Dumb & Dumber, the October Sequel — Shirtless CEOs, Barbie “Scabs,” and More Hitler!
Earlier I gave you the teaser. Now we dive into the winners. Here are October’s most noteworthy missteps. Avoid the following behavior if you want to lead a prosperous, headline-free life.
DUMB — The Shirtless CEO
Tony Fernandes has been called “Malaysia’s answer to Richard Branson.” He’s a fun-loving CEO who bought AirAsia for pennies and built it into a popular budget carrier.
This month, after returning from an 18-hour flight, his back hurt. A female colleague suggested he get a massage. So Fernandes did, removing his shirt and letting the masseuse go to work. He also held a conference call at the same time. Someone took a picture, and Fernandes thought it would be fun to post the photo on LinkedIn.
“Got to love Indonesia and AirAsia culture that I can have a massage and do a management meeting,” Fernandes wrote, according to Bloomberg. (The post has since been deleted.)
Displaying his naked torso, moobs and all, did not go over well. LinkedIn comments suggested the photo was wildly inappropriate and offensive.
“I don’t think the women in your company would feel comfortable or safe in this context, and given you’re the boss, they likely won’t challenge you or say anything,” wrote one female branding executive.
Well… let’s not get carried away. I, for one, think we should celebrate! For the first time in history, a headline containing “CEO” and “massage” involved an actual massage.
DUMBER — The Tech Manifesto
Back in 1995, Ted Kaczynski — the “Unabomber ” — released his “manifesto.” He feared technology was ruining society, and so he murdered three people involved in tech and injured almost two dozen others. He eventually went to prison and died.
“[Technology] will certainly subject human beings to greater indignities and inflict greater damage on the natural world,” Kaczynski wrote 28 years ago, “it will probably lead to greater social disruption and psychological suffering, and it may lead to increased physical suffering even in ‘advanced’ countries.”
Anywhoooo, Mark Andreesen is here to set the record straight. The influential tech billionaire just released “The Techno-Optimist Manifesto,” replete with all the frantic, bold language a manifesto must contain.
“We are being lied to,” Andreessen begins, ominously. He says we’re being fooled into thinking that technology will take our jobs and ruin the planet, blah blah blah. “We are told to denounce our birthright – our intelligence, our control over nature, our ability to build a better world.” It’s a little godlike.
“Our civilization was built on technology,” he continues. “Technology is the glory of human ambition and achievement, the spearhead of progress, and the realization of our potential… I am here to bring the good news.”
Okay, now it’s really godlike.
The rest of the manifesto is a lot of self-important bloviating. I had to stop reading. Why write this? Why now? Maybe Andreessen is upset because various governmental entities are suing Facebook, and that could hurt his portfolio.
Facebook is not the hill I’d die on.
There are plenty of legitimate criticisms about technology, but I’m not sure why Andreessen suddenly got himself in a massive, vainglorious wedgie. I see no meaningful groundswell of support to turn off the internet and take away our phones. Only idiots demand, “Stop making my life easier!” Where are the street protests accusing Tesla of destroying the planet?
Bottom line, anything called a “manifesto” usually involves aggressive proselytizing, and I’ve had enough of that lately.
DUMBERER — College Football Fumbles
University of Miami Football coach Mario Cristobal is being paid $80 million over 10 years, but he doesn’t seem to understand that when there’s a few seconds left in a game, and you’re winning, you take a knee. The Hurricanes decided to go for one last play against Georgia Tech this month, but Miami turned into the wrong kind of ramblin’ wreck, fumbling the ball. The Yellow Jackets recovered and scored, winning the game. Pay me $40 million and I promise that’ll never happen again.
Much of the inanity in college sports this October took place during pregame festivities.
— A group of Berkeley students held a sit-in on the 50-yard-line before Cal took on USC. Everyone assumed they were supporting Hamas (think about that for a moment). Instead, the students were insisting the university bring back Ivonne del Valle, an associate professor whose specialties include the colonization of the Americas, an increasingly crowded field. Del Valle was suspended by the school after three investigations determined she repeatedly harassed an English professor at UC Davis. (I can’t figure out what her beef is with the guy.) Anyhow, del Valle says she’s innocent and that her accounts were hacked, though she admits to KQED that she did do things like key the other professor’s car, vandalize the area outside his apartment door, and leave messages outside the home of his mother suggesting that mom had “raised a psychopath.” But other than that…
Given the times, however, my favorite sports-related decision in October was the one to put an unmonitored trivia quiz up on the Jumbotron at Michigan State before its game against rival Michigan. Suddenly, an image of Adolf Hitler pops up as quiz question #28, asking where he was born. Answer: “Austria.”
Ooof. I feel for poor Duckett Brothers Distributing, caught advertising that it will “NEVER DROP THE BALL” under an image of the most evil man in history.
Fans were stunned, and the university apologized for, well, dropping the ball. The school blames a third party who provides the trivia. That third party is a YouTube account called “The Quiz Channel,” which later defended the question, but said the football setting was “inappropriate.” (Not sure if Hitler is ever appropriate in a light-hearted trivia contest — “Adolfs for $1,000, Ken.”)
But it gets dumber. The Quiz Channel claims MSU used the quiz without permission and without payment.
At least everyone seems to be horrified that Hitler appeared on a Jumbotron. I consider that a win these days.
DUMBERERER — The Nanny State of Unions
Organized labor is having a helluva year. Maybe too good. Now the AFL-CIO is being picketed by its own unionized employees.
The dockworkers union in Portland filed for bankruptcy to fend off a judgment won by the port after it successfully sued the union for illegal slowdowns.
