Friday, January 12, 2018

Yaron Brook's Trump Derangement Syndrome and the Words of Guru

Currently, Yaron Brook is chairman of the board of the Ayn Rand Institute (ARI). He recently stepped down as ARI's CEO, who is now Jim Brown. Despite this change, Brook still remains the public face of ARI and is its most well-known and traveled figure. Not long ago he joined the Blaze "radio network" and still does his other audio uploads such as his Yaron's News Briefs. Sadly, these efforts are largely failures on his part. He often uploads several times a week and never suppresses the temptation to rattle on at great length. He would be more effective simply writing an 800-1000 word weekly column. Writing would be nice in that what he actual thinks on any given topic would be available to interested parties in objective black-and-white. 

I recently watched Brook's 100 minute long bombast (really, there is no other word for this speaking style) on the "year in review" that was uploaded on 2 January 2018. 

This episode was divided into two parts. The first twenty-five minutes was devoted to extolling the virtues of business, most especially that of high-tech. The second half was a nearly one hour long diatribe on Brook's bete noire President Donald Trump. It is difficult to analyze a nearly 100 minute stream-of-consciousness rant. But, I'll give it a try.

The chief intellectual error in this thing, of many, is Brook's gross over-generalizations. The repetition of his delivery is very tiresome. The message is clear within five minutes: multinational corporations (especially tech companies) can do no wrong and Donald Trump is the Devil - he's even worse than Obama. He seems to approach his topics from a Manichean perspective. Complex organizations or individuals are presented as wholly good or evil. There is no grey or people of mixed premises in Brook's world. 

A case in point is Brook's corporation worship. He seems to actually believe that most CEOs and businessmen are giants of productive ability who don't have serious flaws. There are few, if any, Hank Reardens in the American corporate world. At best, most are a amalgamation of Orren Boyle and Mr. Mowen with hopefully a little Dagny Taggart mixed in. Brook doesn't even make the distinction between real entrepreneurs who create new businesses and the top management class of CEOs who basically inherit someone else's creation. 

An example of the latter is the notorious Robert Nardelli who almost managed The Home Depot into the ground. It's a well-known story, except to Brook, so I don't need to go into the details. Nardelli did great damage to the firm, some of which will probably never be undone. But, he represents a familiar pattern. Genuine businessmen have a vision and create a successful enterprise. They eventually retire or die. Then along comes some Nardelli who doesn't share the founders' vision, or is even aware of it. He then causes untold damage by following some generic Harvard Business School playbook. Nardelli accepted a $210 million kiss-off to leave The Home Depot. What man of any integrity or honesty would accept such a sum for complete, utter and disgraceful failure? These types of "businessmen" are far from admirable. And they exist in far greater numbers than Brook would ever want to admit. Incredibly, Nardelli became CEO of Chrysler in 2007. Chrysler filed for bankruptcy in 2009. 

Even real entreprenuers who create successful companies are not necessarily decent or respectable human beings. Silicon (Soviet) Valley that Brook idealizes provides many good examples of this complex reality. The creator (or alleged creator) of Facebook is a case in point. Just today PJ Media posted a story of Facebook banning a bestselling author whose book criticizes Obama. 

Shockingly, Margolis paid for this ad to be "boosted" throughout Facebook using the advertiser program they offer. Facebook had no problem taking his money for this ad but banned him directly after he posted it to several groups. The groups he sent it to were all conservative-friendly groups that normally welcome such announcements and buy conservative books.
Such action is called fraud. But that social media companies violate their own terms of service (arguable breach of contract) is hardly news. Twitter is on fire with outrage over President Trump's alleged "shithole" remark. Meanwhile, this is what Twitter thinks of anyone to the right of Jeb! Bush!  

Olinda Hassan, Policy Manager for Twitter Trust and Safety explains, “we’re trying to ‘down rank’… shitty people to not show up,” “we’re working on [that] right now”   

The issue here is not whether these corporations have the right to be dishonest scum. The issue is why anyone would heap unqualified praise upon such vicious scum. Apparently, Brook has never heard the name James Damore. Some of the people running and working for Google sound certifiable. Clearly, their actions are in violation of numerous employment laws. 

