Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Entertainment for the Sake of Distracting Obfuscation

I sometimes think that the unspoken motto of Fortune is “Keep the investors entertained,” since, from the point of view of the 1% that control the economic destiny of the entire world, entertained investors are far less dangerous than informed ones. Part of that entertainment package apparently is the Fortune Brainstorm Tech conference, which may be about as oxymoronic as one can get, since it probably involves absolutely no brainstorming, let alone any serious attempt to deal with major issues of technology. That entertainment factor was stressed by Eric Mack, a freelance contributor to CNET News’ Crave department, who likened the opening event in this conference to a Real Housewives episode.

As Mack reported it, the whole affair sounded like a no-holds-barred verbal slugfest between Google Chairman Eric Schmidt and investor Peter Thiel, whose stake in investment is high enough for him to transcend the entertainment category. Mack’s description evoked the ultimate in Shakespearian sound and fury, signifying even less than the debates that Timothy Leary used to have with G. Gordon Liddy, both of whom had a passionate belief in strong positions strongly held. It is hard to imagine anyone in the 99% coming away from Mack’s article with any feeling other than that the 1% do some awfully strange things to waste their time.

One cannot imagine that anyone at Fortune’s event in Aspen had a passionate belief about anything other than return-on-investment. Reading Mack’s account of the exchanges over innovation was a painful reminder that, to the moneyed class, innovation is nothing other than a new source of revenue. Whether the innovation has positive or negative consequences for the lives of the remaining 99% in the world simply does not enter the evaluative equation.

It would seem that even the “brain” root of “brainstorm” is out of place at this gathering. Why should anyone pay top dollar for this sort of thing? For my part I find it far more entertaining to watch Sigourney Weaver and Carlo Gugino go at each other on Political Animals for the price of a subscription to the USA Network.

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