News, notes, and observations from the James River Valley in northern South Dakota with special attention to reviewing the performance of the media--old and new. E-Mail to

Monday, December 24, 2018

Trump gives a us a daily insight into how some CEOs think and work

I have written before about how badly Trump has been thought of by the honest business community.  A retired commercial banker and I were discussing the problems of sorting honest and competent CEOs from the sleazy and pretentious.  I faced the problems as a business editor who had to decide what to write about them; him as a banker who had to decide whether to lend them money.  Grifters and scammers were not difficult to identify and dismiss.  The real problems were sleaze who held executive positions in established companies.  The banker had an easier time of it with them, because he could turn down their loan requests, and his employer would laud him for being careful with the bank's money.  I faced the problem of possessing information about some CEOs which was matters of bad character, sometimes in gravely dangerous ways.  

A factor back when I was part of the working press was the way libel laws were applied.  Libel laws have been created and given precedents with a special partiality shown business.  However, back then  libel was a fairly straightforward matter.  If something was published about an individual that was negative and untrue, it was libelous and damages were assumed.  Truth was the defense against a charge of libel.  But what is true had to be backed up with witnesses and documentation.  Business reporters often have inside sources, but those sources want to remain confidential so they won't lose their jobs.  So, even if one had confirmed and verified information about misdeeds of a CEO, his accusers would not publicly allow their names to be used as witnesses.  The CEO could file a libel suit, and no witnesses would be available to testify.  As a professional code, reporters do not reveal confidential sources, but neither do they print news that cannot be backed up with identified sources.  Recently, with Trump, however, the media are quoting unidentified sources more and more to inform the people of how corrupt their government has become.

I covered CEOs who were upstanding and honorable and ran their companies with a respect for their employees and their customers. I also covered many who were absolute sleaze bags.  To them, their customers were gulls to be fooled and ripped off.  They regarded their employees as expendable serfs.  Their companies were run with a culture of fear and deception.  They were all about power and using it to control those under them.

One characteristic of the sleazy CEOs is that they create images of themselves and their companies that are total fabrications.  The live by the rule that you are what you appear to be, so they devote themselves to the image they project.

When such CEOs listed their accomplishments, they did not hold up under fact-checking.  They appropriated the accomplishments of their employees and called them their own.  Honest CEOs credited their employees.  But the sleaze bags ferreted out those employees who depended upon being puppets for the boss to get ahead, and promoted them to key positions.  Employees with talent and ability were exploited, but kept in low-level positions under the schemes of the executive team.  When those employees realized the nature of the outfit they were working for, they usually started looking for jobs elsewhere.  Some found ways to call attention to their achievements and ways to circumvent the executive staff.  Those that left, however, would unload to the press and anyone else willing to listen about the oppressive conditions of the company they left.

A big question about CEOs is how they obtain the millions and millions in salary and bonuses and is what they do anywhere near worth it?  Corporations are feudal in nature. The operating principle in many of them is the same as that of a feudal estate.  The estate is headed by a lord of the manor who has authority over every thing, living and none living, on the estate.  Feudal estates and corporations were conceived to deny liberty and equality as conditions of life.  The head of the estate lives in luxury while those under him live according to his whim.

CEOs of those kind of corporations are shameless liars.  They lie to avoid blame, avoid responsibility for their actions, and to keep the corporation in a state of confusion.  Their objective is to monopolize wealth and power for themselves and keep their underlings in a state of obsequious dependence.  When questioned about what they have accomplished to deserve their salaries and bonuses, they quickly point to the achievements of those below them and take full, personal credit for them.  The are responsible only to their boards of directors and shareholders who are kept happy by sharing in the corporate wealth.   Their customers are regarded as sheep to be fleeced, their employees as servants to be controlled, and the communities in which they operate as geography to be exploited, and often polluted.

