domenica, maggio 20, 2007

So much money, so little truth

So my job is giving me strange ideas about human nature, or just backing up ones I already had - I don't know.

This one story, which obviously I can't tell you much about because people pay kajillions of dollars for the magazine so copyright is what it is, is getting to me a little. A factory is closing down in a district that has had lots of shutdowns recently, and my job was to write an article about why, how much product volume is leaving the sector, how many workers getting shafted, et cetera - you know, a normal trade magazine article.

Investigating it was interesting because, outside of a couple of friendly temp and tech guys, everybody referred me to TWO P.R. agencies or else didn't have a word to say outside of referring me to a very vague press release. Neither did the P.R. agencies, with the bonus that they tried to get psychomological by talking about how the story was already old news . . .

Professionally speaking for me it wasn't a problem, though it will be for the company in question if they care about such things, because the worker's unions were ecstatic to talk to me and tell me whatever they thought I wanted to hear. I got the material I need. But it was interesting in that everybody I spoke to at the company who was too temporary or techy (that is, essential to the physical functioning of the business) to really be a part of the company hierarchy was very friendly and willing to talk. And then, the hierarchy people weren't only unwilling to talk, but were unwilling to talk and then referred me to outsourced labour units (the P.R. companies) whose job was to be unwilling to talk, and who could be expected to have no practical relationship to the sector or practical sympathies with the workers getting shafted.

It was puzzling to me at first - why would so much money be spent on something so seemingly redundant, when you could just insist your workers refer inquiries obliquely to the press release, instead of insisting your workers refer inquiries to the press release AND then to these two outsourced stonewallers who were using psycholomogy a teenager who'd watched Mean Girls without understanding it would be able to see through?

And then as I thought about my job over the past couple of weeks, I came up with three thoughts that feel right:

1. People have an instinct to tell the truth

2. People have an instinct to sympathize with other people

So. Groups of people - companies - have to spend millions of dollars outsourcing third person inquiries to public relations firms, whose employees don't have an emotional attachment to the truths and people concerned. Because if they didn't, eventually people's instinct to tell the truth and to sympathize with other people will overwhelm their instinct to obey a hierarchical instruction.

Maybe this is just common sense but it still shocked me. What strange beasts we are, what a mass of contradictions and social neuroses . . . Anyways, I'm off to work again. If you get bored today and feel like something funny/depressing, look for the animated BBC series Monkey Dust. So much guilty, disgusted laughter.