Be professional, man!

person using smartphone

I am watching for some time the behavior of Mr. Musk, the owner of (or Twitter). Watching can be useful especially when one wants to learn something from what one sees. And his recent involvement in the discussion around the Gaza conflict has proved detrimental to his business and to his public image. It seems that the man has nothing more interesting to do with his life than to get involved in fights that, initially, had nothing to do with him or his company. And perhaps the time has come to touch a little the subject of the attitudes one can have regarding personal (political) viewpoints.

Let’s imagine you need to see a doctor. Do you care about his/her religion, sexual orientation or political affiliation? If you are a well-balanced person, you don’t. You care mainly about his professional skill and his/her ability to solve your health problem. Why? Because that person is in her professional role and not in her political capacity as citizen of the community. In fact, doctors and other similar professionals are required by their professional regulating bodies to abstain from expressing their political or ideological views; they are remarkably neutral. They don’t do politics, they don’t care (or they should not care) about religion, race or sexual orientation when dealing with other people, despite perhaps having strong private opinions about politics, spirituality or any given ideology that is fashionable nowadays. To put it simple, these professionals don’t mix their personal life with the professional life. And equally, the patients (or the clients) do not expect to have a conversation with them on personal matters when they ask for professional help; they ask for a specific service and nothing more (or they should do that, in any case).

This efficient division between the (neutral) professional attitude and the personal (ideological) values maintains a good functioning of the Western society. Why “Western”? Because in authoritarian societies that are functioning on different values, the professional can refuse to help you if you don’t share his/her views, or can “pass the word” to the local political power about your lack of adherence to the commonly-agreed “truth”, with deleterious consequences. This is one aspect of “being professional”. Or, it’s an aspect of “doing good business”. For instance, countries like Monaco, Switzerland, Singapore, some fiscal heavens, do not care about ideologies; they care about their business (about their money), so they will serve everyone equally well, sometimes the both sides in a particular conflict. These countries cannot afford to be ideologically assertive (that is, say what they truly think) because they don’t mix the professional with the personal realm. They are not judgmental, they don’t try to impose anything on anyone, are and remain neutral over long periods, and they reflect a lot before deciding sanctions or taking sides. This unique position enables them to be excellent negotiators, both for a better price for them and for a peace deal between the involved sides, if possible. Conflict is generally not good for business (and profit) and they know it well (except for pharmaceuticals and weapons manufacturers, but this is another story).

The fact that taking sides can harm your business has hopefully been learned by Mr. Musk by now. Halving the initial value of his social media company (compared to what he has paid when he bought it) due to the exodus of advertisers should teach him to be more diplomatic, more tactful, more moderate, perhaps more balanced. Of course, in the eventuality that he truly wants to do business and make a profit with his company. But if he only aims to “make noise” and “influence, manipulate & proselytise”, he will likely polarize people even more and lose that part of the customers that disagrees with him. I mean, I go to a social media website so as to connect with people or get informed, not to take sides, choose my “tribe” and be served reinterpreted or predigested information (I can do that on any other website, I don’t need an extra one to indoctrinate or mislead me). To put it metaphorically, I don’t go to a doctor so as to be lectured about Allah or LGBT or black people; similarly, I go online and I expect a good service and interesting stuff, not the owner of the website “making waves” and forcing on me his opinions on how the world should be or behave – or what is good and what is bad, in his opinion.

So, the question I would like you to ponder on would be if you’re not doing perhaps the same thing in your social or professional bubble? Are you advertising your political or ideological opinions when in your professional capacity? If yes, and if you’re comfortable with that, aren’t you actually a tyrant imposing his views on others who might disagree with your worldview? If yes, and if you’re not comfortable with that, when are you going to stop or what do you need in order to stop (or what prevents you from stopping)? And if no, how do you manage to keep your values excluded from your professional life when you sometimes have to deal with people whose views you strongly condemn at a personal level, yet they’re your clients and you must work with them and in their interest?

Some people are businessmen (and seek profit and keep a low profile), others are politicians/ideologues (and seek followers and dream of changing the world). These roles are quite different. And one needs to decide which one fits oneself best, knowing that having them both at the same time is rather challenging.

Join the Conversation

  1. You are right here. Then again the public face of a business has a direct effect on how people perceive the brand. Unless you are black rifle coffee company, the local anarchist bookstore, Landover baptist forums, a hippie grocery store commune, truth social, the manufacturer of holy bread used in the catholic mass, a chain of gay bars, tinfoilhatzjr, the tuttle twins, or any other company where your customers care about your company being on their side, choosing one side of the rapidly diverging parallel economies is bad business. However this goes both ways, so when twitter gradually changed their moderation policies in line with the silicon valley mindset, favored left wing linguistic constructs such preferred pronouns, deadnaming and neopronouns, moderated unfairly harshly towards more right leaning twitter and giving favorable treatment to their preferred side, even to the point of not taking down literal pedo rings and allowing death threats to come from their camp, this created the alt tech ecosystem that Elon is trying so hard to claw back while trying to keep twitter profitable. He is in an impossible position where the advertisers, investment banks he owes and media are trying so hard to force him to do things that would impact his ability for his website to remain relevant in the world of alt tech separated from these forces of evil. The fact that twitter is still relevant is a testament to the power of the network effect that makes Activitypub, Ostatus, Zot, Diaspora, Matrix, ATP, OrbitDB, gun.js, Locutus/Freenet and infinitely scaleble CDNs such as Bittorrent/Webtorrent, the Interplanetary File System, the Holepunch Suite, Zsync, Debian Jigbo, and other p2p networks/tools such as libp2p, py-IPv8, Git, Radicle, Message Layer Security and PGP/SMIME so dangerous to big tech. This is what Elon is really up against and he knows it, so does our least favorite lizard person Zucc, who made Threads in a futile attempt to appeal to the mastodon user base without really looking into why they like mastodon so much. I am sure he really regrets his predecessors buying vine and then shutting it down, which directly led to being bought by ByteDance and becoming TikTok, which also puts pressure on twitter too.

  2. I personally don’t think that Elon’s vision is so short sighted as to look for immediate, and enduring, profit, but is one of a much longer time horizon.

    I believe he has stated he wants to make X the “the everything app”, and for that to happen there are pre-requisites for growth of that scale. To my suspicous eye, his actions indicate he feels that widespread trust in the app is the foundation he is looking to build this upon, as it was completely destroyed prior to his acquisition.

    In the knowledge that X users far outnumber advertisers, and given a timeline backed by his pocket, his is a gamble that he can andure the bleed while users gather, ultimately determining the behaviour of the advertisers, and not the other way around.

    To be clear, using Tucker Carlson as a clear example of the carnage that awaits, the entire swaths of industry are in the balance here, who are not without ways and means, or frankly, a printing press at their disposal. Recall, gov’ts themselves steered Twitters’ direction for years, and current gov’ts work for special interests, not the people.

    Will Musk endure long enough for the required momentum threshold to build? And if he does, what will he do next? And does Musk actually have freedom in mind? And what is “everything” anyways…

    It’s strange, but watching the re-birth of ethics from the ashes of current affairs, as much as it seems to be the complete opposite at times, is utterly fascinating.

  3. The idea I think is to allow for pocketful’s of harmonisation, rather than a free-for-all buffet of unfiltered opinion.