Friday, April 24, 2020

"Tone Deaf" Abounds

Crisis bring out the best in people... and the worst. There's been a ton of amazing "best" out there, but there's also been a lot of worst. Some of the worst is criminal or despicable, like people spitting on food and price gougers. But most is what modern society calls "tone deaf." Let's talk about who's been tone deaf.

Before we start, let me mention some people who have been great.

1. The NFL. The NFL is an amazing institution, which is why the sports media hates them with a passion. They are pulling off the draft right now, which millions of people are craving as a return to normalcy, and it's been great. You saw kids rewarded for 20 years of hard, hard work. Proud mothers crying. Charming family scenes. Tales of the amazing good deeds these kids have done. And through it all, you had constant praise for healthcare workers, people working in dangerous jobs, and just average people sacrificing so everyone can be safe. And it's all been awash in pride in America. They've also raised something like $80 million to help. Very uplifting.

2. Grocery store workers. I talk to store clerks everywhere. These people have worked hard to make sure they have food to sell, to overcome shortages, to protect the public, to help old people, and to have a positive attitude through all of this. They've been amazing. Honestly, the only reason I wear a mask when I go to stores -- and I do -- is to be respectful for their efforts. I don't want them worrying that I might make them sick.

3. Volunteers. So many people have adopted pets the shelters are almost empty. People volunteer to help old people get groceries and stay safe. People are volunteering at hospitals. Society is on its best behavior at the moment.

Now let's talk about the others.

1. When my list first began, I included companies like Carvana, a web-based car sales company, who exploited this situation with an ad calling itself "the safe way to buy a car." That's an unfair attempt to tarnish dealerships who are in no way unsafe to build their businesses. I also included all these fake sales you see -- 40% off our entire site... unless it's a name brand product (DSW). The 40% off everything... that's ugly (Nike)! And so on. Lots of companies are pretending to have fire sales (the Gap) and these are basically fraudulent.

I also included Harry and Meghan, who moved to LA in the middle of the crisis - after declaring Canada their home, whined about not being able to have a welcome party with celebrities, and got caught doing their public relations "good deed" (delivering 20 meals to the poor) in a Porsche... the next day they made sure to use a Cadillac instead because they are creatures of publicity. Idris Elba got slammed for proclaiming that we need to stay home one day a year from now on to remember how terrible we've had it and suggesting he almost died when he only had a minor case with no symptoms. Other celebrities are posting pictures of themselves living in their massive mansions, lounging by pools, and enjoying incredible luxury as they post messages like "we're all in this together." Hardly. But these things are nothing compared to the douchebaggery that has since overtaken theirs.

2. Did you know airlines haven't lowered their prices a penny? They've decided to cut services and live on subsidies.

3. The first corporate monster I discovered was Sea World. Sea World has a huge PR problem. People think that what they do is cruel... pictures of employees standing on dolphins will do that to you. Now they laid off 90% of their workforce while giving their executives $6.8 million in bonuses "for their extraordinary contributions amid the COVID pandemic." What did they do to earn these? They laid off their employees. Two of these execs had only been there a week. Seems despicable. But then...

4. Then came Disney. Disney laid off 100,000 employees. It did that to save an estimated $500 million. Here's the thing, it's about to pay a $1.5 billion dividend. It also took out $20 billion in financing. So rather than pay its employees, it decided to hand out its cash to investors. And then it took on enough debt that it could pay its employees for 40 months, but it still fired them. Adding insult to injury, it tried to dump them on the taxpayer, telling them to seek public benefits. Florida should impose a tax on theme parks to get that money back.

5. But corporate America was just warming up. It turns out that the fund set aside to help small business protect their employees and stay alive during this period was raided by massive restaurant and luxury hotel chains. The Ritz Carlton. The Marriott in Beverly Hills. Burger King. Ruth's Chris steak house. Potbelly Sandwich. Taco Cabana. These are publicly traded billion dollar businesses with locations all over the country. What in the world made them think it was right to apply for money from a fund set aside for small businesses? Even worse, many of these found ways to double or triple the maximum amount allowed.

