What we've been reading: pivoting, rudeness, Shingy and free economy

What we've been reading
Francois Badenhorst
Deputy editor
BusinessZone and UK Business Forums
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And happy Friday everyone! As is tradition here on BusinessZone, every Friday we string together articles or pieces of journalism we’ve enjoyed.

Usually, it’s the things that we’ve been chatting about this week. Hopefully, you’ll find them as entertaining or enlightening as we do.

In our cynical age, no one fails anymore -- everybody pivots

I’ve argued before that the classist subtext of basically saying ‘it doesn’t matter if you fail’ are pretty troubling.

It does matter if you fail if you’ve tied your life savings into your idea. Move fast and break things isn’t an option when you’ve come from a working class background. Ultimately, I find a philosophy that casts entrepreneurship as an act of commercial hedonism distasteful.

A big component of fail fast is this notion of ‘pivoting’. “Pivoting,” writes Jacob Rees, “ has become the new failure, a concept to describe a haphazard , practically madcap form of iterative development.”

Pivoting, he explains, is also a performance. It’s about the illusion of control, though ‘the pivot’ arises out of desperation. It’s a PR flourish that has seeped into our broader culture. I mean why not? It’s perfect! A politician isn’t a hypocrite or flip-flopper - she’s merely pivoted, or evolved.  

The president of blank sucking nullity

Is there a place for rudeness? Or meanness? In recent times a self-appointed civility police has roamed the internet, lamenting the death of polite neoliberalism.

Nowhere was this clearer recently than the dispute between the grand American publication The New Republic (TNR) and the rowdy bon vivants of the podcast Chapo Trap House. TNR, an intellectual bastion of American liberalism, derisively christened the podcasters “the dirtbag left”.

The insult lost its sting, though, when the moniker was gleefully appropriated by its intended target. The guys behind Chapo Trap House argue that they’re mad as hell and they’re sick of stilted politesse and ineffectual wonkishness. Their weapon of choice, instead, is a razor sharp brand of vulgar intellectualism.

Much in the same mould, the Baffler has joined the potty mouthed insurgency, best exemplified by articles like this one by David Roth. “The most significant thing to know about Donald Trump’s politics or process, his beliefs or his calculations, is that he is an asshole,” says Roth, lining up his target.

“The only salient factor in any decision he makes is that he absolutely does not care about the interests of the parties involved except as they reflect upon him. Start with this, and you already know a lot. Start with this, and you already know that there are no real answers to any of these questions.”

But what’s the point of all this? People in power aren’t going to read a hot take and change their mind. Well, the dirtbag left agrees: change won’t come from the top, and if we’re forced to deal with the absurdities of power then we may as well have a laugh.

Meet Shingy, Yahoo’s digital prophet

David Shing, or Shingy, has a crow’s nest for a haircut. He splatters his black jeans and shoes with paint, it’s the uniform he wears as he says nullities on conference stages across the earth.

He is Yahoo’s digital prophet. Basically, he gets paid a bunch of money to try and make Yahoo relevant again (in my opinion, an impossible task).

It’s hard to know whether this piece is actually satire or not. So much of what happens seems too surreal. But it’s real, folks. It’s really real.

The ‘free’ economy comes at a cost

Facebook has the famous tag line: “It’s free and it always will be”. ‘Free’ doesn’t actually mean free, though. Not in business, at least.

So what is the economics of free? It’s a tricky question, actually. “These free lunches do come at a cost; the problem is calculating how much it is,” writes the Economist. “Because consumers do not pay for many digital services in cash, beyond the cost of an internet connection, economists cannot treat these exchanges like normal transactions.”

It’s a fascinating world to delve into. If not a slightly nefarious one.


About Francois

About Francois

Francois is the deputy editor of BusinessZone and UK Business Forums.


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