American institutions have become immensely powerful and outwardly very successful. But their prevailing corporate culture makes it impossible for an individual to point out the flaws in their operations: the institutional reply is to squash the buzzing fly, and there is always enough resources and political will to do that. The virus of Public Relations /Political Correctness attacks the communications channels of the body corporate, killing it slowly, until one day the institution just collapses. We urgently need to heal our sick institutions and vaccinate the rest.
The stories of Enron, Arthur Andersen, WorldCom, and Xerox immediately come to mind. TimeWarner’s announcement of a loss of $45B, an amount larger than the yearly budget of most countries of the world, also may indicate some management flaws. The disease may not be very widespread as yet, but it is definitely with us and it is contagious and deadly.
Let us discuss two recent examples.
A NASA engineer named Don A. Nelson wrote a letter to President Bush begging him to suspend shuttle launches. He noted that the recent inspection of Space Shuttle Columbia revealed 3,500 defects in electrical wiring. The launch went ahead anyway, and now we have a commission investigating whether the problem started when a piece of insulation hit Columbia’s left wing. But this is not relevant! Don Nelson was not inspecting Columbia alone, in secret, in the dead of night, to find its many defects. Columbia was inspected by many people, and none of them thought it wise to raise an alarm, to say nothing of pronouncing Columbia unfit for service. That is the first sign of death-by-ideology: you know it is wrong, but you are afraid to say it.
This is precisely the ideological silence that led to a spectacular collapse of Communist states, the states that were, up to the very moment of their demise, seen as viable and solid. But Don Nelson did not know the rules (or could not live by them), and so he complained. What he got was two reprimands. Just as the former Soviet Union, American institutions have their feared internal KGBs, the secret ideological policemen, who cruelly stifle dissent not knowing that their work will only lead to their master’s crushing downfall. With all the faults of the socialist economic system, the Soviet Union would still be with us today, if only it could accept constructive criticism, listen to its Don Nelsons and eliminate its most glaring inefficiencies.
Sooner or later, with testimony of hundreds of engineers, painstakingly reconstructing Columbia’s disastrous last flight, and at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars we will “find out” that the “cause” of the tragedy was a bolt ZXH3452000HY, which will then be redesigned at a cost of a few more millions, to insure “safety” of our remaining shuttle fleet. Baloney! The true cause of the catastrophe is clear: it is the inability of NASA engineers to speak the truth, to act as their professional, not political or career, judgment dictates. The problem is that Don Nelson had nowhere to go, and was reduced to appealing to Bush.
Just like AIDS, the virus of Public Relations /Political Correctness, is multifaceted and mutable; accordingly, our next example will be a bit different. The US government is suing Harvard Institute for International Development (”HIID”) alleging that some HIID employees derived illegal income while working on a government grant. In other words, the government alleged that some HIID employees were crooks. Now, here comes the response from the HIID legal defense team, and it is nothing short of brilliant. “How can you claim that we caused damage to the US interests if you were heaping praise on us while we were working?”, says the defense. And here is what it means: “We may well be crooks, but surely you are much bigger crooks than we are, so sue yourself and put yourself in jail.” As this argument could not be refuted, I predict that the suit against the HIID will fail, even though I personally am convinced that the suit has merit. Indeed, for USAID to represent HIID as corrupt and damaging to US interests, USAID must represent ITSELF as NOT corrupt and NOT damaging to the US interests, and USAID knows that it will be well advised not to start discussing this topic. And how about the government’s claim that HIID advice contributed to cronyism and development of bandit capitalism in Russia? What was the word that Al Gore scribbled on the CIA report alerting the US government of just such a danger? Official PR/PC - influenced version of events tells us that the word was “bull:”. By the way, false modesty is yet another sure sign of the PR/PC infection: when you are full of those four periods you loath to see them in print.
And yes, I read Bush’s speech after the shuttle tragedy. I can only say that people who are phony and insincere should not be allowed to use our extremely powerful, remote-controlled, and silent weapons, even against such people as bin Laden or Hussein. Our weapons could be put in use only under control of healthy humans, but not of victims of advanced PR/PC on a verge of forgetting their given name.
The good thing is that after I read the speech I immediately invented a new line of products, which will make me enormously wealthy just in time to benefit from Bush’s new tax cut. Here are the products:
American Mirror (Trademark registration pending) looks just like any other mirror, but in fact is a sophisticated electronic device. It scans in your appearance and your clothes, and then shows you as if you were 10, 20, or 30 (adjustable) pounds lighter. Moreover, it sends your American Image (Trademark registration pending) to all other American Mirrors in the world, so that your American Image will be safely reproduced wherever you go, on every mirror, even if you grow five times as large as the mirror itself. I hope that McDonald’s Corporation may sponsor this product.
The other product is the American Dining Table (Trademark registration pending). It is a table with small computer monitors in front of every seat. American Dining Table puts an extensive library of quotes and expressions, arranged by topic, in front of your eyes as you eat. Depending on the dining situation, the American Dining Table provides Verbal Contribution (Trademark registration pending) to the American Dining Conversation (Trademark registration pending, as well). To use President Bush’s remarks on the Space Shuttle tragedy, the available conversation pointers could be “Quote Prophet Isaiah”, “Say a platitude”, “Be wise to the ways of the world”, etc., etc. American Dining Table can be topical, such as “Meaningful Father-Son Conversation”, or even a life-saver, such as “Your First Date”. Also, exceptionally popular with newly arrived Russian immigrants is “Baseball statistics” conversation topic. This topic is accent-adjusted so that the text appears in an easy-to- read format, such as “Khou Ebout Zouz Yankiz?” Unfortunately, the American Dining Table has so far failed to get a sponsor due to a hacker attack. An unknown hacker wrote Male Chauvinist Pig Conversation Pointers over Quiet Dinner With Your Lovely Wife, and as the “Wife” (we use American testers) failed to suspect a foul play for the entire length of the conversation (which we all regret). The test failed, and all the potential sponsors left in a hurry.
While that may have been a bit funny, my main message is not funny at all:
We cannot have a Department of Homeland Security without the Department of Homeland Truth and Justice: this is THE ONLY WAY for the Department of Homeland Security (assuming we need one, and I do not think we do) not to transform itself, in just a few short years, into the Department for Stifling Homeland Truth and Justice. We must create an organization that honest people can turn to without destroying their lives, an organization that can effectively act on their legitimate concerns. It is also high time for individual Americans to become more genuine, to be able to detect lies just a little bit better. American Dining Table claims that Prophet Isaiah once advised humans to be human, and not virtual, empty, easily manipulated morons. Obviously, it’s a hacker again.