Friday, December 16, 2016

Fox And Fake News

I just had a lengthy social media exchange that brought up a grievance of conservatives. Trying to represent one person's view as best I can, he said that I fail to understand that many conservatives have been so frustrated with "liberal bias of the mainstream media" that they now feel it is gratifying to see us "complain about fake news" -- finally feeling their pain, so to speak.

But my problem with this is that he conflates bias with fake, which is a big problem.

This exchange also touched on my concerns in a blog post I had drafted but never finished -- now is the chance.

There has been much on the idea of fake news. Most interesting is the Planet Money story on Finding the Fake New King. It became an even more surreal story when covered on Full Frontal a few days later. This is all disturbing, but I can't help worry that it has shifted attention away from Fox News and it's role in the growth of fake news.

I know, I know...this has been dragging on for years and I am sure I sound like just another liberal who can't get out of my National Public Radio, New York Times and New Yorker echo chambers. That is exactly what the person in the above-mentioned exchange told me was my problem. But Fox is and has always been different -- my most recent posting about this being just prior to the election. I don't mind media having a leaning to the left or right. The real crimes are in the demise of journalism. One of the reasons I like The Economist is that is often prefaces its editorial content with a disclaimer about ideological beliefs on free trade or open borders or other elements that affect it's content. But that is not what Fox does. Every time I watch -- and I force myself to do so -- I feel like it's an exercise in bad journalism. Leading questions, implicit assumptions and just half truths.

To be honest, in recent weeks I've really valued and enjoyed reading right wing media that I rarely consumed before. The National Review and Wall Street Journal have some great points and remind me what it felt like to actually have a debate. I feel like my assumptions are challenged. But that isn't how I feel with Fox.

It didn't take me 30 seconds to find clips on Fox that suggest the same talking point that was made to me in this social media exchange I mentioned. Listen to this nonsense on Fox. More shitty reporting! If anyone on Fox took the time to listen to Planet Money or this great interview on Fresh Air with Craig Silverman of Buzzfeed or the countless other investigations on this, they'd understand why the distinction between "fake news" and bias is critical.

What is important about the Fresh Air interview is that it shows pretty clearly why Fox wants to conflate the issue -- conservatives benefit from it! Indeed, I'd say fake news, is the logical outcome of bad journalism, for which I think Fox is the poster child. Can anyone find me a liberal media outlet that is dismissive of "fact-checking"? I only hear this from conservatives.

This was the most interesting bit of the interview with Sliverman was this comment about how Facebook is considering it's role in combatting fake news, by which I mean the shit that is made up by someone for the purpose of making advertising revenue in selling hoaxes.
When you flag something as offensive on Facebook, it's possible that it may automatically then be scanned by an algorithm and realize that that is an image, for example, maybe they've already banned. But a lot of the time it ends up in front of a person on their content review team who has to make a judgment call. And I can tell you from speaking to people in conservative media, [emphasis is mine] they are extremely concerned.
One, they view Facebook as a liberal organization. They think it's biased against conservative points of view. And two, they're extremely concerned that if Facebook starts trying to weed out fakes, they're going to have people with a liberal point of view who disagree with an article potentially suppressing it. And so there is risk now of suppression of free speech and suppression of different points of view if these things were to go in the wrong direction.
The President-elect has shown and shows on a daily basis that he has no problem lying, just like many politicians do (as pointed out by that nonsense Fox clip). The challenge to the media and to those of us who consume it is to believe in facts, or at least that the pursuit of facts is a worthy goal, not matter what Fox's "fair and balanced" news tells you.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

No To Rex Tillerson, CEO ExxonMobil

Let's use this topic as a lesson of the media talking past each other. That's a nice way of me saying a lesson in conservative media (WSJ) talk past very legitimate concerns of the liberal media (NYT).

