All publicity is good publicity.
The old adage is very true. Notoriety and even criminality can actually enhance someone’s public profile.
Except in the case of paedophilia.
A lesson now being learned by Max Clifford, who is eating prison food today because he didn’t learn it.
I am not referring so much to his crimes as to the appalling mismanagement of his own publicity during his trial. For a man so astute about the media and public perceptions, he spectacularly failed to identify and impress his true target audience – the judge who sentenced him to eight years in prison. That the sentence was so severe due to Clifford’s antics and arrogance before a watching world was not even hidden by the judge.
There is no doubt that Max Clifford was very good at his job. But it is in his astonishing failure and fall from grace that we can learn the most from him.
Clifford’s blind spot was the perception of his own profile. His ability to control and manipulate media led him to fall into the trap of thinking he could use this power in a courtroom setting. Clifford failed to see his strategy of trivialising the charges against him was an epic fail. His familiarity with the media, which led to his cringe-worthy mimicking of a Sky reporter, contributed to his harsh sentence.
I didn’t follow the trial very closely so I don’t know whether to conclude that Max Clifford is just a sleaze rather than a serial paedophile. As I have noted elsewhere, there is a difference and I am not sure Operation Yewtree manages to make the distinction very well. But that is not the purpose of this article.
The important thing I want to focus in on for my readers is that blind spots are dangerous, particularly in relation to how we are perceived by others.
Blind spots often stem from being over-confident in a particular area of expertise. To use a football analogy, when a successful team thinks all they have to do is turn up, they often get humbled by a lesser side who are more hungry and prepared to work hard to win. In these cases, the better team is blinded by its own track record of success. In football, victory must be earned.
So success can blind us to what needs to be done. And sometimes what needs to be done is different than what we have done before. In Max Clifford’s case, coming across as the sneering manipulator of Britain’s media pack was never going to bode well for him. A different approach might not have seen a different verdict but may have helped secure a much more lenient sentence.
In Britain we like to see the mighty fallen. Very often that is because the mighty reek of pride and arrogance. Pride is the ultimate blind spot. Thinking more of ourselves than we should is a slippery road to ruin. As the Scripture says, Pride comes before destruction, and an arrogant spirit before a fall. If you see a proud man you will see ruin come after him.
People don’t like hearing stuff like that, especially people who have achieved something in life. However, we are not talking about pride as healthy self-esteem but as arrogance and conceit.
It is a great tragedy that many have come to associate humility with things like failure, lack of achievement and worthlessness. Nothing could be further from the truth; indeed, Scripture again says otherwise, as do the countless examples of humble people who succeed in life.
The proud person is blinded but those who are humble have no need to defend themselves from what they don’t see. A humble man or woman won’t deny or defend their own faults.
All of this might seem a bit like sermonizing but a little reminder we shouldn’t be blinded – particularly by pride – might keep us out of trouble. Or even jail.
Just ask Max Clifford.