Tall Poppy Syndrome, Mike Arrington, and how not to handle criticism

May 30, 2006

A fair bit of controversy about over allegations that Mike Arrington of Tech Chruch fame takes kick backs for favourable reviews.

I don’t know the basis for these rumours, and I’m only an occasional Tech Chrunch reader, mainly because I personally find that Mike Arrington’s reviews tend to (usually) be nothing more than blind cheering for Web 2.0 startups without any objective analysis of whether these startups actually have depth in terms of a business plan and potential, literally the issue of solutions without problems.

Having said all of that though, Mike Arrington has become a poster boy for the Web 2.0 movement with Tech Chrunch, and there is little doubt that the site has been highly successful.

And with success comes the knockers, the tall poppy syndrome. I personally experienced it at times whilst writing at The Blog Herald, and I even occasionally get it now with b5media, although less so now personally as I’ve taken a more behind the scenes role (one could argue that the target has become smaller in terms of public perception).

Whilst I’ve always believe that criticism is a healthy thing, tall poppy syndrome crosses the line in attacking the person and not the idea, and I can’t help than think that the rumours of Mike Arrington taking kick backs is a classic example of this.

In many ways it’s a sad indictment on society as a whole that people seek to discredit those who are successful. As a society we should be encouraging success, not trying to knock people down who are successful as some sort of petty jealously because perhaps we have not reached those heights ourselves.

But then there is a lesson in how to respond to these things, and Mike Arrington gives a good lesson on how not to. Now, when I say this, I’ve been just as guilty in the past as well of doing the wrong thing in terms of responding as well, because in the heat of the moment it’s very easy to fire off a fiery response to the critics. What Mike’s actually done is drawn more attention to the rumours of him taking kick backs by responding to the mention of this by Jason Calacanis. J-Cal then responds to Mike’s criticism as well. All of a sudden the story is listed on Techmeme and more people know about the rumours than ever did before. It’s like pouring petrol (or gasoline in US English) on a fire. A passing mention of a rumour by J-Cal on the Gilmour Gang all of a sudden makes headlines, and whether innocent or guilty, far more people will now be discussing whether Mike’s getting kick backs or not. The response is therefore possibly self-defeating.

Food for thought.

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2 responses to Tall Poppy Syndrome, Mike Arrington, and how not to handle criticism

  1. i try to find something at google.com and take it on your site…thanks