Sitting Bullsh*t

Over the weekend a young man was caught on video committing the most horrific crime imaginable in contemporary America: being white, Republican and insufficiently deferential to a minority.

The usual Twitter mob formed, headed by blue checkmarks with enormous followings who called for the young man to be ostracised from society along with his family and friends (check out the entire timeline to see just how depraved this pile-on became). While the individual in the video might look like a smug git with a punchable face, it’s important to note that he did not engage in violence, nor abuse anybody. In fact, on any objective measure he doesn’t seem to be doing much wrong. But none of that matters, and the hatred and anger being directed at this teenager by Twitter’s finest rests on his merely being “disrespectful” to a protected class. The terms “white privilege” and “white supremacy” are being thrown around like confetti and, naturally, Trump is to blame.

However, several videos have since emerged (1, 2, 3) which shows the kids were doing little other than acting like kids do on a school trip when the Native American “elder” approached them, beating his drum. In other words, he got in their faces, not the other way around. Oh, and the kids were also being told they were on “stolen land” and should “go back to Europe“; presumably they were expected to meekly accept that and move on. One might also ask where the outrage was after this incident, or this one. The Washington Post quickly got hold of the Native American and uncritically published his side of the story, whereas the boys, who are pupils at a Catholic School, had no such ear lent to them. Nonetheless, one pupil’s account seems to match that of the video footage, and as I am writing this most of Twitter agrees the entire episode was a deliberate attempt to construct a narrative using misleading footage and generate a pile-on.

There are a couple of points to make here. The first is that since Trump’s election, race relations have collapsed to lower levels than even Obama managed, not because of bands of Nazis roaming the land lynching blacks but because there is now an entire industry devoted to labeling anyone and everyone a racist if they do so much as twitch an eyelash in opposition to aggressive minorities. It seems a lot of people, including an awful lot of whites, are hell-bent on starting a race war using a wholly imagined prevalence of white supremacy as an excuse. Ironically, these people claim to be opposed to the “normalising” of white supremacist thought, but here’s the thing: if you keep bandying that term around and accusing random people of being white supremacists for not grovelling before troublemaking minorities, at some point it is going to become normalised. Trump’s about as much a white supremacist as he is a Trappist monk, but progressives have decided everyone who supports him is a card-carrying racist. Well, keep that up and don’t be surprised if a candidate appears on the scene threatening to take minorities down a peg or two and a few million vote for him.  The ZMan often remarks that, sooner or later, whites are going to start voting along racial lines just as everyone else does; incidents like this are only going to bring that moment closer.

The second point is I can see a business opportunity in providing immediate support to those on the receiving end of a Twitter mob. These people need professional help in the form of legal advice, personal security, and PR on short notice in order to keep themselves safe and their lives intact. I’ve heard a few discussions on podcasts on what to do if a Twitter mob comes for you, and I’d not be surprised to find companies springing up actually offering this service before too long. Maybe one day you’ll be able to insure yourself against it; considering how many people fear it compared to how many it actually happens to, it might be a lucrative market.


Black Mirror

About a year ago, American nerds on Twitter started raving about a television series called Black Mirror. I was rather surprised to discover it was an obscure British show from 2011, but found it had grown in popularity through 2013-14 whereupon Netflix picked it up, ploughed in some money, and released another two seasons. This explains how American audiences suddenly got interested.

I started watching it when I first heard about it, but gave up after the first two episodes which I thought were vaguely interesting but nothing special. Then about a month ago I’d watched everything else on my list so gave it another go, and was hooked. The series consists of stand-alone stories of between 45 and 90 minutes all set in the reasonably near future where different technologies are deployed in everyday life. Society looks pretty much as it does now, only augmented by new technologies, and although some feature in multiple stories, you generally get a different one each episode. Almost always, the storyline revolves around some ethical problem the technology throws up, and how it can be harnessed for the good, create moral dilemmas, or abused for nefarious ends. The mood is generally dark, but occasionally one is positively uplifted, for instance in the episode San Junipero.

While most people rate Black Mirror highly overall, there is little agreement over which episodes are the best and worst. I didn’t find any of them terrible, and most were very good with one or two being brilliant. My favourite was White Christmas, with an ending so horrific it gave me nightmares that evening. White Bear, San Junipero, Shut Up and Dance, and USS Callister were probably the next best, in no particular order. I think it speaks to the strength and depth of each storyline that there is little consensus on which episodes are the best, and it really comes down to what aspect strikes a chord with you. Aside from the intriguing technology, the acting is superb with many a famous face popping up, and the series being split between America and the UK keeps things fresh.

