In the United States (I'm not sure if this is true in other countries), one of the most reliable forms of news is fake news. There's something nearly impossible about this state of affairs: it is not clear how we are able to get the jokes within fake news given that the mainstream media doesn't adequately cover the issues behind the jokes. But, somehow, given our state of news-desperation in this country, we are able to discern a good bit of news from fake news. Enough, even, to get the jokes behind the fake news stories. Perhaps we simply have sufficient background information to (a) distinguish the truth from the exaggeration; (b) see why the truth is hilarious; and (c) laugh instead of cry.
On this blog, we will, from time to time, take a look at real news that is delivered through fake news. This will help to emphasize how important fake news is, and how it raises issues that are so important in our lives. The point of these posts will not be to analyze jokes until we have destroyed them (though surely that will happen; it just isn't the intention, unless you define "intention" very broadly), but to analyze the issues behind the jokes.
For my first real fake news story, I thought it would be nice to take an Onion piece, since they are, of course, "America's Finest News Source." The story, found here, is entitled, "'Under New Management' Banner Heralds Bold New Era for Cell Phone Store."
It turns out that changing management means huge things for the cell phone store in question: "First and foremost, the freshly anointed authorities declared, would be a firm break from the shackles of the past through a purge of any remnants left from the store's tyrannical former regime, sweeping aside once and for all any trace of the oppressors who had ruled so pitilessly since 2007."
And what are some of these changes that cause this firm break? Well, "'Getting rid of the center kiosk and sticking the Bluetooth headsets on the wall next to the car chargers is really going to open the place up,' said morning manager Dale Isaacson, referring to the circular wooden pedestal that has since been banished to the dark recesses of history." Damn, that's exciting stuff.
The reason this piece piqued my interest (I believe that's the first time I've ever written "piqued my interest" in my life; you know, it has never come up before in any of my philosophy papers, or in like an email, chat, or text; it really is an exciting time for me; once I post this blog post, I'll have an anniversary to celebrate this moment; so glad you could share this with me, dear reader!) is that management recently came up in my graduate seminar on Marx and Anarchism. One thing that I have found while teaching at LSU is that I am horrible at predicting what will shock and dismay my students. Sometimes I try to get myself emotionally ready to debate abortion, and I get no complaints. Sometimes, I say that managers don't deserve to get paid much more than the experts that they manage, and I'm stuck arguing a point that I thought we could take as trivial.
But what's great about this Onion piece is that it is mocking something that we take for granted in capitalist society: that managers perform some amazing set of actions that make them worth more to the enterprise than the people who are doing the actual work. I think one of the places where we see this assumption come out is in our explicit social love of directors (even though writers make up the whole story and actors bring it to life, and there's a ton of technical people who make things look and sound the way they do; I'm not saying directors aren't important, but let's give at least an equal amount of love to the persons who make up the entire damn movie and the people who put it together).
We tend to take it for granted that "Under New Management" means major changes. But it often just means a new asshole is yelling at the employees for not predicting and proactively meeting his or her largely ineffective and often irrational demands.
Sorry, this wasn't me so much arguing for my position as much as I'm saying it in an emphatic and somewhat mean way so that it appears to be difficult to disagree. Of course, I think that just means I've mastered blogging. That and I used "piqued my interest" up above. Clearly, we should give credit to whomever is managing this blog.
I assure you in class, I made a more convincing case. I mainly argued from two situations: an engineering firm and a university. In the former, management is quite difficult precisely because technical people who really care about the technical bits don't wish to be, and often don't make for good, managers. But they definitely know their stuff better than non-engineering managers. I'm not saying the manager is not necessary in such a case, but the manager is certainly not as important and doesn't merit more pay than the engineers who make the damn things work.
Of course what does "merit more pay" mean? I mean, if we are to be honest capitalists (which I would prefer not to be, but that's got nothing to do with the "honest" part), we must admit that merit has nothing to do with the system, and earning more pay simply has to do with psychological biases (people make more because people think they should make more, not because they are more valuable to the enterprise). So, if "merit" means you deserve whatever you get, then yes, managers trivially deserve more. If "merit" means desert, then no.
The academic setting is closer to my heart. This is in part because I am not an engineer. This is also in part because I am an academic. Those are the two main parts.
Here's what's not conceited about how academics see administrators: we think we could run the university as a group better than any administrator. Why isn't that conceited? Because it is true. We are damn smart. We care a whole bunch about education. We don't give a crap about rising up. And for people in academia where the second and third aren't true, they won't matter because they are out numbered and we don't like them. If they had no administrative promotions to fight for, they'd eventually give up.*
*None of the above applies to any administrator at LSU, present or future. They are all gems and should never fire me or take money from philosophy in any budget crisis situation. I'm here talking about administrators at other schools. All the ones at LSU are gems, and I love my job. Please don't fire me due to exigency.
So, if you allowed a democratic system where faculty ran schools, the results would be a bit more chaotic, there would be some mistakes, but, overall, you'd have things well done. And you wouldn't have to pay anyone tons of money to manage.
Here's where the academic is conceited: that's all true of most careers. People who are good at their jobs and care about their jobs can do well managing themselves. Academics are not special in this regard.
So, hopefully, that's more of an argument. I preferred the mean version, myself. I think you should have been convinced when I was just saying most managers are assholes who want their employees to be mind-readers. But, in case you weren't, I wrote the rest. This probably downgraded your view of my blogging abilities. I blame whomever manages the Philosophical Percolations blog.