 No word of the sleaze CEOs can be believed or trusted.  They assemble around them as their chief assistants a gaggle of sycophants whose major talent is sucking and supporting the boss and intimidating any employees who challenge their word.  Although the lying is a reflection of the absence of character and principle in the executives, it has the practical effect of keeping the employees disoriented so that they just keep their heads down and do their work.  This executive arrangement is often indicated by companies who provide lavish bonuses to their executives without any explanation of what they did to earn them.  They protect and reward each other through a bond of perfidy.  They follow the same methods of control used by organized crime syndicates.

Private corporations can keep their perfidious nature relatively secret through threats and intimidation, but when this arrangement is applied to the White House which is under constant scrutiny by a free press, a daily deluge of leaks informs the nation about the incompetence and perfidy of the executives.

The Trump Organization is one of the sleaze companies, and Trump brought its unscrupulous and conniving dishonesty to the White House.  The degradation in which Trump operates is common to a section of corporations.  

There are ethical corporations which strive for quality in their products and services, in respect of their employees, and in their contributions to community,  but there are companies which expend huge amounts of money on public relations campaigns which cover up their predatory and perfidious modes of operation.

Willful ignorance and a fascination with totalitarian and criminal life among the American people has brought the nation to the point where it is ruled according to the dictates of a crime mob boss.  Americans have fixed on the stories of The Godfather and The Sopranos with uncritical admiration for the lifestyle.  To many, the denial of democratic principles of liberty, equality, and justice is something they regard with admiration.  When Trump exhibited the characteristics of a mob boss, characteristics common to most of "reality television," many watched with assent and applause.  Over a third of the people, according to opinion polls, express approval of Trump and his crime syndicate way of operating. If contestants did not meet his notions of obedience, he dismissed them with a blunt "you're fired."  It was uttered with the same spirit as a mob boss ordering "get rid" of the person.  

Since that retired banker from Chicago told me of how Trump was detested by his business associates in the mid-1980s, I have never heard a positive word about Donald Trump.  There have been somewhat neutral reports about his enterprises, but they all had back stories about his business failures and bankruptcies, about his stiffing of contractors and customers, and about his cheating lifestyle.  

Since Trump became president,  reports about his insidious foolery are are a daily part of the news.  He has attempted to diminish the reports by dismissing them as fake news and whining about the unfairness of the press.  In one aspect his term "fake news" is accurate because it is news about his fakery.  The news does seem to be critical, but reporters are hard pressed to find one act of Trump's that demonstrates decency, let alone can inspire admiration.  The only person that extolls his virtues is Trump.  

A few decades ago, corporate executives complained that the public was critical and diffident about business corporations.  Corporations launched a public relations blitz extolling the contributions of business and creating an image of corporate beneficence.  The blitz was effective to a lot of uncritical minds, as it tried to make it unpatriotic to be critical of corporations.  Many Americans have come to regard the business community as medieval serfs regarded their lords and masters:  they think they owe their livelihoods to the company and should live in a state of obsequious gratitude.  The people who support Trump are perpetual serfs who cannot grasp that democracy is an antidotes to the feudal state in which they choose to live.  They see Trump, a person defined by a total rottenness, as a lord and savior because he has wealth and power.  They do not see that democracy is a corrective to the inherent corruption that drives people to acquire that kind of wealth and power.  They hope that their submission will inspire their lords and masters to throw some morsels of wealth and power their way and allow them to live.  The American revolution and the consequent evolution of democratic personhood has not touched their minds yet.

Trump has put on display the folly and treachery that exists in some corporations, which chafe under a government of democratic principle.  To them democracy is an obstacle to be defeated, if possible.  And almost every action by CEO Trump is intended to accomplish that defeat.

If America survives Trump as a republican democracy, it will be because the people perceived what a menace he and other CEOs who pose as monarchs really are to their lives.

That distinction is not between Republican and Democrat.  It is between living as a serf and freeman.

1 comment:

Porter Lansing said...

~ his term "fake news" is accurate because it is news about his fakery
~ democracy is a corrective
Marvelous piece, Professor Newquist.

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Aberdeen, South Dakota, United States