The Treasury claimed that 25% of the actual loans went to small businesses. Think about that though. That means that 75% of the loans went to big businesses. Insane. Eight luxury hotel companies alone took $140 million of the $350 million fund. Shake Shack took the money despite raising $150 million in a recent stock offering. One real estate investment trust (Ashford Inc.) obtained 56 separate loans, treating each location they owed as a separate small business. The vast majority of small businesses got nothing because the fund ran out of money.

Fortunately, they are being destroyed in the media and some are slowly giving it back. But the fact it never dawned on them that this was basically fraud, even if they found a way to qualify tells you something about the modern corporate mentality. They should be prosecuted and their businesses boycotted.

6. Hollywood has been no better. Not only have they been remarkably lacking in charity, unlike groups like the NFL, but they have been brutal to underlings. Film studios and talent agencies laid off all their workers. Even big name (leftist) actors have been laying off their assistants. Think about that. An actor worth hundreds of millions isn't willing to keep someone making $30k a year on staff for even a couple months during this?

7. The media. We've talked about the media a lot. Fear mongering through deceptive headlines, deceptive reporting. Negligence. Reporting that is so inept that it should be actionable. Rumor mongering. Spreading hate. Spreading ignorance. Herd-mentality shaming. Spreading propaganda. These people are despicable human beings.

8. Finally, we come to the most depressing set of douchebags: The protestors. There is no evidence, polling or anecdotal, that suggests the public has had too much quarantine. Polls suggest 80% support. In fact, most polls say people worry about ending it. There has been ZERO civil disobedience either -- the most reliable evidence of the public's mood. Advertisers, another reliable weather vane, show a strong embrace of it across political and generational lines. Why? Foremost, people are genuinely concerned about their own safety, the safety of older family members, and even the safety of the people working in stores. This is reflected in the huge percentage of people staying home, and the huge percentage wearing masks when they go out. This is reflected in the public banding together in massive charity events too. The new heroes of America are the nurse and the grocery store clerk. You see this everywhere.

Moreover, people understand that in times of crisis, some sacrifice is needed... yet, this has hardly been a sacrifice. Indeed, the quarantine is not oppressive. With a few minor exceptions, you can do what you always did. You can still go to most stores. You can buy fast food. You can buy guns. You can buy booze and weed. You can buy most anything, in fact. And what you can't buy locally, you can get online. Your bank is open. Your doctor is open. Electricity, phone and television all still work. In most states, you can go to the parks. Most governors have, by and large, been very good at letting out enough additional freedoms to keep people content as issues arise. Florida and Texas opened their beaches again. Colorado opened liquor stores when people freaked out.

The only people who are struggling are those who lost jobs... but let's put them aside for a moment.

So, are you sensing a theme? Of course, you are. But the douchebags aren't.

No. They have decided to throw a tantrum. They want their freedom back and they want it now! Forget that they never lost it. Forget that they don't even know what it is. Seriously, are they upset they can only go through the drivethru at McDonalds? "Going into the lobby is my God given right!" What this is, is all some wet dream by pretend tough guys about fighting tyranny which just doesn't exist. Then it gets worse. These losers show up at rallies carrying assault rifles and acting like some special forces wannabes. The wet dream continues. And they mix happily with conspiracy nuts: there is NO virus! ... the government made THE virus to TAKE our freedoms! ... vaccines are poiSON!! ... it's SPREAD by 5G!!! So you have people demanding the end of a quarantine the public sees as vital to keeping their families alive for no particular reason except some jerk-off fantasy about nebulous freedoms, they mix this tantrum with anti-science and anti-medicine, and they show up armed. You could not turn off the public more if you tried. These people are the right's version of the freaks who showed up in assless leather chaps with leashes around their necks at gay rights rallies.

And then came the coup de gras. Three nurses went out and tried to block the protestors, in uniform. Nurses are the new heroes, remember? And the douchebags raced into the trap. Rather than engaging the nurse respectfully and stating their cause clearly and compellingly, they tried to shout them down and intimidate them. Congratulations, you just made yourselves into the new Westboro Baptist Church, protesting military funerals, you assholes.

These idiots reinforced all the negative stereotypes the media uses against the right and set back the cause of reopening the country by weeks. They have turned what should be a natural process of the public deciding it was ready into a political issue supported by people the public despises.

