Murdoch, a pitiful tyrant

A full-page apology ad published in British ne...

A full-page apology ad published in British newspapers by News International. The letter, signed by Rupert Murdoch, begins: “The News of the World was in the business of holding others to account. It failed when it came to itself.” Sweney, Mark (14 July 2011). “Phone hacking: NI plans full page apology in national press”. The Guardian (UK) . . Retrieved 15 July 2011 . (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

To many people, Rupert Murdoch appears as a powerful figure. He appears able to punish his enemies and help his friends. Such power is what many people desire. Others fear his power for what he can do to them. Others pursue him in the hopes he will use his power for their ends. He has amassed great wealth and influence. He is by any measure within popular culture a powerful and successful man. Yet, he has paid a terrible price for his power, success, and status.

Xenophon’s insights are timeless

What brought me to that answer is Xenophon’s Hiero, or Tyrannicus.[1] In this short dialogue, Simonides, a poet, discusses the nature of tyranny with a tyrant, Hiero. In that dialogue, Hiero bemoans his state for he is without love, trust, or friendship. Even though he appears to have what he wants, he can find little pleasure. The tyrant may have large meals but worries he does not have enough to impress. He cannot travel abroad for fear of a plot at home. He cannot call the city his fatherland for he has usurped his position. He cannot trust his advisors to tell him the truth. When he goes out in public he requires a bodyguard. When he wants to pursue a beloved he worries whether he is loved for what he has and not who he is. By contrast, the private man has none of these worries. The private man, at least to the tyrant, appears happier.

Like the tyrant, people fear to speak the truth to Rupert Murdoch.

When we look at Murdoch we see that he resembles Hiero more than the private man. This does not mean that he is a tyrant, it is to suggest that he occupies an analogous role. If we consider the way in which he has amassed and retained his wealth, influence, and status, we see the similarities. In his success, he has relied, in no small part, on the malfeasance of others. When the malfeasance has emerged, Murdoch has claimed ignorance.[2] What this suggests that people were not telling him the truth.

When you change, your religion, citizenship, and wives, what remains?

Other similarities are apparent. We know he changed his religion to suit his business needs. He appears without a religious conviction. In matters of love, he has married for the fourth time with wives more a business decision than one of love. He has changed his citizenship to suit his business needs so that he knows no country as home. Like Hiero, he has had to gloss over the way he amassed and sustains his wealth, status and influence.

Shocked, outraged but no desire to repent. Why?

When he learned of Milly Dowler he was shocked.[3] Yet, that did not lead hi to reflect on his responsibility or seek to reform. He paid the family for their pain. With the Daniel Morgan murder case, where his employees have been shown to have interfered with investigations, he seems unaware of it[4]. He is a salutary lesson for what his success has required. Like Hiero, he knows that for all his success, he is a pitiful figure.

[1] https://anastaplo.files.wordpress.com/2012/11/hiero.pdf

[2] See his response to question 167 http://www.parliament.uk/documents/commons-committees/culture-media-sport/Uncorrected-transcript-19-July-phone-hacking.pdf

[3] See his response to question 196 http://www.parliament.uk/documents/commons-committees/culture-media-sport/Uncorrected-transcript-19-July-phone-hacking.pdf

[4] https://fothom.wordpress.com/2015/03/10/alastair-morgan-to-rupertmurdoch-you-are-in-a-unique-position-to-help-us-finally-lay-daniel-to-rest/

Posted in demagogic, democracy, journalism | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Murdoch, Fox News and the digital demographic cancer

English: FOX News Channel newsroom

English: FOX News Channel newsroom (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For many observers, Rupert Murdoch escaped the UK phone hacking scandal in good shape. He split his empire between television entertainment from his newspaper and publishing.[1] The split appeared to improve both companies and increased profits. Yet, a cancer was metastasizing. A digital demographic cancer is eating away at Fox News and News Corp. Despite the desperate pivot to digital, News Corp’s earnings are being driven increasingly by non-news and information related areas.[2]

Rebekah Brooks and the digital dilemma.

Rebekah Brooks returned to News Corp to reverse declining circulation.[3]  She was to provide a digital strategy to improve News Corp’s position.[4] The Sun [5] is losing the digital battle with the Daily Mail [6] The charts tell the story.[7] News Corp digital strategy reflects an inability to see the news media differently than it is today. Murdoch missed the digital news shift and the rise of social media platforms. Twitter and Facebook are the preferred news platforms for younger viewers.[8] Who has time to watch Fox News when social media content is packaged and pushed via algorithms? Ailes was correct that people watch TV because they are too lazy to think.[9] What he and Murdoch missed is that algorithms will do the thinking.