No, Suzanne Maloney, writing-in-the-WSJ, this isn't about the "chattering classes" being aghast at a just any old CEO being nominated for Secretary of State. The NYT made this point fairly emphatically (editorial link above), as do I. It is about that CEO having worked his entire professional career for one company with, allegedly, a long history of strategically working to combat science and, as if that were not enough, that CEO also having conflicts-of-interest with the head of state of a nation currently accused by the CIA of intentionally trying to destabilise the faith in the US electoral process. Your column inches given to the boy scouts is ghastly amid these extremely serious concerns.

Now, of course I can't fully prove that statement about ExxonMobil having a long history of combatting science, but it seems pretty clear, as I have been learning from Doubt is Their Product, that ExxonMobil has been one of the key examples of companies strategically working to create doubt about the negative externalities of their business model.

From Chapter 18, "The Bush Administration's Political Science":
There are thousands of scientists on our side of the debate and a mere handful on the other, but uncertainty can reign in the mass media and the public mind if that handful has a large enough megaphone--and they do because they are underwritten by ExxonMobil, by all analyses the hands-down largest funder of the warming deniers. According to the authors of the internal ExxonMobil memo titled "Global Climate Science Communications Action Plan", "[v]ictory will be achieved when...average citizens 'understand' (recognize) uncertainties in climate science; recognition of uncertainties becomes part of the conventional wisdom." 
Let's be fair. Can we link Tillman to this memo? No. Is he responsible for the whole company? No. Does having worked in Russia disqualify him? No. Does working with oil and gas disqualify him? Of course not.

But...and this is a huge, "but"...why on earth at this time and in this context would Donald Trump select such a person from such a company and with such a working relationship in Russia? Why, after promising to "drain the swamp", would he think that appointing the CEO of a company ranked No. 8 in lobbyists (2014) is a good idea?

I am against Rex Tillerson because his appointment raises doubt about the institutions of the United States in such a way that is extreme. Diversity matters of experience matters! Rex Tillerson does not have a diverse work history and even if he is the best diplomat on the planet, his CV and conflicts of interest radically undermine the very idea that we have checks and balances in our political system.

Without time to read Steve Coll's "Private Empire", you can listen to this 2012 interview on Fresh Air.

Friday, December 09, 2016

"Make America Safe Again", says President-elect Troll

"I almost unleashed my beautiful Twitter account against you, and I still may", said Donald Trump, according to Megan Kelly, when threatening her after she aired a story with Daily Beast reporter who defended articled about Trump's divorce, in which his first wife accuses Trump of rape in sworn testimony, later disavowed. Kelly also makes this clear.

I want to focus on the alleged threat by Trump. This is our future President. And I have been hearing very disturbing stories about this trend in which people (sometimes Trump) point to someone on twitter and all hell breaks out in their lives. Not all of these are linked to Trump, but if you haven't heard, get a taste...

David French, National Review.

Jeffrey Goldberg, The Atlantic.

Erick Erickson, founder of RedState.

And now this, yesterday, aimed at a Union leader, Chuck Jones, who was critical of Trump's recent deal with the Carrier company in Indian. Trump then tweeted and the man's phone started ringing.

Such a "beautiful Twitter account"!

Did Trump attack all these people? No.

But Kelly's accusation basically identifies the behaviour directly (i.e., he knows exactly what he's doing!) and yesterday's tweeting confirms that the President-elect is acting like a troll, or at least using his tweets to direct trolls in very, very disturbing ways.

This must stop! And by must stop, I have no naive expectations that it means trolling will stop. I mean the fucking President-elect must stop and condemn this and work to "Make America Safe Again", which means being able to criticise people without the fear of death and rape threats flooding a person's life and making them fear for the safety of their family and children.

There is much to be said about the Kelly interview on Fresh Air (really, listen to it), but the most important take away is connecting the dots. Troll behaviour is not fun and games and it requires Trump to stop acting like a troll.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

You Say Post-truth, I Say Truthiness

The year of post-truth, but I have to say that I agree with Stephen Colbert when he says he's says "'Post-Truth' Is Just A Rip-Off Of 'Truthiness'".
Almost everything that we encounter online is being presented to us by for-profit algorithms, and by us, post by post, tweet by tweet.
Ugh. I was just beginning to like twitter...