Black Mirror was probably the best television series I’ve watched in a long time, and shows the exceptional talent of Charlie Brooker, who wrote most of the storylines. I don’t mind admitting there were two or three episodes which made me wish I’d written something half as good. If you’re into sci-fi, I highly recommend it.


51st State

Some people think the developing world is like the developed world, just poorer. It isn’t, and if you’ve traveled a little it’s hard to avoid noticing there is a competence gap as well. For example:

Nigeria’s ruling party has been accused of plagiarism after its manifesto declared it was dedicated to “keeping America safe and secure”.

The All Progressive’s Congress (APC), led by President Muhammadu Buhari, featured on its website a section dedicated to energy policy ahead of a general election slated for February.

It was allegedly headlined, “Our first priority is keeping America safe and secure”, and featured rambling copy critics said was likely lifted from other websites.

My guess is the task fell to a family member of the person responsible for getting it done properly, who either couldn’t do it or simply didn’t care. But others beg to differ:

An APC spokesperson, Lanre Issa-Onilu, claimed on Twitter the website had been “hacked” and “unauthorised content” posted on it.

“We won’t allow the desperate people to succeed in their evil plots,” he said.

I’m reminded of when I got annoyed with my maid in Lagos for reeking out my apartment by boiling fish on the landing outside. She first said it wasn’t her, and when I got doubly annoyed at being lied to, she later apologised and said “the devil made her do it”.

(Via Clarissa)



Yesterday I attended my weekly lecture on Global Economics, which is a subject I quite enjoy. Towards the end we were shown a truncated version of this excellent video on the plight of Briggs & Stratton workers whose factory in Missouri had been closed and production moved to China. It was hard not to feel sorry for these Americans, many of whom were over 50, who’d suddenly found their jobs yanked from beneath them with no alternative. The sight of them walking around a jobs fair in a daze was pitiful.

When the video finished I raised my paw in the air (as I am fond of doing) to point out that there was a large elephant wandering around the room that nobody’s noticed. Whereas it is true that low wages are the main driving force for relocating a factory to China, US policies have made manufacturing artificially high, namely the ever-increasing environmental legislation. I said that the only western leader who acknowledges that environmental regulations impose a cost on developed-world industries is Trump. Nobody else even mentions it, and for most politicians they are an unalloyed good with no downsides, and the more of them the better.

This caused some umming and ahing to the effect that we need to “do something” about the environment and that Trump pulling out of the Paris Agreement is not the solution. This may be true and it may be not, but it’s beside the point. It is one thing to bicker about solutions, but quite another to deny the problem exists. So I asked why it was only Trump who was prepared to even acknowledge that environmental regulations heap costs on developed-world industries and contribute the very unemployment we’re getting weepy about in the video. I didn’t get an answer, but I knew it already.

Everyone in an MBA class in a business school in Geneva is by definition white collar and rich. Nobody who enters that building except the cleaners has their livelihood threatened by environmental regulations, and almost 100% are willing to vote for them. Everyone wants to live around clean air and water, and most middle and upper middle classes these days are engaged in a weird post-Christianity Earth-worship cult, sort of like pagans only with designer handbags, smartphones, and a penchant for air travel. They say they’re willing to pay more for things, but this is a luxury rich folk can afford especially when the cost comes in the form of slightly higher prices rather than permanent unemployment.

The more the urban-dwelling elites vote for policies which clobber everyone else, the worse the situation is going to get. One would have thought Trump’s election, Brexit, and the gilets jaunes movement would have woken them up, but it appears they live in a wholly separate world. I’ve said for a long time Trump was a warning shot across the bows of western civilisation, and that the world is lucky that it was him who stumbled on the unguarded palace gates and sat on the throne. Alas, those gates remain wide open. It used to be that politicians would bicker over problems and sell different solutions to the population. Nowadays, massive, elephant-in-the-room problems affecting millions of people are being utterly ignored by the ruling elites who busy themselves selling solutions to problems which are either trivial or don’t exist.

