Loren Feldman Demonstrates Artistic Handiwork But is Not Racist

Alot has been said recently of the cyclone that has begun to swirl around Loren Feldman. Loren is, and continues to be, my friend first and foremost. Though I know this will be completely offensive to some in the blogosphere, many of whom I respect and see as colleagues, it has to be said.

madame_x.jpgArtwork is artwork and Loren is an artist. The best art is offensive to somebody. That’s the truth. Take this painting known as Madame X.

According to the story, this piece caused such a stir in 19th century France due to the sexual posturing of the Madame in the photo. The sexuality conveyed with the skin and pink ears was absolutely obscene in French society of 1884. (Source) Today, we would think nothing of this piece of art but in that day, there was a clear message sent about the nature of the society at the time and the truth was offensive.

In the late 80s, the National Endowment for the Arts funded the exhibition of a photograph called Piss Christ which set evangelical Christians on edge. The photograph portrays a crucifix set in a jar of the author’s urine. Some saw the piece as blasphemy while others saw it as an observation of what society has done to Jesus.

The point being that artwork can sometimes be damning. Art, like music, is one of those rare things that provides such an avenue into a person’s soul that sometimes what is seen within is frightening and, like the French of 1884, they don’t confront the issue but shove it back into a dark corner.

Do I believe racism still exists in America? Absolutely. It is one of the worst calamities ever wrought on this nation, and many others. Do I believe Loren Feldman, in his weeklong parody/social experiment, toed the line? Yeah, I do. Did he cross it? Eh… who am I to judge? Is he racist? Heck no.

Many of the people who have defended Loren have done so from the position of first hand experience. I, like many of them, know Loren personally. I’ve spent days with the guy. I’ve slept on his sofa when I was stranded in New York. I laughed with him in San Francisco and Toronto at two different events.

Is he controversial? You betcha. Is he racist? Not a chance.

Loren Feldman Debacle Demonstrates Ignorance Lives

By now, many of you have heard about the failed attempt at humor by video blogger Loren Feldman. In the past, I’ve been pleased to call Loren my friend. He is funny, and very New York – two combos that I like. People like Loren often make me miss NYC, where people are real.

However, Loren took things a bit too far with his videos from a year ago. He stepped over serious racial lines, offending many people. It started with a video where he asks, “Where are all the black tech bloggers?” It ends with a series of other racist videos that resulted in the termination of his contract with PodTech.

Now, I believe that everyone makes mistakes and that mistakes are forgiveable. Hell, I’ve made mistakes – some of the racial type – that have been forgiven.

But Loren has intentionally gone too far and shows no signs of coming back. Last month, Loren had two deals secured to create and distribute video content. One was with CNet (owned by CBS) and the other with Verizon Wireless who planned to syndicated his content to their V-Cast service.

Both companies canned him after recognizing that this was not the kind of image they wanted their brands to convey.

Corvida, over at SheGeeks, was instrumental in having the Verizon Wireless deal deep-sixed. She states in her post:

The video was degrading. He was degrading an entire community and it should not be supported by Verizon nor its customers. It hit close to home and not necessarily because it was true on some levels, but because it was negative on every level. It was an ignorant video and one that mocked a small percentage of the African-American community. Yet, that particular part of the community is the most profile and we can all guess why. Everyone loves drama.

Corvida is dead right. Apparently, many other people agree with her.

Loren stepped over a serious line. I’ve attempted, thus far, to stay out of this. Race is a serious issue in this country and though some would like to believe it is a thing of the past, it is not. Anyone who bandys around racial slurs so recklessly deserves never to have business again.

Lessons in Brand Management from Barack Obama

Note: This is not a political post, nor is it a political endorsement.

Wednesday morning. Just about twenty-four hours have passed since Barack Obama addressed the nation on the issue of race and his relationship to firebrand pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright. If you’re American, you’ve probably heard the speech by now, or at least heard excerpts. Even if you’re not American, given the high profile nature of this political campaign, you’re probably more than aware of the circumstances surrounding the Wright-Obama relationship.

In summary, Wright is the spiritual mentor and long time pastor for Obama, and has been the catalyst for tremendous questions surrounding Obama’s ability to be a uniter, and the life principles that drive his decisions. As the spiritual advisor to Obama, multitudes of sermons denouncing the United States and white people has created significant controversy and question about Obama’s ability to be qualified for Presidential office.

Watching the reactions of pundits, bloggers and listening to radio call ins, it’s apparent that the field is split as to whether Obama knocked the speech out of the park and put aside the concerns of critics, or if he didn’t do enough and that “true bigoted colors” shown through.

Regardless about how you feel about his success, I personally feel like he painted a beautiful picture of how to manage brand. Listening to critics, it’s apparent to me that those who didn’t think he did enough feel that way because they want politicians to play a political game. Obama has to say just the right thing. He has to do just the right thing. And if he doesn’t, he’s not fit to be President.

I’m of the mindset that politics is not what we need in politics. As I’ve said many times before, brand is about authenticity and trust. Relationship is built on authenticity and trust. I’d have more distrust of Obama if he came out and threw his spiritual advisor under the bus, because his spiritual advisor is part of who he is! Whether he threw Wright under the bus in public or not, Wright would still be a significant part of who Obama is! And that cannot be denied or covered by politics. Faking it will always cause distrust.

A difficult part of blogging, particularly professional and corporate blogging, is the balance between what makes sense in terms of transparency and what could ultimately be detrimental to your company or personal brand. The beautiful thing about Twitter is that the flow of real time conversation allows people to put themselves on display. We see folks for who they are, if you’re like me (and I’m guessing most of you are), we like people and trust them more for it. That’s brand. It’s trust. It’s relationship.

At the end of the day, I don’t know how much the Obama speech helped or hurt him in the polls. We’ll have to wait and see. I don’t know if that makes him electable or not. Time will tell. The transparency of a man who is under fire regarding a very sensitive socio-relational issue in America, makes him more electable, in my opinion, than any politically charged and correct speech he might have otherwise made yesterday.

Again, this is not a political endorsement, but it plays well to the things we deal with daily.