Friday, February 17, 2006

Straight Talk

-Two recent episodes have me thinking more about something I wrote about a few weeks ago. If you go into my archives, you'll find a couple of posts where I rant about the potential negative effect that blogging, message boards and chat rooms are having on our society. (The Electronic Curtain-1/10/06 & Test of Character-1/13/06) The tendency toward dishonest communication in these internet "societies" has me believing more and more that there is a bleed-over effect into everyday life. When are we real, when are we not? the basic idea.

The firing?/resignation? of basketball coach Quin Snyder at the University of Missouri in Columbia appears to be a case where a smidgin of honest communication could have saved the day. From what I have read, there is every reason to believe that noone in that whole scenario was capable of straightfoward, honest, face-to-face communication.

You'll recall that Snyder resigned. Then there were meetings regarding how his "resignation" would be etc. Then it was revealed that athletic director Mike Alden sent a representative, Gary Link, to "assess the coach's mental state". Snyder later said that Link told him that he would be terminated at the end of the season, and that the AD, Chancellor, and key members of the Board of Curators were on board with the decision. Representatives of all of these parties...or those parties themselves...all denied prior knowledge of a deal to fire Snyder. A special investigation ensued. The investigation basically said the whole thing was a misunderstanding and that the matter was closed.

Welllll... I just have to wonder if because we've become so accustomed to shooting e-mails back and forth as a method of formal business communication, (even though it shouldn't be) and because we've become comfortable with this detached method of interaction, that it has changed us. I would say it has transformed us to the point where we rarely confront a person, or issue, in a head-on, honest way. Was the Mizzou thing, as a result, handled by people crippled by the inability to honestly communicate with co-workers?

If AD Alden would have gone to his coach himself, and "assessed the situation", he could have saved himself a lot of grief....and maybe in the end his job. I don't think Alden is out of the woods on this deal. He may still get canned because of the confusion created by the poor communication, and the University's liability to Snyder for the payoff. Of course, the stink that rose from the mess doesn't do anything to his image, or that of the school, in the minds of his bosses either. In the end, he may face his own demise because he chose to send an e-mail in the form of an underling (Link) to do his bidding.

Another case has me thinking in the same vein. VP Dick Cheney shoots somebody while hunting. The incident is kept silent for many hours before coming to light through the media. Cheney spends the next several days explaining why he didn't have his aides and office staff notify the media sooner....why the Sheriff's department didn't notify anyone....and why it seemed like such a hush-hush matter until it was clear that the victim would be OK. You have to know that Cheney's people were having all kinds of secret, and likely exhaustive, meetings about how they would handle the whole thing. How can we make this go away? How can we soften the damage?

Again...I propose that, in general, we have moved to a time where doing the forthright and noble thing as a matter of course has become forgotten. Of course, I'm talking about a politician here. So, mitigating the damage is commonplace in that arena. But, nevertheless, my basic point remains. We are sadly becoming accustomed to playing anonymous mind games with our fellow humans...and not dealing with the other guy up-front and honestly.

We are, with each day, and with each easily-facilitated, anonymous communique taking on more resemblance to the Wizard of Oz....manipulating the machinery, making the smoke and fire roar, and talking through a reverberating and falsifying apparatus.

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!

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