“What’s one of the core values we have up on the board?”
Oh shit. My supervisor had walked up to me. Before he’d said anything, I was expecting him to tell me to put away instead of pick, or send me to the pack department, or “VTO” me which stands for “Voluntary Time Off”. I work in a massive online order fulfillment center for a giant retail corporation. I don’t want to say the name of it because I prefer to be anonymous at work. I’m more in disguise when I use my real name and social security number than I am when I’m on here or among friends. But in that business, there are busy days when people order a lot – like around Christmas – and there are times in late July when there just isn’t enough work for everyone there, which is one of the reasons they pick a “right to work” state like Oklahoma to open a warehouse. I was thinking about suggesting to the manager to change VTO to TLO … “Temporary Lay Offs”. Good times!
But instead I get a pop quiz. I thought he was going to give me shit about showing up two minutes late for the morning stand-up meeting. I probably could have said something smart-assed. Or I could have been perfectly honest and said “I don’t pay attention to what’s on the board. I get $12 an hour and to the extent that I think about the ‘core values’ of the Company it’s how the Company is trying to psychologically herd human beings into accepting their lot as subjects of corporate tyranny.”
But he’s a nice man. And he’s just trying to do his best at his job. And he’s just as much in this fucked up, inefficient, greed-based system of corporate tyranny as I, and he might even agree with me about corporate tyranny. And anyway I don’t bring my personality to work. At work I’m not funny, I’m not honest, I try to be as grumpy as little as possible, and if spoken to I’m polite and I try to keep small talk going, but it’s not something I’m very good at. They pay me to be a robot and I show up as a robot. And the job I’m doing now will be replaced by literal robots by the time I’m 50.
So I hemmed and hawed a bit and said “Punctuality?” – they’d been needling us about taking an extra minute at break – in a facility where it takes two minutes to walk to the break room, at a job where you’re already walking 12 hour shifts with no chairs to rest upon. But that wasn’t it.
“No, the other one.”
It took me a while… “Consistency?”
“That’s it. You are the picture of consistency,” he said. “You come in every day, and you give the same effort, and I can count on that. I don’t get much consistency here, but I appreciate it when I get it. So, thank you.”
I thanked the man several times, because if I’ve learned anything from two and a half decades in the work force, it’s to be grateful for bosses who recognize hard work. Because you don’t get much of that.
Then he handed me a wad of Company Bucks.
Company Bucks (I’m calling them that because I don’t want to reveal the name of “Company”), are fake printed out dollars with Company executives on them, that you can use to buy stuff in the warehouse gift shop… T-Shirts, coffee mugs, tote bags…all with the company logo printed on them. So if you work hard enough, you get the privilege of using your body as free advertising for the Company. That’s what the American Dream amounts to these days.
I expect some journalists working in the corporate media, mostly young ones, feel this way about the companies they work for. I have no doubt in my mind that the New York Times employs some of the best journalists in the world.. intelligent, hard-working, insightful, with love in their hearts for their profession, and for the service it pretends to provide for the country. Not to mention the requisite consistency.
And yet what are they applying all these skills to? To a newspaper that runs an editorial about how to repair Obamacare without once mentioning single-payer or Medicare-for-All… even though more than half of the public supports it, and one of the major presidential candidates endorsed it – but the corporate media wouldn’t know that, because it basically ignored Bernie Sanders until it couldn’t any more. A newspaper that is so enmeshed in a corporate system that it cannot possibly question the very thing that’s ruining the country… which is what journalism is supposed to be doing.
Corporate Journalism is so beholden to their advertisers that they don’t give a fuck about their readers. Kind of like how the government is so beholden to their corporate and financial class donors that they don’t give a fuck about the people they are supposed to serve, too. In 2015 the U.S. healthcare industry (not much of an industry anywhere else) spent $9.7 billion on advertising. The New York Times will not talk about single-payer or Medicare-for-All because it lusts after a slice of that $9.7 billion pie. Even though these are the top reader comments on the 7/31/17 editorial linked above “How to Repair the Health Law (It’s Tricky but Not Impossible)“:
Any publication that’s serious about journalism would have at least one opinion piece per week advocating for Medicare for All, but none of the major newspapers do. Because an advocate for Medicare-for-All is an advocate for destroying the health insurance industry, which prevents billionaires from sucking money like vampires out of the pockets of the American public. And that industry will not give that publication advertising dollars if it runs such a level headed, fiscally conservative, rational, and non-greed-based opinion about healthcare delivery in the most powerful empire in world history, the United States of America.
In this strange hot summer of 2017, it cannot be more obvious to the majority of the American people that our government, supposedly “of the people” is run by the financial class and corporations. It cannot be more obvious that this system has to fucking end. And it cannot be more obvious that we need to build a better system from the ground up.
That I am “the picture of consistency” when I have gone to work at a job I don’t care for, for most of my life, is what depresses me, and what must depress young journalists.
I worked on the UNC campus in the early 00s, with an English BA that I’d earned back in Pennsylvania, and I probably could have been accepted in the Masters program at the journalism school there, and maybe learnded how to type betters. Since I was a state resident and an employee of the university, I had a deal on tuition that would have only put me in debt for, say, 8 years instead of 15 (yippie!).
But this was during the Bush administration, in the run up to and during the Iraq war, and the UNC School of Journalism was advertising in the only way it could – Hey! Our students got jobs at USA Today! And NBC News! And a bunch of other places that are overlooking the facts and enabling bullshit wars! What sane human being would want any part of that world? Help your military friends die and/or get a cut in pay through our corporate journalism placement program!
It cannot be more obvious that now is the time for journalists and all workers to stop lending their consistency and their work ethic to greed-based economic systems. It’s time for us to build our own system, and contribute to the efforts of those who are already doing so.