Fake Outrage, Fake News

Perhaps it’s because I know a lot of soldiers that I don’t find this particularly worthy of outrage:

US President Donald Trump has said a lawmaker’s claim he made a soldier’s widow cry is “totally fabricated”.

Congresswoman Frederica Wilson said she was shocked by the president’s comments to the bereaved wife of a fallen soldier.

The Democratic lawmaker claimed he told the widow: “He knew what he was signing up for, but I guess it hurts anyway.”

Ms Wilson told WPLG, a Miami TV station, she heard the president’s “so insensitive” remarks to the widow on speakerphone in a limousine.

Naturally, everyone is falling overt themselves to condemn Trump for a single sentence in a conversation being relayed to us secondhand by a politician of the opposition party who overheard it. The BBC, as usual, is gleefully running it as their headline story.

Context is important, and so is nuance. The way the media is presenting it, Trump rang up the widow, said those words, and hung up. But acknowledging that the young man knew the risks, said in the right way, could be comforting. For example:

I know you can’t see it this way now, but he died doing what he loved, serving his country. You should feel immensely proud of your boy, putting himself in harm’s way to secure the freedoms of others. He knew what he was signing up for, but I guess it hurts anyway.

It’s a bit clumsy, but then this is Trump (and Obama wasn’t much better once you took away his teleprompter). Unless and until we know the full transcript and the tone in which the words were delivered, this outrage is simply fake news.

Ms Wilson told the Washington Post that the widow, Myeshia Johnson, who is expecting the couple’s third child, broke down in tears after the conversation.

“He made her cry,” Ms Wilson said.

The world’s combined media seem unable to entertain the possibility that she would cry after talking about her recently deceased son regardless.

“Yeah, he [President Trump] said that,” Ms Wilson said. “To me, that is something that you can say in a conversation, but you shouldn’t say that to a grieving widow.

But turning the whole thing into a media circus is just fine, presumably.

“And everyone knows when you go to war, you could possibly not come back alive. But you don’t remind a grieving widow of that.”

Well, actually you might. It is probably of some comfort to a widow that her late husband died as a volunteer who knew the risks rather than some poor sod drafted in against his will.

The full context of the conversation is not known. Ms Wilson said that when she had asked Ms Johnson about the exchange, she said she could not remember.

It sounds as though Ms Wilson has more of a problem with what Trump said to Ms Johnson than Ms Johnson does. Has anyone got her opinion, or does she just wish the media circus would leave her alone to grieve in peace?

The alleged remarks sparked angry comments on social media, with Ms Wilson saying on Twitter that Mr Trump did “not possess the character, empathy or grace to be president of the United States”.

Perhaps sensibly, the US chooses presidents on voter preference and doesn’t disqualify them on the basis of a psychological assessment made by an opposition politician after eavesdropping on a phone call.

This is not the first time Mr Trump has found himself in an imbroglio over US veterans.

He also engaged in a racially charged feud with the parents of decorated army captain Humayun Khan, who was killed in Iraq in 2004.

A feud that was kicked off when Khan’s parents were wheeled on stage during the Democratic National Convention and his father promptly attacked Donald Trump. Strangely, the BBC left out that part.

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“Get Stuffed” Funds

Under yesterday’s post about moral cowardice in the workplace, dearieme makes the following comment:

People should build up a “get stuffed” fund so that they can afford to tell a boss to go to hell.

To which bobby b responded:

It’s been my experience that the Eff You Money myth is just that – a myth.

If you ask ten people how much money it takes, the answer is almost always something like ([what I have right now] X 2.5.) It’s like the “Free Beer Tomorrow” signs in bars – tomorrow never comes.

Those who can truly say Eff You to a boss or a job can say it no matter how much they have put away.

The rest can salt away a million or two and still be waiting to hit that magic number. They’ll never actually catch up to it. Most people just aren’t the Eff You type.

Both deariem and bobby b make good points.

