Friday, October 7, 2016

Just how corrupt do the politicians think we are? And I’m increasingly afraid they are correct.

The Attorney General of New York State reads in The Washington Post that the Trump Foundation has not done the paperwork to raise funds in New York . He tells them to cease fund-raising activity immediately. Only twenty-four hours between the announcement that the proper forms weren’t filed, and the cease and desist order.

As someone who will vote for Trump, I got no problem with that at all. Trump’s foundation should obey the law.

Meanwhile, Scripps-Howard reports that two Clinton foundations don’t follow NY law, in that they fail to identify their donors and report the amounts each gives them. The AG’s office says ‘no problemo.’ Laws are for the little people, not the Clintons.

Care to guess what party the NY State Attorney General belongs to, and who he supports in the presidential race?

But will this affect anyone’s vote? I doubt it. ‘Corruption, Shmorruption’ seems to be the attitude.

And I doubt this will get the AG thrown out of office either, though it should. We’ve reached the point where the electorate doesn’t believe that anyone on their side can do wrong. That scares me.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

How stupid do political fundraisers think we are? And are they right?

Yesterday, I got one of the many polls asking me if I agreed with this group's nostrums, and would I send them money? I like these. I give the exact opposite of the answers they want (yes, I want to see our country ruined; no, I don't want to stop the evil folks from taking over). Gangs of fun.

Well, this poll was a duplicate, so I decided to make up a new name for it. (Vote early and often, that's what I say. I've taken some of these polls about ten times). I picked Sergey as my first name, and used my regular last name. This was the first time for Sergey, unlike my other aliases.

Today, I got an e-mail addressed to Sergey, saying that "As one of our most active supporters in Minnesota, you have been selected to take our new" politician survey.

Sergey got a second letter, asking him his opinion on a vital question. Click Yes, No, or Unsure. No matter which one you click, you get taken to the same survey, with the same leading questions.

These surveys usually imply I'm one of the select few whose opinion they're asking. The criterion of selection is, of course, that they have my mailing address.

Occasionally, one of my aliases gets a letter asking 'Is it true you're voting for that evil person the other party is running?' The survey that follows, though, invariably contains the same questions as the ones that think I'm one of their stalwart fighters for truth, justice, and the party that sent them.

So, who do they think they're fooling with these? It's insulting they think I'm dumb enough to respond, but it's scary, thinking that lots of people either do fall for the phoniness, or (worse) don't care that our would-be political saviors are so routinely dishonest.

P.S.: I miss Bernie. I never sent him any money either, but his letters weren't quite as hackneyed as the ones I get now.

Friday, September 9, 2016

And Now For Something Completely Different

In the following, I fisk an essay by Jay Rosen about why Trump needs to be covered differently than 'other candidates'. Rosen's words are in italic, mine in bold. My 'regular' essays on the need for secession will resume, assuming this blog doesn't get banned.
Journalists commonly divide information from persuasion, as when they separate the “news” from the “opinion” section, or “reporters” from “columnists.” This is fine as far as it goes (and they get criticized harshly when they don’t honor this norm), but the distinction won’t help much in understanding why the 2016 campaign has been such an intellectual challenge for the media.


Note how the idea that the media is badly mistaken and dishonest about its actions is never raised. But if they did do this, it would indeed be fine.


Everything that happens in election coverage is premised on a kind of opinion: that our votes should be based on reliable information about what the candidates intend to do if elected. Remove that assumption and the edifice crashes. But this is exactly what the candidacy of Donald Trump does. It upends the assumptions required for the traditional forms of campaign journalism even to make sense.


Horseshit. THERE IS NO RELIABLE INFORMATION POSSIBLE ON WHAT CANDIDATES WILL DO IF ELECTED. Frequently, they don’t know themselves, because events take them by surprise. But even more importantly, candidates are human beings, “who, being a man, may err and, which is more, may lie.” (Hobbes, Leviathan, Chapter XXXII).