Friday, November 25, 2016

Glenn Beck?

I mean, what the hell is going on in this world?

He is "sorry about all that". What? I guess I want to trust that this is a person who has done serious damage to civil discourse is now actually recognising his mistake.

But then this interview last week with Scott Simon -- and the whole emphasis on Benghazi being a "game-changing moment" for people on the right -- seems silly. He suggests this made conservatives just as shocked after the 2012 election as liberals feel shocked today.

But why was it a game-changer? Perhaps because of the way media used it to sledge hammer away at credibility of the administration and Clinton. One can argue for years, literally, about this, but The Economist summed it up pretty well and as far as I know, that newspaper isn't a tool of any particular party. It highlights that there were mistakes, but nothing to validate the use of the tragedy as a political sledge hammer, Fox News. This gets at why I still don't believe Beck. If he can compare the post-election shocks without addressing Trump's on-going abuse of the findings around Benghazi, he still doesn't really understand my main problem with Trump (and Beck's previous life on Fox). From The Economist article:
Undaunted [by the final report findings], on June 23rd Mr Trump told NBC that Mr Stevens “was left helpless to die as Hillary Clinton soundly slept in her bed.” His interviewer, Lester Holt, pushed back, noting that there is no evidence that she was sleeping. “Excuse me, wait, it went on for a long period of time and she was asleep at the wheel, whether she was sleeping or not, who knows if she was sleeping,” Mr Trump replied. Mr Holt looked unimpressed. But Mr Trump does not care what media fact-checkers think. He has anger to stoke, and for that, crying “Benghazi” will continue to do very well.
That's the problem. Facts don't matter and Beck doesn't seem to take full responsibility for his role in that slide into a fact-free world.

That said, his voice in the NYT piece is one I tend to agree with these days, which is something I never thought I'd say.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Equal Opportunity Versus Equal Outcome?

We really need to get more disciplined with name-calling.

@09:56 in this thoughtful podcast -- What Kind of Conservative is Trump? -- there is a discussion about whether Republicans care about inequality, linked to David Remnick's essential reading from his interview with Obama in the New Yorker. The response by Matt Lewis paints a common and incorrect version two concepts. In the "menu of values", he describes a choice between equal opportunity (I assume he means his ideology) or equal outcome (I assume he means the other ideology).

I associate equal outcome with Soviet-style socialism, not the more common concept of an equal playing field.

This is relevant given a huge hang up in this election over Bernie Sanders being a "socialist" and the lingering association with Obama as something similar, as though the only concept of that word is a striving for equal outcome. I don't know any politicians who support the idea of equal outcome. No, Mr. Lewis (@11:52) I don't think a discussion of "fairness" would cause liberals to say that fairness "means everybody gets the same amount".

Yes, that's a small example, but one that really gets under my skin. And this is a New Yorker podcast! Let me not even mention what I hear come out of the mouths of other media outlets.

Here's another example from This American Life, an episode called Red State, Blue State that explored why it was so hard for opposing sides to talk to one another in the 2012 election between Obama and Romney. It feels quaint to hear it today.

The journalist, Lisa, is asking Ron about why he has a falling out with his friend, Frank, when he found out that Frank was voting for Obama.
Lisa Pollak: Frank recalls you calling him a Socialist. 
Ron Sexton: Absolutely. And I did, and I still believe it. When Frank takes umbrage at the fact that I called him a Socialist, what he doesn't understand or doesn't accept is that he is in love with a Socialist. This man that's in the White House is the most brilliant president we've ever had for Frank Mills and others like some of his friends. And Lisa, it offends me to hear that while we're going down the tubes. 
Lisa Pollak: He says his feelings were hurt. Why not just agree to disagree and put those differences aside? Why is that hard?
Ron Sexton: I would lay it on this-- the stakes are too high to consider it simply as agree to disagree. I don't agree to disagree. Frank needs to change his opinion because his view on the conduct of this society will kill it.
We have to tone it down.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Learning About Steve Bannon

I am not going to comment, but I encourage everyone to learn about Steve Bannon. Don't just read an article and don't just pick up the sound bites. Listen to and read longer pieces.