The reason populism is on the rise is because it has become a trivially easy route to power; you don’t even have to offer solutions, just pointing a finger at the problem is enough. And if that problem – immigration, unemployment, crime – affects you and your family, you’ll vote for someone who acknowledges the problem exists over someone who doesn’t, regardless of the feasibility of his or her solutions and with scant concern for his character and broader manifesto. People like to issue stern warnings about how Hitler rose to power by inventing a problem and convincing the masses he was the one to fix it. Many of the same people believe to avoid a repeat of history we must ignore real problems, and call anyone who draws attention to them Hitler.

This won’t end well.


Miller-Domi Baby

So let me get this straight. The British people voted to leave the EU in the June 2016 referendum. Gina Miller, a random person who didn’t want Britain to leave, challenged the authority of the government to invoke Article 50 without primary legislation subject to a parliamentary vote, and won. A little later, Dominic Grieve, a Tory MP who also didn’t want Britain to leave, attempted to scupper a hard Brexit by ensuring parliament has a “meaningful vote” on any final agreement negotiated with the EU. At the time, both Miller’s victory and the requirement for a meaningful vote were seen as setbacks for those wishing to leave the EU.

Only now it is the meaningful vote that has scuppered an agreement which would have seen the UK remain tied to the EU in perpetuity. Had this meaningful vote not been imposed, Theresa May’s government could have unilaterally signed the agreement and outflanked all but the most concessionary of Brexiteers. The European Court has ruled that Britain can withdraw Article 50 unilaterally but, thanks to Gina Miller’s fine efforts, that will almost certainly have to be done via primary legislation subject to another parliamentary vote, which would fail.

If Britain does indeed leave with no deal on 29th March of this year, I believe hard Brexiteers ought to crowdfund a bronze statue of Gina Miller and Dominic Grieve for services to their cause. It could never have been done without them, and they are owed a debt of gratitude.


Hidden Figures

In the comments under my latest podcast on the subject of sexual promiscuity, Jim makes an interesting point:

I would suggest that in hard numbers a man in later life will still be viewed better by women for X previous partners than a woman would be by men for the same number, assuming a similar quality of partners on both sides.

This is true, and it explains why women lie about the numbers. Recall that my podcast was prompted by this tweet:

If women didn’t think their value in the dating marketplace was devalued by the number of partners they’d had, there would be no reason for them to lie about it. Sure, men lie too, but mainly to inflate the numbers. Then when they settle down and their partner asks them, they deflate the number to avoid looking like a complete fanny-rat.

However, both men and women lie about this stuff in part to avoid hurting the feelings of someone they care about. This is why sensible women who have enjoyed themselves at college learn to shut the f*** up, or lie when asked. A point I made in my book is the truth often doesn’t matter as much as how it’s presented. Most blokes these days know they’re not marrying virgins, but they’d prefer their partner applies some discretion and not mention their sexual history, and the same goes for the man. By being tactful, it’s a sign one partner respects the other and doesn’t want to hurt them unnecessarily.

Unfortunately, modern feminism decrees a woman should openly brag about her promiscuity. Not only does this put potential suitors off for crude biological reasons, it’s also a sign she doesn’t respect her partner nor care much for his feelings. Put simply, having several sexual partners doesn’t in itself devalue a woman, but it does if the bloke gets to hear about it. As I said, sensible women bury this stuff in a vault.


Mock ’em razors

During the marketing module of my MBA which I did last semester, the subject of colossal marketing failures came up. It appears Gillette is vying to be included in marketing lectures long into the future:

I don’t think I need to explain to my readers how insulting this is on so many levels. A comment over at David Thompson’s struck home, and included a last line which made me laugh:

Society has been bringing up boys according to the feminist model since the 1970s. It’s been going on a lot longer than #metoo or Gilette’s marketing pivot. We have enough multigenerational experience that we should be able to determine how the project of feminizing boys has worked out – do the boys grow up in to happy, successful men?

Even if it wasn’t so problematic, progressives don’t even find it believable that their guys, the oversocialized pajamaboy feminists, have any kind of iron hand inside their velvet glove, so much for the feminist promise to men of being able to access both their masculine and feminine side. They imagine instead that black men, under a kind of carbon credit scheme for their toxic masculinity, can be their street muscle against white Deplorables.

The reaction on Twitter was one of apoplectic fury, with people vowing to ditch not only Gillette, but all Proctor & Gamble products. But not everyone is unhappy:

Gillette has a dedicated page, to support the ad, which speaks volumes (emphasis theirs):

It’s time we acknowledge that brands, like ours, play a role in influencing culture. And as a company that encourages men to be their best, we have a responsibility to make sure we are promoting positive, attainable, inclusive and healthy versions of what it means to be a man. With that in mind, we have spent the last few months taking a hard look at our past and coming communication and reflecting on the types of men and behaviors we want to celebrate. We’re inviting all men along this journey with us – to strive to be better, to make us better, and to help each other be better.

