifted.”

Over the next several days, anti-lockdown protests spread across the country, with large crowds gathering outside of government buildings and governors’ homes, many without wearing masks and bearing homemade signs such as “COVID-19 is a lie” and “Social distancing = communism.” Many protestors wore MAGA hats. Some protestors carried weapons, flew Nazi and confederate flags, and shouted phrases typically heard during Trump rallies.

 

Attacking Healthcare Heroes

And then the vitriol turned to healthcare workers. As the anti-lockdown protests continued, healthcare workers began counter-protesting on their days off across the country, appearing in scrubs and masks in defiance of those claiming the virus isn’t real. Anti-lockdown protestors began harassing these healthcare workers, shouting insults like “shame”, “traitors”, and “fake nurses.”

Lauren Leander, an ICU nurse in Arizona, described her interactions with protestors as she and her colleagues stood silently in scrubs and masks at an anti-quarantine protest in Phoenix:

“It was heated, people were very fired up about what they had to say… A lot of the top comments we got were about us being fake nurses, there was a huge majority of them that still believe this virus is fake, that it’s a hoax and not real at all. They were convinced that we’re fake nurses and that’s why we weren’t talking.”

Even politicians have propagated this language, questioning the legitimacy of the health workers. Who were counter-protesting. Former Arizona state senator, Dr. Kelli Ward, tweeted on April 21,

“EVEN IF these “spontaneously” appearing ppl at protests against govt overreach (sporting the same outfits, postures, & facial expressions) ARE involved in healthcare – when they appeared at rallies, they were actors playing parts. #Propaganda #FakeOutrage”.

Meanwhile, Trump continued passively supporting the protests.

 

Deflecting Responsibility

In Words on Fire I document a pattern Trump uses when asked to denounce people who commit or threaten violence in the wake of  Trump’s rhetoric. Trump’s response typically includes some or all the four elements below.

Deflect. He does this in several ways. He ignores the call to denounce. He changes the subject. He professes ignorance about the event. He characterizes the event differently. Sometimes he expresses sympathy for victims while not addressing the event that caused them to be become victims.

Diminish. If pressed he diminishes the significance of the event or attempts to create equivalence between the event and more benign topics.

Denounce. After an interval, sometimes of hours, but often of days, Trump issues a written denunciation or reads a statement denouncing the event or person, often in a tone of rote recitation.

Revert. Not long after the denunciation, Trump reverts to his earlier language and behavior, as if his denunciation never happened. This is a constant; it happens after every denunciation.

On April 20, President Trump was asked specifically about whether he was worried that his words may incite violence. It led to this exchange:

Q    You know, these — you referred to these protests earlier.  You know, some of them are getting pretty intense and were actually getting some death threats to some governors who are reluctant to reopen.

He went to Step 1, Deflect:

THE PRESIDENT:  You are, in the media?

Q    No, the governors are getting death threats.  You know, governors of Kentucky, Michigan, Virginia.  They’re getting increased level of death threats.  And are you concerned that your talk about liberation and the Second Amendment and all this stuff —

THE PRESIDENT:  No.  No, no.

Q    — are you inciting violence among a few people who are (inaudible)?

THE PRESIDENT:  I’ve seen the people.  I’ve seen interviews of the people.  These are great people.  Look, they want to get — they call it “cabin fever.”  You’ve heard the term.  They’ve got cabin fever.  They want to get back.  They want their life back.  Their life was taken away from them…

Q    Are worried about violence though?  I mean, some of them (inaudible) threats at them.

He then went to Step 2: Diminish:

THE PRESIDENT:  I am not.  No, I’m not.  I think these people are — I’ve never seen so many American flags.  I mean, I’m seeing the same thing that you’re seeing.  I don’t see it any differently.

Q    There are Nazi flags out there too.

THE PRESIDENT:  They are who?

Q    Nazis flags.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, that I totally would say, “No way.”  But I’ve seen — I didn’t see that.  I see all — of course, I’m sure the news plays that up.  I’ve seen American flags all over the place.  I have never seen so many American flags at a rally as I have at these rallies.  These people love our country.  They want to get back to work.

He has yet to denounce the protestors, despite the fact that the majority of Americans are more concerned about states reopening too quickly than restarting the economy. Why is that?

 

Toxic Spokesman

Trump has played to this base before, since the very beginning of his first presidential campaign. He has frequently used language recognized by white supremacists and white nationalists.

And although Trump may not directly share their views, we know he is not averse to working with people who share the ideology of the protestors.

And he surrounds himself with people who are similarly-disposed.

On April 23, reports came out the Trump’s newly appointed Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs at the Department of Health and Human Services, Michael Caputo, had deleted more than a thousand tweets, including tweets from March that included racists and derogatory comments about Chinese people, the very rhetoric that caused the wave of hate crimes the FBI warned about.

Caputo’s tweets also claimed that Democrats were rooting for the virus to kill thousands of people, and conspiracy theories about how the virus was a hoax to hurt Trump.

This man will now be the chief spokesman for America’s healthcare infrastructure.

 

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We’ve seen the effects of Trump’s incendiary rhetoric before. We know the predictable consequences of that rhetoric. If Trump continues to use language that encourages people to violence, eventually someone will answer his call.