Friday, March 31, 2006

The Man Who Could Not STFU

In my last couple of posts (here and here) I examined companies that want analysts and reporters to STFU.

Today we have a CEO -- a major figure in the STFU Campaign -- who cannot and will not STFU.

I refer, of course, to Patrick Byrne of But first I have to admit that Byrne has confounded me.

In all my many years of writing about Wall Street and Corporate America -- twenty-two to be exact -- I have encountered many CEOs, possibly hundreds. And there is a pattern here. Almost without exception, I have been weirder than they were.

And mind you, I truly don't believe that I am that weird a guy. It's just that reporters are, by definition, more likely to be weird than CEOs. There are plenty of reasons for that. I will save those reasons for another time.

However -- and I say this with something bordering on admiration-- Patrick Byrne is clearly weirder than me and weirder than the vast majority of the people who write about him. It is the reason why, I think, the media is alternately intimidated, charmed and utterly terrified of this guy.

One reason for the foregoing is Byrne's inability to STFU.

As an example thereof I hereby reproduce, in its entirety, a post that Byrne placed on the Motley Fool stock message board last night. The post, and its responses, can be found here:


"I have always considered the Fool and especially the Gardners and Bill Mann decent and honorable. However, I believe the deletion of posts has gotten out of hand, and reflects underlying bias at the I will lay out my thinking, then ask your opinion.

"I am aware that anytime paradigms collide it becomes possible to question the other's motives. So I have not beat this drum as hard as I might have. But from his remarkably programmatic postings here, and his history of bashing stocks that are on the Miscreant Shortlist, I believe Seth Jayson is "bent" and has an agenda (I do not know whether his shilling is from bribery or some other mechanism). I suspect Usually Reasonable is also co-opted, and has been assigned the task of trying to win non-official Fools to his side as "just another interested poster." I wonder about Eurotrash: occasionally he seems reasonable, but often it feels like his shtick is to play the, "Oh I'm really on your side, but just quibble quibble quibble" game.

"But I am not sure, I admit. So I wanted to ask carefully for the opinion of the Fools, not to insult anyone, but just to know if I were paranoid. So I posted a poll asking for other folks' read on this issue, starting with Seth. I think this was a legitimate question for me to wonder about, and hence, a legitimate question for me to pose to the Fool community. Early reads of the poll showed that most Fools strongly suspected Seth of being compromised.

"The poll was taken down. It got deleted, as I am sure any posts asking for others' opinions on the veracity of UR and ET would be deleted as well.

"I think it was illegitimate of to remove my poll on Seth. I really wanted to learn something, and would have learned something were it not for this, as would we all have. I believe it is incredibly inappropriate for the Fool to own the tool of discourse, mold the tool of discourse through Seth, and then prohibit the one tool that would let the rest of us Fools communicate our perceptions without risk of distortion. It takes the marvelous invention that is Fooldom and opens the door to the possibility of it turning into just another closed circle of corruption (like Wall Street and its lapdog media show).

"This impression has been exacerbated by discovering the TeachMeSomthing is now having even fair and innocuous questions being deleted in favor of Seth Jayson's histrionics.

"What do observers think?

I agree: now corruptly protects shills and suppresses dissent
I agree: Fool now protecting shills and kills dissent, but unwittingly
I disagree: they may be shills, but Fool just wants civilit
I disagree: they are not shills, Fool is right, Byrne is a nut

Click here to see results so far."

The above libelous trash -- I have no idea why it wasn't promptly deleted -- was accompanied by buttons etc., allowing people to "vote."

Now, it is tempting to ridicule this post, but I won't. But I do have to ask: Does this man have the slightest idea how downright weird he is being? Does he care? And will he ever STFU?

UPDATE: A reader brings to my attention a terrific editorial on this onging wackiness in the New York Sun.


Wall Street Versus America will be published by Penguin USA on April 6.
Click here for its listing and here for more information on the book, from my web site.

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