From today on, we pledge to actively challenge the stereotypes and expectations of what it means to be a man everywhere you see Gillette. In the ads we run, the images we publish to social media, the words we choose, and so much more.

As I may have said before, modern corporations are as much standard bearers for a hotch-potch of post-modernist moral virtues than businesses returning value to shareholders. As I have definitely said before, these people would be better off joining a church.

The fact is, this advert has been dreamed up by a marketing department in a giant, multinational corporation. We already know which demographic these companies pander to when recruiting and promoting, and the further you get from the science and engineering branches, the more pronounced the effects of these policies will be. It doesn’t take any great genius to imagine what the marketing team behind this catastrophe looked like, and what views they subscribed to. The irony is companies justify diversity programs in part by claiming they allow marketing departments to better identify with their customers. Well, Gillette’s done a great job of that, haven’t they?


Ex Boss

A reader sends me a link to this article. Let’s take a look:

I’d had my eye on the biggest company in my field for a couple of years, just waiting for the right role to come up. They had a reputation for staff retention, beautiful offices and great workplace flexibility, and after proving myself and climbing the ladder at the company I joined after I finished uni, I was ready for a new challenge.

Some questions for my readers. Do you think this is a man or a woman writing this? Do you think he or she is in role where outcomes matter, or whether following the process is more important?

A friend had alerted me to the opportunity, which wasn’t being advertised publicly, so I thought I was in with a good chance. I stayed up past midnight one night polishing my resume and ensuring I tailored it to the values of my dream company.

I’ve tailored my CV to a particular role, but never to the values of a company. It sounds as though she just filled it with whatever drivel she found on the corporate website.

So I was thrilled when the HR manager – a guy named Brendan – called to offer me an interview. I told him I’d see him tomorrow, and left work early to go home and prepare. I practised answering curly questions with my housemate and made sure my best corporate outfit was pressed and clean.

I had to look up “curly question”. Apparently it’s Australian slang for a difficult question. In any case, this reads like something from a teenager’s diary.

I felt ready when I walked up the broad white stairs of the building, through the glass doors and up to reception. I told the receptionist my name and who I was there to see, and I waited.

I might have guessed the interview didn’t take place in a porta-cabin at the muddy end of a building site.

He was Brendan. From Bumble. We’d chatted for three solid weeks before I’d decided he was a snoozefest and unmatched with him.

The joy of dating apps like Bumble and Tinder, for those lucky enough to not need them, is that – as long as you haven’t exchanged phone numbers yet – you can unmatch with people on there at any time and they have no way of finding you again.

I use this function to my advantage all the time because I hate telling guys I’m not interested. So I will talk to them for weeks in the app and then either go on a date – at which point I have to offer up my number – or unmatch and disappear forever.

I’ve written before about how the mobile phone has allowed people to dispense with the normal politeness that governed ones behaviour when dating. If she lacks the courage to tell people she’s not interested and simply disappears, it’s hardly surprising she’s on Bumble looking for a boyfriend.

Brendan seemed like the perfect guy for me when I first swiped right on him. He was good looking, fit and had a good career in HR.

People will say that about me soon.

But as we chatted back and forth over the weeks, I realised he’d never really done anything off the expected life plan. He’d never messed up. He’d never travelled or been arrested or even bared his bum in public.

In short, he was too straighty-one-eighty for me.

I like my guys to have a past. Some perspective on life so they know what they’re doing is the right thing for them. I want them to have stories about being arrested in Amsterdam or streaking at the soccer in Rio.

And being convicted of possession with intent to supply and smacking their ex-girlfriend in the eye when she got a bit lippy. I’m reminded of this post.

Brendan had none of that, and he had to go.

I expect she did a backpacker’s trip to Europe with ten thousand other Australians and now considers herself worldly.

And all I could think about in this moment was that I shouldn’t have ghosted him.

Because it’s a cowardly thing to do, or because it might now affect what passes for your career?

I could identify the exact moment, as he reached out and shook me hand, that Brendan realised who I was. There was a flash of recognition in his eyes but it quickly disappeared as his professional face took over, and he ushered me into an office with two of his colleagues.

