Commercial bullshit and Energy Australia

What follows is more research for a book on how not to think or write – the subject this time is commercial bullshit.  A company called Energy Australia does a real line in it.  They can tell an aggrieved customer they have ‘escalated’ a dispute by sending it higher up.  They will have a date with destiny at VCAT in Bendigo in June and see another kind of escalation.

Some years ago now, Tom Wolfe wrote a book called Radical Chic and Mau-Mauing the Flak-Catchers. The first part was the story of a party that Leonard Bernstein gave for the Black Panthers. He did not know that Tom Wolfe was in the assembled gathering, and was planning to write about it. (To avoid having people see their black butler and maid, the Bernsteins hired white South Americans to wait on their guests.) The second part of the book was about how the beneficiaries, if that is the term, of the American social services system subject public officials behind the counter (the ‘flak-catchers’) to a reign of terror when they discuss their entitlements. (One Mau-Mau handed over ice-picks that he said were taken from gangs in return for financial grants.)

Well, we might now see the whole party for the Black Panthers as an exercise in bullshit, but we have now privatised the flak-catcher operatives, and the Mau-Mauing goes the other way. Large trading corporations now routinely train operatives not just to catch flak, but to hand it back with all of the vigour of a Mau-Mau expert. These big corporations are just walking all over us and our way of life.

The problem with so much of what the corporates tell us is not that it is sincere, but that it is anything but sincere, as in ‘Your call is important to us.’ And then they proceed to show that they are lying by keeping you hanging there while they blast your eardrums with propaganda calculated to establish that Doctor Joseph Goebbels was a person of taste and refinement.


When Tim Cook was addressing the faithful at Apple, he said: ‘at the end of the day, this is a very important day for Apple. When I step back from this terrible scenario…I think it is about the awareness piece. I think we have a responsibility to ratchet that up. That’s not really an engineering thing.’

An executive at AT&T got positively excited: ‘We actually think that the industry is actually at a place where you can actually see line of sight to the subsidy equation just fundamentally changing, in a very short period of time.’


One corporation said that it would ‘action forward’ and asked if that ‘resonates on your radar’? PwC announced a new HR position: ‘Territory Human Capital Leader.’ When ABN Amro fired 1000 people, it said that it had acted ‘to enhance the customer experience.’ Ernst & Young trumped them comfortably. After it fired people, it said that it was ‘looking forward to strengthening our alumni network’ – with all the commanding logic of double entry accounting.


A director of KPMG who is a specialist in social media said that too many CEOs were not making enough use of social media like Twitter or LinkedIn. Some said it was narcissistic. (Perhaps they were put off by selfies, or just morons on trams or trains.) ‘They are missing the opportunity to not only follow leading thought leaders and experts in different fields around the world but also engage with a variety of stakeholders.’ The head of social media at a bank said: ‘This is not about having 100 likes on Facebook. It is about the business value, the value to our customers of doing this.’ Learned authors in the Harvard Business Review commented:

Old power works like a currency. It is held by a few. Once gained, it is jealously guarded, and the powerful have a substantial store of it to spend. It is closed, inaccessible and leader-driven. It downloads and it captures.

In case you thought that they were talking of the Nazis or the KKK, the authors showed us new power:

New power operates differently like a current. It is made by many. It is open participatory and peer-driven. It uploads and it distributes. Like water or electricity, it’s most powerful when it surges. The goal with new power is not to hoard it but to channel it.

That sounds like sex – but this is the Harvard business School (that knocked back Warren Buffett).


Some bishops see themselves as middle managers. It is not therefore surprising to see one church say on a new appointment of bishops that this was a ‘radical step in our development of leaders who can shape and articulate a compelling view and who are skilled and robust enough to create spaces of safe uncertainty in which the Kingdom grows.’


We might segue to political bullshit. When discussing his move from Immigration to Social Services,

Scott Morrison said ‘I have no need or interest or desire to take this policy area into a combative space.’