Is it really so wrong to mix business and politics (and religion)?

So last week Apple announced new products. Yawn. The Cult of Apple worshipped their God, and millions of words were written praising His Wisdom. However the most interesting comment I’ve read so far was about the political content of Steve Jobs’ presentation.

Alastair Rankine writes that the Macworld Keynote has moved from slick-but-reality-distorted marketing into the realms of straight-out entertainment, and then criticises Randy Newman’s performance. Not because it was crap (which, being Randy Newman, is inevitable), but because it was political.

Criticism of the Bush administration is something I obviously have a lot of time for. But is it suitable for a consumer product launch? …

Mix politics with business and you take a risk with a relatively small upside but a big downside. If your politics match mine, we are no more likely to do business together than before we knew each other’s positions. But if our politics disagree, this difference becomes a barrier that we each have to overcome in order to do business together.

I’m not arguing for censorship or anything. I’m just saying that the separation of politics and business is crucial for the success of both.

I disagree.

Business is about making money, yes, but sometimes I think it’s wrong to “leave politics at the door”. In fact, is it even possible?

Here’s how I responded on Alastair’s website:

Deciding to continue doing business with someone even though you disagree with their political aims is a political decision: a decision to wimp out and fail to pursue your own political goals. A decision to support your political enemy because money is more important to you than your principles.

Mind you, I fail to live up to my own high-sounding rhetoric. 🙂

I faced an ethical dilemma. I discovered that one of my clients is run by members of Hillsong Church — an organisation which worries me. Did I stop working for them? No. Or at least I haven’t yet. However I have turned down a project which would have been working directly with the Church’s own business interests.

On the other hand, can I be accused of religious discrimination? Perhaps. How would it have sounded if I said “I don’t work for Jews”?

It’s presumably OK to say “I don’t work for the baby-sacrificing Turnip Cult”, though, so where does one draw the line?

Was Apple wrong to include political commentary in a product launch? (Did that happen because Al Gore is an Apple board member?) Where does one draw the line between business and politics (and religion)?

14 Replies to “Is it really so wrong to mix business and politics (and religion)?”

  1. Where do you draw the line?

    When the queazy feeling in the pit of your stomach, the nagging doubt hammering away in the back of your mind, the feeling that you need to scrub down when you bank the cheque, just won’t go away, and you wish you hadn’t said yes.

    I mix business, politics and religion all the time. Like your header says Stil., “All publication is a political act. All communication is propaganda. All art is pornography. All business is personal.”

    It’s not the political or religious persuasion per se, it’s the ethics behind it and behaviour displayed, yes?

    Where is it written that people have to be fair and do business with people they’d rather not do business with?

    Agree with Alistair, ignorance is bliss, but once you know, well, then it’s your choice isn’t it? And then a whole heap of other interesting computations and trade-offs come into play. (This from personal experience boycotting whole countries and trans nats over the years, in protest/solidarity for whatever) 😉

    If you feel uneasy about doing business with someone for ethical reasons; unless you’re in the employ of a dictator, it’s no-one else’s business but yours, should you choose to say “no, sorry, can’t do this job for you”.

    (@Matt F: Nah, don’t do a poor job, that affects your reputation AND Karma. You just sic … err … “recommend” them onto your worst enemy/competitor in the field. They deserve each other, right?)

    It seems to me, from personal observation and anecdotal evidence over the years; that the only people who wrestle with their conscience over this sort of dilemma, are the people whose gut feeling says “no”, even as they shake on the deal.

    And you can be sure that the “client” is having no such tussle with their feelings over the contract, except perhaps regarding prompt payment, if at all, for services rendered, having transmorgified into the client from hell quicker than you can say – DOUW!

  2. @Alastair: As I said over at your place:

    I understand that point entirely. But ignorance is why so many Bad Things are allowed to flourish. Perhaps I’m making the argument that we should (yes, that “should” word) be making more informed choices about who we do business with.

    Obviously, though, all business involves compromise…

    (I tended to avoid Gloria Jean’s before that, but that’s only because I like variety and will always choose the unknown corner café over the high-profile franchise.)

    @Cassie ST: I think you explain the line-drawing very well. If the gut feeling says it’s wrong, it’s wrong. Even if we can’t consciously put it into words.

    Isn’t there a song in The Simsons about “doing a half-arsed job” being “the American way”?

  3. I think that it is unwise business to publicly endorse one candidate over another, unless your business is to make publicity for that one candidate!

  4. @Asha: My question back to you is why is it unwise? Just fear of losing profits? What’s more important, making money or standing up for your political beliefs? Or is there some other reason?

  5. @Sky Walker: It’s hardly surprising that your comment is wildly off-topic, given that you’re promoting a lunatic conspiracy theory. No need to bring that idiocy here.

  6. Sir, first of all my post is well on topic. Second, take a look at the sky more often and especially at the soil, shrubs and trees and your car as well. Keep on looking until you see the chemtrail fibers, especially in the countryside they are well seen undisturbed. I’m not promoting any lunatic theory, just trying to pull your head out of the sand. Watch the famous documentary online called “What In The World Are They Spraying?”.

  7. @Sky Walker: If such “threads” are so goddam obvious to see then get off your arse, collect some, and take them to a reputable chemical laboratory for analysis. Take some reputable citizens with you as witnesses, and handle everything with a proper forensic chain of custody — just like the police do with crime scene evidence in real life, not as you might imagine them to do from TV programs.

    Until you’ve done that, or can point to someone who’s done that, you are not welcome to post anything here on the topic of chemtrails whatsoever. I’ve done enough science in my life, read enough and seen the logical flaws in the whole concept. I’m not about to waste any more of my time on such ignorant bullshit.

    Please read my comments policy. If it isn’t clear enough, do come back to me with any questions.

    This post is about whether a business should be seen to get itself involved with politics or not, about political principle versus the pursuit of profits. As the final question asks, “Where does one draw the line between business and politics (and religion)?” It is about business practice. You are currently well off-topic, and that’s my decision to make, not yours.

  8. @Stilgherrian Can you deny that since planes started sowing biological weapons in their wake, we’ve seen an increase in average temperatures? Al Gore, acting as an agent of the US government, is attempting to convince us that it is from “carbon dioxide” (a weightless gas that may not even exist). Those of the sheeple who have thrown off the blinders know the truth, as revealed to us on the #OccupyBrisbane live feed tonight.

  9. Stilgherrian, please take a look at this yoursocalled “bullshit”. This is chemical lab test results for water and soil and person’s blood – it was posted openly on facebook:

    You may need to enlarge them with your software. All 4 images are important to look at and read completely to understand what’s happening.

    Also go to any convertible with black top and loo towards the sun. You will see all the chem fibers on the black material very well. I just did it today and the guy at the HONDA dealership was fascinated to discover the truth.

    This is on topic, because some people consider certain issues as business and some as religion. For example: conspiracy deniers sometimes are so in denial that they become religiously denialous. All I’m trying to do is help you all to discover the crap you’;ve been breathing for years now. Most of your diseases and cancer comes from stuff like chemtrails, cellular towers etc. Wish you all the best.

  10. Andrew, do you mean specific chemical additives in jet fuel perhaps? Those airplanes that spray stuff out of their nozzles are unmarked and the spray is not originating from engine exhaust, but from specific, separate nozzles.

    Now since you touched the topic of 9/11/2001 – yes, indeed it was an inside job. Architects, engineers, firemen, pilots, the dead key witnesses confirm that:

    World Conspiracy Theory Debunkers, Unite! 😉

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