What a candidate will do in office is opinion. Jay Rosen, author of this piece, confuses reporter’s opinions with facts. I don’t know if he’s dishonest here, or just wrong. But since it can’t be done, that means his idea of how election coverage normally proceeds is fantasy.


Take one of Trump’s most famous claims: that he will build a wall on the border with Mexico and get Mexico to pay for it. Is that a serious proposal? Should journalists review it as one? If they do examine it as a policy idea, are they helping us achieve greater clarity about the Trump candidacy (by taking a hard look at what he would do if elected), or are they distorting the Trump phenomenon by treating a parody of policy discussion, a kind of goof on the political class, as a genuine proposal?


Will Trump actually attempt to do that? Beats me. If he tries, will he succeed? Don’t know. But Rosen assumes he does know that it can’t be done, and is not a serious proposal.  That is his opinion, and not fact.


“Mexico will pay for the wall” chips away at one of the foundations of campaign coverage: that running for president is serious business. If you take it seriously, you become the joke. If you don’t, then you let him get away with an absurdity. The fact that there’s no right answer should tell us something. Trump is crashing the system — violating norms and assumptions that were previously taken for granted because so far, everyone who had reached the point of consideration had obeyed them.


That bit about “norms” is a dead giveaway. A ‘norm’ is a moral rule, a prescription for conduct. But crime reporters cover those who break moral rules all the time, and without endorsing the deviant behavior. Rosen is pissed because Trump isn’t influenced by the media.


One of the newer parts of that system is fact-checking, but this is also a practice with a premise. The premise is that fact-checking will have some shaming effect on the kind of behavior it calls out. Notice I said “some.” While all candidates (including Hillary Clinton) will avoid inconvenient facts, make dubious claims or even lie at times if they think they can get away with it, they normally change behavior when a statement has been widely debunked. They may not admit they were wrong, but they will stop repeating the unsupportable claim, or alter it to make it more plausible. That’s what a “check” is supposed to be: it constrains a candidates’s power to distort the public dialogue.


By now it’s moving into the open. ‘Trump refuses to obey us.’


Trump shatters this premise. As put it: “He stands out not only for the sheer number of his factually false claims, but also for his brazen refusals to admit error when proven wrong.” Said Glenn Kessler, The Post’s Fact Checker columnist: “What’s unusual about Trump is he’s a leading candidate and he seems to have no interest in getting important things factually correct.”


If you were a man from Mars reading this, you’d never guess that “fact checking” has led to great controversy, with the “fact checkers” frequently called wrong. This is definite dishonesty. Rosen certainly knows about this, and ignores it.


Under conditions like these, fact-checking may still be worthwhile, but not because it has any shaming effect on the candidate. In fact, it could even be useful to Trump in whipping up resentment against the media, a key part of his appeal. My point is this: When the assumptions underneath a practice collapse, the ethics of that practice may shift as well.


So, if they can’t prevent Trump from saying things they don’t like, they’ll drop the pretense of honesty.


Traditionally, journalists have called out untruths. Here they may have to explain how untruths are foundational to a candidacy. Traditionally, journalists have thought it “ethical” not to worry about the consequences of election coverage: as long as it was truthful, accurate and newsworthy, all was well. Here they may have to worry that their checking actions have no effect, and regroup around that discovery.


You may recall from a few paragraphs ago that ‘fact checking’ is “One of the newer parts of that system”. Now it appears to be something traditional. I have a feeling that Rosen isn’t aware of his own contradiction here.

Then he goes on to say that “traditionally”, journalists only concentrated on whether their coverage was “truthful, accurate, and newsworthy.” If it was, “all was well.” Being truthful, accurate, and newsworthy has no necessary correlation with influencing a candidate’s behavior. He’s trying to put across the idea that “truthful, accurate” reportage automatically controlled candidates. A dubious claim.

But what’s really interesting, and revealing is the sneer quotes around “ethical.” He’s telling us that journalistic ethics has always been a sham. Major blunder there, Rosen.


