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Fear or Apathy

A couple of weeks ago someone asked if I thought apathy caused the lack of action on the NY Affiliate Tax issue. I replied in Apathy and the Affiliate Industry that I thought the failure to act was because of a lack of urgency rather than because of apathy. It is normal, sometimes you care but believe tomorrow is plenty of time. Then, in Silence is Not Golden, I wrote about the silence in the affiliate industry. Even though it was a general post and not merely about the NY Affiliate Tax issue, that post garnered a lot of attention and emails. Many responded saying lack of action or not speaking on the NY issue was not due to not caring, but rather, the silence was due to not knowing what to do or what to say. My original post on the silence was supposed to be a general post regarding almost any issue in the affiliate industry; it was not just about the NY Affiliate Tax. Too many times we are guilty of holding our tongue, keeping thoughts, concerns and opinions to ourselves.

I wrote “Silence is Not Golden” before I knew about the One Cause toolbar and today, that post is even more applicable. While there has been some response to the concerns regarding the toolbar, I am a bit surprised by those that are not speaking up. This time, rather than choosing between apathy and lack or urgency I think we have to add a third reason for lack of action – fear.

Whether the toolbar is performing as it does because of bugs or whether it is performing as intended, the lack of comments by more affiliates, merchants and networks is disconcerting. Ultimately, there are probably three opinions you can have. Either you approve, disapprove, or condone it. Approving of it means you have no issues with it. Disapproving means you are find fault with it; whether you believe the activity is caused by bugs or intentional programming. Condoning it means you are excusing the behavior for whatever reason.

Silence is condoning. Silence is caused by either apathy or fear. Either you do not care, or you are afraid of voicing an opinion. Perhaps it is fear of retribution, a fear of other’s reactions or a fear of lost income that is silencing some on this and other issues. Over the last several months, affiliates have expressed to me a fear of retribution if they were to speak out on the NY Affiliate issue. I can only surmise that silence in our industry is often based on this fear. Many affiliates refrain from voicing opinions or asking questions out of fear of retribution. For affiliates, I think we could solve this dilemma by fairer affiliate agreements. As for networks and merchants, I can only guess that it is a fear of lost income or of reciprocal scrutiny that silences. I am not sure how to address that.

Just as I believe that we need to address the underlying issues of NY Affiliate tax situation, I think we need to address the underlying issues of the toolbar. Define ethical practices and standards for everyone and decide how it should be monitored.

If you care and have an opinion, whether it is on the NY tax situation, toolbars or any other issue, you owe it to yourself to speak up. Agree or disagree with someone but show you care. Many are quick to speak out on politics and other issues but when it comes to issues in the affiliate industry there is silence. Whether caused by fear or apathy the end result is the same.

The silence of so many ethical persons in our industry will mostly likely lead to the unethical controlling the path the industry takes. I don’t think I can travel down that path.

During an interview last week, someone asked me if I ever felt like giving up on the NY Tax issue and taking the easy way out. I don’t think a day has gone by that I didn’t feel like giving up. It would have been very easy to simply find another merchant, replace links and go on my way but that is not a lesson I want to teach my children. I don’t want my children to learn that if you keep quiet and ignore something that it will get better or go away.

You may agree or disagree with some or all of my thoughts or opinions. You may not even care what I think but I will continue to speak. It is more than fighting for my business; I do it for my children. I do it so my children learn to stand up for themselves; stand up for what they believe in. I do it so that my children learn that actions are important and that the small steps of many people lead to great things.  I do it so that years down the road I can be at peace, knowing I did everything I could.

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