Posted by Amanda Chapel
Far fetched? Futile? Think again. Corporations are waking up to a freakin' nightmare and are just now thinking of how to fight back.
Here... just in the last couple weeks, look at these headlines. Add it up. This: Digg's Mob Rules; plus this: Copyright Infringement Woes Coming Home to Roost for YouTube; plus this: Rampant Trademark Infringement in Second Life Costs Millions Yearly, Undermines Future Enforcement; equals this: Old media turns combative against new media. Hello!
How did we get here? I mean, this stuff isn't that hard. Someone in your house in the middle of the night, you pump the shotgun once and ask them "can I help you?" Rampant shoplifting at the mall, you hire a couple extra security guards and strap 38s to their hips. The alarm goes off with someone trespassing on the estate... you release the hounds!! Pretty simple actually. But for some reason, we haven't. Why is that; and what do we do now?
THEORIES RE: RELUCTANCE
How did we get here? There are four main reasons:
1. There's an internal fear that the tech savvy twits will sabotage the system. Used to be not long ago, that the geek was some up-all-night bug-eyed meth freak we kept locked up in the computer room to keep the mainframe running for accounting. But as computers became more ubiquitous in business, technically inept douche-bag bosses more and more turned to rely on the twits. Now, as the DBs were schooled in ball massage as well as squeeze tactics, they, of course, deferred more and more to the twits expertise. Now the general consensus is that the twits have the douche bags by the proverbial short hairs. Ooo.
2. Then there's Jarvis' 6 million pitchfork and torch-bearing mobsters ready to storm castle Dell. Fear of that and what that might rain down upon them has most CEOs in low-profile mode, a few quivering under their desks.
3. Then there's today's f-ed up societal deference to celebrity. Jarvis, Scoble, Rubel... Rosie, Madonna, Paris... same difference. Excuse me but Jeff's a former TV critic for Christ's sake. And if it weren't for the total fad that is blogging, Rubel would be workin' at Sharper Image and Scoble would be the night-shift manager at a Big Boy. Sad fact is, Paris enthralls the nation for a traffic violation; and Rosie on Time's "100 most influential people" list. It's sick, it's sad, but as we moved more toward a populace society, it's also reality. (FYI: Sanjaya is ranked 3rd on Time's list.)
4. Last but not least, PR. We've been blowing up this blog balloon for a few years now. Word is Edelman has sunk close to a million bucks into window dressing for its "Me2Revolution". And now they've got the rest of the business huffing and seeing dollar signs, too. According to PRWeak's Keith O'Brien, "Once a nice add-on, digital prowess is now key to an agency's capabilities." Fleishman-Hillard CEO David Senay recently put it, "The digital world is our new oxygen." Oxygen? That's a tell. It's air for sure. Any metrics to actually prove whether there's any return on a client's investment? No. All we've done is put the fake science of counting clips on steroids. And the sad part is, as media is fragmenting and making the ad spend less impactful, business is biting on the new PR lure. Remember the PR adage: "perception is reality." All the way to the bank.
SO WHAT DO THEY WANT?
Okay, putting aside for a moment the mistake of negotiating with terrorists or malignant renegade twits (MRTs), could we come to terms? What do they want? Here, aside from free WIFI, the demands of the MRTs are pretty straight forward:
1. Cede corporate control to "customers". Well, actually, it's anyone with a PC and a Web connection. Certainly, the cede control part needs to be determined. Apparently, Jarvis wants Michael Dell to call him so Jeff can tell him how to run his business. Most others just want to show up to work late; they'd like a foosball table; and the company kitchen fridge stocked with Red Bull.
2. End copyright and trademark law. That's pretty self explanatory. To constantly worry about stealing stuff on the Internet is a burden.
3. Make it economically feasible for them to play; do their inane mashups; and see their buddies at conferences. This is pretty simple. See, all the twits just want to have the Life of Scoble. Obviously, he eats well and often; he's got that house in Half Moon Bay; and all he's got to do is attend conferences and talk about blogging. How cool is that? Nice gig if you can get it. It's "money for nothing and chicks for free."