One of the most depressing things I heard during my career was a remark made by a friend and former colleague who I love dearly. I was complaining, as I often do, about the lack of moral courage in modern organisations, particularly how almost nobody will speak up against bad management decisions, poor practice, or a lack of clarity, consistency, or professionalism. I described how I’d sat through a meeting where a visiting boss failed to address any of the employees’ long-standing complaints, and instead delivered an upbeat monologue that bore no resemblance to reality. I questioned why nobody, even those quite senior, had the balls to speak up, and she replied:

Because it would be pretty irresponsible for a guy to come home to his kids and say “Sorry, I’ve lost my job because I told my boss to fuck off.”

I found it depressing because it confirmed what I have long suspected: the slightest push-back against management these days is interpreted as “telling the boss to fuck off”. The fact that there is a yawning chasm between raising valid objections and telling the boss to fuck off seems to be absent in the minds of modern corporate employees.

If anyone at work calls you a brown-noser or a suck-up, ask them how many times they’ve been fired. I’ve found this normally shuts them up. Me, I’ve been booted from one job for repeatedly and vociferously denouncing the utter incompetence of my boss and his boss above him, and hoofed off another for being overly outspoken in a quite different sense. But there have been times when I’ve held my tongue because I couldn’t afford to lose my job.

I learned the lesson early in my career that you need to make yourself as financially independent from your employer as possible. Honestly speaking, this is one of the main reasons why I didn’t want kids: once you have kids, your boss has you by the balls, and he or she knows it. They then treat you accordingly. Most people are happy to nod their heads and stay silent but I’m incapable of doing that indefinitely (family trait) and I knew if I had children there would be a good chance I’d either let them down, die of stress, or die of shame and misery. I think it’s a sad reflection on modern corporate life that a good portion of employees are thoroughly miserable and humiliated, but are trapped because of their decision to have children. Among all the talk of why Europeans are no longer breeding, this factor never comes up. Perhaps it should?

Anyway, it took me a few years but eventually I got to a point where it wouldn’t be a disaster if I lost my job. Of course it wouldn’t be ideal either, but I’d not be totally screwed. Now that didn’t mean I immediately started telling managers to fuck off, because that would be stupid. But what it did mean is I could sail closer to the wind and stand up for myself a bit more, and speak out if I’m not happy with something. This has made me a pariah in some circles as absolute, unwavering obedience to management is a requirement in modern industry, but it’s probably made me happier than most people around me. For a start, the stress relief that comes from not having to grovel on a daily basis just to pay the bills is unmeasurable. Secondly, not much actually happens. For all the times I’ve been pulled aside after a meeting by someone whispering “But you need to be careful!”, and the number of dark warnings I’ve received about how this “will impact you career”, I’m still not noticeably worse off than anyone else. Firing people isn’t that easy, and 90% of employees won’t have high-flying careers no matter how much they believe it and how late they work trying to achieve it. Contrary to the universal belief in major corporations, a less-than-perfect annual appraisal is not the end of the world. By contrast, it barely matters a jot. So if you’re middle-aged and not rubbing shoulders with the top bananas on a daily basis, you might as well stop sucking up, relax, and enjoy life a little.

So bobby b is right, most people just aren’t the “fuck you” type. The problem is, with today’s financial pressures most people aren’t anything other than the “yes, sir” type. Rather than building up a “get stuffed” fund, employees should first start working towards a “well, hang on a minute” fund. I’m convinced both employees and shareholders will be better off if they did.

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Trump is a Puppet of [Insert Country]!

From the Washington Post:

Erdogan’s government began cultivating Donald Trump’s team before the election. Michael Flynn, then a campaign aide, was hired as a pro-Turkey lobbyist, and his firm continued to receive Turkish money during the transition. After Flynn resigned as national security adviser in February, the Turks began working with Rudy Giuliani, a close Trump adviser.

So, having utterly failed to turn up a shred of evidence of collusion with Russia, those who don’t like Trump move the narrative effortlessly onto collusion with Turkey.

Is anyone sane still listening to this crap?

