Before I get into this column, here's what's important today:
Now to my column.
In 1981, a chemical engineer named Jack Welch, was named CEO of General Electric. Despite the popularity of General Electric Theater, which an unemployed actor named Ronald Reagan began hosting in 1954 and would pronounce his ‘progress is our most important product’ for the last time in 1962, this storied company was about to go bust.
Homeowners just weren’t trooping into the local GE dealer any more to buy washing machines, dishwashers, refrigerators and all the other appliances which GE had been manufacturing since Thomas Edison began selling the incandescent light bulb in 1892. Now consumers went to the local big box discount store and bought household machinery made in China and Japan for half the GM price.
Welch didn’t just make a change here and a change there to boost GE’s annual revenues from $28 billion to $170 billion over his twenty-year tenure as CEO. He completely remade the company through massive layoffs, offshoring, outsourcing, buybacks, aggressive credit and leasing plans and acquisitions of any company whose revenues could add to GRE’s bottom line.
When Welch retired in 1981, he briefly worked for one of the 24-hour media news outfits, I think it was CNN but I’m not sure, where he appeared on the four-person panel whose members made the usual blab-blab-blab about that day’s news.
I don’t think Welch lasted a month. I watched his first show, and his comments were so unbelievably stupid that I felt embarrassed both for him as well as for the other panelists who sat here grimacing and rolling their eyes whenever Welch had something to say.
What this story about Welch demonstrates is that you can be an absolute genius in one area of business and be a complete and total dunce when you try something else. And I happen to believe that Elon Musk’s announcementthat Twitter may start requiring its users to pay a small ‘verification’ fee could certainly qualify Musk as another perfect Jack Welch clone today.
Because once you make your customers pay for access, no matter how you describe the imposition of a financial charge, you are basically saying that the internet is no longer ‘free,’ which goes against everything that has made the ‘information superhighway’ what it is today. When the internet first started and shifted from text-only emails to graphics and then video, the definition of ‘communication’ changed as well. In the olden days, to communicate beyond one person to another, you had to know how to read and write. But once words were replaced by pictures and images, communication became no more dependent on education and literacy than the way humans communicated by putting those paintings up on cave walls, which are now thousands of years old.
So, the internet became not so much an ‘open’ technology for reaching out, as it was considered a ‘free’ vehicle for spreading ideas, even if a user has to pay a monthly charge to a company which provides internet connectivity – I use AT&T.
Imposing some kind of feature which allows internet users to determine whether someone they are communicating with is the person he or she claims to be is nothing more than censorship under a different name.
If this is what Musk thinks will move Twitter from red into the black, he’s about as correct as Trump is correct about how he will win another term in 2024.
Frankly, they can both go f*ck themselves.