Here is the profile of Bannon from Bloomberg Politics in October.

Here is an interview with that author on Fresh Air.

For some post-election consideration, listen to the NPR weekly political podcast. Commentary with David Folkenflik on Bannon starts at 18:45.

From Russia, With Love And Conspiracy

Masha Gessen is reminding me why I was so interested in the Cold War in the first place. Two worlds believing different realities. Much to explore in her writings. For the moment, I want to capture a comment she made in this piece on The New Politics of Conspiracy.
Perhaps more than any previous election in history, this year’s contest has been dominated by charges of lying and mistruths on both sides, from the primaries to the general election. Our allegiance to a fact-based reality has been constantly challenged. But conspiracy theories work on a different level than mere lies. They lodge themselves in the mind by showing that something could be true without proving that it is true. They are therefore impossible to disprove: they cannot be fact-checked because their central tenets are conjectures rather than facts. Debates spawned by conspiracy theories become fruitless arguments about beliefs, and merely by having them, we gradually elevate these theories from assertion to assumption.
While he doesn't use the word "conspiracy", this piece, The Right Way to Resist Trump, by US-based Italian economist, Luigi Zingales, also makes very good sense to me. I wish he'd written this three months ago.

The focus on conspiracy, as Gessen argued, demands a fight with added conspiracy. I think this is where he'd like to keep our attention. Treating Trump and his allies like normal people and holding them to account for their unacceptable views are where we need to put our energies.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Resuscitating My Values

I think Tuesday was one of the worst days of my adult life. I assume many consider that a silly exaggeration. All I can say is that the negative wave of emotion overwhelmed me in a way that I never expected. Justified or not, it was anxiety about the future and the world that my children will inhabit.

I've been thinking a lot about how much the world would have been different had it never come to pass, but it's here and somehow, we have to keep going. All the values linked to the top 11 reasons I didn't vote for him are now in question. The question I have to ask myself is how I work to maintain my values when it seems the US electorate doesn't have the same priorities.

I want to re-start by going back to the quote I used to start this blog. It seems even more appropriate today than ever.
The main reason for the terrible cruelty between men today, apart from the absence of religion, is still the refined complexity of life which shields people from the consequences of their action. However cruel Attila, Genghis Khan and their followers may have been, the act of killing people personally, face to face, must have been unpleasant to them, and the consequences of the murder still more unpleasant: the wailing relatives and the presence of the corpses. And thus their cruelty was restrained. Nowadays we kill people through such a complex process of communication, and the consequences of our cruelty are so carefully removed and concealed from us, that there is no restraint on the bestiality of the action. The cruelty of some people towards others will continue to increase until it has reached unprecedented dimensions.
Now, let's get serious about the US President being advised by

Gwen Ifill

The passing of Gwen Ifill is blow and unexpected at a time when I think journalism is under attack. Her words on journalism in this 2014 commencement speech are worthy of reflection amid the current chaos.

"A flat spot on her head from trying to break down walls... "

She will be a very missed voice of calm in my life. Here is a beautiful tribute from her colleagues at PBS. I hope we can use her example and dedication to hearing others as a reminder in the days and months ahead.

Sunday, November 06, 2016

Post-Truth Anxiety

I still clearly remember that civics lesson where we debated the idea of yelling "Fire!" in a crowded theatre, and how that was linked to other aspects of free speech. I've been thinking about that a lot recently.