But no union may be starting to exasperate its members more than the Screen Actors Guild. SAG has been on strike now for well over 100 days, even after writers and directors reached agreements with the studios. In its latest mandate to maintain solidarity, SAG told performers not to dress up for Halloween in costumes representing “struck” movie studios, like Barbie. (SAG President Fran Drescher did not specify whether costumes from “The Nanny” were still allowed.)
Eyes rolled all the way to Wrexham, where Ryan Reynolds is busy building up a women’s soccer team to join his men’s club. “I look forward to screaming ‘scab’ at my 8 year old all night,” the actor/entrepreneur/sports owner/genius said on X, adding, “She’s not in the union, but she needs to learn.”
Other actors also complained, and SAG modified the order to exempt actors’ kids. Adults still need to dress up as generic zombies or sexy witches, because Ryan Reynolds wearing a Deadpool costume would be total capitulation to the studios.
DUMBERERERER — Health Hath No Fury Like a Forbes Scorned
I don’t even know why I bring up political shenanigans every month, because the topic is as depressing as free speech on college campuses. But folks in Washington hold the purse strings, so I can’t let them slide.
Here are a few examples this month on the Democratic side:
— California’s new U.S. Senator doesn’t actually live there.
— President Biden’s disconnect from brain to mouth continues. After a failed rocket hit a hospital in Gaza, he quipped that Hamas terrorists “gotta learn how to shoot straight.”
— Houston, you have a problem. Expletive-filled audio of Texas Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee berating her staff has been leaked. This is happening as Lee, known for her many gaffes, makes a run for mayor of Houston. “I know that I am not perfect,” she said in response, while blaming the leak on a political opponent.
On the Republican side, where to begin?
— The chaos around selecting a House Speaker had me wishing the entire crew from “The Golden Bachelor” was running the government. #Gerry2024. “I think they’re going to have to bring alcohol in there to solve this,” said Rep. Thomas Massie.
That must have been exactly what happened! Because we’ve ended up with a guy no one’s heard of, Mike Johnson of Louisiana. When Johnson was asked by a reporter about his efforts to overturn the 2020 election, the reporter was booed. Get ready to return your pronouns to their previous upright and locked position.
— Baby-toting George Santos is facing more charges that he lied (yawn). He just can’t help himself. Santos even told the New York Times that his niece was kidnapped by two Chinese men, perhaps because he’s very anti-Commie. He’s also anti-truth. Law enforcement told the Times that, a) there were no Chinese agents, and b) there was no kidnapping. I’m awaiting confirmation that there was, at the very least, a niece.
— Then there’s former President Donald Trump, which leads me to the dumbest move of all (financially).
You can lie to your banks, to Hannity, and to the American people. But don’t lie to Forbes.
Forbes is owned by Hong Kong-based Integrated Whale Media Investments, but Steve Forbes remains chairman and editor-in-chief. As details emerged from a lawsuit over how Trump valued his assets, the staff at Forbes apparently got really ticked off about being misled for years. Now there’s a new damning headline nearly every day, like:
You get the idea.
Trump can criticize the “lamestream media” all he wants, but Wall Street actually reads Forbes. I can’t imagine he’ll ever get another large loan, and fewer billionaires are in his corner. Even if he wins, everyone in his first administration has been thrown under the bus. How will he find enough sentient Americans to fill out a cabinet for Round 2?
DUMBEST — The New York Times
I read the New York Times because it invests in journalism and provides a lot of solid reporting and interesting stories.
But I’ve worked in a newsroom my whole career. I know that reporters and editors are people with opinions that may leak into coverage, and group think is real. (Overheard in 2016: “People actually voted for Trump??”)
Yet I was especially horrified to read how the Times completely mishandled the deadly explosion at a hospital in Gaza.
“Israeli Strike Kills Hundreds in Hospital, Palestinians Say,” was the original headline. The “Palestinians” were Hamas, a group that happily GoPro’d itself slaughtering children, shooting through portable toilets to kill women hiding inside, and kidnapping grandparents.
The Times ran with Hamas’ version of events. Senior editors inside the newsroom reportedly ignored pushback.
Israel soon said it had nothing to do with the explosion, which I also questioned — because I’m generally skeptical. But the ensuing evidence indicates the cause of the blast was an errant Hamas rocket, not an Israeli air strike.
Nearly two and a half hours after the first headline emerged, the Times finally changed it to “Hundreds Dead in Blast at Gaza Hospital, Palestinians Say,” and “Israeli and Gazan Officials Blame Each Other for Explosion.” Still no mention of Hamas in the headline.
The Times admits it jumped the gun, publishing an unusual editor’s note that says the paper “relied too heavily on claims by Hamas, and did not make clear that those claims could not immediately be verified.” Other news organizations that also ran with Hamas’ story have not produced a mea culpa.
This snafu comes on top of reports that the Times recently rehired a freelance journalist who’d earlier been let go for social media posts praising Hitler. Like I said, Adolf is everywhere these days. Gosh, I thought we were supposed to believe that “Jews control the media.” Not in New York!
Look, my point is this. The media may jump to conclusions, but you don’t have to.
I’ve often told aspiring journalists that when it comes to breaking news, it’s better to be second and right than first and wrong. Few people remember your triumphs, but everyone remembers your mistakes.
There’s still joy and beauty in the world.
— Need a laugh? Watch the live Elephant Seal cameras set up along California’s Central Coast.
— For sheer beauty, go to the 1:20 mark on this video and listen to Dame Judi Dench recite Shakespeare from memory. The Bard’s words and her delivery make English great again. (And hang around for Arnold Schwarzenegger’s take on “Hamlet.”)