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The Modern CEO

This interview with YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki is illuminating:

YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki was on vacation when Silicon Valley suddenly plunged into a bitter debate over sexism.

The now-infamous “Google memo,” written by engineer James Damore, argued against diversity initiatives at Google and said that female engineers were less capable of leading others.

That’s not what he said, but go on.

Wojcicki, who was part of the team at Google that decided to fire Damore, recalled talking about it over dinner with her children, to whom she had always tried to promote diversity and equality.

I grew up eating dinners in absolute silence while my mother listened to Gardeners’ Question Time. Compared to family mealtimes in the Wojcicki household, I think I got off lightly.

“The first question they had about it [was], ‘Is that true?’”

Were they asking about what Damore actually wrote, or the version you told them?

That really, really surprised me, because here I am — I’ve spent so much time, so much of my career, to try to overcome stereotypes, and then here was this letter that was somehow convincing my kids and many other women in the industry, and men in the industry, convincing them that they were less capable.

Either your kids can’t read, or you lied to them. Which is it?

That really upset me.

You’re a CEO, yet you get upset by someone writing an internal memo that gets leaked because it confuses your kids?

In response to the backlash to Damore’s firing by self-styled “free speech” advocates, Wojcicki said there’s an important difference between free speech on platforms like Google and YouTube, and free speech inside the companies’ offices.

That’s a handy confirmation that absolute obedience and conformity is a requirement of working in Google. I mean it’s pretty obvious, but rarely do you hear it stated so boldly.

In fact, James Damore did his first interview with a YouTube creator,” she said. “That’s fine to have on the platform. We have lots of rules, but we tolerate — we enable a broad, broad range of topics to be discussed, from all different points of view.”

But…

What did Ned Stark say? “Everything before the word “but” is horse shit.” A wise man, that Sean Bean:

“But it’s different if you’re within a company trying to promote more women,” she added.

Of course it’s different. It always is.

“Think about if you were a woman and James Damore was on your promotion committee, or to just see that the company was enabling this type of harmful stereotype to persist and perpetuate within the company.”

Alternatively, think about if you were a male programmer – or indeed an investor – and you were reading this interview. Wojcicki sounds less like a blue-chip CEO than a whining schoolgirl who can’t work the projector. It’s hard to believe she’s been at Google from the start, but she seems determined she’ll be there at the end.

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Not I

Andy in Japan asks my opinion:

BTW, what are your thoughts on this latest ‘me too’ Facebook circular jerk. My guess is about 90% of those posting are unwanted advances not actual harrassment/abuse.

That would be my guess too. Somebody started a ‘me too’ hashtag on Twitter so women who’ve been subjected to sexual assault in the manner of Harvey Weinstein’s victims could let themselves be known, and several million (mainly American) women responded.

This is self-indulgent, feminist-driven posturing. They have quite deliberately blurred the line between rape, sexual assault, and unwanted attention. Lewd remarks, being pestered by male colleagues in the office, and similar acts of unwanted interaction can be pretty unpleasant, but they are not the same as demands for sexual favours or unwanted physical contact of an overtly sexual nature. Most women sharing the ‘me too’ hashtag will simply be recalling the time a builder wolf-whistled at them to justify joining the victim bandwagon and advance their political agenda.

It is little different from a man setting up a ‘me too’ hashtag to highlight the serious issue of false rape allegations, and men retweet it if, at any point in their lives, they’ve ever been the victim of a woman’s lies. If ever there was a campaign guaranteed to achieve 100% saturation, that would be it.

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The Ubiquity of Moral Cowardice

Via Twitter, Damian Counsell links to this piece on Harvey Weinstein by screenwriter Scott Rosenburg:

Not to mention, most of the victims chose not to speak out.
Aside from sharing the grimy details with a close girlfriend or confidante.
And if they discussed it with their representatives?
Agents and managers, who themselves feared The Wrath Of The Big Man?
The agents and managers would tell them to keep it to themselves.
Because who knew the repercussions?
That old saw “You’ll Never Work In This Town Again” came crawling back to putrid life like a re-animated cadaver in a late-night zombie flick.
But, yes, everyone knew someone who had been on the receiving end of lewd advances by him.
Or knew someone who knew someone.

And here’s where the slither meets the slime:
Harvey was showing us the best of times.
He was making our movies.
Throwing the biggest parties.
Taking us to The Golden Globes!
Introducing us to the most amazing people (Meetings with Vice President Gore! Clubbing with Quentin and Uma! Drinks with Salman Rushdie and Ralph Fiennes! Dinners with Mick Jagger and Warren-freaking-Beatty!).

In short, nobody spoke out about the mistreatment of their colleagues because they were doing fine. A certain Edmund Burke had something to say about this:

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.

To borrow a phrase from the feminists, this is not a problem restricted to Hollywood. Only I’m not talking about sexual assaults on women workers, I’m talking about moral cowardice.

I defy anyone who has worked the last ten years in the modern workplace to tell me they haven’t seen a time when a decent, conscientious, competent worker was treated like dirt or hounded out of their position by a self-serving, cowardly management who should never have been put in charge of guarding a pile of wet dog shit, let alone the lives of human beings.

Similarly, I defy anyone who has worked the last ten years in the modern workplace to cite more than three occasions when a colleague of somebody who’s been fucked over has stuck his neck out and openly criticised the management responsible for the mistreatment. I don’t mean expressing sympathy with the guy, nor do I mean making generic remarks about how terrible it all is. I mean marching into the manager’s office and saying:

“Just to let you know, I am seriously unhappy with what you are doing to Fred over there. It is unethical, immoral, and probably illegal, and ought to have no place in a modern business.”

Hands up who has done that? Hands up who has seen anyone do that? Anyone? Nobody? Bueller? Bueller?!

There are reasons for this, of course. People are individuals, and usually have kids to feed and a mortgage to pay. Achieving these two things are usually their top priorities in life, and anything else is secondary – including being happy at work. So colleagues of a mistreated employee may sympathise and want to say something, but will judge it to be in their personal interests just to keep quiet. Why antagonise the management and put yourself on a hit-list when it probably isn’t going to help your colleague anyway? Better  to remain silent.

Only as Mr Burke realised, speaking out against injustice matters for two reasons:

1. Many managers, especially weak ones who want their subordinates cowed and compliant, interpret silence as contentment. Believing their actions are being met with approval, they are emboldened to continue in the same manner. Keeping silent allows bad managers to justify shitty behaviour to themselves and keep their consciences clear. It allows them to go home at night and look their wives and kids in the eyes instead of hanging their heads in shame. I would prefer a manager who has mistreated somebody to be the subject of a short, sharp, and unpleasant confrontation with an unrelated third party which has him unable to sleep that night through realisation that he is, in this instance, a complete c*nt. Speak out and you make them uncomfortable, far more than they let on. Subordinates are under no obligation to give their superiors a comfy ride at their expense.

2. There is an appalling habit of managers, when confronted with an unfavorable situation over which they have presided, to claim “we didn’t know” followed by “if we had known, we would have done something” and followed further by “you should have communicated this to us through the proper channels”. Speaking out at the time robs them of the opportunity to pull this excuse in the future, and forces them to attempt to justify the situation or commit to a demonstrable lie. Again, it will make them uncomfortable. Good.

Of course, if you try to intervene the manager in question is likely to say that it is none of your business, at which point you can fire back that your colleague being subject to shitty treatment is everyone’s business, and it is. Sooner or later, it will be you wishing others had spoken out.

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Feminists and Harvey Weinstein

As expected, deranged third-wave feminists are using the Harvey Weinstein revelations to amplify their theory that men as a group are a problem and all of us are potential rapists. Once again the Twitter feed of Laurie Penny provides the best examples of a common sentiment:

This bollocks needs to be put to bed quickly. Firstly, nobody I’ve read or heard is blaming young, unknown women from speaking out about Harvey Weinstein’s behaviour. As Laurie herself implies, who would believe them? Plus, they have a lot to lose if Weinstein decides to take revenge on them. But what none of these so-called feminists want to ask is why didn’t Hollywood’s most powerful women – some of whom had been abused by Weistein themselves – speak out? Angelina Jolie was a UN Ambassador for heaven’s sake, could she really find nobody to talk to about Weinstein? What about Gwyneth Paltrow, or one of the other dozen extremely rich, well-connected women in Hollywood who knew damned well what Weinstein was like. Why didn’t they speak out?

Secondly, there is something else not being acknowledged by feminists here. It is one thing for young women not to speak out against Weinstein. It is another thing for powerful women to not speak out. But it is altogether a different thing for those powerful women (and men) to constantly praise Weinstein, join him on stage at awards ceremonies, pose for photos with him at parties, and invite him to their homes (I understand he went to the White House 13 times under Obama). This is not merely remaining silent, it is actively providing cover for the man and bestowing on him a social acceptability that his behaviour doesn’t warrant. That is the real issue here, and feminists are doing everything they can to ignore it.

This is not a man problem, nor is it a woman problem: it is a problem whereby shitbag men are aided and abetted by other shitbag men and equally shitbag women. In short, it’s a shitbag problem. However, on Friday we had Emma Thompson telling the BBC we have a problem with “extreme masculinity”. Sorry, what? When I think of “extreme masculinity” someone like this comes to mind:

Not this:

Weinstein is a disgusting fat slob, and if you listen to the audio recording here he sounds like the biggest whining, beta male you’re ever likely to come across. The feminist reaction to the Weinstein revelations says more about what sort of men these women hang out with than men in general. Here’s Laurie again:

Well, speak for yourself, Laurie! While she might like to count rapists among her friends and partners (and if her previous writings are any guide, she does), I’d like to think most normal women don’t socialise with rapists. She compounded her idiocy with this:

And this is what it comes down to: feminists like Laurie Penny couldn’t give a shit about women, they only care about advancing their own fucked-up agenda. They have seized on the issue of powerful, shitbag men preying on vulnerable girls with the willing assistance of powerful, shitbag women in order to demonise ordinary decent men. Third-wave feminism is as much a danger to young women as fat slobs like Harvey Weinstein and his phalanx of groupies. It’s time more people realised this.

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What Passes for Journalism

Two examples of shoddy journalism that irked me.

The first, described on Twitter as being an example of “Tory values”:

In a bid to crack down on so-called ‘health tourism’, 20 NHS trusts across the country have taken part in a government pilot scheme to trial identity checks for patients. The results of the pilots are due to be published later this year, but doctors, patients and health organisations have spoken to Politics.co.uk to raise serious concerns about the impact they have had.

“One of the worst cases involved a pregnant French woman who was of Asian descent,” one doctor says. “She arrived for a routine scan and was asked by reception staff if she was eligible for free care. She told them that she was French and had never needed to provide ID before. The receptionist told her that she didn’t ‘seem French’ and called the Paying Patients department to question her further.

“The woman was so upset by what was happening that she had a panic attack. I was called to check her over. I had to tell the Paying Patients department to leave the room because they had upset her so much.”

Sorry, but this doesn’t pass the smell test. Firstly, French people habitually carry ID with them everywhere and I doubt it’s a habit they ditch when they move to the UK unless they’ve been there many, many years. And to access the healthcare system in France they need to produce a separate carte vitale, which most French people carry in their wallets alongside their ID. It is therefore highly unlikely a pregnant French woman went to a hospital expecting treatment without bringing some form of ID. It is even less likely she had a panic attack on being asked for some.

Secondly, I have a hard time believing a hospital receptionist said she didn’t “seem French”: this isn’t the 1970s, and even the NHS would have given their receptionists some rudimentary training as to how to deal with those without ID. According to the journalist who wrote it, the doctor witnessed the whole thing – yet later she says he or she was “called to check her over”. Did the doctor stand idly by as this woman went into a panic attack, waiting to be called over? And who called her? Or was she actually out of earshot when the “didn’t seem French” remark was made (which I suspect is more likely) in which case who are we relying on for the quote?