No matter what we vote in the US election, or in any other country for that matter, I hope people can agree with This American Life (essential listening here) and The Economist in their framing of "post-truth" as a factor in global politics. As Ira Glass explained in relation to some of Trump's lies:
[Trump's] lies are perplexing in their nakedness. Like, he knows lots of us know these are lies, but we're in some kind of new kind of universe where that is normal and that is OK and we will just accept that.
I won't accept that and hope everyone considers the weight of what comes next after Tuesday's election. The lack of trust in each other and in the media is the issue of this election. It is also what I blame for the fundamental lack of any discussion on policy or issues. Saying this election is about immigration (a wall versus open borders?) or the second amendment ("she's going to take away your second amendment rights", as if that has anything to do with reasonable gun regulation) or any other dumbed down issue from the debates -- it's silly. Nobody actually discusses data, they discuss feelings and instincts. That's alarming for anyone who cares about rationale debate.

It's pretty clear I blame one side more than the other for this, but both sides share guilt. And this fire will burn the whole house down. This was also in my mind when I thanked journalists a few days ago, so I was somewhat heartened to see this story come up yesterday on Fox's Bret Baier for his use of inflammatory language related to the "inditement" of Clinton. Maybe there is a sobering among the more activist news reporting? But then I looked more closely and watched his actual efforts to "clarify" what he said. In that clip you realise how far we have to go. His word soup epitomises what's wrong -- how on earth can any normal person weed through his "clarification" to see his point? He used irresponsible language that was false and unjustified. And his apology does nothing to douse the flames, only to admit he shouldn't have yelled "Fire!"...yet, but he's going to sit there waiting to yell it again any second. And so should everyone who watches him.

Friday, November 04, 2016

"America’s Best Hope"

The Economist votes (hypothetically).

I just thought this cover was a lot better and more fitting than today's.

Thank you, Journalists!

Let's pause for a moment.

I want to thank all responsible and hard-working journalists, especially those who have felt so attacked in this last year. You are not "disgusting people"! I know the majority of journalists work hard to understand complex problems and relay that information to people. It is a public service, a check and balance in our political systems and a profession that needs to be vigorously defended.

I do not like all the news you have reported, but I never want a journalist to tell me what I want to hear. I want you to stretch my brain and make me think. I want you to increase my empathy by showing me an angle that I wouldn't see otherwise.

The point of journalism is not meant to provide people with "truth", but rather to tell as story. We, the news consumers, make your job impossible when we think you have to be "objective" above all else. What I expect of you is to be as transparent as you can be and to listen for other ideas that you consider relevant to that story. Then it is my job to take what you give me ask myself questions or to look of other reporting on the same story.

Finally, a request to those who have felt attacked. Do not let this profession become a political weapon. We need your questions and we need your integrity, even with many question yours. Good journalism is like oxygen to the brain and we need a lot more of it.

Thank you for your work!

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

Another Sobering Reason To Vote For Clinton

As ever, I loved This American Life and the great reporting of Zoe Chace -- yes, you know their politics, but I can't think of anything on conservative media that is nearly as inquisitive and informative.

I've been thinking this for a year, but I couldn't say in any better than Rob Long, guest on the Ricochet podcast feature on this TAL episode when he tried to explain his reluctance to back Trump:
To me, it's more like, at any point, Trump could have chosen to be a big person. He could have chosen. He could have just sat there in Trump Tower and said, you know, I'm going to have a speech about how great Martin Luther King was, and how great America is, and how we all need to come together. I'm going to give a big-- someone write me a big speech. I don't know the words. You give me the words, but I want a big, big, big speech.
He could have done that. It would have cost him zero. He just chose each time the small route. And I just find that offensive. I just am offended by that. I think it's a great, great, great gift to run for president. It's a great gift to be an American. And for him to do that and to treat it that way, callously, that's wrong.
Chace's entire story on Minnesota in the TAL episode if really fascinating, but most noteworthy is her highlighting of the source of Trump's information from that insidious speech where he declared that he wanted a ban on a group because of their religion. Go check out the Center for Security Policy and ACT for America. You hear a name like Center for Security Policy we all assume it's just another think tank. Here is another opinion on Trump's source for making the American public think that 25% of the Muslim population agrees that violence against Americans is justified and 51% should have the choice of being governed according to Shariah laws.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Top 10 Reasons Not To Vote For Him