One of the assumptions of campaign coverage was that candidates would never use their huge platforms to spread malicious rumors and unreliable information for which they have no proof: Too risky, too ugly. Trump has crashed that premise too. When called out on his rumormongering, he just says: Hey, it’s out there already. For journalists, this changes the practice of giving the candidate a broadcast platform. Just by granting that platform you may be participating in a misinformation campaign. Are you sure you know what you’re doing?


We’re now into the realm of fantasy again. Think of LBJ’s notorious “daisy ad”. Think of what most reporters claim Joe McCarthy did. Rosen is just lying here.


Imagine a candidate who wants to increase public confusion about where he stands on things so that voters give up on trying to stay informed and instead vote with raw emotion. Under those conditions, does asking “Where do you stand, sir?” serve the goals of journalism, or does it enlist the interviewer in the candidate’s chaotic plan?


Have voters every made their choices on anything but “raw emotion.” Many psychologists would deny that idea. And as noted before, journalists can’t tell the public what the candidate will do in office. All attempts to do that are opinion masquerading as fact.

Asking the candidate “ ‘Where do you stand, sir?’ ” is enough if you’re a “reporter,” giving the readers facts. It’s not enough if you’re an advocate trying to influence the election.


I know what you’re thinking, journalists: “What do you want us to do? Stop covering a major party candidate for president? That would be irresponsible.” True. But this reaction short-circuits intelligent debate. Beneath every common practice in election coverage there are premises about how candidates will behave. I want you to ask: Do these still apply? Trump isn’t behaving like a normal candidate; he’s acting like an unbound one. In response, journalists have to become less predictable themselves. They have to come up with novel responses. They have to do things they have never done. They may even have to shock us.


They may need to collaborate across news brands in ways they have never known. They may have to call Trump out with a forcefulness unseen before. They may have to risk the breakdown of decorum in interviews and endure excruciating awkwardness. Hardest of all, they will have to explain to the public that Trump is a special case, and the normal rules do not apply.

And there it is. Journalists may have to get blatantly open about stopping Trump.

The most important thing here is that Rosen is probably mostly ‘honest’ in this piece. He probably doesn’t realize how many dubious assumptions and outright impossibilities he’s advocating as fact here. But increasingly, the public does.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Have You Realized How Dishonesty Has Effectively Lowered Your IQ?

        One of the problems of dishonesty is that it numbs your brain. Stuff you wouldn't fall for if you were thinking gets accepted without question.

        Here's a simple one from today. People noticed that Donald Trump and Gary Johnson weren't listed in a Google search box supposedly showing Presidential candidates with active campaigns. Hillary Clinton and Jill Stein were, and so was Bernie, but no Republican, and no Libertarian.

        After this was called to Google's attention, they changed that, and "explained":

"We found a technical bug in Search where only the presidential candidates participating in an active primary election were appearing in a Knowledge Graph result. Because the Republican and Libertarian primaries have ended, those candidates did not appear. This bug was resolved early this morning."

        A lot of people doubt that Google's telling the truth, but I've been to over a dozen different sites so far that were 'reporting' on this, and not one asked about the obvious. Just where are these primaries being held that Hillary and Bernie and Jill will participate in?

       Main stream media hasn't even reported the story, far as I can tell:

        A few local stations got on it, but didn't ask about the 'primaries':

       Neither did alternative media and tech web sites:

        So far, this is the only site that even tried to inquire into this that I can find: They also missed the obvious question about primaries, but they mention a story about this, and snopes in turn mentioned and linked to Jill Stein's site, showing this screen shot from a few days back:


        That one did have Bernie as an active candidate, still, but it omitted Stein.

        Oh, and I haven't even begun to mention the other minor parties that have candidates, or the independent "candidates" that aren't on the ballot anywhere. Google doesn't bring them up either.

