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Washington meets Washington, warily

Jeff Bezos is, by all appearances, a press-shy recluse with a ruthlessly efficient approach to business and a Scrooge-like reputation as an employer. He will also now be, by virtue of his acquisition of the Washington Post, a highly sought after social and political power broker in a town full of preening narcissists, socially ambitious sycophants and hucksters. And that’s not even counting the politicians. Should be fun.

Now that the shock of the sale has been absorbed, the DC establishment is trying to get a fix on the new macher from “the other Washington,” as Bezos put it in his memo to the Post staff. Good luck with that. It’s hard to imagine two more different cultures than Washington, DC, where I live, and the technology centers of Seattle and Silicon Valley from which Bezos hails (and this web site is based). It’s going to be a very odd fit.

DC is much more like Hollywood (another company town where I used to work) than like Silicon Valley. It’s a pecking order town, where appearances are way more important that reality and duplicity is both expected and, on a certain level, even admired. It’s also a town of secrets, where being “in the know” has nothing to do with data-driven decision-making or analytics except for those with top-secret security clearance.

That doesn’t mean Bezos won’t succeed in reviving the fortunes of the Post. Or that he can’t conquer DC if he decides he wants to. But it could take him a while to learn the lingo.