Roger Ailes and the demographic decline.

Fox News is slowly dying. Murdoch and sons knew it had a cancer. The cancer was Roger Ailes. The trigger was not sexual harassment for they had no qualms about his behaviour for 20 years.[10] Instead, they faced the hard truth that he was not the future. The core audience average age is 68.[11] The channel is losing audience share and influence to media outlets who pursue a different, more radical agenda. These outlets rely on a different media/advertising model. They can broadcast more content through social media channels, with greater speed and responsiveness, as demanded by the new social media consumers.[12]

Path dependency in an age of social media platforms.

Brooks, Murdoch, and Ailes, are captives of their platforms and their thinking. Ailes believes that the medium does not matter as long as the political personalities are right. He is half right. The problem is that the politics, and personalities, have moved to a new platform. They are the vastly profitable buggy whip makers who did not grasp what the automobile was doing to their market.[13] As the market shifts, they are choosing the second or third best option.[14] They want advertising revenue without realizing that the market is now inverted. The platform does not make the material viral nor can they capture viral marketing on their platform to repackage it. Instead, it is the content that drives the advertising, which finds a platform. If it is in a newspaper, it is already yesterday’s digital news. The advertising reacts to the audience shares more than the material’s intrinsic nature or the platform. Buying an online advertiser or an online news company is not going to change it.[15]

A moderate Fox News requires Murdoch to leave.

Removing Ailes is not enough. Neither is Megyn Kelly their saviour.[16] Fox News profits path dependency constrains them. Any post-Ailes pivot will require Rupert ceding control to his son, perhaps *the* demographic problem.

 

 

[1] https://www.byline.com/column/2/article/85

[2] News Corp Chief Financial Officer Bedi Singh said in a call with analysts that domestic advertising revenue at the Journal fell 12% in the quarter year-over-year, “with declines in print partially offset by modest growth in digital.” http://www.wsj.com/articles/news-corp-reports-profit-on-book-real-estate-growth-1470691445

Curiously, this is the same message they had the year previously.

Circulation and subscription revenues fell 3% across the news unit.

However, overall revenues for the company rose 2% to $2.28bn as the book publishing and real estate divisions offset dwindling print revenue.

https://www.theguardian.com/media/2015/feb/06/news-corp-newspaper-revenue-falls-6-as-ads-and-subscribers-go-online

[3] https://econsultancy.com/blog/66002-newspapers-and-subscription-barriers-what-works-best/ The article during the early apparent success of the paywall subscription service paints an upbeat message that masked the deeper problems. Issues such as customer service remained a hidden problem. https://econsultancy.com/blog/65424-the-sun-on-customer-service-and-life-behind-the-paywall/

[4] http://www.theguardian.com/media/2015/feb/06/news-corp-newspaper-revenue-falls-6-as-ads-and-subscribers-go-online and http://www.themediabriefing.com/article/the-sun-news-uk-dinsmore-duncan-digital-subscriptions This shows low share rates for News Corp papers. They are playing catch up. Old thinking reflects pervious business models. The subscription model for cable and newspapers are based on the model where a company can hack a rival’s system and offer free hacking tools to sabotage a rival’s profitability. http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2012/apr/01/bskyb-itv-ondigital-hacking-nds All charges that News Corp have denied.

[5] http://www.newsworks.org.uk/The-Sun

[6] http://www.newsworks.org.uk/Daily-Mail

[7] The Sun

Mobile comScore Total unique visitors Total unique visitors 3,091,277
Smartphone comScore Total unique visitors Total unique visitors 2,512,828
Tablet ABC PAV (Publication active views) PAV (Publication active views)
Tablet comScore Total unique visitors Total unique visitors 637,927
Facebook /thesun Likes Likes 2,307,880
Twitter @TheSunNewspaper Followers Followers 1,160,000

Daily Mail

Mobile comScore Total unique visitors Total unique visitors

20,665,000

Smartphone comScore Total unique visitors Total unique visitors

17,412,706

Tablet ABC PAV (Publication active views) 25,433
Tablet comScore Total unique visitors Total unique visitors 4,727,789
Facebook /DailyMail Likes Likes 4,935,153
Twitter @mailonline Followers Followers 1,740,000

 

[8] http://www.journalism.org/2015/07/14/the-evolving-role-of-news-on-twitter-and-facebook/

[9] In a 1970 memo, the plan for putting the GOP on TV news seems prescient.