        Aside from me, one guy on a bulletin board brought it up:

        This is important. People should be jumping all over Google, asking what's really going on, where these alleged primaries are, why Bernie Sanders is listed as an active candidate, and why other candidates don't show up. But they don't, because they don't even see what the problem is. And that ought to really scare you.

Friday, July 22, 2016



        I’ve been meaning for some time to post some thoughts on political lying.  There’s been a bit of a problem, though.  Every time I started an essay, a new and outrageous instance of lying came along, making the dishonesty I had intended to write about seem like old news.

         But even worse was the reaction I kept noticing.  No one seems to care what the truth is anymore.  And this extends beyond politics.
        Let’s start with a personal anecdote.  I went to a local restaurant, (Baker’s Square, 611 W. 98th St. in Bloomington MN).  I ordered a patty melt, medium rare, which the menu said they were willing to cook for me.  It came medium well.  I sent it back and asked for a medium rare, and the second one was also medium well.  I insisted on medium rare, and the waiter yelled at me and told me to leave.

        So I complained about this on Baker’s Square’s web site.  The result was a form letter, my comments had been forwarded to the appropriate people, etc.  Translated into honest: ‘We lied about cooking your food the way you want it, and we don’t care if our waiter insulted you.’  (And that assumes anyone read the complaint at all; quite likely they didn’t.)  But they will solemnly assure you that your satisfaction is their goal.

        Another personal anecdote.  On Twitter the other day, a friend posted a link to a claim that this June was the warmest June ever recorded.  I said I wouldn’t pay attention till the ‘warmists’ released the uncorrected raw data the keep secret.  His rejoinder was that it doesn’t matter if I pay attention or not.  So I asked why he posted the tweet, if he doesn’t care if people pay attention.  No answer to that one.

        While on the subject of Twitter, consider the permanent banning of Milo Yiannopolous.  Twitter claims his posts violated their rules, but won’t say what rules violated which posts.

        It’s said by Buzzfeed, which claim to have sources at Twitter,  that Milo urged his followers to attack actress Leslie Jones.  But no such posts have surfaced.

        The recent #BlackLivesMatter controversy is an excellent example.  On a board I frequent, an acquaintance posted about the ‘fact’ that the murder rate in Baltimore was going up.  This was obviously due to the prosecution of police officers for Gray’s death, which supposedly led to the cops backing off from proper policing.

        There were two little problems with this narrative.  The first is that no evidence was offered of any change in policing in Baltimore.   It was just assumed.  The second problem was that the figures he posted for murders in Baltimore in 2015 and ’16 showed the murder rate was down from last year.  When I and another couple of people pointed out that the murder rate was down, there was an angry reaction.  The lower murder rate didn’t count, because the figures might be inaccurate, there was no context for evaluating it, you need to look at murder rates over a period of years to get an idea of the expected variation, yada yada yada.  None of those arguments were made with the original poster, though, when he told the group something they wanted to believe.

        And then in another thread on that board, the issue of police shootings of blacks came up.  Someone tried to ‘prove’ that the number of black Americans killed by the police is not a cause for concern by posting figures he said showed the number and race of those killed by the police, and the number of police supposedly killed in the line of duty so far in 2016.

        He said 130 police officers had been murdered so far this year (note well: these figures were posted before either the Baton Rouge or Dallas murders), while slightly less than 130 black people had been killed by police, and around 410 non-blacks had been killed too. Blacks, or Americans in general, were killing the police faster than police were killing blacks.

        Only the numbers offered were wildly wrong.  540 killed by police, about 130 black seems about right for when he posted it.  But the number of U.S. “police officers” who “died in the line of duty” this year is 68, as of 2016 July 19th, according to “Officer Down Memorial Page”, The figure of 130 was their total for all of 2015.

        Also, “died in the line of duty” does not mean “murdered.”  Twenty six had died of accidents and illnesses. The number deliberately killed by gunfire, “vehicular assault”, and just plain “assault” is 42 and was around 33 when the figures were first posted.  Of the 130 “police” who died “in the line of duty” in 2015, 56 were deliberate killings.

