Are we so shallow that our perception will change with a kinder, gentler picture? Missouri professor Melissa Click hopes so.
Click is trying very hard to rehabilitate her reputation following the disastrous optics of her blocking access to a student photographer at Missouri, then calling for muscle to enforce her command. The video went viral, and with it, her reputation.
Her rationalization sounds remarkably familiar.
“When I watch it, I am embarrassed and sorry,” she said in a telephone interview. “I see someone dealing with a high-stress situation who gets flustered. I see a moment where I feel like I’m not representing my best self, and I see somebody who’s trying to do her best to help marginalized students.
“I try to remember that’s only one moment of a full day, and only one moment in a 12-year career,” she said.
There is a place for people who explain away their worst moment that way. It’s called prison. The place is lousy with people who excuse the “one moment” when they pulled the trigger, as opposed to all the moments when they didn’t.
Of course, Click didn’t pull a trigger. And she’s not in prison, although she has suffered some ridiculously dubious and inexplicably opportunistic involvement with the legal system. But her name, her face, will not be soon forgotten.
Attempts by ordinary people to recover their reputations after spectacular downward spirals as public villains du jour is an emerging art form and business opportunity. Status Labs has worked pro bono to arrange Ms. Click’s interviews and distribute professional head shots to replace the more commonly known image of her: a blurry, mid-yell frame from the YouTube video.
Reputation management? Is that a thing?
“When she stays silent, everyone assumes that she was guilty of something, and the vacuum gets filled by, often times, trolls, detractors and people who dislike her,” said Darius Fisher, the president of Status Labs.
And sometimes, the vacuum gets filled by people who have fully legitimate, absolutely accurate assessments of the wrong committed by the person being shamed. Sorry, Darius, but you don’t get to play spinmeister without someone calling bullshit.
Should Melissa Click’s 15 minutes of infamy be over already? It would be easier to say so if she stopped trying to lie her way out of what she did wrong, if she showed some real grasp of why she doesn’t get to indulge her feelings for free. And of course, it wasn’t just this time. Lying doesn’t help, Click. Serial lying, even less so.
“I wasn’t prepared for that interaction,” she said, adding that she wished she had taken the time to “respectfully converse” with the student.
“I certainly didn’t mean what I said to be a call for violence,” she said.
Nobody ever does. After they’ve gotten caught. And shamed.
The new picture of Melissa Click is far more fetching than the old one. Do you really think it will work? Even if Click’s 15 minutes are over, will we think of her in the new picture or the old one? No reputation management guy is going to save you from yourself, Click.