Today television news is watched more often than people read newspapers, than people listen to the radio, than people read or gather any other form of communication. The reason: People are lazy. With television you just sit—watch—listen. The thinking is done for you. Emphasis added

http://gawker.com/5814150/roger-ailes-secret-nixon-era-blueprint-for-fox-news

[10] https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/a-big-divide-between-fox-news-ailes-sons-of-murdoch/2016/07/20/15094630-4ea8-11e6-a7d8-13d06b37f256_story.html

[11] http://www.thewrap.com/fox-news-oldest-tv-news-audience-cnn-youngest-in-2015/

[12] http://www.politicususa.com/2015/12/28/fox-news-literally-dying-age-younger-viewers-refuse-watch-fox.html

[13] The point is that the legacy issues and the path dependency doomed buggy whip industry not that it could not adapt or that parts of the carriage industry could not adapt. http://www.journalism.org/2015/07/14/the-evolving-role-of-news-on-twitter-and-facebook/

[14] https://www.news.co.uk/2016/06/the-drum-on-the-suns-digital-strategy/ This story puts a brave face on a dire digital situation for the Sun and more widely for News Corp.

[15] http://www.cityam.com/224492/news-corp-buys-london-adtech-company-unruly-media They also purchased Storyful. https://techcrunch.com/2013/12/20/news-corp-buys-storyful-for-25m-to-dig-up-verified-news-from-social-media-sites-like-twitter-and-instagram/

[16] http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/25/magazine/the-megyn-kelly-moment.html

Posted in democracy, journalism, management, new media model, public opinion | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ivanka, America and Trump’s incest comments

English: Ivanka Trump at the Vanity Fair kicko...

English: Ivanka Trump at the Vanity Fair kickoff part for the 2009 Tribeca Film Festival. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One person who has not spoken publicly about Donald Trump’s comments about Ivanka is Ivanka. She may have responded privately or by inference, yet we do not know what she thinks.[1] We know that Ivanka is close to her father. She is closer to him than his other children. She often acts as his surrogate.[2] The relationship appears psychologically complex. They call into question the psychological and emotional health.[3] It could be argued that it borders on “covert incest”.[4] The public comments and intimate petting appear inappropriate.[5]

How will she explain those comments to her children?

When interviewed, Ivanka said that she would not let her children see the negative advertisements about her father. She will shield them from such comments for they are hurtful.[6] The unasked and unanswered follow-up question, though, is how will she explain her father’s comments to her children? If her husband made such comments about her own children, how would she react?[7]

What can Ivanka do in such a situation?

Ivanka is in an invidious position. She cannot publicly rebuke her father even though such comments amount to a form of sexual harassment. As she has admitted, she lives within his shadow.[8] As Trump runs his empire, like a patriarch of old, Ivanka knows that to cross him would be sever herself from the family. The family and business blur to the point where there is no difference.[9] As a friend commented, the Trump empire rotates around Donald. It is all about him and the children are accessories to his success.[10] As family and business are intermingled she would not want to cross him for the consequences cut across her brands and her personal life. Is it a relationship she is free to leave?

How far has America’s public morality declined?

One wonders Trump’s comments and behaviour represent New York values. His comments on The Howard Stern Show and the View were not a cause for scandal.[11] He seems impervious to moderation or shame. He appears to believe he speaks the truth. Yet, as we know from Oedipus Rex such a truth, while perhaps personally liberating, has political and societal consequences.

Clayton Williams must be shaking his head in disbelief

In 1990 Clayton Williams made an off the cuff remark. He initially downplayed it as a joke. The comment, that women should “relax and enjoy it [rape]”, caused a political and societal furore. The comment helped to end his political career. He had been the leading candidate for the Texas governorship.[12] Today, 26 years later, America seems singularly unconcerned that a Presidential candidate that can talk candidly of incest with his daughter.[13] One could argue that rape involves violence and the other is not violent. Yet, both reflect an abusive relationship and an unhealthy view of women. The comments violate the normal societal constraints that allow a society, or a person, to call itself decent.

[1] See for example, her response to the question here:

“On whether she ever admonishes her father for his more outrageous assertions and personal insults: “Well, I’m his daughter. In a political capacity, I don’t. It’s his campaign. I don’t feel that’s my role. But I would challenge him as a child. That’s what children do. [My daughter] Arabella challenges me every day. People ask me, do I ever disagree with my father? It would be a little strange if I didn’t.””

http://www.justjared.com/2015/12/29/ivanka-trump-defends-dad-donald-trump-hes-one-of-the-great-advocates-for-women/

She also responded indirectly when the issue was raised directly.

“Notoriously, appearing on the View in 2006 with Ivanka sitting beside him, Trump announced: “If Ivanka weren’t my daughter, perhaps I’d be dating her.”

