In the spring of 2010 the Middle East reached a tipping point. It was called the Arab spring. A decade later, we are in the midst of the American Spring. We are the country whose fuse is lit and ready to explode. With the stock market making COVID-era highs, the disconnect between reality on the street and the illusion created by printing money, lending at 0% interest rates and outright lies by the federal government, has now seeped into the psyche of the American people. The illusion that 40 million unemployed can be fooled by a check in the mail and bringing back sports is finally being shattered and the glass will cut deep across the political divide.
The murder of George Floyd by a handful of sociopathic police officers (all officers who stood by are guilty), is a byproduct of four years of failure to make America great. Sure, a whole bunch of people got rich, many of them part of the administration’s network, but America has been made worse. We can only be great again when the government works on behalf of the people and not itself. The primal tendency for violence has been emboldened the last four years by ignoring racial issues and instead choosing to ignite them. From Nazi groups marching in Charlotesville to the scapegoating of Mexico to shootings in a Jewish temple, and now yet another police murder of a black man, a slew of divisive events are all attributable to the vibe from the top. Today I watched as the president had nothing helpful to say about the violence in the street. By ignoring the social issues at the core of the American experiment, he has given us another reason to shelter at home besides the virus. There is danger in the streets. The riots are about justice, regardless of who the agitators are. Justice is not a universal truth. Facts will decide that. George Floyd will be remembered as the spark that started the American Spring.
For the last four years, Donald Trump has, with no one to stop him, supported white supremacy undertones, fanned the flames of class warfare, ignored science, created a stock market bubble, and broken what was once the law. This path of destruction has infected the American culture he manages from the highest pulpit in the country. It is a nightmare for all of us as a collective country, even for those who support him because their priorities are typically fiscally motivated. It is a glaringly poor reflection of prioritization in the face of ripping the fabric of our society.
Colin Rand Kaepernick took a knee in protest, and it was mocked by the president. The president used it as a weapon to identify what he calls “enemies of the state.” This past week, a black man was killed by a police officer’s knee, and the president has still failed to send the right message. He has failed to unite us and continues to divide us. Masks are now worn to disguise our faces as much as to prevent spreading the virus. Masks keep our identities a secret while we wear our emotions on our sleeve. They are becoming a symbol of the great divide in this country.
Strategy of Distraction
Trump’s strategy is a distraction, like signing a Marla Maples look-alike’s breast in the middle of a formal affair. It’s hard to look away from it. Distraction then abuse and destruction, or as Bill Maher eloquently put it while describing Trump’s tactics;
“While you’re watching the clown screw the pony, they’re breaking into your car.”
Hope Hicks put Michael Cohen on the phone with me during Trump’s 2016 campaign to rant and rage about lawsuits if I published the picture above. I ignored him and published the pictures in a story on Vocal soon after. That was four years ago. Hope Hicks is gone and Michael Cohen went to jail a year ago. I saw Trump’s ideology first-hand. I wrote about it and feared nothing because I know him for what he is. Donald Trump is a poor leader and a terrible CEO. He is a bully—all bark and no bite. He has been ineffective at making America great and this coming November should be voted out of office if we are ever to succeed at it. Many leaders with legitimate power to create change have chosen to look away. I have heard a number of leaders hide behind excuses, often due primarily to their own recessed racist theories and pocketbooks.
The coronavirus has not stopped spreading and the country's reopening is a trickle of movements, not Trump’s predicted flood of activity, unless you call partying in a pool in the Ozarks a key economic indicator. Trump’s administration has failed to form a national strategy for reliable testing and tracing, which was and continues to be the key to returning to our flourishing economy. He still has not addressed the issue of states who are in serious need of funding to support frontliners and increasing infrastructure. Instead, he pins his hope on the wishful thinking and the unlikely delivery and national distribution of a vaccine by the fall. I am not an anti-vaxxer, but I certainly am not taking a rushed product from a pharma company that may have cut corners to get approval until I have heard concrete facts and statistics on the product, and not just the support of our leadership. I can no longer take their word. What I want are the facts, not a cheerleader president who ignores the pain of his people.