Brook says that the politics of the country's richest people doesn't matter. I don't know if this statement is the result of naivete or evasion. Obviously, the political agenda of the leaders of corporate giants that control much of the world's information flow is of immense importance. What to do about it is another question. 

Another example is Jeffrey Bezos who is reportedly the richest man in the world. Bezos founded Amazon and made it a success. Good for him. He has reaped the rewards of his success. His politics matter. He purchased the Washington Post. The newspaper is now just a purvayor of fake news and Progressive propaganda. Why such a successful businessman is a leading cheerleader for naked fascism is an interesting question. But, Brook will never consider it. One has to seriously wonder about the nature of Bezos' character. One would think that he would be able to at least treat his employees as human beings. But, for some people, the bottom line supersedes common decency. No wonder all these CEOs want to import large numbers of indentured servants, which Brook wholeheartedly supports. Brook's callowness is limitless. Obviously, he has never worked for the nasty people he praises.

Brook also briefly comments on the great work being done by American energy companies. Of course, he gives President Trump no credit for deregulation and reining in the EPA. The last hour of the show is devoted to a diatribe on how President Trump is Satan. In fact, Donald Trump may be the only successful businessman that Brook doesn't uncritically adore. 

Instead he devotes much time to repeating such bon mots as Trump's being "the most mindless administration ... anti-reason administration, ever! Trump is the first post-modern president ... more so than Obama."  After creating a cartoonish image of President Trump, he then ridicules his own cartoon monster. After attacking President Trump as a liar, Brook pulls out this whopper: 

I'm not going to get into an argument with you guys [?] on trade, because there is no argument on trade ... Trade is a settled issue ... Trade with [Red] China's a fantastic thing. Trump announces trade is bad. 
Of course, the president has never said that trade is bad. He has said that certain trade deals have been bad for America and he will renegotiate them. It's not surprising that Brook doesn't want to have an "argument" about trade policy. He apparently believes that sweetheart deals between corrupt cronies on one hand and Red China's People Liberation Army (PLA) on the other are both "free trade" and good for America. Brook doesn't see any downside to funneling more $trillions into the coffers of the PLA.   

Seriously, what could go wrong with financing the ChiComs hegemony in East Asia? Brook sees none. 

After spending the better part of an hour castigating the president as a pathological liar with no concern for truth, Brook goes full Russian conspiracy. By the way, Brook views Russia as the greatest potential threat to American security, not Islam and certainly not his ChiCom pals. Anyways, at nearly the end of the show, Brook provides this bit of wisdom, "Do I buy that Trump colluded with the Russians? Yeah, I believe that ... I don't have any evidence to support this." He then hedges, then concludes, "It doesn't strike me as science fiction." Trump Derangement Syndrome means never having to cite any actual evidence for anything. 

While listening to Brook, the phrase "The Words of Guru" came to mind. It's the title of a science fiction short story by C. M. Kornbluth. Published in 1941, it's more a fantasy story of a young boy who comes under the spell of Guru whose words can alter reality. An old man in the story gives the boy some good advice for the present context, 

"Guru?", he asked. "Who is Guru? Some foreigner, I suppose. Bad business mixing with foreigners, young fellow. Who is Guru?" 

In the present, Brook would like to be a Guru whose endless barrage of verbiage could somehow alter reality. For example, he spends some time on how America is becoming tribal. His evidence is the growing concern over immigration. He views such concerns as being based largely on "racism" and "xenophobia." Financial wizard Brook should reconsider the effectiveness of calling many in his audience "mindless racists." I doubt it is good for business or very convincing to those not already in complete agreement with his dogma.

One can almost observe the hamster wheel spinning in his head: If he says this ad hominem enough, it will become true; All the legitimate concerns over immigration will go away; People will forget the rank hypocrisy of applying the "open immigration" principle to the United States while ignoring the border fortifications of Israel and India; Americans will forget about the massive damage done to their country by "globalism." One can almost smell the smoke from overheating ball-bearings as he labors with his denials and evasions.  

In any event, the Ayn Rand Institute would be well served by severing all connection with Brook. A most thorough housecleaning of all Brook's comrades at ARI is also needed. Maybe then, ARI can again become a philosophical organization promoting Objectivism instead of an adjunct to the CATO Institute.

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