Ivanka gamely shook her head, tongue firmly in cheek, as if to say, “Yep, that’s my dad!” (This was before she became someone who tweeted out #ITWiseWords, including quotes from Eleanor Roosevelt about self-worth).”

http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/05/ivanka-versus-the-donald/483542/

[2] http://www.nytimes.com/politics/first-draft/2016/04/13/ivanka-trump-proves-a-savvy-surrogate-for-her-father/?_r=0

[3] One recalls that Bill Clinton had a less than psychologically healthy relationship with his mother and that showed in his ability to empathize with other people. In a curious parallel, Chelsea Clinton remarked on that she shared the emotional sensitivity of her father Bill Clinton. .

“Chelsea Clinton and her husband, Marc Mezvinsky. “She’s always aware of everyone around her and ensuring that everyone is enjoying the moment,” says Chelsea. “It’s an awareness that in some ways reminds me of my dad, and his ability to increase the joy of the room.””

http://www.vogue.com/11739787/ivanka-trump-collection-the-apprentice-family/

Consider this view of Bill Clinton’s behaviour and his success as a politician who could “feel your pain” because he had lived with the pain of abuse. The abuse, perhaps, made him acutely sensitive to the emotions of others.

“”He was abused,” Clinton told Franks. “When a mother does what she does, it affects you forever.”

Clinton continued: “I am not going into it, but I’ll say that when this happens in children, it scars you. You keep looking in all the wrong places for the parent who abused you.”

Franks does not specify the nature of the abuse in the the book passage and writes that the then-first lady “declined to give me details.””

http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2014/08/01/new-book-says-hillary-clinton-blamed-husbands-infidelity-on-abuse-as-a-child/comment-page-1/

[4] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Covert_incest

[5] http://www.usmagazine.com/celebrity-news/news/donald-trump-awkwardly-hugs-melania-ivanka-expert-weighs-in-w430543

[6] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YmhCmQDoTLA

[7] The Atlantic article speculated on this point as well.

One can only imagine Ivanka the Mompreneur’s potential displeasure if her husband, Jared Kushner, spent their daughter’s teenage years crowing about her hotness, and his desire to date her, if not for the for taboos on incest.

http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/05/ivanka-versus-the-donald/483542/

[8] In 2003, he told Howard Stern,

“You know who’s one of the great beauties of the world, according to everybody? And I helped create her? Ivanka. My daughter, Ivanka. She’s six feet tall, she’s got the best body. She made a lot of money as a model—a tremendous amount.”

http://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/politics-government/election/article90790987.html

[9] “The Trump Organization has a unique culture. Everyone calls the boss “Mr. Trump.” Employees often eat lunch at the Trump Grill, in the lobby of Trump Tower, which offers a dish called Ivanka’s Salad. The higher you get in the company, the more the family and business blur. Michael Cohen, the executive vice-president of the Trump Organization, told the Jewish Chronicle, “To those of us who are close to Mr. Trump, he is more than our boss. He is our patriarch.”” http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2016/08/22/ivanka-trump-and-jared-kushners-power-play

[10] “A Trump family friend told me, “It’s a close family in many ways—except it’s all about Donald all the time.” He went on, “Donald only thinks of himself. When you say, ‘Donald, it’s raining today,’ he says, ‘It doesn’t matter, I’m indoors.’ ” http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2016/08/22/ivanka-trump-and-jared-kushners-power-play

[11] http://www.mediaite.com/online/donald-trump-wont-stop-joking-about-banging-his-daughter/

[12] http://www.nytimes.com/1990/03/26/us/texas-candidate-s-comment-about-rape-causes-a-furor.html

[13] For Clayton Williams the comments were never forgotten or forgiven. In 2008, he raised funds for the McCain campaign. When he wanted to host a fundraiser at his home, the comment was publicized, so the campaign severed their ties with him. http://crooksandliars.com/2008/06/14/mccain-fundraiser-rape-is-like-the-weather

Posted in democracy, ethics, public opinion, reputation management, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Alexis Jay and the legal assassins

Alexis Jay is the fourth chair of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA). The three previous chairs were from the legal profession. The last chair Justice Goddard resigned. Critics have suggested she lacked the necessary skills to meet the task. In particular, she was considered to be a poor judge[1], which raises the question of why she was chosen. Leaving that question aside, we need to consider the problem of legal assassins.

What is clear is that Justice Goddard was unprepared for the legal challenges she would face. The same holds for Alexis Jay. Even though Jay has been on the panel for the past two years and dealt successfully with the Rotherham case, she has never faced the legal challenges that await her.

