Thinking 101

This version of the story originally appeared in Computerworld's print edition.

I received an e-mail from a reader last week in response to my "Best and Brightest" column that made a deep impression on me. In the column, I expressed my conviction that the community of IT leaders is one of the most influential resources we have to counter the shallowness of thought that permeates so much of what we encounter in our lives every day.

The main text of the e-mail was simply a quote: "If you teach a man to think he is thinking, he will love you. If you teach a man to think, he will hate you." The reader added nothing more, except to say that he was still trying to identify the quote's author.

The reader couldn't have known how impeccable his timing was. At almost exactly the same time he sent that e-mail, another reader was posting a comment on my blog in response to an item I'd written about him last Nov. 11. (It's unclear to me why it took him seven months to do so.) My Nov. 11 post, titled "The perplexity of online incivility and ignorance," carried the full text of an e-mail I'd received from this reader in response to my Nov. 5 column, "Using Women." (That column, you may recall, took issue with a U.K. company's use of scantily clad women in its booth at a Gartner conference.) Here's the reader's e-mail from my Nov. 11 post in its entirety:

Nice try Don, but women are not going to flock to your "manly but sensitive" door ready to give themselves to you. The jig is up on the "sex and drugs and rock-n-roll" generation's attempt at telling everyone they cannot do what we did. The politically correct manure wagon ran off the trail and over the cliff. People are no longer willing to let the news media tell them what is acceptable and what is not. If naked women offend you, then you and your boyfriend should leave. We don't really care what offends who. The world can't, because a cure for cancer would offend someone. If I have offended anyone, place your thumbs (assuming you have thumbs) in the appropriate areas, wait a minute, then switch! Grow up, sex sells. Always has and always will. It seems real men enjoy the semi-nude female figure, and it took a company from the U.K. to put it back and say it is okay to be a normal man. America, you are such a mess. So are you, Don.

The reader did have the courage to identify himself, and while I praised him for that in my blog post, I expressed surprise at the mean-spiritedness of the response, calling it "almost a caricature of narrow-mindedness and insensitivity."

The reply that the reader posted last week claimed that it was obvious he wasn't serious and that I was just out to incite trouble at his expense. The full text is in my blog, but here's the thrust:

There are MAJOR clues within the e-mail, Don, that suggest the reply was meant to be in jest, that the author agreed that women should be treated with respect, that only cave dwellers would think otherwise. So let me thank you for spitting on my name in a public forum. ... Had anyone harmed me or my family due to your public agitation regarding something you obviously are not intelligent enough to understand (or maybe you did and just wanted to play the part of the intellect you think you are), I'm not quite sure what actions I may have taken, Don. However, I can assure you there would have been ramifications in some form. Think about that before you trash someone else whose writings pass over your head, and whom you put in a danger that they are not even aware of, Don. You got lucky this time. Also, be very thankful I am not the person who you thought I was. That type of person may have visited you, in person.

The reply I posted in my blog was that I'm happy to leave it to our readers to decide if I was off base, and whether his denial was plausible. In any case, I'm not going to stop trying to get people to think.

Don Tennant is editorial director of Computerworld and InfoWorld. Contact him at, and visit his blog at


Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

7 inconvenient truths about the hybrid work trend
Shop Tech Products at Amazon