September 26, 2020

The Niche

Knoepfler lab stem cell blog

Lessons from the Komen Fiasco and Propaganda Wars

Komen FoundationThe Komen foundation has had a rough couple weeks, huh?

First, it said it would not longer provide support to Planned Parenthood under pressure from anti-choice extremists, some of whom appear to have infiltrated Komen itself.

Predictably, there was a firestorm of criticism that has damaged Komen and arguably may have actually been quite helpful to Planned Parenthood.

Then Komen issued an apology and said it might keep funding Planned Parenthood, maybe for a while, kinda…or maybe not. The apology smells like pure PR rather than actual change.

Update: Komen VP leaves & ends up, surprise, at Fox News….no politics involved at Komen, huh?

What went wrong with Komen and what can we learn from this fiasco?

1) Any organization with a mission to help people can go bad. Why? In the case of Komen and also other groups, what seems to happen is that the organization itself becomes more important to the leadership than their mission. The moment that that happens, the organization has gone over to the dark side. It is more interested in promoting the organization for the organization’s sake than in truly promoting its mission. That sounds like propaganda to me.

2) Commercialization of an advocacy group can be highly corrupting and lead to propaganda. Part of what has gone wrong with Komen is that they are not only too focused on themselves rather than their mission, but also they have become too focused on obtaining money from large corporations with their own agendas. With Komen, they and their pink ribbons were exploited by large companies for advertising benefits. The basic idea here is a huge company gives Komen large wads of cash in exchange for rubbing some of Komen’s good reputation as a breast cancer organization off on their corporate image. What Komen appears not to have realized is that when it does this some of the corporation’s characteristics also rub back on it leaving a stain of greed. An example of this is Komen suing other groups for supposedly encroaching on its cherished pink ribbon or certain slogans that Komen defends so angrily that they could be seen as forms of propaganda not for breast cancer research but for Komen itself. 

3) When a research foundation spends most of its money on something besides research, you know something has gone fundamentally wrong. The best organizations that promote real change in the world spend most of their dollars not on the organization itself. Komen arguably has been drifting to the dark side in this area. It may come as a shock to most people including those who have participated in Komen events, worn pink ribbons, or donated money to Komen, that reportedly only 25% of their money goes to research.

4) When the leadership of a foundation uses it to advance religious or moral causes unrelated to its mission, its mission is weakened. Part of Komen’s problem appears to be its leadership’s vision. There is no doubt that Komen has done a lot of good in the battle against breast cancer, but its leadership seems to have gone astray, using the foundation as a tool to advance anti-choice and now strangely anti-stem cell causes. So I would say Komen is not so much influenced by extremist groups, but internally its leadership leans that way itself and they have let their own personal moral beliefs cloud their vision.

 

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