In the Rotherham case, there were no QCs arguing back or contesting her claims, her investigation, her method, or her motives. To the extent that Rotherham Council resisted it was more as muted criticism of a defeated opponent bitter in defeat. She will face institutions and QCs that are experienced at legal and bureaucratic infighting. She will face legal assassins. Men and women trained and experience in destroying victims and defending institutions. The QCs and Barristers she will face are well versed in these issues since they have been contesting them for the past 60 years on the side of the very institutions and people she is trying to hold to account.

Power does not like to be held to account and the laws that QCs wield so well are structured to sustain the status quo against such claims. As the Hillsborough survivors and victims’ families found, the legal system was their greatest barrier for it sustained the Police in their silence and sadism. The QC could claim they were “only following legal instruction” yet that raises the question does a QC have a moral duty to explain that legal instruction will fail?

Jay faces QCs and institutions that have no concerns about following a morally flawed legal strategy. Their goal is to defend their clients even at the expense of the inquiry. If the inquiry collapses it will serve their clients, individual or institutional, for they have no desire to see their clients be held to account in any way except on their terms. The difference with a criminal trial where legal combat between two arguments is judged by cold reason and an inquiry is that the goal is not guilt or innocence, it is to hold the parties to account. To hold an institution does not require legal combat. However, the legal assassins hired for this purpose will ensure that it does become and remain legal combat so that they can control the field of battle.

Jay has the unenviable task of trying to shift the battleground even as she tries to manage a complex and complicated Inquiry. I hope she succeeds; I doubt the forces arrayed against her will let her.

[1] See for example this survey http://www.kiwisfirst.com/2014-new-zealand-judge-survey-results/ see also https://www.facebook.com/JoshuaRozenbergQC/posts/166155873806337

Posted in accountability, ethics, politics, public interest, public opinion, reputation management | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Why Theresa May will fail

Theresa May

Theresa May (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Theresa May faces an impossible task, a task that all statesmen want to avoid for it is the highest difficulty. She has to reconcile a divided people to a new path, a path that offers doubtful rewards and uncertain chances of success as it leaves behind known risks and benefits.

She will introduce a new UK that will navigate life outside of the EU. The political landscape will be reshaped by this departure as laws and institutions must be changed to accommodate the exit. The exit’s effects are far-reaching yet barely understood and it is within this uncertainty she has to plot a course. In this task, she has to carry with her the people as well as the regime as it is now constituted even as it too will be shaped by the change. The relationships within the UK, especially the one with Scotland, will need to reconsidered.

In leading the people, parliament, and her party, she will have to weave a web of state that reconciles the various competing, conflicting, and complementary parties. The web has to understand the tensions within and across each strand. The vote to leave the EU has made the task extraordinarily difficult. She is caught between two camps. She has for enemies the parties who did well under the old EU conditions. Within the EU exit camp she will have lukewarm defenders who will either not believe her sincerity or worry about her ability to deliver the exit. The parties who favour exit have the vote on their side, however, they know that the laws, the desire for precedent and continuity favour Remain. The public and parliament are less likely to believe in the promises of EU exit until they see them. Throughout this process, especially within Parliament, members of the Remain campaign will fight a rear guard campaign almost like partisans against an occupying force. Her defenders within the Leave campaign cannot show any gains except for illusory promises and postures. Her burden is lifted to the extent that the ministers who have to negotiate the exit are seen as responsible. However, when they make outrageous claims such as EU immigrants will be sent back in a reverse surge, she becomes their hostage.

May has made others responsible for delivering the exit, but this will only protect her temporarily for she has to manage the vote’s economic, political, social consequences. The consequences have begun to divide society. The division reflect a society disillusioned and discouraged by the process. As she prepares for the next general election, she knows a failure to deliver the exit will be fatal for her and her party. More worryingly, a failure will reveal the democratic voice to be useless. If she cannot ensure that the consequences are not felt equally or equitably, then cannot overcome the systemic inequality that they reflect. In that moment, she will realize she cannot weave together a web of politics that will create a true common good.

 

 

 

 

Posted in accountability, demagogic, democracy, politics, public opinion | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ted Cruz: The death of a political career foretold

Richard Milhous Nixon, 37th President of the U...

Richard Milhous Nixon, 37th President of the United States (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On 20 July 2016, Ted Cruz killed his dream. He had wanted to become the President of the United States (POTUS). He wanted to be the Republican Party’s nominee. Now, neither of those goals will ever be fulfilled. When Senator Cruz failed to endorse Donald Trump, the Party’s nominated candidate, he failed as a politician. In that decision, done during the prime time, he gained a measure of revenge. He had suffered personal insults from Trump. His wife received personal insults from Trump. His father was smeared by Trump. For these slights and his deep ideological and political disagreements with Trump, he decided to damage Trump. In this decision, he put his personal ambition before the party. He put his personal honour above being a politician. This is a fatal mistake for anyone who wants to be POTUS as other candidates have shown.

