It’s a page right out of The Handbook for Dictators. When you’re in deep doo-doo, find someone else to blame. It’s an effective distraction tactic as old as time itself. When you sleep in and are late for work, blame traffic. Stalin blamed the intelligentsia and packed them off to Siberian labour camps when things didn’t go his way. Hitler wrongly blamed the Jews and other minorities for all Germany’s problems. We know how tragically that turned out. During the Cold War, the United States blamed communism for the world’s ills. That rationale gave them the green light to invade foreign countries and impose their own political agenda on local populations. Failing at school? Blame the teacher (that one never worked particularly well for me). Can’t lose weight? Blame menopause—well, bad example because that one is actually true. The point is, find a scapegoat and push your agenda until your perceived enemies are kneecapped.
Donald Trump has seized on this principle with amazing tenacity. In the bizarro world, he has the Midas touch. Everything he touches turns to disaster. So he blames fake news. He blames Mexico, China and Canada. He blames the NFL, FBI and immigrants. Autocrats need fake enemies. In a further manifestation of this philosophy, Donald Trump has now set his sights on Amazon and in particular their use of the United States Postal Service who handles a large portion of their deliveries.
Someone has to explain this business case to me. I do not have an MBA. In fact I can barely calculate the tip in a restaurant so I’m not exactly the brightest light on the tree. But it seems to me that when a business attracts more paying customers, especially ones with the power of Amazon, the result is usually:
- more business, which equals
- more revenue to grow the business, which equals
- more jobs created to support the business, which equals
- more sales revenue, which equals
- more profits, which equals
- more taxes paid, which equals
- more happy people
Except for Donald Trump. Do you suppose his beef with Jeff Bezos, founder and chief executive of Amazon has anything to do with the fact Bezos is a known critic of Trump? And this from the guy who said not paying taxes is just “smart business”.
Full disclosure here. I’m a big fan of Amazon. Hardly a week goes by that I don’t have an Amazon box arrive at my door—a book, an item of clothing or a kitchen gadget. I even took Warren Buffet’s advice and bought stock in a business I understand and have some knowledge of or experience with, which means I also own shares in Amazon. They were purchased as a long-term investment and I’m holding on to them. In fact with their market price now low, I’m tempted to buy even more shares because I believe in the business. They’re certainly not perfect corporate citizens but we have to accept progress while remaining cautious in our choices.
Working through the blame theory to its natural conclusion
The basic strategy of blaming others for our shortcomings is perhaps something I should investigate on a personal level. It certainly has advantages. That means the dairy industry’s marketing is responsible for my passion for butter pecan and black jack cherry ice-cream. That’s why I weigh more than I should. Not my fault. Martha Stewart set impossibly high standards for entertaining. That’s why I am incapable of making decent hors d’oeuvres and generally do not like cooking. Not my fault. Five Guys’ french fries? Probably laced with cocaine. Not my fault I’m addicted. Same thing with Tim Horton’s steeped tea and peanut butter cookies. Fake news and not my fault?
Hey—that was easy. Donald Trump is on to something. I’m sure he’s well aware of it and we can expect to see and hear a lot more ‘passing the blame’ as time goes on . . . and on . . . for nearly three more years. That should be all the time I need to convince myself that this approach is not fake news and my failings are not my fault. Will it work? What do you think?
Footnote to Mr. Jeff Bezos: Want to put Mr. Trump in his place? Locate your planned new Amazon distribution centre in Canada! Canada Post would be happy to work with you and your employees would get health care, work in a country that doesn’t worship guns and respects the hard work and contribution of immigrants.