Principled Profit: The Good Business Blog

Musings on the world-wide movement for ethical business, frugal marketing, and how honesty, integrity, and quality combine with deep relationship building to create business success. By the originator of the Ethical Business Pledge campaign and award-winning author of Principled Profit: Marketing That Puts People First and five other books

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Thursday, July 19, 2007

NY Times: Whole Foods Not the Only “Sock-Puppeteer”

Apparently the phenomenon of a corporate executive posting anonymously in ways that he/she thinks will help his/her company/hurt the competition is called “sock puppeting.”

I hadn’t heard this term until I stumbled on a New York Times article this morning, published Monday.

The article cites not only John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods, whose disgraceful and illegal behavior I covered here, but also…

Conrad Black, CEO of Hollinger International–found guilty last week of mail fraud and obstruction of justice, and facing up to 35 years in the slammer.

Says the Times:

At the criminal fraud trial of Hollinger International’s chief executive, Conrad M. Black, prosecutors introduced evidence that the former press baron had once proposed joining a Yahoo Finance chat room to blame short sellers for his company’s stock performance.

Patrick Byrne of (who claims that his real name was attached to his anonymous handle on every post–which, if true, makes it a very different situation, in my opinion).

And it’s not just the business world, but also politics and media.

Tad Furtado, at the time, policy director for New Hampshire Congressman Charles Bass (who lost his re-election bid in a perhaps-related development).

Journalists are not immune either:

In April 2006, The Los Angeles Times pulled Michael A. Hiltzik, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter, off of his blog because he had posted comments on blogs under an assumed name while feuding with readers. In November, New Republic magazine suspended its culture critic Lee Siegel after it determined that he had been energetically defending himself in the discussion forums of his New Republic blog, under the name “sprezzatura” (Italian for “making the difficult look easy”).

Of course, there’s the related phenomenon of journalists writing under their own identity, but not disclosing that they are also acting as paid PR flacks, such as Armstrong Williams shilling for the Bush administration. I’ve written about that one, too.

Meanwhile, there are those of us still out there fighting the good fight. If you haven’t signed the Business Ethics Pledge yet, I urge you to do so.

I plan to write an essay, “When Even Whole Foods Cheats.” Rest assured, it will be published under my own name, and whatever plugs it may make for my book Principled Profit: Marketing That Puts People First, it will make them honestly.


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