Richard Nixon swallowed his pride to gain the prize. Lyndon Johnson (LBJ) had to extinguish a gargantuan ego to accept being Vice President to a man he considered his political inferior. They knew is that to become POTUS you have to put that ambition first, not personal dignity, not your wife’s honour. To be POTUS a candidate requires extraordinary political discipline. Bill Clinton epitomized personal indiscipline yet, he never shirked any task, no matter how humiliating for himself or his family, to become POTUS. To paraphrase the Shawshank Redemption, you have to crawl through miles of shit to achieve that ultimate prize.

What Cruz has done is failed as what a politician must achieve that by serving the party he would serve his own ambition. His speech will not derail Trump’s candidacy. He will not gain the nomination. He has gained revenge by cutting off his nose to spite his face. Had he delivered a powerful speech, attacked Hillary, and endorsed Trump he could have proved to everyone why he was the better candidate.

He could have come out of this disaster of a convention as a powerful alternative, a statesman, the party’s future. In that moment he could have shown Trump, the party, and America what statesmanship means. He could have done this with a powerful speech that, by its brilliance, would have overshadowed Trump’s pettiness, petulance, and vindictiveness. Instead, he showed us his limitations on a national stage.

Cruz diminished himself and sabotaged his chance to be the Party’s next nominee. No matter what happens with Trump, win or lose, Cruz will not be the nominee. He betrayed the party. For if he derails Trump, then he has hurt the party. If Trump wins, then his speech looks to be one from a spiteful, petty, sore loser.

Cruz has avenged his honour, his wife’s honour, and his father’s honour. He has lost his dignity and his chance to be the Party’s nominee. A man of powerful talent, a man of political skill, a man who would have been POTUS but for a moment he will always regret. Ted Cruz RIP.

Posted in demagogic, democracy, politics, public opinion | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Murdoch’s Moral Malaise?

Rupert Murdoch has a problem. His organisations seem to lack a moral centre. Perhaps it is the nature of the businesses he runs. Perhaps it is the nature of the people he hires. Perhaps it is something deeper, an organisational malaise.

Five years ago he said in the wake of the phone hacking scandals he had faced his most humbling day. In response to the criminal investigations and civil claims, he closed the News of the World newspaper which had been at the centre of the phone hacking.

In the ensuing Leveson inquiry we learned more about his organisation. More to the point, we learned more about UK journalism’s moral ethos. To say that it was riven with deceit, betrayal, bullying, would be to put it mildly. At the centre of it, perhaps the king of it, was Rupert Murdoch’s papers in particular the News of the World. It pushed the boundaries. It took the risks. It had the highest circulation of any UK newspaper. Their business model: to harvest misery, misdeeds, and moral failures of others; succeeded for it allowed the public the vicarious experience or audience and judge. The public could consume moral turpitude and enjoy the frisson of moral superiority. Murdoch’s papers habituated the public to what was base and avoid that which was noble for anything could be made tawdry, cheap and nasty. Yet in all this moral torpor, the focus never turned to the immoral heart within the newspaper or its parent organisation.

We know that the News of the World senior management team were bullies. The Employment Tribunal ruled they had bullied an employee who suffered from mental health issues. Yet that was not enough for the Editor in charge to be disciplined. It would seem it is the cost of doing business. The employment ethos is the survival of the fittest. The strong rule the weak and if you are weak you need to leave before you are forced to leave.

Recently we have heard the news that alleges that Roger Ailes sexually harassed women over the past thirty years. After story broke, more women came forward to describe similar experiences. Fox Media appears to be sympathetic if not tolerant to behaviour that would encourage men to harass women. Some might excuse the behaviour as light hearted erotically charged banter. The banter makes an on camera partnership sparkle, which draws viewers. Such a view overlooks the deeper organisational abuse of power.

In the two organisations, we find endemic abuse of power. The organisation indulges such behaviour as the appropriate power dynamic. If you are powerful, you can say or do, what you like without fear of consequences. The ultimate organisational power is impunity. Fox News might argue that all complaints are investigated and they have robust policies. Yet, that begs the question. If the policies are robust and complaints investigated, why do they recur? Perhaps, the place to look is at the moral malaise at the top.