4. Pay the PR guys handsomely to blast shit out into the ethersphere like they did with press releases (see David Henderson's "PR: The World's Most Prolific Spammer" and Todd Defren's "Think Like a Canon"). Oh, and one more thing, look the other way as to the surreptitious-selling, fraud and the out-and-out porn stuff. I mean come on; everyone and everything has a right to be represented in a free society. Ask Torossian.
Okay? I guess. Sounds pretty simple. Right?
Regrettably, as much as anyone who'd like this problem to go away, the MRTs demands cannot be satisfied. It's irreconcilable.
1. You can't give to "customers," let alone unqualified strangers, what is not yours to give. Corporate America belongs to the shareholders. Simple as that.
2. Richard Stallman World ain't gonna happen until and if it can be proven to be economically advantageous. So far, the practice has been a dismal failure. The demise of the music business and that huge sucking sound you hear with the newspaper business, are all directly attributable to rampant theft and the f-ed up notion that "free" is an economic model. If anything it's anti-economic. There's a hole in the boat and major corporate institutions are now racing to cannibalize resources to somehow cauterize the wound.
3. Some argue that we should negotiate with a million "Mollies". According to Benjamin Duranske, author of "Rampant Trademark Infringement in Second Life" (referenced above):
No. Let alone that negotiating with a thousand Mollies, who are either knowing or ignorant thieves, is physically impossible, how can I monitor them honoring any agreements. Good faith? Excuse me but we are in this situation because they've already demonstrated bad faith. Also, there's something inherently wrong with making trespass and appeasement a standard business practice.
4. Read these guys. They don't want to improve the system; they want to dismantle the system. You've got everything from PR's esteemed Shel Holtz saying things like "screw the owners" and "decisions made with shareholders top-of-mind are often very, very bad decisions," to complete Red-Bull-and-glue certifiable whackadoos like Steven Streight who in his words suggests "we become one with the machine realm because the more we interact the kinder it will be to us as it eliminates us." Yikes! Imagine if Colonel Kurtz from Apocalypse Now had a bastard son living in some attic in Peoria. These guys aren't off the reservation; junior there is on another planet altogether!
Well, let's put it this way, it's going to get a lot worse before it gets better. As we are learning in Iraq and elsewhere, fighting a distributed network is like fighting cancer. Like Iraq, you can either cauterize the wound and cut your losses; or muster the political will to be tolerant of collateral damage and radiate the fuck out of 'em. Right now like Iraq, we are betwixt and between. But certainly the reality and the necessity for certain action is unavoidable.
Bottom line: You're going to see Corporate America mount a Web counteroffensive. Why? Because it doesn't have a choice.
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Come on. Corporate America is already launching a "web counter offensive" and losing. You could piss golden PR all over their offensive and it would still sounds like they are screwing grandmothers and molesting kids.
Let's not forget. It's the distributed network that our country was founded on - multiple militia spread out across multiple states. All Washington had to do was maintain guerrilla warfare tactics and not get caught.
The idea of the corporation is an ill conceived business convention in the same way that nations are ill conceived, provoking wars and selfishly drawing a circle around all that is "mine" what really is ours.
The Corporate America counter offensive has started and maybe we haven't seen the big guns - National IDS, RFID tags, 100% electronic voting with no paper trail. When we do, what baby is going to want to suck at the teats of that giant puss ridden goiter?
In the long run its the lumbering, old, clunky giants of the old school that will chew off their own feet and ignite the discontent masses to rebel and provoke a new mechanism of control through a revised social and economical structure.
As I said above, read these guys. They don't want to improve the system; they want to dismantle the system.
I think what bothers me the most is just how delusional these nut bags are. Nothing that a fist full of Prozac and a baseball bat could not cure.
Wow, some very intense commentary regarding matters of international scope. I'm not sure I follow all of the rantings or agree with the enormous overstepping of the importance of PR to the future of business or politics.
In regard to the corporate fear of distributed networks taking over traditional business models, I believe it is talent, business acumen and capital that ultimately drive opportunity. The wider distributed network of contributors will ultimately shrink back to those with the talent, tools and resources to be successful and capture customers over the long haul.
Very intriguing discussion by the way. Thank you your your penetrating insights and informative links.