Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Good-bye American.

This morning I find myself struck above all by the degree to which society's obsessive need to see everything through rose-colored glasses, to put a smiley face on even the most downbeat eventsin sum, the Bullshitification of Lifehas now infected normally saturnine media coverage. On the morning after General Motors files for bankruptcy, which surely in a figurative sense must be regarded as the low-water mark in American business history (as well as a melancholy bookend to the dawn of the Industrial Revolution), my local paper, the Morning Call, is one of any number of media outlets that have opted to headline that development as follows:


You've got to be kidding me. That's the story here? GM
a symbol if not the symbol of all that was American corporate mightgoes down in flames...and the news is that we can "rise again"? Editors would probably defend the validity of their headline by stating, truthfully, that they're just quoting Obama. So what? What would you expect the U.S. president to say at a moment like this? ("My fellow Americans... We're f**ked.") I thought the era of press-release journalism, wherein the media served as obliging government stooges by uncritically spewing White House spin, ended with Watergate. That's what we like to tell our bright-eyed journalism students, anyway.

(What's that you say? What the country needs most right now is optimism? A sense that there's some light at the end of the tunnel? Sorry, folks. It's not the media's job to provide hope. For the record, it's not their job to sell gloom and doom, either. Just report what happened.)

I'm a little surprised that Call editors didn't headline their story about that French plane that disappeared over the Atlantic thusly:

Victory for the ecosystem: Hungry sharks saved by sudden food influx

In fact, if it turns out that North Korea's nuclear program is farther along than we thought, such that one day soon that nation's demented diminutive dictator makes good on his vow to unleash the full fury of his nuclear arsenal on his mortal enemies, I guess the headline would be:

Bridge and tunnel congestion at record low...


Anonymous said...

Speaking for myself, I would expect the president - or a few of the president's men - to explain where he's finding another $30 billion to pour into this industry, with timelines and benchmarks and any other measure to indicate what's working or what isn't and what will indicate that we need an entirely new way to look at this or what will indicate we're on the right track.
I would expect he'd have more to share than spin and platitudes about how the company will rise again and become an integral part of the economy.
I would expect he turns to his Secretary of State to visit the Middle East at this time - whatever happened to Hillary Clinton? - and that she - not he - travels to Saudi Arabia and onto other countries in the region the day GM dies.
I would expect he'd be in Detriot and it's environs these days - to face the citizens who face a whole new reality.
That's what I would expect.

Anonymous said...

Steve, this looks to me like just another business strategy for GM to get rid of the debt they owe to suppliers and use it to purchase new energy efficient technology to manufacture feul efficient cars.

Its something you yourself said needs to be done - a few months back.


Steve Salerno said...

Londoner, well wait a sec now. I think you mischaracterize (or too neatly summarize) my stance here. It's one thing for a company to improve its product and retool its assault on the marketplace. It's quite another thing for GM to do this on the taxpayer's dime, having already eaten up billions in bailout funds (to what end? just to keep the lights on for an extra couple months? to pay exec compensation company-wide?) and still facing many of the same endemic problems it had before. For one thing, I want to see how Obama plans to handle the unions and their work rules. I don't think the industry is sustainable in its current form. And yet if Obama wants to seriously take on unionism, he's going to get a lot of grief from the mainstream of his own party. (For those populists among us, I'm not implying that there aren't major problems in the executive offices as well. But right now, the mood of the public is very much against Executive America. So I think that's the easy part. But anything that's perceived as "union-busting" will be a much tougher sell.)

See in particular my posts of November 13, February 6 and March 30, as well as others. You'll see that my sentiments on all this are not nearly so pat as you imply them to be.

tmhawk said...

One of my true hero’s and a great writer, Steve Salerno of the http://shambook.blogspot.com was upset by the headline in his local newspaper. After GM declared bankruptcy the headline read: 'A CHANCE TO RISE AGAIN'. Very “Positive.” You see Steve has written a book exposing the Positive Mental Attitude Industry and how those Guru’s make a ton of money selling people false hope. My beef with Steve is that he is making a false assumption that the Editors of his newspaper got to write this headline. THEY DID NOT, it was written by Consultants who tell the Editors, “The PEOPLE really want to see GOOD NEWS.”

Anonymous said...

The Federal Government, and the UAW now control the means of production @ Chrysler and GM. Am I supposed to be happy about that?

Next up, the health care industry will be taken over by the Federal Government; and then the energy sector will follow.

Americans - we are capitalists on the way up and socialists on the way down.

Steve Salerno said...

TM, thanks for pointing that out. It's a subtlety--and I question its universal relevance, since the news biz is well-known for its characteristic "if it bleeds, it leads" approach to life--but I guess it's a notion that's gaining steam in our Oprah-fied world.

Anonymous said...

Steve, I completely understand and agree with what you said in all your posts but reality is management will always look after their interest first. Its happening here in the UK too where bumper bonuses are still being handed out to companies whose share value has significantly decreased.

The best thing now is hope that they make a quick turnaround and make better selling cars more eficiently ASAP


Elizabeth said...

This is a solution that Michael Moore has for GM:

Goodbye, GM
by Michael Moore

At the deathbed of General Motors, I find myself filled with—dare I say it—joy. Here are my nine suggestions for transforming the company.

I write this on the morning of the end of the once-mighty General Motors. By high noon, the president of the United States will have made it official: General Motors, as we know it, has been totaled.

As I sit here in GM's birthplace, Flint, Michigan, I am surrounded by friends and family who are filled with anxiety about what will happen to them and to the town. Forty percent of the homes and businesses in the city have been abandoned. Imagine what it would be like if you lived in a city where almost every other house is empty. What would be your state of mind?

Continue here.