Posted in demagogic, ethics, journalism, reputation management | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Theresa May: Booted and spurred to ride roughshod over our rights

Theresa May is the United Kingdom’s latest Prime Minister. As only the second female PM, she is a historical figure. She is noted for, and proud of, her footwear which have become her trademark. She has good taste in shoes and offers a colourful alternative to the bland, stolid, if secure shoes worn by previous male PMs. Her footwear reminds me of another historical figure—Thomas Jefferson.

Thomas Jeffferson or Theresa May? Individual rights are sacrificed

Jefferson, in contrast to May, was passionate about individual rights, personal and religious liberty. Jefferson, in contrast to May, would not have created the illiberal PREVENT strategy with its message that public opinion must be managed. For Jefferson, in contrast to May, it was vital to a healthy democracy that the public be trusted to exercise their reason and be free to express their opinions. What separates them, though, is footwear. May has chosen to invoke the footwear of the UK’s imperial past which it has never shed. With Brexit the UK returns to the romanticism of an Old England secure its imperial ethos where the strong rule and the weak are ruled. Jefferson described this footwear as those, like May’s supporters who are “booted and spurred” to ride those who are “born with saddles on backs”. Jefferson thought the world would escape this view. May is here to remind him that it exists even if it is done with fashionable footwear.

“That form which we have substituted, restores the free right to the unbounded exercise of reason and freedom of opinion. All eyes are opened, or opening, to the rights of man. The general spread of the light of science has already laid open to every view the palpable truth, that the mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favoured few booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately, by the grace of God.”[1]

We enter an era where individual rights such as freedom of expression, religion, and public reason are under sustained threat. We have a PM who is eager to stamp her authority on the body politic and deliver Brexit. She will ensure the country can be rid of the foreign people, customs, and ideas that have polluted it since the UK joined the EU in 1972. She is only too eager to shake the dust of Europe from her shoes. For her supporters she will reassert an ersatz English Imperial ethos that remains animates Conservative Party’s intellectual heritage like a spectre haunting an asylum.

A neo-imperial ethos for a post-modern age: fashionable shoes with jackboot echoes

The UK awakens to a post-imperial imperialism for which the Old England pines. The Old England romanticism fuels the fear, hatred, and violence that animates the extremists. For those who demanded the UK “take back” control, Brexit and May ensure their dark dreams will be fulfilled. Public opinion will, to paraphrase Jefferson, again find the chains that tabloid ignorance and superstition had persuaded them to bind themselves. We are not doomed to repeat the past so much as to experience it as a variation on theme. Today’s variation is authoritarianism masked by vague nostrums of sovereignty, freedom, and independence. Instead of jackboots, we will be treated to fashionable footwear but the footsteps ring with the same echoes.

[1] https://www.loc.gov/exhibits/jefferson/214.html

Posted in demagogic, democracy, public interest, public opinion, reputation management | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Who is Hilary Benn helping?

With the EU referendum, the Conservative party are struggling with an irreversible decision. The only other decision in last 40 years of similar result the Iraq War decision. The Conservative government has to carry out, or fail to make the exit. No matter which way Article 50 is decided, the consequences rest firmly on the Conservative Party.[1] They would be forever known as the party that failed or succeeded in taking the UK.

Conservatives in disarray with an iceberg looming.

The EU referendum came about to resolve an internal split with the Conservative party that had developed over decades between pro-European and Anti-European wings. The split, however, remains because Article 50 has not been initiated. No matter how it is resolved, its consequences will settle the issue forever. When David Cameron resigned, effective October 2016, he pushed the decision to the Anti-European party. They would have to put up or shut up and suffer all the consequences. Even now, rival candidates are being considered to run against Boris Johnson who led the Leave campaign. If the Conservative party fails to trigger Article 50, they upset the 48% who wanted to stay, and did not want to leave, and the 52% who wanted to leave and cannot. In either case, the Conservative Party will be unfavourable with a large part of the UK that cuts across, age, gender, region, and party.

Plan? What Plan? Make it up as we go along, and hope for the best.

Boris Johnson and the Leave campaign were, and continue to be, without a plan. They did not know what to do. At their moment of greatest vulnerability, something interesting occurred. Hilary Benn demanded that Jeremy Corbyn, the Leader of the Labour party, resign. Instead of attacking the Conservatives at their most his most vulnerable moment, he has faced a vote of no confidence. In large part, it seems, because the Labour party believe a general election is imminent and fear he cannot succeed. The attack has hit Labour hardest and provided a needed respite for the Conservative Party. Why?

Twice bitten but to what end?

