Effective Perhaps, Brilliant No

Effective Perhaps, Brilliant No— “She’s brilliant,” a social commentator, from the Vanity Fair magazine, said when asked to provide some commentary on the social impact Courtney Love had on the 90’s. “I’ve never seen anyone manipulate the media in the manner she does.” If this social commentator knew what he was talking about –and he must working for Vanity Fair— he would know that Love’s method of manipulating the media involves persistent, high volume, and presumably vulgar calls to the offending member of the media that eventuate into threats of physical violence to those who refuse to portray her in a positive light. Effective perhaps, brilliant no.

vicksburgIf this strategy of manipulating the media is brilliant, it’s brilliant in the way Ulysses S. Grant’s strategy in The Civil War was brilliant. His strategy has been called brilliant by some historians, and he has been called a “military genius” by others, but he has also been called a “butcher” for his utter disregard for the lives of his own, Union soldiers in battle. His strategy was based on the fact that the Confederate Army had a tougher time replenishing its forces, so he threw his soldiers at them in what some critics have called a “meat grinder” strategy to eliminate as many Confederates as possible without regard for casualty numbers. The eventual result was so horrendous that President Abraham Lincoln’s wife Mary called Grant “a butcher”, but Grant achieved results. He won strategic battles against the South, where other Union generals presumably worried about the casualty numbers suffered defeat, and history has looked kindly on Grant as a general. After reading through the stats, coupled with the results, it’s difficult to call these tactics, and this strategy, brilliant. Effective perhaps, brilliant no.

This term brilliant is thrown around so loosely, in the modern era, that it’s now as common in the American lexicon as it is in the British one. The Americans used to reserve the term for incredible minds of science, math, and art, where the Brits might define one bite of a crisp brilliant. Those lines became blurred soon after stars began exposing themselves on social media. These posts result in hits, followers, and cachet in our society. Analysts suggest that the star engages in brilliant use of the media. The star might have better looking parts than the rest of us, but other than that, is the star engaging us in an ingenious manner that exponentially exceeds anything we can do on social media? How is it brilliant?

Can I call someone up and verbally abuse them into thinking I’m a pretty good guy? Probably. Can I threaten them in such a fashion that they’ll eventually see things my way? Probably. Could I have sat down at a Civil War planning board to devise Grant’s “meat grinder” strategy? Who couldn’t have? I do not mean to diminish the career of Ulysses S. Grant, because he did what was necessary to win an otherwise disastrous war, and it could be argued that if he hadn’t executed the “meat grinder” strategy, it is plausible to suggest that the Civil War would have lasted longer and eventuated in an equal number of casualties. It’s also plausible, and some historians would suggest likely, that if the “butcher” had not executed such a brutal that the proud South may never have been intimidated into surrendering.

That having been said, I think it would have been difficult for me to live with the unintended consequences of the “meat grinder” strategy, but that may have been what set Grant apart. My question is, was this an ingenious strategy that required a special kind of mind? Is it possible for me to expose physically myself on social media? I’m guessing that fewer people would want to watch me do it, but I do not think it requires a brilliant mind? Effective perhaps, brilliant no.

Points for the Pointless— “Happiness finds you when you least expect it.” I used to pass by these oven mitt and bumper sticker-type sayings on calendars, and in desk cubicles, without lifting an eyebrow, until someone informed me that they’re points for the pointless. They’re for people that are doing nothing in life, have little-to-nothing to look forward to, and need some hope. Do they hope that owning these oven mitts and bumper stickers will make all of their dreams come true? Most of them don’t, but I do think that they’re comforted by the idea that being able to look up at pointless sayings makes their journeys around the Sun feel a little less pointless.

Provocative Statements— “You never know what’s going to come out of his mouth next,” someone once said of me. I lived with that assessment for years, and I spent other years trying to live up to it. Short-term, comfy statements that lead other people to being more comfortable, and happy, have always bothered me. I’m still not entirely over this. I still feel the need to challenge, mock, and expose comfortable thinking for the short-term, uselessness that it is. I’m still tempted, oh so tempted, to add to my already lengthy list of provocative statements, but I’ve realized –with the wisdom that comes from trial and error, and age– that some of the times, it’s better to keep some provocative statements to myself.

Political Hypocrisy— “If the government doesn’t help you, who will?” Some of the most fervent “government solution” types I’ve encountered are often some of the most fervently anti-law enforcement types. They don’t say that they’re anti-law enforcement, few of them do anyway, but they suggest that law enforcement officials “can” get out of hand, and that they “can” take the law into their own hands. Of course some law enforcement officials “can”, and “do” get out of hand, just as I’m sure that there are some shoe cobblers whose actions give their profession a bad name, but to castigate the whole of law enforcement based on the anecdotal evidence of a few is ludicrous. It’s like saying that singers can’t sing based on a performance by Britney Spears. The “government solution” types then extend their complaint to the manner in which law enforcement officials encroach upon our freedom. The funny thing is that these same anti-law enforcement types don’t draw parallels between the enforcement of some dangerous laws that law enforcement officials are forced to enforce and the government officials that pass those laws. Some of them actually turn around and vote for those politicians that complain about the manner in which law enforcement officials conduct themselves on the scene, when the only reason these law enforcers took it to the next level was that the victim failed to comply with the government official’s law. Their solution, I assume based on their premise, is for government officials to pass a law against the law enforcement officials enforcing the laws that the government officials pass.

I used to work in a PC, HR, and “California way of doing business” company. I had an encounter with a supervisor that acted –in a closed door, one on one session– in a very un-PC, anti-HR manner that would’ve left those that think that the “California way of doing business” should be exported, breathless. These people would’ve had their hands over their mouths if I told them even half of what this man said to me –in a closed door, one on one session. If I were as PC as this company informed me I should be, I could’ve made this supervisor’s life very difficult. It’s possible that I could’ve had him fired for the things he said, and the way he acted. It was obvious, from the things said –in this closed door, one on one session— that this was not business, it was personal.

I should’ve spotted this for what it was in the moment. I should’ve called this supervisor out at the time, regardless if I deserved it or not. I should’ve informed him that we live in a new world now, and that this company has adopted the “California way of doing business”, and that those old world, right-to-work Nebraska tactics don’t work in this company anymore. That’s not the way I was raised however, and I don’t write that to establish my bona fides as a tough, no nonsense guy, but to say that I do not think in terms of PC or HR. Regardless what I did to deserve this, just about every employee in the PC, HR department would’ve found in my favor.

The point is that while some of these PC, HR “California way of doing business” measures may help an employee, most of them are very damaging to the way business is done in America today. Most of these measures prevent the company in question from being sued, but there are always unintended consequences to the routine ways of doing business. Good employees are fired, poor employees remain based on the situations in question, but it’s all worth it, apparently, to prevent a probable lawsuit.


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