        Btw, the definition of “police officer” used by the site is expansive.  It includes “correctional officers”, park rangers, “Court Officers”, game wardens, “Deportation Officers” of the Immigration service, “Special Investigators” in the armed forces, and the people who work for the American Humane Society investigating cruelty to animals.

        Meanwhile, the police (not including “correctional officers” and such) had apparently killed around 990-1210 people in 2015 (the statistics are imprecise, to say the least).   Blacks made up about a fourth to a third of those killed, as far as I can tell.  According to a claim I spied, blacks make up about 40% of cop murderers, though I haven’t been able to check that.  But it’s what I could find, so let's use it.

        So, in an average week in 2015, two cops died in the line of duty. One was murdered, the other was ill or killed in an accident. Meanwhile, the police killed 18-19 people, almost all deliberately. Figuring an average of five to six black deaths by cops, and .4 police deaths by blacks, the police last year were killing blacks at 13x-15x times the rate the blacks killed them, and 18x-19x the rate the public at large killed them.

        Across the Atlantic in Britain, the police killed three people in 2015. Now, Britain is only a fifth the size of the U.S. And furthermore, its murder rate last year was a fifth that of the U.S. So, let’s multiply those three police killings by twenty five. We ‘should’ have had 75 killed by police in 2015. Instead, it was 986, or 1147, or 1208, depending on source employed.  So U.S. police are killing U.S. citizens at a rate of 13x-16x the rate British cops kill British subjects. Our cops seem awfully trigger happy.

        Two replies get made to that.  One is that American blacks kill each other at a far higher rate than the police kill them.  This is somewhat true, though the figures tend to be exaggerated.  For instance, writer and former minister Peter Grant posted the other day that “The criminal murders of blacks vastly outnumber those committed by police, by a factor of at least a hundred to one and probably far higher than that”.   It’s actually far lower than that, maybe 25x the number of blacks killed by police.  And there are far fewer cops in the U.S. than black Americans, around 765,000 to 43,000,000.  So on a per capita basis, the cops kill 2.3 times as many black citizens as other blacks.  Oops!

        We could play statistical games here and try to define the percentage of the black population who are criminals.  Let’s not.  Our cops would still seem trigger happy.

        The other reply is that the killings are justified, as shown by the police investigations of other police.  Really?

        Fifty years ago, Bill Jordan of the U.S. Border Patrol wrote a book on gunfighting, titled No Second Place Winner.  In the introduction, he told an amusing tale of a Law Enforcement Officer and a ‘questionable’ shooting.  The officer, a fellow Border Patrolman iirc, had shot a man on footbridge, claiming that the other guy had drawn on him.  Alas, he said, the dead man’s gun had fallen into the water.  Would it be found when the river was dragged for it?  If yes, the shooting was justified.  If not,the officer was in trouble.

        Jordan relates how he went down to the bridge to take a look, and it seemed quite likely nothing would be found.

        Not to worry. The operation turned up around a dozen revolvers in that very spot. You couldn’t get more justified!

        Oh, I forgot to mention, when Jordan was looking at the scene, a cheap revolver he ‘happened’ to own just and just ‘happened’ to be carrying just ‘happened’ to ‘accidentally’ fall out of his pocket, and land in the river.

        And why did Jordan own this cheap revolver, or carry it? Well, lots of police officers had them. “Throwaways”, they were called. If you encountered someone in dimly lit conditions, and he did something that made you think he was going to shoot you, you did your best to shoot first. And if, when you checked the body, it turned out he was unarmed? Plant the throwaway. It prevents embarrassing questions.

        Jordan apparently felt no reluctance at all to say that he and his fellow officers would lie and plant phony evidence. He treated the practice as half joke, half ‘Well, anyone would do that.

        A half century ago, people could laugh at such things. I did, when I read the book in the 1970s. But I don't think you can afford to laugh any longer, if you want the U.S. to survive.



