Loren Feldman vs. Shel Israel

by Mathew on April 6, 2008 · 27 comments

I find it kind of interesting that not many people — or at least not many mainstream bloggers — are writing about Shel Israel and his ongoing battle with video-blogger Loren Feldman of 1938media. Matt Craven from The Blog Herald has just done so in a post about how Shel has lost a lot of his respect for doing two things: 1) Making crappy videos, and 2) Failing to respond to Loren’s jabs at him in the spirit of his book “Naked Conversations.” Shel’s response is here.

For anyone who has an actual life and hasn’t been paying attention to the brouhaha between Shel and Loren, it started when Shel began doing video interviews for FastCompany.tv. Loren — who makes corporate videos and also does his own blend of free-form comedy and commentary videos at 1938media.com — began criticizing the quality of Shel’s videos mercilessly on Twitter and on his blog, and also started posting parodies of Shel’s videos using Muppet-style hand puppets.

At some point, Loren also noticed that Shel hadn’t bothered to register the domain name version of his name, ShelIsrael.com. So Loren did, and it is now filled with parodies of Shel using the puppets, with some of Shel’s actual videos mixed in. At this point, I should probably mention that I know and like Loren — we had him as a panelist at the mesh conference last year, and he is very funny. But there’s no question that he likes it “edgy,” as they say, and not everyone takes to that.

Regardless of what you think about Loren grabbing Shel’s domain name, or taking repeated shots at him on Twitter and elsewhere, there’s no question in my mind that Loren is just having fun with Shel — just as he has with Jason Calacanis, Mike Arrington and Robert Scoble, all of whom are now friends. As Aaron Brazell notes in a comment on Shel’s blog, Loren often goes after people he either respects or likes — it’s the video equivalent of a boy pinching a girl when he likes her.

That’s why I thought the best take on this whole thing came from Tom over at Tom’s Tech Blog, who has written a thoughtful post about how Shel has handled this whole affair in completely the wrong way. It’s not just that he has been sniping at Loren on Twitter, or threatening to get private investigators to look into his background — it’s more that he hasn’t followed through on the principles in his book. And more than that, he’s made it obvious that he doesn’t really have much of a sense of humour either. For a comedian like Loren, that is the ultimate flaw.

  • http://bryghtpath.com mattcraven

    Well said Mathew… and thanks for the link

    ~Matt

  • Palluxo

    These things (and fights) are happening all the time @ YouTube.
    Thanks for pointing this out. I'll certainly going to take a look into this. It seems interesting.

    Daniel
    http://www.palluxo.com

  • Jon Husband

    Yes, quite interesting dynamic, that.

    Actually, I find a fair few of the “names” in social media don't necessarily “act” as they “preach”, and I think that's pretty much par for the course when it comes to human, social affairs.

    Shel, though, would be notable in that area, in my opinion. From what i have seen there's still a nifty little clique to which Shel belongs / is part of .. and I am not sure at all that they are doing “social media” any favours when it comes to developing deeply the potentials that I think lay therein. The video interviews by and large aren't great, they tend to be tech-heavy, and the analyses (or in effect just remarks) on emerging and evolving sociology and business issues in / for an interconnected environment are pretty banal, by and large.

  • http://www.propr.ca Joseph Thornley

    “Loren is just having fun with Shel”
    Mathew, I hope that you never have the experience of someone “having fun” at your expense in this way. Yes, we should all have a sense of humour. But there's a difference between clever and just plain mean.

    I think the silence about Loren's tactics is driven by people's desire to stay out of his crosshairs. And to me that's the real indication that he has gone way beyond a healthy sense of humour. If you make fun of someone and they aren't returning the “humour” in the same way, a decent person would back off, not up the volume.

  • San Diago

    I second that, Joseph. I've seen this crap since the very first post and I think that Loren is acting like a chiwawa nipping at heels and defaming his target to get attention. Shel is doing the right thing by staying quiet and not biting back. He's proving to be the real man.

  • http://www.mathewingram.com/work mathewi

    Joe, believe me — I have suffered through more than my share of
    sustained criticism in the past (although, to be fair, none of mine
    involved puppets) and most of it was a lot more unfriendly than I
    think Loren's is. I don't think he is being mean at all, actually. I
    think it's more like what court jesters used to do — puncturing
    inflated egos, etc..

  • http://www.mathewingram.com/work mathewi

    I disagree, San Diago. In fact, that's part of the point. Shel has
    been fighting back on Twitter and so on, but (until the blog post)
    only to a small group of friends. That's hardly a naked conversation.
    And do chihuahua's defame their targets to get attention? I thought
    they just yapped incessantly about nothing.

  • http://www.propr.ca Joseph Thornley

    Mathew, I couldn't disagree more with you. It is mean to subject someone to ridicule. No one deserves that.

    The longevity of court jesters was directly tied to make their point without causing personal offence, by doing it indirectly and with wit. What's going on here is heavy handed and without finesse.

