Uber Oozes Big-Guv-Luv-Big-Biz Cronyism

Martin Romjue
Posted on November 19, 2014
Emil Michael, senior vice president of business for Uber, in July. David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Emil Michael, senior vice president of business for Uber, in July. David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Emil Michael, senior vice president of business for Uber, in July. David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Emil Michael, senior vice president of business for Uber, in July. David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A slip-up remark from an Uber executive betrays the bullying mentality of a corporation whose mission statement should be: “Don’t let the truth stand in my way.”

Buzzfeed.com reported on the comments of Emil Michael, senior vice president of business for Uber, during a private dinner that included Arianna Huffington, Edward Norton and a BuzzFeed editor:

“Over dinner, he outlined the notion of spending ‘a million dollars’ to hire four top opposition researchers and four journalists. That team could, he said, help Uber fight back against the press — they’d look into ‘your personal lives, your families,’ and give the media a taste of its own medicine.

“Michael was particularly focused on one journalist, Sarah Lacy, the editor of the Silicon Valley website PandoDaily, a sometimes combative voice inside the industry. Lacy recently accused Uber of ‘sexism and misogyny.’ She wrote that she was deleting her Uber app after BuzzFeed News reported that Uber appeared to be working with a French escort service. ‘I don’t know how many more signals we need that the company simply doesn’t respect us or prioritize our safety,’ she wrote.

“At the dinner, Michael expressed outrage at Lacy’s column and said that women are far more likely to get assaulted by taxi drivers than Uber drivers. He said that he thought Lacy should be held ‘personally responsible’ for any woman who followed her lead in deleting Uber and was then sexually assaulted. Then he returned to the opposition research plan. Uber’s dirt-diggers, Michael said, could expose Lacy. They could, in particular, prove a particular and very specific claim about her personal life.”

You know a truth button has been pushed based on the intensity of disavowals, condemnations and back-pedaling:

Uber CEO Condemns Remarks

Uber CEO Mounts Charm Offensive

Say what? Uber CEO Travis Kalanick is morphing from frat boy to choir boy. But no matter how profuse an apology, hidden private comments uttered in a relaxed supposedly safe setting always betray true thoughts, sentiments and flaws.

Where would Emil Michael have picked up that thuggish impulse? Maybe from the Obama Administration, which has revealed its true pose toward a free press with its wiretapping tactics against former CBS News reporter Sharyl Attkisson, Fox News reporter James Rosen, and Associated Press reporters and editors. Has Michael been strategizing with new Uber consultant and former Obama cultist David Plouffe?

Or maybe he picked it up from the censorship mentality that permeates the Chinese Communist government, which seems to have a problem with Google, Hong Kong dissenters, religious minorities, or anyone else considered a nuisance.

Michael actually would have been onto something if an offending journalist were attacking Uber AND driving for Uber on the side, or investing in it and getting rich — now there would be a story! Nothing stirs the public indignation pot more than good ole’ hypocrisy.

Which is the real story about Kalanick and his cohort. This clique manipulates freedom while talking a good game about it. It has more in common with the likes of Goldman Sachs, the financial powerhouse in bed with government; the health insurers who were complicit in the Obamacare fiasco; and Enron executives who benefited from government connections.

Likewise, Uber never will champion fair deregulation. It is a self-interested, controlling venture more interested in rigging than regulation. Rig the system to avoid or bend the rules that apply to competing forms of ground transportation.

Instead of investing in “opposition research,” TNC time and money would be better spent on a program to: License every vehicle, insure them with commercial coverage, follow federal and state labor wage and independent contractor rules, and background check every driver. That’s what the limousine industry would agree is a legal, reputable way to run a transportation business. Then TNCs could compete however they wish.

We should remember that the real culprits in all of this TNC-related conflict are governments, state and local, who perpetuate a confusing, loophole-riddled regulatory morass that fuels conflict among TNCs, taxis and limos. Governments are bringing out the worst in everyone.

If the rules were fair and simple, or if there just weren’t many of them, we would see a genuine free market. And the TNC problems, along with the repressive impulses more suited to a Third World plutocracy, would disappear.

Related Topics: executive training, handling the media, limo tradeshows, public relations, TNCs, Travis Kalanick, Uber

Martin Romjue Editor
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