Technology's Sexiest Man
By Nicole Caldwell
Originally published in Playgirl, Issue #68, June 2014
Being a tech geek has never been sexier.
Steve Jobs and Bill Gates may have paved the way for the Mark Zuckerbergs of the world, and given Vitamin D-deficient dorks like MySpace founder Tom Anderson some spotlight. But one man, behind the scenes until now, embodies the sex appeal of technological know-how like none other.
Omar Todd—technical director for Sea Shepherd, national council director for WikiLeaks Party, and council member to the International Cyber Threat Task force, among a myriad of other roles—has been for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange what Harper Reed was for Barack Obama's 2012 reelection campaign.
“Technology and geeks are finally starting to move on the world stage as the main-stream media,” Todd told us from his home in Australia. “They are also changing the world and as we rely more on technology they will be the influencers of the future.”
Whale Wars TV shows captains on great adventures or dramatic footage—not the technical director pulling the strings to draw attention and foster support for the mission work of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. You hear drama about WikiLeaks and national security—not about the founder and deputy chairman of the WikiLeaks Political Party in Australia. Yet entrepreneur, filmmaker, conservationist, politician and activist Omar Todd has overseen the development and spectacular growth of multiple start-up companies in the digital media and technology sectors for the last 20 years.
Omar Todd makes technology sexy.
Today, technology is hot. “Technology is sexy because of the hope it represents for mankind,” Todd said. “If anything will save us and our planet, it will be technology. Until the last 10 years technology was scoffed out to a point as a specialist area only for nerds. Now, we are coming into our own with TV shows like “The Big Bang” squarely putting technology into the mainstream as something sexy. The people behind it, despite their bad hairdos, sometimes terrible dress sense, and odd mannerisms can be in their own way sexy. It’s these quirks that are now seen as something unique.”
The fedora-wearing, bespectacled, 5 o'clock shadow-rocking Omar Todd was always involved in computers. “I think my father brought the second Apple computer into Australia, way back in the 80s,” Todd jokes. “I remember knowing more about computers than any of my teachers... Studies in general were a distraction from the fun of handling computers for me.” By the time he was 15, Todd was writing his own code; and by his early 20s, Todd was running an Internet service provider. The rest, as they say, is history.
For Sea Shepherd, for whom Todd has worked since 2009, he uses social media like Facebook and Twitter to promote global awareness and support for environmental and animal-rights issues. His coordinated recent social media campaigns have garnered worldwide pressure against atrocities inflicted upon dolphins in the Cove in Taiji, Japan; to whales in the Southern Ocean by the Japanese Whaling Fleet; and to sharks from culling in Western Australia. More recently, Todd used social media with no budget to help manage a political campaign on behalf of the WikiLeaks Party in Australia.
But all this happened without anyone really knowing who Omar Todd is. So why the sudden interest in the spotlight?
“I think our movement, both Sea Shepherd and the WikiLeaks Party, is very important,” Todd told Playgirl. “I was wanting to push the messages of conservation and Internet freedoms out more mainstream because I understood the technologies, like social media. We use all ways to get our messages out and I happen to be the best with technology so I used social media and any other method to get the message out. If that means being in the spotlight to get the messages out, so be it.”
Saving the whales and breaking into top-secret government activity are about as far apart as two subjects can get—though the technology for each is the same. Still, for Todd the strategy for each is extremely specific. “It’s easy to promote conservation and promoting news of terrible deeds of the environmental atrocities that happen around the world,” he said. “The images also are rich and amazing, from never-before-seen images from Antarctica to ships clashing in remote seas in the hostile southern oceans is not hard to see this would be popular content to promote.
“On the other hand, promoting a political party based on transparency and accountability is a lot more difficult especially if the main candidate is effectively politically gagged in a physical difficult to access location. The contrast between the two is interesting: When I promoted anything about Sea Shepherd it was 99-percent positive; but when I posted anything about The WikiLeaks Party or politics, the response was much more of a mixed bag.”
Todd is compared to Harper Reed, who took social media directly into Obama's political campaign to heavily influence the electorate. Todd does the same thing with Sea Shepherd and the WikiLeaks party, only with a lot fewer resources. “Sea Shepherd and the WikiLeaks Party barely have any marketing budgets,” Todd said, “yet we manage to stand toe to toe with the largest brands in the world on the global news stage and hold our own. I suppose in this sense you need unique skills to be able to achieve with with a strong foundation and Sea Shepherd and WikiLeaks as brands have that foundation. I certainly have large online clout, and I think that’s respected by Julian.”
But the proof's in the pudding; and that's what Todd loves most of all. “I am seeing how what we do with Sea Shepherd and The WikiLeaks Party is influencing government policies and the public awareness in ways that never would have been possible even just five years ago,” he said. “Because we are on the cutting edge of technology, conservation and activism and because you set the agenda of your movements, you can set a vision. My vision is to rebalance the world with internet freedoms and protecting the biodiversity of our planet which ultimately will allow our species to have a future.”