Monday, September 18, 2017

Washington Post Disciplines Writer Who Criticized Owner Bezos - Goodbye Free Speech

Jeff Bezos - net worth $80 billion - health problems: notoriously thin skin

A new trend in mainstream media and the liberal side of the political establishment is that, aware of public feeling for once, they are turning on their recent darlings, the Silicon Valley elites. As public criticism of the ethical decrepitude common to tech and internet giants such as Google (don't be evil, that's our job,) Microsoft, Apple, Facebook and Amazon to name a few, the politicians and media luvvies are as usual piling on the bandwagon.  

Last week, even say-anything-in-return-for-a-donation Hillary Clinton attacked Facebook for allowing someone who may have been Russian to buy $50,000 worth of political ads on their site. Blithely sidestepping around the irony the irony of that statement when it is a matter of public record that Facebook execs gave millions to Hillary's 2016 campaign, we would ask our readers to cut FB some slack. Recent revelations about how much of their estimated revenue is down to click fraud makes one realise how desperate for cashflow Zuckerberg and Co. must be.

Jumping on this hate-silicon-valley-control-freaks bandwagon may have unexpected consequences however, another trend that has gone largely unremarked is the acquisition by tech billionaires of traditional media organizations (i.e. the ones that make money in the real world, not in Ponzi schemes like crypto-currencies. So if you are a writer and have intentions of joining in with the tech-billionaire bashing jamboree, it might be wise to make sure you know who owns the news organ you write for. Telling the world via your Facebook timeline that your boss is a bastard is bad, doing the same thing in a big circulation news sheet he or she owns  is not just career suicide, it's oblivion. Unfortunately, Fredrick Kunkle of the Washington Post didn't heed that advice when he published a scathing op-ed about Jeff Bezos in the Huffington Post. It is of course possible than Kunkle did not know the Amazon founder now owns WaPo, but journalistic training covers the importance of fact checking surely. Here's a taste of what he had to say:

One of the wealthiest men in the world is thinking of ways to give back. But he’s still taking from the very people who helped him build his fortune.

But as Bezos, whose worth now exceeds $80 billion, loosens his pockets, it’s important to put his charitable giving — and the philanthropy of the super-rich — into perspective: Many people worked hard for Bezos to help make him so rich, and he has a record of treating them poorly.

Amazon’s history of dodging taxes, its mistreatment of workers, and its ruthlessness toward even the smallest competitors have been well documented. It put ambulances outside distribution centers rather than install adequate air conditioning. It broke up a union organizing effort by closing the call center and dismissing everyone who worked there. The New York Times documented its punishing work environment in a front-page exposé. The company’s actions, as Forbes put it, hark back to an earlier time when workers were treated as “replaceable cogs in the machine.”

Everyone at the Post wants it to succeed and prosper. But we want our employees to succeed and prosper, too.

Two years ago, however, Bezos slashed retirement benefits. For reasons that remain unclear, he froze a pension plan that was awash in so much money that neither he nor the company would possibly have faced additional liabilities. He also spurned the sort of compromise plan The New York Times Co. had pioneered -  an adjustable pension plan that would have ensured the Post would never encounter a problem funding it. In essence, this innovative approach, developed by the financial services firm Cheiron, would have mitigated the company’s risks by sharing them with employees and continued to grow their annual retirement benefit.

Bezos’ decision on retirement benefits had nothing to do with the balance sheet and, arguably, everything to do with ideology. And it almost overshadowed Bezos’ demand for the right to cancel everyone’s health insurance and his push to take it away from part-time employees.
Bezo's ideology appeares to be based on, "Fuck the workers, I want all the money." Oh well, he has no influence over this small publication.

Unfortunately the same is not true of The Washington Post (sic) and not surprisingly, Kunkle's efforts earned him this sternly-worded warning from WaPo's Director of Labor Relations for his "willful and intentional violation of The Washington Post’s standards and ethics policy." In the circumstances use of the word 'ethics' in that sentence seems completely inappropriate. Of course, we wouldn't be surprised if this letter turns out to be just a prelude to Kunkle's eventual dismissal ... or his being sent a big dead fish wrapped in his favourite shirt.

 Unless Kunkle deliberately provoked Bezon having first conspired to set him up. Punishing staff for "publicizing a dispute with management" apparently violates union rules and has earned WaPo an unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board. It might be time to teach the shiny - headed shite you can't run an organization like Washinton Post with zero - hour contract labour.


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