1 Great. Now I have to defend Steve Bannon. What greeted me this morning, as I surfed the Sunday news shows, Diogenes-like, searching for an honest journalist, but the sight of Steve Bannon in France, addressing the far-right National Front party yesterday and saying, speaking of the party’s effort to stem unrestrained immigration, particularly from Muslim countries, “Let them call you racist. Let them call you xenophobes. Let them call you nativists. Wear it as a badge of honor.” On every channel, this was interpreted as if Bannon was endorsing racism, xenophobia and nativism. Naturally this was then reflected on Trump as part of the “Trump is a racist” Big Lie that Democrats and the news media push virtually every day.
Bannon has certainly made testaments at other times that raise a rebuttable presumption that he is a racist, but this wasn’t one of them, and the fact that so many journalists would intentionally represent the statement to the public as if it was tells us either that they can’t be trusted to analyze news events, or that they can be trusted to spin them to advance an anti-Trump narrative even when it defies language and reality. From NBC in a typical fake history description: “Bannon’s appearance in France was part of a European tour as he seeks an international platform for his closed-borders, anti-foreigner message that helped Donald Trump win the U.S. presidency.” Trump did not advocate “closed borders,” nor was his platform “anti-foriegner.” That was the dishonest characterization of “America should enforce its immigration laws” by Democrats and the allied news media.
The words Bannon referenced have been part of the ongoing efforts to silence and demonize legitimate positions that oppose progressive cant, such as condemning rather than welcoming illegal immigration. What Bannon was obviously saying —and I do mean obviously—is “Don’t let their reflex race-baiting and demonizing tactics discourage you or deter you. Calling sensible immigration laws “xenophobic” is a desperate lie. Calling it racist is a lie. Calling it nativist is a lie. Recognize that their tactics mean you are winning the argument. Be proud, not intimidated.”
The fact that many of those he was addressing may be racists, xenophobes and nativists doesn’t change the meaning of what Bannon said. The news media’s job is to report, not read minds.
I could imagine making the same kind of statement to a colleague who has been savaged as a racist on Facebook for opposing affirmative action, or attacked as a sexist for questioning #MeToo tactics, or called a “Trump apologist” (or a Bannon apologist) for demanding fair and honest treatment from the media for politicians regardless of who they are. “Be proud that they are stooping to name-calling. It means they can’t rebut you on the merits.”
Oh: Bannon also said, “History is on our side.” This really upset the “journalists,” because everyone knows that history is on their side.
2. The Chaos President. Trump has had an unusually turbulent couple of weeks, and the latest leitmotif from the news media is that he creates chaos, as if this is 1) inherently a bad thing 2) accidental, and 3) undermines his administration and credibility. Are there no management experts in the hire of news organizations that are familiar with the chaotic management style? Even “Dilbert” creator Scott Adams, the iconoclastic management guru who has warned all along that Trump is not the bumbling fool Democrats and Never Trumpers think, seems to be unfamiliar with the style, which is difficult and rare, but not necessarily a sign of incompetence.
The head of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Thomas J. Donohue, surely understands Trump, because he too is a successful chaos manager. Tom may have been the most brilliant manager I ever worked for, though he was also the most stress-producing. He intentionally disrupted the organizations he oversaw with sudden changes in policy and direction, personnel shuffling, and mercurial decision-making. I finally asked him why he managed this way. And he told me (I’m paraphrasing):
“I learned early in life that if I was in a room and the lights went off and somebody set off a bomb, when the lights came on I was the one individual who was in a better place than when it went dark. Most people don’t function well in chaos. I function better in chaos. And when the people who are panicking and confused are looking for a leader, who will they gravitate to? The one person who is calm, confident, and who says, “Don’t worry. I’ll show the way.”
I must emphasize that this is a highly risky management style, and it inflicts a horrible toll on subordinates. It also takes a brilliant individual to pull it off, and while Tom Donohue is brilliant, Donald Trump is not. Nonetheless, for some managers and leaders, chaos management works. Journalists, almost all of whom have never managed anything in their lives, don’t understand it, like so much of what they report on. That doesn’t mean that President Trump doesn’t know exactly what he’s doing when he sets off bombs in darkened rooms.
3. A Spring Training baseball ethics note. I have written already about the bellyaching from self-styled working class hero sportswriters about how darned unfair it is that some free agent ballplayers who turned down a 17 million dollar one year contract to be able to auction their services found less of a market than they expected. The season is fast approaching, so every day brings news of a new discouraged millionaire who has been forced to accept a low-ball single season deal far beneath their expectations. Writing about the contract just inked by the latest of these, former St. Louis starting pitcher Lance Lynn, the much-read baseball site “Major League Trade Rumors” writes,
The pact, which is pending a physical, makes Lynn the latest victim of a slow-moving offseason in which a number of high-profile players have been forced to settle for one-year deals that look diminutive in comparison to those they were expected to receive. At the outset of the offseason, we ranked Lynn ninth on our list of the top 50 free agents, predicting that he’d receive $56MM over four years. More recently, our player profile for the righty suggested he could even achieve a $60MM deal. Obviously, the meager $12MM guarantee from the Twins falls significantly short of those expectations.
The use of the word meager to describe a 12 million dollar salary for six months of work at playing a game is offensive. Synonyms for the word include inadequate, scanty, scant, paltry, limited, restricted, modest, insufficient, sparse, deficient, negligible, skimpy, slender, poor, miserable, pitiful, puny, miserly, niggardly, and beggarly. Even in comparison to the riches Lynn was expected to recive, none of these is appropriate for a guaranteed half-year salary of 12 million dollars. The average salary for an American worker is $44,564 per year for a 40-hour workweek, 12 months a year. If 12 million dollars for six months is “meagre,” what is that?
I don’t begrudge elite athletes their salaries at all. They make a multi-billion dollar industries possible, and they are unique and rare talents. I do object to them and others poor-mouthing compensation that is more than most Americans will make in their lifetimes.
4. Ethics Alarms poll results! The March 6th polls on the ethics hypothetical I gave the Boy Scout troop are complete. The question involved professional theater company withs limited funds that offered its actors the option of a flat fee for their roles, or a percentage of the show’s profits, if there are any, on top of a much smaller base fee.
The company completes an extremely profitable production, the biggest hit the theater has ever had. Nine of the show’s ten cast members chose the percentage of profits option, a gamble, because most of the shows lose money. One, the star, who could not afford to gamble, took the flat fee for the role. After the accounting for the production is complete, you, as the theater’s manager, realize that every member of the cast will make $1000 more than the star, because of the show’s profits.
Question 1: What do you do?
- Give him the extra $1000. It’s only fair.
- Pay him the flat fee. A deal’s a deal.
Question 2: You remount the production, and the exact same thing happens. The actor chooses the flat fee, the show is again a huge money-maker,,and the rest of the cast will make much more than him because they chose the percentage. Do you give him the extra amount again?
- No. Now he’s taking advantage of me.
- Yes. Nothing has changed.
As you can see, the results were not close.
(I gave the actor the full amount the first time, but only what he bargained for after the second production.)