Remember when AOL finally recognized their lunatic business model and content choices were no longer viable, and the whole brand was just dangling by a thread, so they put Arianna Huffington in charge, and that’s when things, like, reaaally spun down the toilet?
Incompetently run organizations, from the Knicks to the United States, generally become that way by making a common judgment error: the employers assume that only a few people reside on Earth at any one time who could properly fill a certain high-profile position. This permutation of “credentialed, not educated” thinking (a common Glenn phrase) put a score of Kennedys in politics, made a bunch of useless glass at Solyndra, and now has placed Jeff Zucker on top at CNN.
In a prosperous future wherein I chair a media conglomerate, the following exchange will guide every hiring decision and be made known in a company prospectus and distributed amongst the investors, immediately attracting new speculation and filling Rick Santelli and Donald Trump with the kind of existential glee they only otherwise experience following competent stock dividend distribution. I see it as a real-life demonstration of Thomas Sowell’s “Three Questions for Liberals”:
Board Member/Dullard: “So and so’s the hot guy right now. He’s got solid connections.”
Me: “Shouldn’t we f***ing hire the connections?”
Two issues trip up most of those who fall for the false prophet, the vacant suit, the Hideki Irabu. First — and of primary importance to the last century of left-leaning politics, media, and culture — the failure to properly assess ability stems from an irrational impulse to imagine certain people as being a higher stature of human. An undefined savior quality sways others’ judgment, to the point that women were at one time lining up to sleep with Steven Tyler. We could probably boil this first problem down to “the myth of cool,” and everyone would know what we’re talking about, though using “cool” makes me uneasy, as people like Howard Dean and Maureen Dowd have benefited from this.
Second: bad hires happen not just from poor analyses of the candidate, but from poor analyses of the actual intellectual demands of the open position. In reality, there are about eight irreplaceable people alive (we’ve recently lost one), and if any of them were employed as cable news executives, you’d never be able to tell, because some professions simply don’t offer the opportunity to benefit from brilliance.
A Fields Medal-level thinker cannot make magic if his passion is septic tank installation. While it’s truly honorable work that can be performed at a high level, there’s only so much room there to apply his full capacity. So to speak.
And so it goes with cable news. This takes brilliance:
This takes mere competence:
(The truth that journalism is the parlance of anyone with a degree of competence plus great passion and energy was, of course, the genesis of PJ Media, “a guy sitting in his living room in his pajamas” taking down Dan Rather.)
We need to understand just how much damage these two judgment problems have done to media, entertainment, politics, and academia. The two problems have garbled up the fields to the point that near everyone is often allowed to do a job that represents the polar opposite of their skill set. Work in L.A., N.Y., or D.C.? How many decisions per day do you witness being made by the identifiably worst person to be doing so in the building? “It” creatives are given authority to make business decisions; incredibly competent businesspeople waste their own time and devour the talent of others by editing artists’ words and visions; and sexy/tall people are allowed to do things not generally expected of those whose training is limited to being sexy/tall, like run entire divisions/be given ambassadorships/operate a vehicle.
Seriously — where else does this happen? Did Michael Jordan get to play center?