Do you want to know what would have worked? There are people who really did lose their jobs. They legitimately have lost their freedoms. Imagine ten hairdressers, who actually are shutdown, go to a public park and start doing free haircuts as a protest. They are joined by 10 bartenders serving free drinks or a group of dentists with signs pointing out that their clients teeth will need root canals if they can't do preventative care. These people hold up signs saying, "We can operate safely!" and "Can't support my family!" That's a cause people understand. It is sympathetic. It is thought provoking, not revulsion creating. It is nonpartisan. It addresses the public's concerns about safety. It doesn't threaten anyone. And it plays on genuine issues of freedom... not some nebulous wet dream about fighting pretend tyranny.

This is again why the right is viewed with such contempt in this country even though most people share the right's views.

All told, the people on this list are a small number of people and most have a pretty negative history to begin with. So don't feel like this is common, but they are out there and they deserve to be called out.


tryanmax said...

I came across a video yesterday showing how the photos of nurses blocking traffic were captured. They crossed the crosswalk during a red light, paused to face the SUV while the photographer snapped, and then finished crossing. Took 5 seconds.

I seen another of a man in plainclothes yelling at the gridlock protesters but the caption says he's yelling at the nurse.

FWIW, I've seen about a billion photos of the same nurse with the red temples on his sunglasses.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, First, it doesn't really matter if this was partially staged or not. The optics are crap.

Secondly, it's not as staged as that person led you to believe. Here's an image of the nurse in Denver. Yes, it's a red light, but note that the intersection is full -- the light is irrelevant at this point. Note the woman is yelling at him. There's your problem.


Here's the woman still yelling. She now slapped her sign on the windshield. There are other pictures I can't find right now of someone in another car pointing and yelling too.


Here's another one showing different cars. So this wasn't a "one car - race out take the picture and disappear" image. These people are driving around him.


Also... of course, the guy is political. But it doesn't matter. He set a trap and these fools fell for it. And the reason it "fits" to the public is the other fools they were hanging around with were people calling this a hoax and a plot.

AndrewPrice said...

Dang it. The links won't work right. The second one isn't working this time. You should see the other images in the sidebar though.

AndrewPrice said...

BTW, tryanmax. Let me clear. I don't even know if the guy is a nurse. For all I know, he's a professional leftist. And the two women striking the identical pose in the next protest reeks of politics to me.

But it doesn't matter.

The public sees a yahoo screaming at a nurse. That's bad. And if you want to grasp how bad, ask yourself your reaction if it had been an anti-vaxer rally and they yelled at a nurse. The response would be visceral and angry. And that's the response this image does.

The only way to avoid this trap was to get out... offer to shake hands... and explain calmly without arm motions what your grievance is. Otherwise, you get this.

And like I said, this image sticks because it fits with the purpose and allies of the rally. This was not genuinely aggrieved people seeking help. This was a political rally with no specific purpose except a generalized complaint.

Benjamin Boll said...

Many retirement accounts rely on Disney to pay a divided. I talk to a lot of people who depend on Disney’s dividend.

tryanmax said...

The Hill says 43% of Americans have lost jobs or wages, so I have a hard time believing those protesters necessarily belong to the right. But the media rules say baddies on the right, goodies on the left. So, yes, Americans hate the right because the right are assholes, but that’s just reciting definitions.

tryanmax said...

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying the optics aren’t crap. That’s why I mentioned the staging video. Nobody needs to verify that the man in scrubs is a nurse anymore than they need to verify the angry woman is a registered Republican. We already know the narrative before we see the image.

Patriot said...

I see some good coming out of all of this madness.
1. we might have found ways to severely limit the effects the common flu has on all of us every year. HCQ, etc. That would be nice.
2. People are realizing how important halting the spread of diseases are and what measures we all can take to become safer, unobtrusively.
3. Some politicians true natures were brought out. No drive-in church but you can drive through the Starbucks right down the road? Just as Andrews nurses theater shows, we on the right can do the same to counter. Witness the Boise “mom” who was arrested for having a play date with her kids. Michigan Gov is a prime example. People will remember this in 6 months and remove them from office and/or recall. All a good thing for our democracy.
4. Nancy Pelosi - enough said

I think the most apropos meme I’ve seen is the “So how do you like your temporary experiment in socialism?” The distinction between the elite who, again as Andrew states, have not been too terribly inconvenienced, and the proles, those that HAVE to work outside the home in order to survive, has never been in starker relief. It’s not too bad if you still have a regular paycheck coming in. But when you are dependent upon the service industry and are deemed “non-essential “ you remember how you were treated. This is not good for our democracy.

I hope we can continue as a society. Our divisions have always been with us, yet this has/had the potential to devolve into another “Civil War” or more like the French Revolution. “Let them eat ice cream!”

“May you live in interesting times”.

AndrewPrice said...

Benjamin, If they are relying on dividends, then they shouldn't. Owners come last on the food chain and dividends always get cut in bad times. That's why people on retirement buy bonds, because they are much safer. They also have a return that is 5x as high. Disney's dividend is around 1.7% per year. So someone holding $10,000 in Disney stock will get around $80 every six months. I would not say that justifies protection compared to dumping $500 million in salary and wages on taxpayers.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, There are only a few hundred protesters and they were waiving around libertarian signs. I don't see any evidence that this was a mixed rally.

You're correct on the staging, but when there's no truth to it, the staging doesn't really work. The Tea Party survived all the narratives because it was genuine... until the crazies took over. The cops-hunting-black-men narrative collapsed because it was so obviously false as well. Remember that imagine of the black woman the media wanted to sell as iconic/historic? That died the minute it left the cover of Time because that was a staged narrative and no one bought it except the media pushing it. Even that school kid versus the Indian protestor fell apart because the facts came out right away that the kid was not yelling at him and the Indian provoked it.

AndrewPrice said...

Patriot, I will be very curious to see what this does to flu infections, if anything, in coming years. Has this weakened it's hold on humanity? Not sure.

I definitely agree that this will improve the public's handling of illness. I see a lot of stores permanently becoming more concerned with preventing the spread of disease in their stores. I think we will also see a greater emphasis on making sick employees stay home -- I used to have a boss who bragged about "never taking a sick day in 37 years". Yeah, except that meant he came to work with all kinds of flus and colds and spread them.

I find the anti-church stuff to be particularly glaring and grating at the moment.

I don't know if this will affect the proles v. elite dynamic or not. Right now, the elite are running pretty wild and getting away with it.

AndrewPrice said...

By the way, went to the grocery store today...

1. Found bleach...
2. Found lots of toilet paper...
3. Found lots of paper towels...
4. Still lots of meats...
5. Something is missing in the mac and cheese aisle, not sure what though.

tryanmax said...

I’m one of those lousy shoppers that’s always forgetting something so I’m regularly running to the store for one or two items. So I’ve been able to monitor some things. 1) Even though shelves are full, stockers are working constantly and there are more of them. I suspect the difference is from people dining out less. 2) Top tier and bottom tier (i.e. house) brands are taking up more real estate, all the mid-tier brands are having trouble meeting demand. 3) For some reason, butter and cream are the slowest to come back. 4) People must be baking a lot because flour also remains scarce.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, Same here. I go 2-3 times a week because I always need things that I forgot or no one told me we need. Gee... couldn't mention that you ate the last of the cereal, huh? Ug.

Anyways, it does give a good perspective on how things have changed. And I agree with you -- more people working harder. Mid-tier brands seem to be struggling more. Our slowest come back was American cheese. They are overflowing with milk and cheese now. The baking supplies have been scarce.

One thing that has impressed me -- honestly -- is some of the bigger brands that ran out and could easily raise prices, but haven't and even are still running sales. Good ethics there, and I definitely feel good will toward them.

AndrewPrice said...

And thus it begins... LINK

People are starting to drift outside. This is the how it all ends, as people just start going where they aren't supposed to go. Now we see (1) is this a temporary thing caused by good weather, (2) will it lead to open defiance, and (3) will the authorities move quickly enough to prevent open defiance.

Colorado is mostly opening up tomorrow.

tryanmax said...

I think the announcement that sunlight kills the virus was the death knell for the lockdowns. It seems to me there were some politicians who really thought they could keep Americans indoors all summer.

I think now is a good time for Trump to wind down his daily briefings, or shift them to focus on economic matters. The sunlight is a good excuse to make that shift.

Post a Comment