We know that Hilary Benn has done this before. When the vote came to authorise airstrikes against ISIL, he spoke to support the Conservative Party decision to start airstrikes. Yet, it served no purpose. The airstrikes have been infrequent, ineffective, and largely symbolic lacking any decisive strategic purpose.[2] As Brexit becomes an increasing disaster it was the time for Corbyn to become the voice of opposition. Except Benn has removed that chance. One has to ask why?

Murdoch’s baleful shadow across UK politics

One possible motive might be Rupert Murdoch. Hilary may be wishing to avoid his father’s mistakes. We know that Corbyn stated he would not work with Murdoch. Perhaps Murdoch has offered to help Labour if they remove Corbyn. If they have struck that deal, then they get what they deserve. If they have not struck that deal, then they have served that purpose. Either way, they have made Labour the story and weakened the party. Can Hilary Benn explain why he wanted this outcome?

[1] http://jackofkent.com/2016/06/why-the-article-50-notification-is-important/

[2] Here is the earlier news story in December 2015  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-35166971 See also government update in June on the bombings. Only 8 against Syria since January 2016. https://www.gov.uk/government/news/update-air-strikes-against-daesh

So, why did Hilary Benn make the speech? It has served no purpose. Full of sound and fury yet signifying nothing except it helped the Conservative government and it hurt Corbyn. Perhaps Dante would place him in the 9th Circle.

Posted in demagogic, democracy, ethics, public opinion | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Brexit, Leave, and the failure of crisis management

In the aftermath of the EU referendum vote, the Leave campaign believed that David Cameron would keep his promise and start Article 50. Article 50 is the formal notification to the EU that the UK will leave.[1] David Cameron, who had wanted to stay, had other ideas. He resigned effective October without initiating Article 50. Two immediate consequences emerged. First, no one was certain what would happen next. Second, no one expected this outcome. The result has been a confusion, uncertainty, rumour, and fear. In short, the UK now faces a crisis.

The government handles crisis, but no one is in charge?

In a normal situation, the government handles a crisis. This is the reason they are elected. The EU referendum is different. The Leave campaign, who are nominally in charge, are not in charge. There is no one in charge to initiate Article 50. At least, there is no one who has stepped up with a plan. No one to communicate the plan. No one to reassure the public about the plan. Most importantly, there is no one who has said they have decided what to do next.

Mark Carney has a plan, but some people want to get rid of him.[2]

On Friday, when the UK and world markets began to react with increasing concern, Mark Carney the Governor of the Bank of England, the UK central bank, made a statement.[3] Although he did not stop the uncertainty, he was able to calm the market because he was able to reassure it that the UK had contingency plans for financial issues. However, he has no say in the political response to the crisis. He has done his job to reassure the markets as far as he can. The politicians have to make the crisis management plans.

All crisis managers agree, you need a plan, why is Leave without one?

All crisis management experts agree that there is a basic checklist to manage any crisis.[4]

  1. Have a plan
  2. Be able to communicate the plan
  3. Implement the plan
  4. Be able to answer questions about the plan working
  5. Update the plan as needed.
  6. Be ready to adjust the plan
  7. Have someone publicly available to make decisions

In the UK, as of Sunday night, none of this had happened with the Leave campaign. They were asked earlier on Sunday if they had a plan and their response was “No. We don’t have a plan.” “We expected the government to have a plan.”

Without a plan, you plan to fail. What will leave do?

The lack of a plan will scare the market. When the markets open on Monday morning, they will expect a plan and a good one at that. Otherwise, it will react negatively. What this means is that there will be more market turmoil. In that situation, the BOE, as part its plan[5] will eventually have to raise interest rates to bring stability to the UK markets and currency. When that happens, then everyone’s mortgage immediately becomes costlier.

The UK faces a serious crisis and no one has a plan.

No one has a plan.

Why?

The same people without a plan will form the new government. Think about that. The markets will.

[1] http://jackofkent.com/2016/06/why-the-article-50-notification-is-important/

[2] http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-3659144/Carney-sacked-Lord-Farage-bye-bye-Scotland-Oh-brand-new-party-PETER-OBORNE-looks-crystal-ball-coming-months-hold.html see also http://blogs.spectator.co.uk/2016/06/bank-england-puts-boot/

[3] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-36618560

[4] http://www.inc.com/bruce-condit/7-critical-steps-to-crisis-management.html

http://www.bernsteincrisismanagement.com/the-10-steps-of-crisis-communications/

https://knowhownonprofit.org/campaigns/communications/media-coverage/crisis-management

[5] https://www.theguardian.com/business/2016/jun/24/bank-of-england-mark-carney-says-brexit-contingency-plans-under-way

Posted in demagogic, democracy, management, politics, reputation management | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment