Sunday, August 18, 2013

Amazon's Shark and the Wall Street Remoras


The New York Times has a personality piece on Jeff Bezos, the owner who recently bought up the Washington Post.  Personally - based on the way guys like Bezos run their businesses - I tend to assume they are canny sociopaths, whose rise to the top leave them with cripplingly overblown delusions of self-regard.  Normally, the lionization of such men in the business press is either nauseating or enraging.  The Times' sketch of Bezos would normally be more of the same, but probably some journalistic class anxiety about the man's foray into media ownership caused other, less laudatory information to seep into the article.

After all, despite Bezos re-creating the great American sweatshop in his archipelago of warehouses, despite unapologetic union-busting, despite a government subsidy of $1.7 billion per year in evaded taxes (that their competition has to make up instead!), despite being a darling of Wall Street - his company managed to lose money last quarter on over $15 billion dollars of revenue.

People are often perplexed as to why investors are enthusiastic about a company that has never made more than a trickle of profit. But this vast money-laundering operation is not really capitalism, it is the strangulation of a familiar kind of commerce - and the remoras of Wall Street intend to be thoroughly melded into the bloodstream of this shark once brick and mortar retail has been reduced to rubble.

Certainly, I can see why journalists might be vaguely troubled by his new interest in print journalism.