- Eye on Media
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"A critical, independent and investigative press is the lifeblood of any democracy. The press must be free from state interference. It must have the economic strength to stand up to the blandishments of government officials. It must have sufficient independence from vested interests to be bold and inquiring without fear or favor. It must enjoy the protection of the constitution, so that it can protect our rights as citizens." Nelson Mandela 1918 - 2013
In mulling over a brief exchange with commissioner John Sweet, it occurs to me that there is a perception amongst members and supporters of the Bay Area Chamber of Commerce that because some positions taken by the organization have been criticized those being critical are somehow “anti-business”. The discussion came up in the context of the chamber letter recommending qualifications for the new planning director. Sweet feels the chamber’s letter was appropriate because it is natural for the organization to promote business. “That’s what the chamber does”, he said.
Promoting business would indeed be a natural function of the Chamber of Commerce but that isn’t what this letter was doing. The letter, which you may link to here, was promoting business at the expense of public process and fair application of land use laws. In short, the chamber was advising the commission to favor business and shareholder profit over individual property rights.
Adhering to and applying laws equitably benefits all parties and business is nothing without the local consumer and plenty of goodwill. The chamber’s position was far from pro-business, it was impolitic, offensive and represented both greed and hubris in that business is somehow privileged and above the law. No one I know is anti-business, just anti bad business practices and ethics. The treatment of Captain Yates comes to mind.
A power struggle has formed in Coos County that pits business, specifically Bay Area Chamber of Commerce business, against everyone else by attempting to place the business ethos, the organization, or at least its leadership on a pedestal rather than conducting itself as a community collaborator. It’s a “my way or the highway” approach which harkens back to an earlier post wherein, “…functional stupidity is prompted by the contemporary economy of persuasion which emphasizes symbolic rather than substantive aspects of organizational life. In organizations this encourages a major focus on symbolic manipulation– often in the form of attempts to develop strong corporate cultures and identities, corporate branding, and charismatic leadership, exercised often through stupidity management… The result is that adherence to managerial edicts is encouraged, and criticism or reflection on them is discouraged”.
To many consumers, the Bay Area Chamber of Commerce, as distinguished from other local chambers, puts business in a bad light and doesn’t reflect well upon those who accept its conduct without question.