So just how dangerous can it be to act as a talking head in your area of expertise? Sure, there are pitfalls of public speaking for your company. Dangers of the slip of the tongue, a slip on the facts.
But can showing up get you killed?
A year ago, Charmaine and I learned of a unique danger of talking head-ness:
Getting blown up by terrorists.
Charmaine on the plane
with Richard Branson
Charmaine traveled to Edinburgh to cover the G8 conference with Branson and Bono. Riots and bombings followed.
On July 7, 2005, Charmaine calls me early morning from Edinburgh. “I’m having trouble flying into London,” she says.
I’m still waking up. I ask, “When can you come home?”
“I don’t know,” she says, her voice unsteady, “They’re still clearing the bodies.”
A wake up call. London, welcome to the war.
It started, as most things these days do, with a blog, Powerline. John Hinderaker asked Charmaine to do commentary with political and business analysis on the gathering of the world’s economic superstars. And entertainment superstars.
Following is the posting from London as Charmaine called it into me, when her site went down.
“Flew into Heathrow airport and took a $150 cab ride into north London to conduct interviews and document the bombsites. Bobbies cordoned off area around the sites sealing the scene of the explosions. I got to within a block or so of Edgware Tube station entrance with Londoners sitting calmly, relaxing in pubs. Everything is strangely calm, business as usual. I interviewed a woman, an interior designer, expecting some emotional display. There was none. “We don’t do a lot of group hugging in England,” she said, making me think of the stiff-upper lip. “We are not sentimental.”
And she seemed to reflect the mood of the London population. Not for what they were doing but for what they were not doing: No candles, no out-pouring of grief, no hoards of gawkers milling around police tape, no teddy bears, no bouquets of flowers. No movement. No tears.
Everything normal, except, maybe for that bus with the top blown off. Workers cleared and cleaned up the area real well. Spiffy. And got back to their pints.
I visited hospitals and learned that ‘only’ 37 were confirmed dead at that time. More confirmations were expected.
There were no moms with little children in downtown London. I interviewed middle-aged businessmen on cell phones and kids with Mohawks, none who were surprised.
Londoners gently reproached me about my concern over the bloodshed, “You Americans get sentimental over silly things. We’re used to getting bombed.” The IRA Troubles had hardened hearts as well as the London infrastructure.
I expected some grief, at least as much as there was when Lady Di died. And grief I got. I interviewed three very ordinary, normal teenaged English Muslims, one with short spiky hair (dressed not unlike my 10 year-old-dude). All three seems to be parroting Muslim talking points. “The bombings were a conspiracy by Blair to generate support for the war,” they recited in a charming British accent.
The bombers were quite indiscriminate. Edgware is not far from the heart of Little Beirut, a Muslim ethnic neighborhood.
A young British black woman told me, “The bombings are Tony Blair’s fault — they killed a 100 thousand Iraqis — and it’s like a boomerang [coming back at the British].” Most everyone I talked to believed that the British caused the bombing or had it coming.
Of the dozen or so people I interviewed only white males in business attire expressed surprise that anyone would think the British were at fault in anyway.
But these gentlemen were the minority. Most felt that the Brits were complicit. The people at London’s ground zero were sounding like the “wobbly” Spanish after their train bombings.
The day is a cloudy, cold, rainy 7.7.”
Charmaine is still out on the streets — 9pm local London time and will be sending pictures soon.
Read the story:
No matter how terrifying standing up and speaking up can seem, it’s not likely to kill you. Maybe.