In Defense of Tact: A Reply to Strong

I have come to be at peace with the way anonymous naysayers treat the Internet as some kind of unending playground. So-called Internet "trolls" roam comment boards trashing articles in what I can only assume is a desperate outcry of boredom, something to fill the void between flash games and checking their email for the 1000th time. So, I was shocked when Michael Strong, an author (with a semi-professional profile pic) decided to slander Danielle Sacks' feature on John Mackey. Normally, I would ignore this kind of silliness, but he then used my comment as a soap-box for more half-baked ranting. Thus, I decided to reply.

To bring readers briefly up to speed, Danielle did a piece on John Mackey, CEO of Wholefoods, and his transformation from hippy to libertarian social entrepreneur. Mr. Strong, a co-author of Mackey's, railed against Danielle's article, and then responded to a comment I made as an excuse to further complain about not getting his way (I've excluded them from the post for the sake of brevity—and because they're not particularly insightful). Strong's main issue was that Danielle didn't profile Mackey's nuanced philosophical ideas.

But, there is a good reason: Fast Company is a business magazine, not an academic journal. Had the article been entitled "A 5-part essay on a CEO's social philosophy," I wouldn't have read it. And, to be clear, I'm doing my doctoral research in this area. I'm so interested in democratic capitalism, I've subjected myself to 7-years of voluntary servitude at the hands of sadistic academic overlords.

I read Fast Company for the latest trends in edgy, yet unmistakably practical business models. There's an entire underworld of dewy-eyed social visionaries who never see the light of day. Fast Company is unique in giving a platform to the tip of this iceberg, those that have molded their daydreams into a workable and inspiring profit model. Were I Mr. Strong, I'd be thrilled that my co-author was front page featured. And, had Mr. Strong a humble and open mind, he might have learned a new way to explain his ideas to a different business demographic.

Moreover, I have noticed that the biggest names in social entrepreneurship are relentless in building bridges (not burning them down with catty comments). At conferences, I've seen celebrities hand out person emails to relatively no-name participants, happy to help a grass-roots cause. They know while capitalism isn't inherently opposed charitableness, it certainly requires the collaboration of every available hand. Were Mr. Strong strategic in his comments, he might have said, "Danielle, thanks for giving me and Mackey a platform. We have also articulated a more thorough philosophical stance in a book. Here's a link to a review for more interested readers." and everyone would have still been friends. Unfortunately, as his comments stand, they turn readers off to both Fast Company and his own work.

In the words of the Grateful Dead, "Ain't no time to hate. Barely time to wait." Mr. Strong, tact would have been the better way to go,
Gregory Ferenstein

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