Tuesday, December 13, 2016

That anti-Trump Recode article is terrible

Trump's a dangerous populist. However, the left-wing media's anti-Trump fetishism is doing nothing to stop Trump. It's no better than "fake news" -- it gets passed around a lot on social-media, but is intellectually bankrupt, unlikely to change anybody's mind. A good example is this op-ed on Re/Code [*] about Silicon Valley leaders visiting Trump.

The most important feature of that Re/code article is that it contains no criticism of Trump other than the fact that he's a Republican. Half the country voted for Trump. Half the country voted Republican. It's not just Trump that this piece imagines as being unreasonable, but half the country. It's a fashionable bigotry among some of Silicon Valley's leftist elite.

But CEOs live in a world where half their customers are Republican, where half their share holders are Republican. They cannot lightly take political positions that differ from their investors/customers. The Re/code piece claims CEOs said "we are duty-bound as American citizens to attend". No, what they said was "we are duty-bound as officers of our corporations to attend".

The word "officer", as in "Chief Operating Officer", isn't an arbitrary title like "Senior Software Engineer" that has no real meaning. Instead, "officer" means "bound by duty". It includes a lot of legal duties, for which they can go to jail if they don't follow. It includes additional duties to shareholders, for which the board can fire them if they don't follow.

Normal employees can have Twitter disclaimers saying "these are my personal opinions only, not that of my employer". Officers of corporations cannot. They are the employer. They cannot champion political causes of their own that would impact their stock price. Sure, they can do minor things, like vote, or contribute quietly to campaigns, as long as they aren't too public. They can also do political things that enhances stock price, such as opposing encryption backdoors. Tim Cook can announce he's gay, because that enhances the brand image among Apple's key demographic of millennials. It's not something he could do if he were the CEO of John Deere Tractors.

Among the things the CEO's cannot do is take a stance against Donald Trump. The Boeing thing is a good example. The Boeing's CEO criticized Trump's stance on free trade, and 30 minutes later Trump tweeted criticisms of a $4 billion contract with Boeing, causing an immediate billion drop in Boeing's stock price.

This incident shows why the rest of us need to oppose Trump. Such vindictive politics is how democracies have failed. We cannot allow this to happen here. But the hands of CEOs are tied -- they are duty bound to avoid such hits to their stock price.

On the flip, this is one of the few chances CEOs will be able to lobby Trump. If Trump has proven anything, it's that he has no real positions on things. This would be a great time to change his mind on "encryption backdoors", for example.

Trump is a dangerous populist who sews distrust in the institutions that give us a stable, prosperous country. Any institution, from the press, to the military, to the intelligence services, to the election system, is attacked, brought into disrepute, even if it supports him. Trump has a dubious relationship with the truth, such as his repeated insistence he won a landslide rather than by a slim margin. He has deep character flaws, such as his vindictive attacks against those who oppose him (Boeing is just one of many examples). Hamilton electors cite deep, patriotic principles for changing their votes, such as Trump's foreign influences and demagoguery.

What I'm demonstrating here is that thinking persons have good reasons to oppose Trump that can be articulated without mentioning political issues that divide Democrats and Republicans. That the Re/code article is unable to do so makes it simply "hyper-partisan news", the sort that stroke's people's prejudices and passions to get passed around a lot on social media, but which is unlikely to inform anybody or change any minds. In other words, it's no better than "fake-news".

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