Anyone who has read this blog knows I go out of my way to avoid attacking people. But in this case, the situation between Shel Israel and Loren Feldman is a perfect example of something I've wanted to talk about for a while which is the reason for this post. To the extent that this comes off as an attack on Mr. Israel I apologize in advance.
That said, a short review: Shel Israel made some amateurish videos (by his own admission) which Loren Feldman mocked using a "Shel Puppet". Mr Israel got annoyed which, along with the quality of the puppet videos themselves, made the puppet very popular. Now the puppet has its own website (shelisrael.com), is doing interviews with high profile Silicon Valley types (Steve Gilmore so far with others to follow), and even has a spin off (see: Scoble Puppet).
Matt Craven of BlogHerald writes a fuller review of the situation here.
Here's the thing, Loren Feldman is a satirist. He uses ridicule to exploit people's flaws in a humorous manner. I'm going to assume we can all agree on that since Mr. Israel admits to the flaws being exploited here (taken from his twitter feed)...
Difference between Loren & me #1 I'm learning vid. He's an alleged pro. Difference #2. I'll improve. 08:50 PM April 02, 2008 from web
So we can all agree, he's a satirist. Moving on...
The thing I've always wanted to address is dealing with satire. I think a lot of people react in the wrong way. So when Mr. Israel provided the PERFECT example of how not to deal with such a situation I couldn't resist.
Below are a few rules (with examples) of what not to do when confronted with satire.
#1 - Don't lie to make your case stronger
First the quote from Mr. Israel's blog...
Maybe, Matt you would have chuckled, but when a couple of people pointed me to the site, because they thought it was mine and they were confused, I got pretty irritated. When I went to the site and saw my photo, and links to my own content. I then discovered that he also had started a couple of Twitter accounts, also making it look like me, I went nuclear ballistic, and this was a mistake on several levels, probably much to Loren's delight.
Now, if Mr. Israel is telling the truth I apologize in advance. But I find it hard to believe that people just happened to stumble upon the new shelisrael.com site (the very day it was put up), saw a Shel puppet interviewing a rooster about social media and thought "this must be Shel Israel's official site". I think it is much more likely that people who visit 1938media.com tipped Mr. Israel off.
A lot of people in this situation, when they find others aren't rushing to their defense, start to lie in order to make the slight against them look worse than it was. This is the absolute worst strategy to take and the quote above shows why.
#2 - Don't attack the humor
Now from Mr. Israel's twitter account...
@geekmommy Unlike a class act like Ze Frank, Loren plays to the cheap seats with cheap shots. Next he'll make fart sounds with his armpit. 01:09 PM April 01, 2008 from web in reply to GeekMommy
When dealing with satire, especially satire aimed at you, there's a good chance you won't find it funny. But many other people will and you're best bet is not to insult them.
Despite what an enraged Mr. Israel might think, finding Loren Feldman funny does not make someone a bad person. So insulting everyone who finds him funny risks alienating people who might also be in Mr. Israel's audience.
#3 - Don't attack the Satirist
Two quotes this time, both from the twitter account...
@briansullivan Yes,people pay attention to him. Loren is a video thug, an online schoolyard bully. He scares people. It needs to stop. 08:27 AM April 02, 2008 from web in reply to BrianSullivan
@senithomas No paranoia. Loren Feldman is attacking me, persistantly and relentlessly. It's time people knew he is/was. I plan to find out. 08:23 AM April 02, 2008 from web in reply to senithomas
So basically, "he's a bully and I think that's bad so in my very next tweet I'm going to be a bully". Mr. Israel then goes on to sling insults every few tweets making himself guilty of exactly what he thinks Mr. Feldman did to him.
Two lessons here. One, most people don't consider satire a slight. I don't, for example, think the cast of Saturday Night Live means to insult Presidential hopefuls on their show I think they are just trying to be funny. Same with any satire. So when you attack a satirist you come off looking bad because to most people's eyes you threw the first insult (see item #4 below)
Second, when you attack someone that you are angry with you tend to make a fool out of yourself. Mr. Israel comes off as a complete hypocrite here and if he wasn't so angry he'd probably see that himself.
#4 - Listen to your friends
Throughout this whole ordeal people tried to tell Mr. Israel he was taking himself too seriously and that he should just let it go. He continually ignored these warnings. The end of his blog post, his last word on the subject thus far, shows he STILL can't stop taking it too seriously. He says...
Until all that happens, we will produce about one FCTV per week. While Loren may liken the people I interview to roosters and night watchman, the people the show is intended for--professionals trying to figure out how social media can be used where they work seem to find the content pretty useful and interesting.
Not only does that come off as arrogant from a guy largely riding his more successful partner's coat tails but it proves that he still doesn't get the joke. He still thinks of this as an insult to him rather than "Loren Feldman being funny".
#5 - Don't be over dramatic
@revtriste People are silent about Loren because they fear they'll be next. It's like McCarthyism. It has to stop. 08:30 AM April 02, 2008 from web in reply to revtriste
To compare someone making fun of you to people losing their careers and sometimes their freedom because of their political beliefs is obnoxious. Saying something like the above makes him seem like he has no perspective on what is and is not important in the world.
#6 - Never, EVER threaten legal action unless you can back it up
Any volunteer lawyers out there? I'd like to discuss Loren with you... 12:45 PM April 02, 2008 from web
Two types of people sue, those with legitimate cases and crazy people. If you don't have a legitimate case and you even threaten to sue you come off as crazy. So before you make legal claims (even vague ones) do the research.
There was never anything even close to a case here and the fact that Shel Israel thinks the use of his name is somehow harmful to his brand (as if he was the only Shel Israel in existence) is again pretty arrogant.
I don't know much about Shel Israel. He wrote a book with Scoble which is the only reason I knew of him and he started doing videos on Scoble's new FastCompany site which is the only time I've really heard of him beyond the book. That said, this put a pretty sour taste in my mouth and I doubt I'll be checking out his videos.
It isn't so much what he said or that he came off so arrogant its that he's claiming to be an expert on personal branding and social media. After his disastrous performance during this situation I have no respect for his knowledge in that area and hence no reason to pay attention to him any longer.
I mean, thick skin and humility are the first lessons you have to learn when getting into the blogging business. If he doesn't know that I can't see how he knows much of anything.