Monday night (Jan 29) was one of New York's great networking events, the Genesys Dinner, which Jim Kolleger holds each year prior to the Information Industry Summit, Aside from great conversation, some nice words about Esther Dyson, including a plaintive plea for just one more PC Forum (not happening, alas), the evening ended with an important five minutes from Mark Walsh.
Mark has transitioned from the straight business world (Verticalnet, etc.) into the more political sphere. He was one of the key players behind Air America, the liberal radio talk network, and is now a commentator on MSNBC and XM. He was decrying the movement in our political society toward sensationalizing "gotcha" moments.
George Allen's Macaca moment was just one example, and the pouncing of the press on small individual statements, made in settings that thirty years ago would never have been reported, has led to a mean spirited trashing of people.
But Mark's key point is that in marketing, politics leads business. Be prepared to see the "Swift Boating" of GM, on a site like www.gmisevil (not a real site I hope), paid for anonymously by one of their competitors. Smear tactics have become one of the unsavory and unfortunate weapons in the arsenal of political candidates. Alas,the Lincoln Douglass debates are no more. While the unexamined life may not be worth living, the fully examined life - each and every minute logged on cell phone cameras and uploaded, may be even worse. And if businesses try to enhance themselves not with better products, but by trashing their competitors, we'll all suffer.
I think Mark is right that the "Gotcha" blogging and journalism will lead to more divisiveness and bitterness. In keeping with this blog's philosophy, Mark is hopefully a little too early with respect to corporate marketers, I'd like to think we can still avoid some of it.
There are ways of pointing out problems in a constructive way - see Mark Hurst's great www.thisisbroken.com site that let's you post stuff, and posts FIXED buttons when the vendors fix things.
Perhaps a way too early warning will help - and examining one's own behavior.