Tuesday, June 14, 2016

What are Words For, if No One Listens Anymore?

        Politics in the Atlantic world seem to breaking apart, as old parties lose support and new ones rise.   The language used makes the current political campaigns sound like apocalyptic fantasy novels.  Doom is predicted.  Demonic forces of hatred and badthink are abroad in the land.  If I saw a headline tomorrow asking ‘Can Democratic Republican government survive?’, I wouldn’t be in the least shocked.  And it seems as if nothing can be done.

        I came across an interesting example of this today. In nine days, in Britain, there’s going to be a referendum on whether the United Kingdom Britain leaves or stays in the European Union.  The Labour Party leadership is all for staying, (“Labour’s In”) and since Labour is the biggest British political party, you’d think “Remain” would have a good chance of victory.  But the polls show “Leave” headed for victory.

        This attitude reduces on Polly Toynbee to a state near to despair.  In an article in the Gruniad, where the proofreading is as shaky as the leftism is solid, Ms. Toynbee is afraid for the future.  She was calling known Labour supporters, to tell them why they should vote “Stay”, only to find they were solidly for “Leave.”

        “Try arguing with facts and you get nowhere,” she laments.  Would face-to-face contact help?  No.

        “Every week in Barking the MP Margaret Hodge invites a whole ward for coffee and biscuits to air whatever’s on their minds. . . . The room bristled with antagonism.  ‘Do you want to be governed by Brussels?’ one shouted out.  ‘You’re being sold a false prospectus, a bunch of lies,’ [Hodge] said, to no avail.  One said: ‘When I get out at the station, I think I’m in another country.  Labour opened the floodgates.’

        “They like her, a well-respected, diligent MP, but they weren’t listening.” But neither is Ms. Toynbee, or MP Hodge.  Toynbee writes:

        “Their neighbourhoods have changed beyond recognition, without them being asked. . . . high-status Ford jobs are swapped for low-paid warehouse work . . .”

        The future she sees is grim.  “Leave” will triumph, things will get worse, and then:

        “That moment is fertile for some yet-worse demagogue who calls for throwing out migrants already here.  Expect the volume to be raised against “elites” – anti-parliament, anti-politics, bored of democracy itself.  Ignite hatred against Europe, blame Brussels for deliberately impoverishing us in revenge, stirring centuries-old enmities.

        “Blend all that with a little nationalistic leftish populism, not all of it bad: nationalise our utilities and rail, eject foreign owners from key industries and property, pump up armed forces and national pride.  These are potent ingredients for militant majoritarianism, blaming minorities and minority opinions.  The Human Rights Act is abolished and the BBC absorbed into government.  National socialism will no doubt carry a new name – but it’s there in the making.”

        Wow.  Can democracy be saved?  It seems unlikely to Toynbee:

        “If remain scrapes in, David Cameron may urge the other 27 EU members towards some brakes on migration.  After our near-death experience, with France’s Front National leader Marine Le Pen advancing, Poles and Hungarians screeching right and even worse threatened, some change looks necessary.  Social democratic values, sharing within a community, both are threatened by an entirely open door.”

        I agree with Toynbee that democratic government is in grave danger, but the problem isn’t what might happen in the future.  It’s what has already taken place.  Britain’s three main political parties have already conspired to kill democratic government.  So have the parties of other EU members.  Ditto Democrats and Republicans in the U.S.

        It would sound like bad fiction, if it wasn’t there on the page, if it wasn’t everywhere in politics today.  The voters think there has been far too much immigration in recent years.  The leaders of every long-established party disagree, and try to cram even more “migrants” down their throats.  In any genuine democracy, the establishments would have come out with proposals to limit immigration decades ago.  The debate would be about how much to limit it, and how.

        Instead, the people are told transparent lies.  The Labourites, Conservatives, and Liberal Democrats are determined to stay on course, even though they see the waves breaking on the reef ahead.  Better to drown, then to change course.

