Brand Pistorius’ strategy for getting their boy off this inconvenient murder rap seems to be to have him play the role of a penitent mourner in the hope that public opinion will swing their way and with it, the judge.
Hence today’s announcement on Oscar Pistorius: Official Website of The Blade Runner by Vuma Reputation Management (VRM) that that very evening, the Pistorius family would hold a private memorial service to commemorate the life of Reeva Steenkamp.
They’re not quite so crass as to advertise this private event without anticipating the obvious question (‘if it’s private, why make it public?’). Their hand is forced, you see, because some unscrupulous person has leaked news to the media. So they’ve no choice but to advertise it a lot more and make a plea to the media (as if VRM is not ‘media’) to please respect the privacy of the Pistorius family tonight.
Now who exactly would ‘leak’ information of this very private and sensitive family event? And to which ‘media’? Couldn’t VRM have just said nothing, or even denied the truth of the leak? Of course, VRM knows that it would be vulgar and impolite to ask those questions of these people at this time.
Let’s have a look at this announcement more closely (click to enlarge):
It is Oscar who will ‘hold a private memorial service for Reeva Steenkamp’.
It is Oscar who ‘specifically requested the memorial service as he continues to grieve and remains in deep mourning for the loss of his partner Reeva’.
Note that his girlfriend of a matter of months becomes his ‘partner’. Anyone without prior knowledge reading this might easily conclude that Pistorius is an innocent and grieving husband whose wife has been cruelly murdered by a stranger, rather than the man who killed her. The plea to ‘please respect their privacy’ gives the impression that they are the injured party.
Whatever they do in private is their business, but when they choose to manipulate public perceptions like this it’s our business.
It’s beyond outrageous. It’s reputation management.
It mocks the feelings of the Steenkamp family, while claiming to respect them.
Shashi Naidoo, a friend of Steenkamp, said: “If you wanted to keep a memorial service private, you would not put out a press release. I think this is a sad attempt to alter public perception.” (cited in The Guardian, ‘Pistorius holds private memorial service to honour Reeva Steenkamp: Paralympic star accused of trying to massage public perceptions as plans for service are ‘leaked’ in advance to the media.)
It mocks the legal system, while claiming to respect it. The truth of what happened that evening is a matter for the trial and the judge, not the Pistorius family and Vuma Reputation Management—who do not know.
Finally, this strategy also appeals to a higher power. This is a penitent performance. Note his body language in this photograph. (Where have we seen that before?)
But will it work?