Recently, the producers, and writer of the HBO dramedy, "Girls", went on the offensive, responding to one question that became the shot heard round the world in the conversation about femininity, and power in America. A reporter asked the writer, who is also the show's star, why her character was always so naked. The implication, of course, is that there is no reason to subject audiences to an "imperfect" body. The firestorm that followed is an example of what can happen when a question touches several hot buttons all at the same time.
The ramifications are instructive to those willing to learn about the law of unintended consequences. One question was asked, an inquiry not phrased to offend, but loaded with nuance. Suddenly, sparks were flying. At one point, the interview could not progress because one of the producers was so livid about the previous question. The kerfluffle that followed filled countless blogs, and entertainment websites with exactly the sort of divisive comment fodder that keeps people coming back for more.
Why did this happen, and what can you learn? When someone has an agenda, they will take every opportunity you give them to further that agenda. The writer of "Girls" clearly wants to challenge societal "norms." She is doing so blatantly. The question offered the perfect stepping off point to get that conversation going. The lesson here is not that the strategy was wrong, or dishonest. It was neither. Instead, it was very successful.
Those with an agenda will take the message string away from you when they can. You can either plan to be a part of it or do what you can to maintain control of the message. The reporter in question should have been aware of what would happen if he took the bait. Maybe he was. Maybe not.
However, if you don't want to become an unwitting springboard for another message or messenger, you should carefully choose your messages in order to get the answers you want without ceding control of the conversation to someone else.