Thursday, August 21, 2014


I just finished watching the HBO series “Silicon Valley” and thought it was excellent. One of the satisfying things about the show is that it pits posers against those who do the work. The posers appear to be winning at every step and in fairy tale fashion the actual workers win the day. “Pied Piper”, the company’s name is, yep, a fairy tale. 

Despite this pleasant and really hilarious departure from actual life experience. References are made to Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak. The people who had the ideas, who did the grunt work, are often not the ones we recognize later. The show’s constant push to get the characters to fit in and learn networking, of the employment kind, and the proper way to navigate the waters of business serve to point out just how far posers can go in the world. 

CEOs are today often, not just here and there, but often paid vast amounts of money for incompetently running companies into the ground. We learned from Mitt Romney the apparent “business success” that is encompassed grabbing assets, closing down small companies, and putting people out of work. We know about how the 1% pay fewer taxes than the rest of us. They just do. We also know that this lower amount of taxation is not enough for them as they hide money in offshore accounts and work out other ways to “earn” an extra million to add on to incomprehensibly large amounts of riches. Where is the posing? The 1% are the “job creators” although they would just as soon outsource the work to add another million to their incomprehensibly…etc. They are posing as “Americans.” 

By the way another great show is “The Americans” which is a show about two soviet era spies posing as Americans. I think of this show as a comedy although the dramatic elements drive the show. 

I read an article once on “rich people values” and how they destroy America’s traditional value system, if America ever actually had an exemplary one if we consider America’s actual, non-posing history.  I still like the term “rich people values” because it is unpretentious. The concept at the time of the article a few decades ago was that movies and culture tended to emulate the values of the wealthier tiers of our country. While the article to the best of my memory ignored the tragic gunplay and portrayal of inner cities in the cinema, it did point out correctly that most of the “fairy tale” romantic comedies depicted the values of the wealthy. Further, these values have no place in the lives of the poor or average Americans, for that matter. People never work in these movies or their work life is so trivial that it always takes second place to a more romantic view of life. Problems were easy to overcome, or at least quickly overcome in the course of days in movie time. The right man was just around the corner for struggling working women. 

The subject in the article that stuck with me was a description of cocaine abuse. Drugs, especially cocaine, were considered to be part of the good life to be enjoyed. Laws against them were flaunted and the professional working guy could snort for pleasure. Cocaine was depicted as non-addicting, a rich man’s pleasure.  In another society, in a different legal atmosphere (enjoyed by the rich), drugs seemed the suddenly new coolest thing. 

This particular value system, from a world that is fantasy for the average guy, is subtly influential. I’m not arguing that violent movies lead in a direct linear way to violence or that drug abuse portrayed on

the big screen is some kind of gateway to general drug abuse in society. However, society is made up of very subtle values that change over time. 

One has only to look at how people have changed their minds about American warriors fighting inappropriate wars or lost causes. The phrase “support our troops” is no longer the exclusive property of hawkish people. We have been educated as a society in general, movies being a part of education process, to separate wars from the troops who are sent to fight them.

I still believe radio and then television to be the most important learning tools invented up until their times, however, in practice they subtly pandered to the public’s base interests. “Educational” networks like the History Channel and the Learning Channel are now full of “reality” television that is anything but reality. If you take the social problem of poverty as an example, there are not reality shows in this area except for the shows that degrade those who are in poverty. The show about hoarders is almost unwatchable to me. In the guise of helping these people they are displayed as circus freaks. Another show that I find unwatchable is “American Pickers.” Here literal millionaires go among the great unwashed masses and “pick” items from people who do not know their worth. The millionaires use their superior knowledge in antiques to try to reduce the price paid to the middle class guy or often to the obviously impoverished. At the end of the show they quantify exactly the amount of money they have ripped off from the non-millionaires and ignorant. In this quantification they do not even disclose the amount of money that they personally make over televising the people who they are ripping off and exposing to the world as fairly ignorant of valuation of their property. 

The average joes must be the majority of the audience that watch these shows because a millionaire audience would not provide enough ratings to make the show successful. The moral value of profiting directly off of other sometimes impoverished people’s ignorance is not the kind of value I would consider healthy for society in general. But that is just my opinion not shared by the large viewership. The absurdly astonishing thing is that the audience has completely co-opted “rich people values.” 

Part of this is a lack of disclosure. Perhaps during the game show scandals the producers were simply not disclosing the fact that the contestants were furnishing the answers. Here is it more subtle, but perhaps people just don’t realize that if you have a successful reality show, you are making tons of money. 

Lack of disclosure is at the heart of our economic system. Those who fail to disclose all the necessary facts make the most profits. Sometimes they pay fines but otherwise they are unlikely to be sent to jail for millions of dollars’ worth of fraud where any crime involving the average joe is punishable by incarceration. 

The wealthy are posers. And they are very good at it.

hastily written by /  Michael DeVore