Michael Charney is a principal with Charney Coaching & Consulting LLC, where he provides expert services in the areas of team building, communications and succession management. As part of his responsibility for social media strategy and business platform development, he also provides regular blog, Facebook and Twitter postings.
As an executive and leader he has pioneered work in corporate social networking, textual and language analysis and professional services methodologies.
In the early days of social media, he helped design and create internal corporate social systems that allowed people to build profiles, define levels of expertise, and share knowledge with virtual team members around the globe. These systems were used by such companies as Unisys, ADP and Benjamin Moore, and such organizations as Yale University.
This background provides him with an understanding of social networking culture, particularly with respect to the ways in which individuals use social networking as a personal bully pulpit. He found that, when working in corporations, the most knowledgeable and/or respected individuals were not necessarily those who dominated conversations—a phenomenon clearly seen throughout the course of his experiment in the political Twittersphere.
Interestingly, Michael has never been all that interested in politics. At least, he didn’t think so….
Thank you so much for this interview, Michael. Can you tell us what inspired you to write your book, Chasing Glenn Beck?
Michael: I’ve always been interested in politics and I’ve always been interested in writing, but I never thought the two would come together. Then Glenn Beck did something that crossed a line I didn’t even know I had drawn—he blamed the earthquake and tsunamis in Japan on you and me, saying that, somehow, God was punishing us because we weren’t taking the Ten Commandments seriously enough. Imagine: God angry because we sometimes go to the mall on Sundays or covet our neighbor’s Lexus!
People were repeating his words like they were gospel, even though Glenn Beckis just a guy—an entertainer—with no more standing than you and I. It really bothered me.
And then I thought, “Hey. Maybe anyone can drop crazy ideas out into the virtual world and get people to believe it.” That’s how Chasing Glenn Beck started. Mythought was to go out on Twitter and do just that, only this time the ideas would be about Beck himself: about how he loved the environment, or didn’t like Sarah Palin, or thought the bank bailouts were a good idea. I was just curious to see what would happen, not realizing quite what I was getting into. I had real quotes from Beck, by the way, though I did perhaps take them just a bit out of context….
Then the real world just started taking over and I began writing about anything and everything that was happening. Fortunately I was able to see several themes emerge that allowed me to create a story out of the individual experiences.
Why do you believe this is an area of passion for you?
Michael: I’ve always been very sensitive to manipulation, and to the way in which people set themselves up as experts with the singular purpose of convincing me that I need something, or I want something, or I believe something. I’ve read a lot, for example, on the sociology of buying—how stores put things in certain places, or use certain colors or smells, just to get us to buy what they want us to. Political dialogue these days is nothing more than that same kind of marketing. And extremists with the loudest voices—people like Glenn Beck—are taking over that conversation. We need to chase them away.
How long did it take you to write it?
Michael: Eight months, which is an incredibly fast pace. I decided to write the book in real time, over a thirteen-week period. In that way I could write about real-world events as they were happening. So each week I was drafting a new section while editing the previous week’s entries. At the end of the period I had a pretty good second draft. Then the real work began; I spent five months researching, polishing, rewriting, reorganizing, re-polishing, and word-smithing. Hours and hours and hours every day, seven days a week. The book went through six full drafts, and then went out for professional copyediting before settling into its final form. I worked like an insane person; I wanted the book out in time for the New Hampshire primary, and I hit that date.
What are some of the most important things you hope people take away from reading Chasing Glenn Beck?
Michael: Remember that everything is about marketing these days, even politics. Ideologies and politicians are products just like anything else, and it’s far too easy to allow emotion to rule one’s beliefs rather than letting logic and reason dictate these very important decisions. Stay wary, think logically, and be willing to engage with others—particularly people who may not agree with you. And remember that most of these so-called experts are really just entertainers; they don’t have any more credibility or legitimacy than you or I, and when they go to the ballot box they only get one vote, just like us. Don’t let them take it from you.
Plus, never forget that beliefs are not facts. For example, someone believed that Seth Rogen would make a great Green Hornet. The facts, however, were quite different….
What do you do when you’re not writing? Do you have a day job?
Michael: Fortunately, after many years in the corporate world I now work for myself, so while I work hard, I do enjoy a certain sense of freedom. My wife and I work together in a small HR consultancy that she’s established, and that pays the bills. I’ve also started a publishing company, Riddle Brook Publishing, and I plan to publish a couple of books this year by other writers.
Will you be writing more books?
Michael: I’ve had some thoughts for another book that would cover the specific rhetorical techniques used by these pundits, but I haven’t yet decided when I want to write it. In the meantime I’m devoting my attention to other writers. Riddle Brook Publishing, the company I established for my book, is now a full-fledged publishing venture, and I’m currently reviewing manuscripts from other New England-based writers. I expect to publish at least a couple of books before I write another one myself.
Thank you for this interview, Michael. Can you tell us where we can purchase your book?
Michael: First, I encourage everyone to support their local bookstores. Here in NH you can find the book online through the Toadstool Bookshops and Gibson’s Bookstore, and any bookstore in the country can order it for you.
You can also order the book directly from Riddle Brook Publishing and through my blogsite.
Visit Michael's website at www.chasingglennbeck.com.