Getting Naked With Noam Chomsky
Getting Naked With Noam Chomsky

En mass we are transitioning into being more open, more honest, more willing to be exposed as our whole selves. As consumers we’re demanding honesty. Social Media has created an increased desire to form a ‘relationship’ with who we do business with. Gone are the days of spin and propaganda and in their place is the time of authenticity and connection… Or is it?

Recently I had a skype call with one of my clients in the UK. She’s an Organisational Transition Consultant who is in transition herself, as am I, as are most of the people I know, as most probably are you and most of the people you know.

There is something in the water and the planets at the moment. If you’re into astrology you’ll know that there is a lot going on in the cosmos right now. You may be sceptical about all this. Perhaps you think of it as ‘woo woo’. But we are 90-94% water and given that the moon’s gravitational pull has the power to move oceans, I find it very easy to accept the fact that we are influenced by the planets. I won’t go into this in detail here but if you would like to know more Kristin Fontana has some interesting insights.

What I specifically want to talk about is the process of transition through to a more whole and authentic ‘you’ rather than a compartmentalised ‘you’… Refer to my recent post Split Personality (Disorder?) for further discussion on this concept of being a different ‘you’ based on where you are and who you’re with.

In business my past tendency has been to hide behind a brand or a company, speak as a ‘we’ and an ‘us’ rather than an ‘I’. Social Media has changed the dynamics of business relationships. Now we want to know who we are doing business with. We don’t just want to know what the company stands for, what their mission and vision are. We want to know about the individual we are dealing with. And part of this is being willing to ‘share’ yourself with the world and ultimately your prospective clients or customers.

It can feel a little exposing at first to step up from behind your brand facade and become the brand yourself. But at the end of the day people are buying ‘you’, not just your product or service.

This is happening in all levels of business. Think of Richard Branson for example. What would Virgin be without Richard? Just another multinational conglomerate. The positive attributes of his adventurous, philanthropic, never-say-never personality get transposed to his companies and thus create positive PR. On the other hand Rupert Murdoch’s perceived ‘negative’ traits are effecting the public perception of his media empire.

Contemporary marketing is all about relationship building. So where then is the balance between authenticity and public perception management? I think in the past it was mostly spin. PR could totally construct your (mostly) corporate image in alignment with whatever perception you were after. Or sell anything based on clever manipulation. Mad Men is a fantastic series that takes a poke at the unscrupulous ad men of the 60’s. And exploration of the manipulative power of media.

Noam Chomsky
Noam Chomsky

In the late ’80’s Noam Chomsky co-wrote the seminal Manufacturing Consent-The Political Economy of the Mass Media which discussed media propaganda.

I feel that as a populus we are now more discerning and better critical thinkers. Most of us know that the news is not the facts, it’s subjective opinion based on vested interests. At the same time there’s further pressure on the media to be objective or face exposure.

So what is happening now is increasingly we are feeling the pull to be more ‘wholly’ ourselves and likewise there is demand from the market for authenticity and connection.

So the challenge now is how much honesty? How much openness? How much information? How much laying yourself bare?

Personally I really admire someone who is willing to be vulnerable, admit to flaws and failure but still keep moving forward, improving what they do. It is this openness that allows the building of trust between you and your clients.

I think the highest form of business success is the ability to gracefully persuade your audience with authenticity, with the vested interest being communicating your value to the customers who can positively benefit from your product or service.

So it seems we may be as a populus, transitioning out of spin, propaganda and facade towards authenticity, vulnerability and ultimately courage… To be ourselves. To stand up in front of the world naked. Showing all, hiding nothing.

What do you think? Is this really what’s going on in the new business world or is it just a more sophisticated breed of propaganda?

I leave you with the very clever Noam Chomsky (and Ali G) talking not of politics, but of linguistics. And since this is all about how we chose to communicate, I thought it was appropriate!… Enjoy 🙂

This is Day 16 of my 30 day writing challenge
inspired by Matt Cutts on TED Talks

12 thoughts on “Getting Naked With Noam Chomsky

  1. Graceful persuasion – now where have I heard that recently? 🙂 It’s a beautiful phrase and one that I resonate with. I hope this is what is going on – it’s how I would like to function within my business, and the people I choose to support will also have these values. But I’m not so sure big business, particularly media, is quite so altruistic. Thanks for your blog.

    1. Yes, thank you to Shaune Clarke for that one. I love it too. Such a great way to express communicating your value to those who need what you’ve got. …It’s food for thought but I think there is increasing pressure on big business to be more transparent and to be less the organisation as a whole and more your individual point of contact.

  2. This is a great post. I have been thinking about this idea a lot. I read that book, by the way, in college by Noam. I enjoy sharing myself on-line, but it’s probably only about 20-25% of me. I’m a private person. But, I do like to “keep it real” in my blog, and at times, I admit, I bleed onto the page. I’ve found more success and happiness being authentic in my own business. I also am having more fun. It’s fun to meet like-minded souls on the path.

    1. Thanks Lisa… It’s risky being open. It leaves you vulnerable to attack. But if you’re not willing to be open you also miss the chance to make satisfying connections with others I think.

