Money Quote Friday Nov. 3
Read to the end.
When I sat down to write this morning, I was working my way up to a full fire and brimstone rant, but honestly, I need to do more reporting before I let loose, and I also want to finish a couple more books. I’m almost through Tufekci’s Twitter and Tear Gas, and am about a quarter through Galloway’s The Four. Can you guess what I’m going to rant about?
In the meantime, I’m going to do an extended-play Money Quote for you today. I have about 50 tabs open on my big screen browser, and at least 15% of them are worth sharing with you. So here we go!
This person — Jenna Abrams — doesn’t exist. She’s a Russian troll. The sophistication required to do what Jenna Abrams managed to do online is really, really chilling. You have to deeply understand American social mores to get this good. You have to be on a mission to literally break the rules of social discourse. And then you have to succeed. And they did. In fact, if you are a social media manager or agency, you should be ashamed. These guys are WAY better than you at your job. Read this piece. It’s terrifying. Money quote: “Abrams, who at one point boasted nearly 70,000 Twitter followers, was featured in articles written by Bustle, U.S. News and World Report, USA Today, several local Fox affiliates, InfoWars, BET, Yahoo Sports, Sky News, IJR, Breitbart, The Washington Post, Mashable,New York Daily News, Quartz, Dallas News, France24, HuffPost, The Daily Caller, The Telegraph, CNN, the BBC, Gizmodo, The Independent, The Daily Dot, The Observer, Business Insider, The National Post, Refinery29, The Times of India, BuzzFeed, The Daily Mail, The New York Times, and, of course, Russia Today and Sputnik.”
Speaking of Twitter, it’s true that this action by a former employee sets a dangerous precedent, but man, it kinda made my day.
Just in case you weren’t freaked out already.
For years GE was the company that “got it” — it had successfully integrated Valley philosophies like “Lean” and “Agile,” and it was clearly walking the talk around innovation. Then, literally in the last two months, that all fell apart. The CEO and many of his trusted executives were fired, and now the company is running a pretty classic “slash, burn, and extract profits” playbook. Why? This piece from HBR argues it’s exactly what you might think: Activist shareholders. Money quote: “The corporate raiders of the 20th century have rebranded themselves as the activist investors of the 21st. With refrains of “unlock hidden value” and “increase shareholder value,” and powered by over $120 billion in assets, activist investors like Trian look for companies like GE (or Procter & Gamble) whose share price is underperforming relative to its peers (or that have large amounts of cash on their balance sheets). Then they buy stock in these public companies and attempt to convince management to increase the price of the shares.”
Things are getting worse, not better, for women in the workplace. For the first time in forever. Why? That answer is not in the data. But it should be. Money quote: “Overall, the 2017 index showed a decrease in parity over the previous year for the first time. And the economic pillar, which looks at salaries, workforce participation, and leadership, has one of the fastest-growing gaps. Women across the world are still, on average, earning less than men by a large amount. So much so, the WEF says, that the economic gender gap will now not be closed for 217 years.”
This piece is behind a paywall (I do recommend subscribing to The Information if it’s in your budget), but here’s the gist: The Information’s readers (folks like me, I guess), are very worried about the power of the technology companies they spent decades cheering for. Money quote: “In The Information’s survey, 70% of respondents said tech companies were too powerful. A number commented that Big Tech’s influence had overwhelmed standard market forces. Wrote one reader: “I am a tech-forward individual, and I believe in the power of technology to be a positive force for our economy and society. However, these companies and their technologies have gone unchecked for far too long.”
As long as we’re talking surveys and data, why not prove that which we already anecdotally have figured out, which is that the future of our country is literally keeping us up at night. More, in fact, than any other concern. Money quote: “Almost two-thirds of Americans, or 63 percent, report being stressed about the future of the nation, according to the American Psychological Association’s Eleventh Stress in America survey, conducted in August and released on Wednesday. This worry about the fate of the union tops longstanding stressors such as money (62 percent) and work (61 percent) and also cuts across political proclivities. However, a significantly larger proportion of Democrats (73 percent) reported feeling stress than independents (59 percent) and Republicans (56 percent).”
Because look, this has been pretty depressing. So read about big ideas that just might help drag us out of the pit of misery, from tech guru and overall smart guy Bill Joy. Money quote: “We sought “grand challenge” breakthroughs because they can lead to a cascade of positive effects and transformations far beyond their initial applications. The grand challenge approach works — dramatic improvements reducing energy, materials and food impact are possible. If we widely deploy such breakthrough innovations, we will take big steps toward a sustainable future.”