The military metaphors can also get a company into
legal trouble, even in the US. There is one
well-publicized case where company strategies with
cool names like 'Death Star' are paving the way
to realtime in club fed.
I suspect that many executives are shocked, I mean
*shocked* to hear that the strategies they got from
a management book that they found at Borders,
a book with stylish references to Sun Tzu,
this book has strategies that are downright illegal!
I'm shocked, your honor, it should be illegal to
print such things.
I agree, greenFox, as programmers we don't need
to think or work in the military context, and we would
be better off to use a different metaphor.
Make love not war!
Hmm.. I tried responding to the node below maybe
I screwed up or perhaps it was reaped.
Anyway, the idea is that when you get
in trouble for something, such as Enron did after
they stole billions of dollars from California,
it turns out that your state of mind when you did
the crime makes a big difference. When you use cool
names like 'Death Star' for your strategy (which was
used in California and Oregon, not offshore), it is
more difficult to claim that you didn't mean any harm.
It is the difference between a simple
misunderstanding, fraud, and racketeering.
Some energy lobbyists still claim that the 'Death Star'
strategy is legal, but they never refer to it by the
'Death Star' name, because it would be a poor legal
strategy to do so.
There are numerous articles that you can find on
yahoo that explain the strategies and the legal
arguments in this case.
I suppose that if you aren't concerned that anything that
you ever do will be questioned legally, you don't need
to worry about what you call things. As a book author,
you would be in good shape.
Which company are you talking about? I know that Enron used a lot of Star Wars references for their offshore activities, but it wasn't the names that got them into trouble. If you are talking about something else, please supply the specifics.
I still haven't found anything that supports your claims. No article I ran across said anything about Enron getting in trouble because of their choice of names (which also included "Ping Pong" and "Get Shorty").
Their name was a poor choice, but as far as I can tell they haven't been indicted for naming a business strategy. If you have specific links to actual articles, please post them.
You told me privately that the "illegal" activities you refer to are really just things that violate your own companies policy. That hardly makes those activities crinimal. That a corporate lawyer told you not to do something doesn't affect the legality of the action: they just don't want you anywhere near trouble so they draw the line further back.
Several non-governmental organizations use a military metaphor without legal incident. The Salvation Army even put s it right in their name. Southwest Airline pilots wear bomber jackets. Private security companies are para-militaries. Mall security guards dress like they expect gun battles. US citizens can wear most of our military's uniforms (without identifying insignia) without even getting a second look from a cop. It is simply not illegal.
You are right that
metaphors are usually not illegal in themselves.
But if you get into trouble,
they can make your trouble much worse.
Your state of mind when you commit a crime
often determines which crime you will be charged with.
Military metaphors can be a worst-case-scenario for
For an example, see
In this article, it is clear that the state of
mind of the enery traders determines whether or not
a crime occured. If I was on a jury, and someone
claimed to be in an innocent state of mind while
executing manuever that they themselves referred
to as 'Death Star', I would be skeptical.
If you aren't accused of commiting any crimes
that relate to your metaphors,
there should be no legal problems with
choice of metaphors. However, many military
tactics are in fact illegal when applied to
civilian life. Shooting at your competitors,
for example, is generally forbidden.
Perhaps it would help to shift
metaphors to illustrate the point with a
silly example. I'm not being serious, here,
I'm just trying to explain my point of view.
If you don't agree or think it applies,
that's fine, too. People who debate crime,
punishment, and metaphor often don't agree.
Imagine that I am an accountant.
I unwisely call my tax-avoidance system "Fraudulently
avoid paying taxes by illegally deducting business
lunches." During an audit of an account
which uses this scheme, it is found that I should not
have deducted an expensive business lunch that was
listed as an expense. Now it is the Revenue Agent's responsibility to assess my state of mind when I made
this mistake. Was it tax evasion, or a simple mistake?
The name of my accounting scheme is
going to cause me a problem.
Not silly enough? Here's one that's even sillier:
What if Scott Adams was charged with stealing office
supplies? As the author of
"Build A Better Life By Stealing Office Supplies"
he could have a real problem!
There is also a more serious risk in using metaphor,
and that is that an opponent takes your metaphor
literally, and shoots first. The Salvation Army
doesn't have much of a problem with that one, but
Mall Cops do take that risk, and sometimes pay
the ultimate price.