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Don't Let the Robber Barons Fool You

05/23/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

I thought it might be timely in anticipation of April Fool's Day to talk about the foolish status of our modern day celebrity and robber baron fascination.

As I write in Hoodwinked, we've made icons out of the likes of Donald Trump, a ruthless real estate developer who publicly glorifies the firing and humiliation of people on TV.

During this ratings season millions tune in to see Trump's glee of firing fellow celebs on "Celebrity Apprentice," and Trump just announced the next season is already in filming. The AP story cites, "Trump's revived Apprentice will recruit candidates who have lost their jobs, are stuck with jobs they don't like to just get by or have finished college with no offers in sight."

Trump has been quoted as saying, "You can't be emotional in business; it will flat out kill you."

So, while we Americans are out of work, hungry, angry, and disempowered, this might be the perfect opportunity for all of us to take a good hard look at these so-called celebrities and icons that we prop up and, by association, expect future generations to emulate.

During the past four decades we the people have sent a strong message of support to the modern equivalent of the robber barons. Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric, is a prime example. He eliminated over 100,000 jobs at his company while taking huge bonuses and raises. He fought New York state, vehemently opposing environmental regulations that would have cleaned up the Hudson River and protected the lives of his own employees. By shifting GE from primarily manufacturing to financial services, he was a major driving force behind the U.S, economy's unhealthy transformation from production to paper.

When I speak to young students and at MBA conferences, I say, "If you want to honor Jack Welch, give him credit for being one of the chief architects of our current environmental and economic crisis."

We plaster the faces of billionaires on the covers of our magazines and praise them for donating fortunes to charities without bothering to point out that they made many times those fortunes by beating down their competitors. We watch shows about the rich and famous and in so doing, send messages to our children that they should aspire to living in mansions and traveling in private jets - regardless of how much environmental and social havoc is caused in the process.

Do we really want our future generations to embrace the horrible message of the bumper sticker, "He who dies with the most toys wins"?

The truth, we all know, is that no matter how many toys we amass we leave them behind when we die, just as we leave a broken environment, an economy that only benefits the richest, and a legacy of empowering greed over goodness. It is now time to commit to following a new path.

I believe that every one of us can change this by making our own demands on the media. We can demand that the prime media outlets cover how men and women live their lives meaningfully. Men and women who found non-profits, work tirelessly in aiding others, and don't ever base their success on a bottom-line profit margin for shareholders.

What if we all boycotted these shows? Celebrity Apprentice, American Idol, and other similar ones during this season? And wrote emails demanding they stop producing these shows? It is really very simple.

Here, for example, is the link for NBC -http://www.nbc.com/contact/general/ .

This month I encourage you to tweet out, Facebook message, and email the corporate entities in media and tell them we've had enough of CELEBRITY. Use their Twitter profile (eg - http://www.twitter.com/celebApprentice , and post your message to your followers. NO MORE ROBBER BARON CELEBRITIES.

This April Fool's Day let's expose the fools. And let's not allow ourselves or our children to be fooled any more!

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