This morning, I run into Adolph Ochs and Carr Van Anda and a bunch of the old gang at the opening of High & Mighty, Bishop Pike’s new colonic clinic. They’re all in a great mood–until I show them this story, called “The Hand That Controls the Sock Puppet Could Get Slapped,” in this morning’s Times:
On the Internet nobody knows you’re a dog — or the chief executive of a Fortune 500 company.
John Mackey, chief executive of Whole Foods Market, used a fake online identity.Or so thought John Mackey, the chief executive of Whole Foods Market, who used a fictional identity on the Yahoo message boards for nearly eight years to assail competition and promote his supermarket chain’s stock, according to documents released last week by the Federal Trade Commission.
Mr. Mackey used the online handle “Rahodeb” (an anagram of his wife’s name, Deborah). In one Internet posting sure to enter the annals of chief-executive vanity, Mr. Mackey wrote as Rahodeb, “I like Mackey’s haircut. I think he looks cute!”
For about eight years until last August, the company confirms, Mr. Mackey posted numerous messages on Yahoo Finance stock forums as Rahodeb. It’s an anagram of Deborah, Mr. Mackey’s wife’s name. Rahodeb cheered Whole Foods’ financial results, trumpeted his gains on the stock and bashed Wild Oats. Rahodeb even defended Mr. Mackey’s haircut when another user poked fun at a photo in the annual report. “I like Mackey’s haircut,” Rahodeb said. “I think he looks cute!”
Ochs slowly turns a bright reddish-blue. I could only feel sorry for him. Then they yank the hose.
“So?” he says.
“So? First. Sock puppets? Second. This was a page-one story for them. I just think it looks pretty bad for us to be so far behind the Journal, and then we run the same story in almost the same words. People might get the idea we’re…”
Ochs isn’t listening. “First of all, we’re only four days late. Second of all, it’s a long way from Wall Street to 43rd Street…”
Van Anda’s nodding away, ticking off Ochs’ points on his fingers.
“Third, we got the dog and they didn’t.” They walk away.
Then, just as I’m about tanked-up, Van Anda’s back, wearing his smug face. “One more thing, Walt. We also got the sock puppet.”
I aspirate my colonic all over Ed Snow. Poor Ed. I cover Ochs and Van Anda in glory and what? They treat me like crap–and I cover Ed with it.
I get home and Jack Reed’s there with today’s Wall Street Journal editorial:
Reading about the covert blogging of Whole Foods CEO John Mackey, we were reminded of a New Yorker cartoon from some years ago featuring two mutts and a computer. “On the Internet,” one says to the other, “nobody knows you’re a dog.”
I wish they’d have sent Bartley down here. I’d love to rub this in his santimonious face. Old cartoon jokes? Blogging? “Christ, Jack! That wasn’t ‘covert blogging!'”
“No kidding,” says Jack. “This is covert blogging. Those capitalist tools don’t know the difference between a blog and a Yahoo group? Who writes their editorials?”
I tell Jack about Ochs. “Hell, Walt. Then the Journal even got the dog, too.”
So for my side, all we’re left with is the sock puppets. This profession’s going to be the death of me, again.