Bimbo Banter


BIMBO Nominees for September 2020


  • Bimbo
  • August 31, 2020
  • by Spaeth Communications

Bimbo blog image c

This month brought BIMBO comments from FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn, a Texas judge, a member of the DNC and an Austin City Council member. You’ll also find examples of a really Wrong Thing To Say from Former Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. and comedic actor Seth Rogen, in addition to a reminder that everyone has a cell phone and is a reporter these days, so don’t yell at someone in a Walmart!

THE WINNING BIMBO

“I can’t guarantee you that this policy has never been violated,” said Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos at a congressional hearing during which the leaders of Amazon, Facebook, Apple and Google faced criticism from lawmakers. (Bezos’ comment was made in response to a question about whether Amazon employees violated an internal policy against accessing data from independent sellers. His response confirmed the allegations and fears are true. Like so many statements, the second half of his comment should have been his primary message—that Amazon “wants third-party sellers to succeed and benefits when consumers have more options.” Since there were numerous stories of businesses that seemed to have experienced this policy violation, it would have been useful if Bezos had a counter anecdote. His team should have armed him with a story of Amazon dealing with a complaint from a third-party seller and resolving it to the third party’s benefit. Instead, when a seller recounted her experience and said her business nosedived after action taken by Amazon, Bezos simply said he was “surprised.” He should have used the opportunity to commit to investigate and personally advocate for fair treatment of Amazon sellers. This example also features what we call the law of exceptions. Google’s Sundar Pichai tried to differentiate the company’s work with the Chinese military from that of Amazon, Facebook and Apple by saying, “Compared to our peers it is very, very limited in nature.” This approach is always a mistake because it confirms that work with China does happen.)

Wall Street Journal, “Big Tech’s Power Comes Under Fire at Congressional Antitrust Hearing,” July 29, 2020

THE RUNNERS-UP

“Nobody’s trying to get rich. There’s nobody to keep in cocaine and fast cars in this thing,” said Maria Bustillos, one of the founders of a newly-launched news cooperative called Brick House. The Brick House initiative will offer subscriptions to nine small publications for $75 a yearand will be “controlled by its writers and supported by subscriptions.” (While we’re as upset as anyone by the disappearance of local newspapers and the consolidation of ownership in a few big companies, we are dubious that Brick House will serve as a real substitute for what’s disappearing. The issue is still going to be editorial choice about what news to cover. Bustillos’ quote is terrible because it implied that writers and participants in other media are trying to—wait for it—get rich and use drugs. She would have been much better off had she shared specific examples of Brick House’s unique approach to journalism.) 

The New York Times, “A Media Pioneer Tries Again With a New Journalism Cooperative,” Aug. 25, 2020

“I am not engaged in sabotaging the election,” said Postmaster General Louis DeJoy to members of Congress at a hearing where they questioned the mail delivery delays experienced since he took the helm of the U.S. Postal Service in June. (The real message—the need for Congress and state legislatures to set realistic deadlines for when voters can receive and mail back ballots—was overshadowed by the sensational comments made during the hearing. This is a good example of why it’s important to pick your issues and timing and narrow your message. Note that the word “sabotaging” made it into the headline.)

AP News, “Postal leader defends changes, denies ‘sabotaging’ election,” Aug. 24, 2020

“I do not feel squeezed,” said Dr. Stephen Hahn, commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, in defense of his record and in response to the pressure to quickly create a vaccine to combat COVID-19. (This is a classic BIMBO comment in response to a question that almost certainly contained the word “squeezed.” However, during other instances throughout the CNN interview, Hahn exhibited good communication instincts. For example, he ducked the reporter’s questions attempting to create the appearance of an argument between the FDA and the president. In response to a question about whether or not President Trump was wrong when he said 99 percent of coronavirus cases are “totally harmless,” he said, “I’m not going to get into who’s right and who’s wrong.” These comments hark back to an observation made during the 2016 election cycle, credited to several people including writer Salena Zito, that the press takes Trump “literally, but not seriously” and “his supporters take him seriously, but not literally.”)

The New York Times, “Stephen Hahn, F.D.A. Chief, Is Caught Between Scientists and the President,” Aug. 10, 2020

“This is not a political or religious issue,” said Judge Eddie Treviño Jr. of Cameron County, Texas, defending his order to delay the start of in-person classes at public and private K-12 schools until after Sept. 28. (Two private religious schools said that the blanket order violated Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order indicating that the power to preemptively shut down campuses rests with local school boards and state education officials. In addition, the schools claimed this order violated their religious liberty. Of course, the issue is both political and religious.)

AP News, “Texas county threatened with lawsuit over COVID-19 order,” Aug. 23, 2020

“Joe Biden is not Barack Obama, Joe Biden is not Bill Clinton, Joe Biden is not John Kennedy. He may not wow you from here to the moon, you may not feel chills every time he speaks,” said Maria Cardona, a member of the Democratic National Committee during a taped address for the Democratic National Convention. (This is a very interesting report about all the speakers and their continuous attacks on President Trump. Buried in the extensive article is the line, “Largely absent was extensive talk of what’s exactly to come if Biden…is elected.”