1. The inability, on a consistent basis, to talk in any detail about issues that will affect the entire world. No link needed for this first and most important reason.
2. The suggestion that he would kill the families of terrorists.
3. Threatening to assign a special prosecutor on Clinton if elected, as if that is the President's job.
4. Targeting Islam and Muslims, specifically all talk related to the impossible task of assessing people based on religion.
5. Mocking the disabled, which even Fox had difficulty trying to defend.
6. Insinuating that Ghazala Khan was not allowed to speak.
7. Linking a judge's ability to be impartial with his ethnicity.
8. The birther saga and eventual washing of his hands, stating that he "did a great job and a great service not only for the country, but even for the president, in getting him to produce his birth certificate".
9. "I wanted to hit some DNC speakers." Symbolic for me of all the middle-school level taunts and childish logic that has come out his mouth. This one hit home as I spend large parts of my life these days trying to explain why "we don't hit" to my 2 and 4-year-old. I must tell them that everyday, so my ears really perked up when this was his response to the political criticism in the Democratic convention.
10. And, or course, the suggestion that Mexico is sending rapists.

Sorry, I need to one more...

11. The tape on grabbing women without consent was bad, but to me it wasn't as bad as this response, in the midst of the controversy to let it slip that one of his accusers "wouldn't be his first choice". Unhinged!

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

The Satire Paradox

I've enjoyed all of Malcolm Gladwell's podcast, Revisionist History, but this one on The Satire Paradox seems particularly relevant now as we limp toward election day in the U.S., laughing at the comedy shows and waking up at night with anxiety as we seriously consider the reality of our political debates.

I am absolutely guilty of laughing my way through recent elections, but there is a need for serious reconsideration of how "entertaining" we've allowed politics to become. There is a great contrast between the U.S. humour and the Israeli show highlighted in the podcast called "Eretz Nehederet". Try Hope Kindergarden.

While I laughed at Stephen Colbert for years, I feel somewhat justified in that I always most valued hearing those people as themselves, explaining how they got in that position and where there motivation comes from. Here's Colbert being interviewed on Fresh Air in 2012 and then in 2005.

I learned a lot about Super PACs from Colbert. I wasn't the only one.

All this is relevant to me as we have a deadly serious divide and an urgent need for the non-satirical voices to fill some of the air space before and, most importantly, after the election.

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

How Is This Possible? -- The Redux

Looks like I am not the only one asking this question. Roger Cohen also asking the question today. I think the first response is most critical to me.
How is this possible? It is possible because spectacle and politics have merged and people no longer know fact from fiction or care about the distinction. It is possible because fear has entered people’s lives and that fear is easily manipulated. It is possible because technology has created anxiety-multipliers such as have never been known before. It is possible because America is a country living with the dim dissatisfaction of two wars without victory and the untold trillions spent on them. It is possible because a very large number of people want to give the finger to the elites who brought the crash of 2008 and rigged the global system and granted themselves impunity. It is possible because of growing inequality and existential dread, especially among the white losers from globalization who know minorities will be the majority in the United States by midcentury. It is possible because both major parties have abandoned the working class. It is possible because a lot of Americans feel the incumbent in the White House has undersold the United States, diminished its distinctive and exceptional nature, talked down its power, and so diluted its greatness and abdicated its responsibility for the well-being of the free world. It is possible because the identity politics embraced by urban, cosmopolitan liberals have provoked an inevitable backlash among those who think white lives matter, too. It is possible because Trump speaks to the basest but also some of the most ineradicable traits of human beings — their capacity for mob anger, their racist resentments, their cruelty, their lust, their search for scapegoats, their insecurities — and promises a miraculous makeover. It is possible because the Clinton family has been in the White House and cozy with the rich and close to the summit of a discredited political establishment for a quarter-century now and, to people who want change or bridle at dynastic privilege, that makes Hillary Clinton an unattractive candidate. It is possible because history demonstrates there is no limit to human folly or the dimensions of the disasters humanity can bring on itself.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

How Is This Possible?