The reality I can see is that a lack of leadership creates opportunity for the nefarious side of humanity. It breeds unrest and anarchy. That’s not some angry statement by an emotionally charged east coast, left leaning centrist. It is a fact being stated by a CEO of a company with employees, stakeholders, and constituents that I am responsible to. As a young trader in the 1990s at Kidderpeabody and Bankers Trust, I was part of groups supporting representatives of the bondholder committees dealing with Trump’s legendary casino bankruptcies and opulence. He was a terrible businessman. He was the very caricature of incompetency disguised by bread and circuses. Avoiding blame by dividing and fighting was what he did best.
I am not typically inclined to wade this far into politics in my weekly CEO update, but Donald Trump’s politics have become unhinged and he has threatened the technology platform space my company belongs to. This morning Trump tweeted to revoke Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, colloquially known as just Section 230. As he continues his campaign of misinformation and struggles in the polls, he has begun a war on the entire tech industry for questioning him. The bully has finally been challenged. It began this week with Twitter and Jack Dorsey finally having the balls to stand up to him. Jack, I am now a huge fan. You hit him where it hurts. No one has done that in four years. That said, you took way too long.
What is Section 230?
26 words that changed the Internet. It’s true. It’s called Section 230 and it says this:
“No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.”
As an analogy, imagine if book stores were responsible for the words in the books they sold. Literally imagine if a left winger could sue a bookstore for selling books about right wing politics.
In actuality, Section 230 protects the right wing extreme nationalists and conspiracy theorists more than most. Meaning if Trump revoked Section 230, it is his core base that stands to lose the most. The first thing that tech platforms would have to eliminate and police would be the very same people who are at the core of Trump’s foundational base, who thrive on social platforms that generally have fostered a free-for-all environment. This just reveals further the idiocracy of the administration and lack of understanding by Trump. Too much moderation will actually create more liability and further moderation. Platforms are responsible for any content they create, but not that's posted by users. That isn’t going to change, because if it does the world will roll back to the McCarthy era dark days, censorship, and possibly destroy the freedoms this country once offered.
I am a CEO of a tech company with one of the fastest growing social platforms online today. Over 1,000 people are subscribing daily to the Vocal technology platform, up from a few hundred just a short time ago, and heading to the tens of thousands in the months to come. Vocal is an important platform that gives a voice to the people, particularly in a time where it is desperately needed. It gives a voice to those who are as frustrated with our leaders as I am. I too look to my leaders to advise me, support me, and keep me accountable. That holds true from my board of directors and the shareholders they represent, as well as my government and its leadership. Like my company, I personally pay taxes and obey the law. I do so trusting that the government will fulfill their end of the bargain. I expect a safe and sound environment, from fiscal to social policy.
My Personal View
I have my own views of world order, my own values I hold myself accountable to. As CEO and personally one of my company’s largest investors, I have a responsibility to use my platform when I believe that the ideological war we are now a part of was not of our own making. This starts at the top. It begins with a president who felt comfortable bullying his so-called enemies in his narcissistic grab for power. It will finally end because he has now picked fights with people like Jack Dorsey, Jeff Bezos, and all tech CEOs. But we do not get bullied; we are not driven by emotion. We run our companies and our lives from a position of logic and protecting the interest of the collective. Clearly this explains why Donald Trump was a failed CEO and a better reality television star. We are not all necessarily altruistic, but we, unlike politicians, are united in a belief system that it is the interest of the collective that is at the foundation of our existence. Trump believes that it is his interest that is the foundation of the collective.
We must see a change in leadership. Under an attorney general like William Barr there will be no justice for George Floyd, and all that he represents, and under the leadership of Donald Trump there will be no national covid testing structure and no successful return to normal for our economy. What I and other CEOs can do is recognize and fill the voids of leadership, from large to small communities. We can lead by example. We can protect our employees and work harder for our clients. We can focus on value for our investors and reliability to our vendors. I am focused on unity and transparency in my business actions, the ideals that drive them and my personal belief system.
Our communities are in desperate need of a voice. I will do my best to maintain the integrity of the Vocal platform and ensure it provides a voice for the people. Today, that voice is for George Floyd in a poem by a Vocal creator Michael Ferger.
I hope you all take the time to sign up to Vocal, and support him and all those who dare to raise their voice for justice.