Impact 2020, “‘This is about the country, not the candidate’: Democrats push values over policy at convention,” Aug. 18, 2020

“We are not setting ourselves up for failure like other cities and other transit agencies have done,” said Austin (Texas) City Council Member Jimmy Flannigan about the council’s decision to try to raise the tax rate by almost nine cents so that the city may spend $7 billion to build a mile-and-a-half long underground tunnel system downtown. (The council unanimously approved to put the proposed tax increase on the November ballot. With the sorry history of disastrous massive transit projects around the country—think of California’s proposed “bullet” train—our bet is that, even in Austin, the proposal will fail to pass.)

KXAN, “City council votes unanimously to put Project Connect tax rate increase on the November ballot,” Aug. 12, 2020

WRONG THING TO SAY

“I’m gonna try to be a good boy from here on out,” said Former Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. trying to fend off criticism of a now-deleted picture he posted of himself on Instagram at a party with his pants unzipped on a yacht alongside a woman whose shorts were unbuttoned. (Falwell’s defense was that the young woman, whom he identified as his wife’s assistant, was pregnant and couldn’t button her shorts. While an odd defense, his explanation also showed an appalling lack of judgment. There is no way to explain this, and it was right of Falwell to resign. The scandal deepened with allegations that Falwell’s wife was having an extramarital affair with a Miami pool attendant and that her husband liked “to watch.” Meghan McCain tweeted about the hypocrisy of Falwell’s actions, which he deserved.)

Politico, “Falwell apologizes for unzipped pants photo: ‘I’m gonna try to be a good boy,’” Aug. 5, 2020

“No, I haven’t taken a test. Why the hell would I take a test? Come on, man. That’s like saying you, before you got in this program, you’re taking a test whether you’re taking cocaine or not. What do you think, huh? Are you a junkie?” said Democratic Presidential Nominee Joe Biden during an interview with CBS News Correspondent Errol Barnett. (Barnett noted President Trump’s continual questioning of Biden’s mental fitness for office and asked if he has taken a test to measure his cognitive ability, which elicited his salacious response.)

Wall Street Journal, “Politician Cognition,” Aug. 5, 2020

“If you meet a Jewish person in America, they’re probably here because someone tried to kill their grandparents not that long ago,” said Seth Rogan in an anti-Semitic rant during a podcast interview. (His rant went on and on and included comments like, And I also think that as a Jewish person I was fed a huge amount of lies about Israel my entire life! They never tell you that — oh by the way, there were people there. They make it seem like it was just like sitting there, like the f*cking door’s open!Rogen just handed the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement activists a gift.)

LifeZette, “Seth Rogen says Israel ‘makes no sense:’ It’s like putting Jews ‘in a blender,’” July 29, 2020

A Walmart shopper with small children was accosted by another customer who yelled at her because she and her children weren’t wearing masks. When the young mother tried to explain that the store policy doesn’t require young kids to wear masks, the outraged customer said, “I hope you all die.” (If you don’t want one of your negative quotes included on the front page of a newspaper or on Twitter and television, be careful with your words. This story is proof that, in any given instance, there’s usually a bystander ready to capture the action on his or her cell phone. And for the record, please wear a mask.)

The Western Journal, “Store Mask Bully Unleashes on Children, Tells Them ‘I Hope You All Die,’” July 29, 2020

LEARNING EXAMPLES

This piece, published before Joe Biden selected Kamala Harris as his running mate, concentrated on the roster of potential female vice-presidential running mates for Joe Biden and examined if and why different standards of media coverage of women in politics exist. It’s worth a glance because it’s part of the overall literature that confirms women have to be persistent to get ahead but face criticism if they are perceived as crossing the line into being overly ambitious or aggressive. One researcher outlined his idea of “‘gender judo’: The idea that women can counter the bias to those stereotypically ‘masculine’ behaviors, like ambition, by exhibiting stereotypically ‘feminine’ behaviors, like warmth or friendliness.All information and advice included in the article is totally predictable but worth a read. 

A must-read article for your HR department and for anyone who has taken an employee survey and thought it was a waste of time or wondered if it made any difference. The article featured a number of experts who recommended alternative ways to learn what employees really value and think. The experts also shredded the fashionable idea of employee “engagement,” noting it is avague concept with multiple definitions, and many of the drivers of engagement aren’t things that can be changed easily.” The article also explored the value of assessing company culture by evaluating employees’ electronic communications via platforms like email, Slack messages and Glassdoor reviews.

Another must-read article for people working in internal and external communications. The author noted that when the pandemic prompted companies to furlough or lay off thousands of employees, few executives actually sacrificed any of their own compensation, and those that did reduced their salaries by only a tiny amount. This kind of behavior, at a time when average employees were experiencing job loss, cutbacks and high uncertainty is one of the things that gives our market system a very bad name. No wonder so many people are looking favorably at philosophies like that of the Business Roundtable’s idea of so-called “stakeholder capitalism.”

“A reverse mortgage loan isn’t some kind of trick to take your home,” said Tom Selleck plugging reverse mortgages in a commercial for government-insured, mortgage loan company American Advisors Group (AAG). The commercial included some problematic messages voiced by Selleck including, “I wouldn’t be here if I thought reverse mortgages took advantage of any American senior,” despite the fact that his message was that he trusts AAG and you should, too.

 

The BIMBO Memo is a reminder not to repeat and deny a negative word because of how the listener hears words. When you repeat and deny a negative word, the listener is likely to overlook the denial and hear the opposite of what the speaker is trying to say. It’s named for the young woman who was caught with a high profile, but alas married man. She held a press conference and announced, “I am not a BIMBO,” thus causing everyone to think she was.



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