This whole thing looks to me like an embellished story fed to a gullible reporter by an anonymous doctor who doesn’t like the policy. As a piece of journalism, it fails to establish key details of the story and doesn’t make sense even on a superficial level.

The BBC, reporting on the withdrawal of subsidies to health insurance companies, doesn’t do much better:

US President Donald Trump will end subsidies to health insurance providers designed to help low income households, as he continues his attempts to dismantle Obamacare.

The White House announced the move hours after Mr Trump signed an executive order allowing the sale of health insurance plans which are exempt from some of the law’s regulations.

The announcements come after Congress repeatedly failed to repeal Obamacare.

They were instantly criticised.

Democratic Party leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer issued a joint statement denouncing the end of subsidies as a “spiteful act of vast, pointless sabotage” which would harm the poorest citizens.

Meanwhile, critics of the initial announcement argued it could de-stabilise the Obamacare market by encouraging healthy consumers to leave their current plans, prompting a spike in premium costs for older Americans and those with pre-existing conditions.

According to a statement from the White House, the subsidies, which run into billions each year, were not legal.

This might come as a surprise to the BBC, but rulings on legality are not made in the White House but in courts. As the Washington Post reported last August:

Republicans have long protested the payments, and in late 2014 the GOP-led House filed a federal lawsuit against the Obama administration, contending that the subsidies were unconstitutional because Congress had not made a specific appropriation for them. Last year a federal district court ruled in the House’s favor, and the Obama administration appealed the case to the D.C. Circuit.

All Trump has done is stop the appeal. The illegality of the payments is therefore not a matter of a White House statement, implying its merely Trump’s opinion, but something ruled upon by a federal court. It’s yet another example of Obama deciding to do things on his own without consulting Congress, as he was constitutionally obliged to do. Not that you’d know that if you relied on the BBC for information.

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The Mellowing of Men

Commenter Ljh makes the following remark under my post about passion attracting women:

Men compete with each other for ranking. I’ve observed it at meetings, dinner parties and other events where alpha males attempt to dominate the others and brag of their various achievements: pure anthropology.

This is undoubtedly true for young men between 16 and 25, who are constantly vying for the attention of any women in the vicinity. Men between these ages are forever fighting, squaring up to one another, mocking each other, and engaging in all manner of silly games intended to demonstrate dominance over their peers and establish a pecking order.

What surprises me a little about Ljh’s comment is that he still sees it going on, whereas in my experience this all starts to fade away after age 25 or so, and past 30 is almost gone completely. There was a time when meeting a bunch of men for the first time would put me on edge a little, knowing I was in direct competition with them. Nowadays I’m happy just to make friends, relax, and talk bullshit (I’m especially good at that last one).

It could be that Ljh moves in different circles from me. Perhaps in banking, law, and other industries where a big ego and alpha-male characteristics are advantageous you encounter men who still feel the need to establish dominance over their peers, even in middle-age. In engineering, or at least that branch which deals with oil and gas, there isn’t so much of that. I’ve found most of my colleagues to be very easy going and cooperative, more interested in getting along with people than outranking them. I put this down to them mostly being settled with wives and children. Why would you continue fighting for female attention when you already have a mate? There are better, less painful things to do with your time.

Something else I noticed was how little trouble you tend to get into when you pass a certain age. When you’re between 16 and 25 it seems remarkably easy to get into fights in bars, or attract the wrong sort of attention on the street. As you get older that stops happening (unless you encounter proper criminals), and I reckon it’s because most of the aggravation is posturing and establishing street cred among peers. A lary teenager doesn’t see a bloke of 35 as his peer, so won’t start kicking off with him to impress his mates, but if another teenager walks by he will. (There’s also the issue which young men are subconsciously aware of that older men can be fucking dangerous, as likely to kill them as fight them.)

In summary, as men settle down and the testosterone reduces they mellow out and become less competitive, generally speaking. Women, on the other hand? That’s a rather different matter.

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