  3. Interesting stuff, some of my thoughts if I may…

    “What do you think? Is this really what’s going on in the new business world or is it just a more sophisticated breed of propaganda?”

    It depends on the specific business institution, but when it comes to the large corporations I think it’s just a more sophisticated form of propaganda. I think people recognise this, which is why term like “greenwashing” now exist. Grouch Marx expressed this tendency quite well:

    “The secret of life is honesty and fair dealing. If you can fake that, you’ve got it made.”

    The bottom line of a corporation is profit not people, so to the extent that fakery is a cheaper alternative to meaningful institutional changes it will be preferred by corporations. So, I agree with Kimberlee’s comment that “I’m not so sure big business, particularly media, is quite so altruistic”.

    Incidentally, this is something Noam Chomsky has talked about very clearly, referring to corporations as “private tyrannies” on numerous occasions. He’s criticising the institutional structure itself, and so while he may see Richard Branson’s Virgin as a less severe tyranny than Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp (I guess; you’d have to ask him), they are both tyrannies in his view.

    This is expressed quite succinctly by him in this quote (I got the quote from here: ):

    “Talk about corporate greed is nonsense. Corporations are greedy by their nature. They’re nothing else – they are instruments for interfering with markets to maximise profit, and wealth and market control. You can’t make them more or less greedy; I mean maybe you can sort of force them, but it’s like taking a totalitarian state and saying “Be less brutal!” Well yeah, maybe you can get a totalitarian state to be less brutal, but that’s not the point – the point is not to get a tyranny to be less brutal, but to get rid of it. [applause]”

    In my view, this strategy of consumer persuasion to change the way corporations relate to us is seeking to make tyranny less brutal. I would prefer we direct our efforts to getting rid of tyranny.

    1. Great, cynical quote from Groucho Marx. Thanks for that!

      Tyranny is a good word for corporations that put profit above people. It literally is a tyranny. Why do we, as individuals want to make money? Generally not for money’s sake…For what it buys, for personal enjoyment, family, lifestyle. And a corporation is composed of individuals who each want to make money for these reasons… Maybe ‘stupidity’ is actually more accurate than ‘tyranny’.

      Hopefully someday soon we’ll all stop and start asking ourselves some quality questions like ‘why’ and ‘what if’ and this is what will put an end to the tyranny because it won’t be justifiable.

      I think small business is experiencing a big shift towards authenticity and this will slowly bubble up the ranks.

      …Isn’t it interesting that the decision makers within a corporation leave their personal ethics at home. They should pack them into their briefcases the night before!! 😉

      1. Glad Groucho Marx gave you a chuckle! Thought I should respond to this:

        “Isn’t it interesting that the decision makers within a corporation leave their personal ethics at home. They should pack them into their briefcases the night before!! ”

        Sure, but if they did pack their ethics into their briefcases they would soon be fired and replaced by someone else that didn’t! 😉

        I think you encapsulated very well in your reply what Chomsky terms an “institutional contradiction” in this video: It can have downright scary consequences – here’s a relevant quote from the interview:

        “Those same CEOs and managers who are trying to convince the public that it [anthropogenic global warming] is a liberal hoax know perfectly well that it’s extremely dangerous; they have the same beliefs that you and I have. But they’re caught in a kind of institutional contradiction. As leaders of major corporations they have an institutional role; that is to maximise short term profit, and if they don’t do that they’re out and someone else is in who does do it. So, institutionally speaking it’s not a choice; that’s going to happen in the major institutions. They may know that they’re mortgaging the future of their grand-children and in fact maybe everything they own will be destroyed, but they’re caught in a trap of institutional structure; that’s what happens in market systems.”

        Small businesses can be better in this respect, however I think it is overly optimistic for us to depend on them to “save the world”, since they must operate within global markets and these systematically dis-incentive and punish ethical behavior. I think what we need now are new alternatives to capitalist/market structures, ones that offer something distinct from the failures of 20th century socialism. Hopefully I’m not being unrealistic and we can in fact accomplish this – I believe it to be very much possible.

        One of Chomsky’s friends, Micheal Albert, has worked on developing and promoting one such alternative system, which he calls “participatory economics” or parecon for short. Perhaps you’d find the idea interesting? Here’s a link for it:

      2. …It would have to be a group thing… If all tiers of management operated by their personal ethos (instead of their corporate denial) humanitarian vested interests would trump profit… Also, I’m an utter Idealist so I like to think that both goals are simultaneously achievable. We just need a mass consciousness shift, which I believe is happening.

        …Great quote from Chomsky interview. Many thanks for that… It’s such an accurate summation of what is going on… It’s totally illogical isn’t it. And how ironic that these profit chimps puff out their chests and pat themselves on the back for logical analysis of circumstances. What a joke… Well at least they are really good at the whole denial gig. You’ve got to give them that much.

        And thank you so much for the link to Parecon. I’ve only skimmed it so far but will read it in more depth and sign up for their info… It’s encouraging that the most brilliant minds are ditching the conventional system, breaking out of the box and supporting a different way of doing things. Hopefully the rest will catch up soon and there won’t be reward and encouragement for non-sustainable business practices.

        Great thoughts, really enjoyed the discussion 🙂

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