What to do with unwanted attention

My friend Liz found herself in the middle of a storm last week. A longtime fan of AnswerBitch on Facebook, she posed the question, “Does anyone really care what celebrities think about a stupid Arizona law?”

She thought nothing of it. The editors at AnswerBitch were in a rut for entertainment questions, and Liz proposed it only half-seriously. She did not expect them to take her question and run with it. But they did.

I don’t think that Liz thought herself about the reaction such a question would get coming from a person with a distinctively Latino name.

She definitely knows now. She wound up taking down her blog, hiding her gmail address and facebook status and by the time she contacted my oblivious self she sounded just about ready to crawl under her desk. I found her asking to talk to me about it vaguely ironic: here she was, wanting the attention to stop, while I’ve spent the last five years working my butt off to raise my professional profile. Perhaps asking me how to make it stop is more of an appropriate question than I care to admit to myself.

I don’t think Liz’s reputation is damaged from this, although the number of entertainment blogs that picked it up explains a lot about the entertainment journalism industry (that they will do anything to avoid writing their own story.) She did mention that she was identified as various types of “experts” that she is not. She’s a computer science professional at a decent university. She is not an immigration expert, political writer or anything else of the sort. She is also in the process of attempting entirely legal immigration to the United States, and she happens to be one of the rare immigrants coming not out of greed and/or legitimate need for opportunity ((I do not blame illegal immigrants for the social ills in our country, but I do think some of them come here for the wrong reasons and amplify their mistake by doing so illegally)) but out of a genuine appreciation for the underpinnings of our government and  surprisingly non-homogenous culture. The US actually needs people with brains like hers.

Since there’s no stuffing the cat back in the bag – her real name was used – I recommended she use this as a starter for blogging her citizenship process. She’s already taken one step by saying no to marrying her US citizen boyfriend, which is what her immigration lawyer recommended. She can also educate and inform people who want to come here on legitimate grounds on how to do it the right way.

This is one case where taking the unwanted attention and turning it towards something you want attention on might work. However, I still don’t know what I’d say if talking to a senator caught with his pants down. “Put that away and go apologize to your wife?”