A penny for Brendan’s thoughts here.

I was rattled, but I tried to shake it off and focus on the interview. I still really wanted this job, and I couldn’t let a failed dating attempt get in my way.

The trio fired question after question at me, and I think I answered pretty well. I even started to think for a moment that perhaps Brendan didn’t realise who I was.

Then, after I had asked a few questions about the role, and we were winding up the interview, Brendan said, “What about challenging conversations? How are you at having those?”

This is the kind of thing HR people ask at interviews for a job requiring complete and utter obedience.

I could see amusement in his eyes as he asked and I could tell he was toying with me. But the others didn’t know that so I knew I had to be careful how I answered.

“I’m comfortable dealing with people at all levels and I’m not afraid to have difficult conversations,” I lied. “I believe if I conduct myself professionally and communicate openly, that will foster respectful and clear conversations with others, so everyone can get on with executing their roles to the best of their ability.”

She lied then, and she’s lying now. There is no way on earth she said that.

The other interviewers seemed pleased with my answer and Brendan smirked as he said, “Thanks Sophie, we’ll be in touch.”

I was so relieved to get out of that office, and was surprised when one of the other interviewers called me later that day to offer me the job.

I don’t know how I’ll handle things with Brendan now that we’ll be working in the same office but I do know I’m about to become an expert on having challenging conversations.

I expect it will end in your very own MeToo moment. At least you should be able to get another article out of it.


Red Queen Rising

Quite a number of people have made the point that American conservatives would do well to refrain from passing remarks on youthful congresswoman and 2028 Democrat presidential front runner Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. The more they criticise her the more publicity she gets and the more people will think she’s got her opponents rattled. Indeed, even when conservatives say nothing the media, including the BBC, will invent stories of right-wing outrage.

The fact is AOC, as da yoof call her, does have appeal being young, daft, and attractive. The video of her dancing on the roof was rather charming, if you’re looking for entertainment rather than governance. Unfortunately, being entertaining and attractive is probably enough to propel her within arm’s length of the White House if the Republicans are the only thing standing in her way, and the more they talk about her the shorter that arm becomes.

Fortunately for them, her biggest battle will be with her own party. The current Democrats are a coalition of lunatics headed by the sort of ultra-privileged, wrinkly old white people they claim to despise. Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer look as though they’re about raise an objection to a black family moving into their gated community, not cede power to an upstart Latina from Queens. AOC has certain things going for her in the Democrat party, namely being non-white and female, but those backing her for greatness may be getting ahead of themselves. Firstly, it is not certain that identity politics will deliver electoral success in future any more than it did in 2016. Secondly, is AOC’s Puerto Rican parentage enough to secure the whole Latino vote? Unlike Obama who really did manage to wrap up the black vote, I’m not sure Latinos and Hispanics all vote as a bloc. Perhaps more importantly are those standing in her way. Kamala Harris is both female and black, plus has more experience in politics. She is also ruthless and unprincipled, having ascended the ladder of Californian politics by sleeping with state assembly speaker Willie Brown, who was married and 30 years her senior. It’s unlikely she will stand aside and let AOC become the female, minority voice of the Democrat party especially if there is a presidential election up for grabs. It’s not too difficult to imagine who will capture the black vote in such a contest.

There’s also the small matter of AOC’s politics. The Democrats are as keen to retain the status quo that has delivered them fabulous wealth as the most brutally capitalist Republicans. Despite millionaires like Pelosi and Warren talking about equality and fairness, they are paid-up members of the political establishment which has never quite got around to addressing these issues. But when AOC starts talking about whacking up taxes and clobbering the rich, she means it. This doesn’t just pose a threat to the personal fortunes of her Democrat colleagues, but to the fortunes of those who bankroll them as well. They will be under considerable pressure to ensure AOC’s swivel-eyed socialist ideas don’t get anywhere near the floor of Congress. But like Trump, much of AOC’s appeal derives from her representing the downtrodden and overturning the established order, and in moving to block her the entrenched Democrats are going to look like hypocrites or be exposed as pigs with their snouts in the trough.

In short, AOC is going to present a far bigger headache for establishment Democrats than she is Republicans in the coming years. With this in mind, and the fact powerful, minority women in the Democrat party will be looking to take her down a peg or two, the best thing the Republicans can do is to cede the floor, let her speak, and don’t interrupt:

Stuff like this will help them in the long run, provided they don’t respond.