Lots is happening. And by lots, even more than just having two kids. It's been hard to put down any thoughts and I don't like doing it on other social media. But it's time to re-engage.

Two big things happening are Brexit here in the UK (where I live) and elections in the US (where I am from). There are a lot of conversations for me these days that include the phase "How is this possible?", whether discussing the UK's pending departure from the EU or the 22.5% (today anyway) possibility of victory for Trump. For me, it's not that we have a 22.5% of Trump winning, it's that he's even there at all. Something big has happened and we haven't noticed.

I'd heard this podcast, Trends with Benefits, several years ago, but it stuck in my mind and reading some recent political commentary made me want to go and re-listen.
The number of Americans receiving federal disability payments has nearly doubled over the last 15 years. There are towns and counties around the nation where almost 1/4 of adults are on disability. Planet Money's Chana Joffe-Walt spent 6 months exploring the disability program, and emerges with a story of the U.S. economy quite different than the one we've been hearing.
I did re-listen and it is pretty amazing. I think it goes a long way to explaining a group of people who feel left out, angry and might vote without having too much too lose.

I'm not suggesting that an deliberate policy to push people off welfare and onto disability benefits that started with the Clinton administration during it's 1990s can explain the rise of Trump (and I am pretty sure it has nothing to do with why the UK voted for Brexit). But there are very interesting aspects about a changed economy and whole armies of people who are not prepared to work any more. Incentives have changed for a lot of people and, what I hear in a lot of the interviews, are people who don't see anyone doing anything about their problems. They rationally come to accept what they get.
And it's not a great income, about $13,000 a year. But if your alternative is a minimum wage job that will pay you $15,000 a year-- a job you may or may not be able to get, may or may not be able to keep, that probably won't be full time, and very likely will not include health insurance-- disability may be a better option.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Indesit Customer Disservice

What can a consumer do except let other consumers know?!

Do not by an Indesit product!

Over the New Year holiday, our refrigerator stopped cooling (just over two years old), ruining all foods in the appliance. We arranged an engineer visit for 22 Jan 2016. The engineer came and the paid invoice states: "Work done: adjusted thermostat and tested ok.... Faul Code: R3". No parts or major repair was made, i.e., he turned it on and off.

The unit stopped again prior to 6 April (we were not at the property until then and are unsure when it stopped and all food ruined again). A second visit was arranged 19 April 2016. An engineer came and did not have a part he said he needed, meaning an additional visit was needed.

That visit was scheduled for 04 May 2016. Each time this happens, I have to arrange for the engineer to enter the property through friends and neighbours. The engineer has my wife's number (on the booking reminder‏). Instead of calling that number, we got a note through the front door informing us that he had been unable to access the property. Had the engineer called the number (or looked on that back door used to enter the house as he did on 19 April), he'd have seen our neighbours number or we'd have called her, as she was standing by next door to let him in.

A chat with Kieran from Indesit confirmed that the following:

That's right, it was in the van. We just needed to arrange a new date. So simple, right?

That was supposed to be today. Despite a formal complaint, the best they could do was re-schedule another visit 19 May 2016. They did, ironically, kindly offer me "3 months of warranty free of charge and a Refrigerator Care Pack". In actuality, they sent a Washing Machine Care Pack. They also said:
Please rest assured that we do value your custom and will always aim to resolve any of your future issues as quickly and efficiently as possible.
This morning, my wife got up at 05:15 so as to catch a train and make the 09:28 – 12:28 visit slotted on the e-mail we got last night. Literally an hour before the visit, she got a call that there was no part in the engineers van, meaning that they’d have to order the part and the soonest they’d be able to return is 6 June.

I called Indesit this morning and told this story to someone who said they’d have a manager call me “in four hours”. Six hours later, I called back, told yet another operator this story – waited on hold for another 15 minutes. When he came back on, he flatly said that the only solution was to wait until 6 June since this required ordering a part.

I asked him if he considered this normal customer service, to which the poor guy said it was the best he could do.

Indeed. Buy another brand.