  • http://www.mathewingram.com/work mathewi

    It may be mean, Joe, but it's also funny. And I actually don't think
    it's really all that mean — the puppets lighten things up quite a
    bit. As for the court jester thing, I will agree with you that they
    were perhaps wittier (or at least so Shakespeare and others would have
    us believe) but there was a lot of bawdy comedy and so forth involved
    as well. Whether Shel deserves it or not isn't for me to say.

  • ryancoleman

    Joe: I get the “crosshairs” notion… there's been a few times I've had the back of the mind thought “I'm so glad I don't even appear on Loren's radar” as I've watched some of this stuff unfold.

    That said, I largely agree with Matt's sentiment – while it comes across as “mean” Loren tends to keep it at a place where he's only calling people on the points where they're being unauthentic (unauthentic?) to what they preach … but at the same time he delivers it in his usual style of keeping one last toe on the line so he can claim he hasn't stepped over it (the child hood equivalent of “I'm not touching you!!!).

    Sure Loren puts it over the edge from time to time, but that's Loren. Personally I think he's a good barometer to have around the 'sphere to keep egos in check in a edgy & funny way.

  • ryancoleman

    oh, and as for the domain… I can't imagine how Shel never registered his name.com … complaining now about someone else grabbing it is just strange…. I'd kill to get myname.com. (had to settle for .ca)

  • ken

    fastcompany.tv is on a death march. reading this post was more energy than they deserved.

  • http://www.jeffreymclarty.com/jm McLarty

    You can count me as one of those people with a life, I had never heard of this before today, and maybe this is part of the obvious joke, but JUST incase it's not, I'm going to say it outloud – You know what's funny…there's a puppet claiming to be Shel, a puppet with the last name “IS – REAL” WHAT A PUN… Shel Is Real …BAhhahahahahah

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  • http://www.seanpercival.com Sean Percival

    shel in second life coming soon :)

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  • http://leighhimel.blogspot.com Leigh

    I think Shel's just lucky that he's not famous enough to get on late night TV. I can just see a skit on the Daily Show with one of the reporters going and doing an interview with Shel, puppet in hand. Ah, see what happens when you hit the big times? :)

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  • http://spap-oop.blogspot.com Tish Grier

    I found out about this one yesterday–perhaps a lot of people don't want to get involved in this particular slugfest because, either way you land, the fall-out won't be pretty.

    I've met Feldman. He got pissy with me, I walked away, he apologized (he probably doesn't remember–I'm small potatoes and not some hot chick that would be all that memorable.) I was surprised and said “that's ok.”

    I've met Shel too–several times. He's been cordial in that older-generation p.r. guy kinda way.

    O.K. folks to know, but, well….they are who they are…sorry to see things blow up this way. Whenever something escalates like this, no one looks good.

    The only thing we should be taking away from this is to make sure you've picked up all the domains that could be a variant of your name. Esp. if you're kinda up there and could get parodied.

  • http://www.jimkukral.com jimkukral

    It's easy to say it wouldn't bother since Loren isn't doing it to me. All I know is I think that I'd have to laugh at it and be flattered if it did happen to me. Now, the second I started to lose some business over it, I'd lose that sense of humor.

    So, who knows Mathew. All I know is it's funny. Not in a mean way. I don't know Shel, and have never met Loren, but the stuff is making me laugh, which is what a comedian/entertainer (Loren) is supposed to do.

    By the way, is parody something you can be sued over? I'm no lawyer.

  • http://leighhimel.blogspot.com Leigh

    I think Shel's just lucky that he's not famous enough to get on late night TV. I can just see a skit on the Daily Show with one of the reporters going and doing an interview with Shel, puppet in hand. Ah, see what happens when you hit the big times? :)

  • http://spap-oop.blogspot.com Tish Grier

    I found out about this one yesterday–perhaps a lot of people don't want to get involved in this particular slugfest because, either way you land, the fall-out won't be pretty.

    I've met Feldman. He got pissy with me, I walked away, he apologized (he probably doesn't remember–I'm small potatoes and not some hot chick that would be all that memorable.) I was surprised and said “that's ok.”

    I've met Shel too–several times. He's been cordial in that older-generation p.r. guy kinda way.

    O.K. folks to know, but, well….they are who they are…sorry to see things blow up this way. Whenever something escalates like this, no one looks good.

    The only thing we should be taking away from this is to make sure you've picked up all the domains that could be a variant of your name. Esp. if you're kinda up there and could get parodied.

  • http://www.jimkukral.com Jim Kukral TheBizWebCoach

    It's easy to say it wouldn't bother since Loren isn't doing it to me. All I know is I think that I'd have to laugh at it and be flattered if it did happen to me. Now, the second I started to lose some business over it, I'd lose that sense of humor.

    So, who knows Mathew. All I know is it's funny. Not in a mean way. I don't know Shel, and have never met Loren, but the stuff is making me laugh, which is what a comedian/entertainer (Loren) is supposed to do.

    By the way, is parody something you can be sued over? I'm no lawyer.

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