        This is the real threat to democracy.  This is why secession is necessary.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

How can we settle our political differences, when almost everyone spends their time lying about everything?

      One of the hazards of being social organisms is that we come to accept certain behaviors as normal and natural, without thinking about the consequences of such behavior.  Today I’d like to consider to the pervasive dishonesty of modern times.

      In the past two weeks, I’ve spent a fair amount of time on the phone dealing with “customer support” of various organizations.  All of them had messages assuring me that “your call is very important to us.”

      Now, in any society with even a middling regard for the truth, none of those companies would survive a week.  When someone’s call is very important, you have a human being answer it.  When someone’s phone call is not important, you have a recording answer it, and put the caller on hold, as a matter of routine.   And when someone’s call is something you wish to avoid, you have the recording offer a phone tree; require the caller to press buttons or enter information that doesn’t help the caller a bit; persistently urge the caller waiting to talk to a person to hang up; and finally, if they do stick it out and get to a person, require them to give the same information again (because the system is set up not to pass it on).  As a special insult, the organization will frequently attempt to sell you something while you’re on hold.

      By contrast, here’s an example of how a phone call from a customer is handled when it is important.  Back in the fifties, iirc, a woman who worked as a secretary in New York was called into a room where he boss was meeting some people, and told to look through her purse and find any Revlon cosmetic.  She had a Revlon lipstick.  The boss then told her to call Revlon and complain the lipstick was defective (smeared, or something).  Her call was very quickly routed to a man who apologized, and asked for her name and address, so that he could send her a replacement lipstick.  He then asked her to read the batch number off of the tube, so that they could check for other problems with that production run.  After that, he asked if she’d like to sign up to be a product tester—Revlon would send her new cosmetics they were considering selling, and postage-paid envelopes, and she’d test the stuff out and send the company her honest opinion of it.  (She said yes, and the sample soon started arriving.) Finally, the man on the phone closed it out by asking the secretary what she was wearing.  He then gave her advice on what shade of lipstick would go best with that outfit.

      Who was this helpful chap?  Charles Revson, the founder and CEO of Revlon, already fairly rich, with a reputation for rudeness and bad temper.  The secretary’s boss had been talking to some businessmen, bankers iirc, who complained it was hard to get Revson on the phone.  The boss had her make the call to demonstrate that it was easy to get hold of Revson, when Revson thought your call was important.

      Closely related to the routine lies about customer service over the phone are the web pages that promise ‘help.’ There’s always a bunch of “frequently asked questions”, links to various pages where you could handle various things on your own (cheaply for the company, in other words), and usually, but not always, a link to some way of getting in touch with a person.  That link is invariably small and hard to find, if it's there.  If you’re real lucky, it will take you directly to the means of contact, phone or e-mail or live chat.  (Personally, I prefer live chat; I can’t give in to the temptation to scream at the person I’m dealing with.  Having done customer service over the phone, I know they’re usually trying their best, within the limits their company will allow.) More usually, it will start you on a quest through to or three more web pages

      An honest phone answering message from one of our modern organizations would begin with something like.  “Hello.  You’ve reached this recording because your call is not important to us, and we don’t want to pay someone to talk to you.” An honest web page would be headed “Information we hope will keep us from having to deal with you.” It would be interesting to see the public’s reaction to such a message (I’d find it a relief), but consider our reaction to the way we’re treated now.  Is your routine reaction ‘These people are liars.  I’d better be careful, they will try to cheat me’?  More likely, you don't even notice.

      But perhaps the most important thing about these whoppers is the fact that the organizations that lie so routinely don’t think of themselves as liars, at least as far as I can tell.  Perhaps I’m wrong, but I get the opinion they think they’re trying to provide good service, as they do their best to avoid providing any at all.  The culture of dishonesty has so affected them that the liars don’t know when they’re lying.

      I believe this has profound consequences for society.  I’ll write more about this in future posts.