Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Some people feel sorry for Whole Foods CEO John Mackey

This weekend in the New York Times, Christopher Caldwell felt bad for embattled Internet superstar CEO John Mackey.

NYT: Not Being There

“Granola-eating street fighter” is the unimprovable description that BusinessWeek.com recently bestowed on John P. Mackey, the chief executive of Whole Foods Market. There certainly aren’t many people like Mackey, a vegan who has ruthlessly built Whole Foods into a $6 billion chain of organic groceries. But there are a lot of people who, one way or another, share his recent predicament.

Caldwell's position is that sure, Mackey should have known better, but shooting your mouth off on the Internet happens to the best of us, so how bad can it be?

We’re not too good at making these decisions online. We feel as if we’re chatting in a barroom or a dining room, but we may be held accountable as if we were in a courtroom or a newsroom. Without a physically present audience that we can see or hear, we are left free to imagine our audience however we wish. When we do so, it’s easy to delude ourselves that what we’re talking about determines whom we’re talking to.

That's true, as far as it goes. But there's a huge obstacle called Fiduciary Duty that makes all the difference between someone like myself making fun of Blu-ray, or arguing about Tabata Intervals on a bulletin board devoted to fitness and weightlifting, and someone like Mackey engaging in conversation that cheer leads his company's stock, and belittles his competitors.

He really would have been better off arguing about the intricacies of veganism.

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