From February 28 to March 2, SeaWorld's Facebook history is blank.
It took only a week after Brancheau's tragic death for SeaWorld's PR team to organize a concerted effort to refocus the park's image.
Out of the 48 posts on SeaWorld's Facebook page between March 3 and April 10, a clear divide in numbers reveals the story that SeaWorld wanted to tell about itself after the tragedy.
- 16 posts on SeaWorld's conservation efforts
- 15 vaguely positive posts about SeaWorld (new attractions, celebrities and stuff like this)
Obviously SeaWorld would have hesitated to post too many stories about releasing animals back into the wild. The money is in the captive animals, and if all the animals were eventually released into the wild, what "attractions" would be left at the park?
Why did SeaWorld only write three posts about Tilikum and Dawn during this time? The park wanted to shift the conversation from tragedy to anything else. The debates about what to do with this captive animal and the inherent problem with captivity would most likely not end in SeaWorld's favor. Rather than participating in the debate, SeaWorld controlled the 2010 Facebook debates by silencing them.
SeaWorld silences public debate.
SeaWorld's efforts to dodge criticism didn't stop in April 2010. They continued after the release of "Blackfish," and they continue today.
The PR team at SeaWorld might believe that the Facebook page is successful: Today it still posts the same type of promotional poppycock that it did five years ago. Here's a post from Friday with another NASCAR driver posing with an animal.
Public awareness about the trauma experienced by orcas in captivity is on the rise. Unfortunately for SeaWorld and amusement parks like it, an informed public threatens their revenue and very existence. When tragedy strikes, SeaWorld does its best to steer the conversation where it wants, and when the conversation gets out of control, SeaWorld will silence it.