Being a global-scale asshole with no conscience or regard for human life isn't technically a requirement for running a major corporation, but it sure helps. While most companies will settle for screwing lots of people in little ways across many years, others simply say "Eh, what the hell" and go full supervillain in the name of profit. For example ...
At the turn of the 20th century, during America's creepy eugenics-loving phase, the state of Massachusetts opened Fernald State School, which was less of a school and more of a holding pen for children they deemed "idiots," "morons," or "imbeciles." Its residents / baby prisoners also included orphans and unwanted kids of normal intelligence, because someone had to do all the complicated manual work around there.
The architects smashed that "spooky torture camp for kids" look out of the park.
What does this have to do with Quaker Oats? We're getting there. In the '40s, conditions at Fernald were abysmal. Regular activities included beatings, sexual abuse, isolation, and forced labor. So when some nice men from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology showed up and offered select kids gifts like trips to baseball games and extra rations of breakfast just for being part of a "Science Club for Children," they jumped at the opportunity. Finally, they'd get to experience that fabled concept known as "fun."
What the kids didn't know was that the oatmeal in that breakfast was laced with radioactive iron and calcium tracers. The whole thing was in fact an experiment commissioned by the Quaker Oats Company to find out precisely how nutritious their product was compared to the competition (by tracking the iron in the kids' systems).
The warm, avuncular smile of a man who wants to feed children radiation and then watch what happens.
The levels of radiation used in the study were harmless, but the real scandal was Quaker's disregard for informed consent. No one asked these kids or their parents if they could be used as human guinea pigs. They didn't even bother to trick them into signing release forms by disguising them as letters to Mickey Mouse or something. Keep in mind that this happened after the Nuremberg Code was instituted to prevent these types of shenanigans (the experiments continued until at least 1957).
In the '90s, several dozen former Fernald pupils got together and filed a class-action suit against Quaker, MIT, and the government, which was quickly settled for $3 million. See? Everything turned out perfectly fine.
It's hard to be a drug company these days. So you pushed doctors to prescribe powerful painkillers, claiming they were safer than competing drugs. So they turned out to be addictive to the tune of kick-starting a national epidemic of opioid abuse which has killed at least 200,000 people so far. So they're so awful at their stated job that people would likely be better off without them. What now? We mean, how do you top that? Easy: You repeat the same thing, but in the rest of the world.
With sales in the U.S. failing due to those pesky "laws to prevent human suffering," drug companies like Purdue (of OxyContin fame) have turned the focus of their painkiller marketing abroad. They're using essentially the same damn strategy they did in the U.S.: paying doctors of sometimes dubious credentials to host seminars during which they push opioids as a safe way to manage pain. And it works. They're already turning good profits in China, a land that's no stranger to mass-scale opioid addiction.
"You guys were due for a relapse anyway."
There's another layer of evilness here, though. As it turns out, most of the world has the opposite of our problem. They're (literally) suffering from an opioid shortage. And those most impacted? Pregnant women, terminal cancer patients, and end-stage HIV/AIDS patients. These, however, are not the folks drug companies are interested in, since their pain is short-term and could be dealt with using generic morphine, which is way cheaper (read: less profitable) than fancy drugs like OxyContin. So the drug companies are instead chasing the middle class and upwardly mobile crowd suffering from chronic pain -- that is, people who can become long-term, faithful buyers. Say, what's another word for that?
In 2010, the Coca-Cola Company proved its deep sense of social responsibility by turning its attention to one of the worst problems ravaging America: restaurants losing revenue because too many people are saying "Just water, please" instead of "Gimme a Coke." Being its ever-woke self, the company decided to help. Thus was born Cap the Tap, a program billed in its official website as "a campaign to end water waste." Coca-Cola's own written materials, however, betray a somewhat less altruistic goal: to teach "crew members or wait staff suggestive selling techniques to convert requests for tap water into orders for revenue-generating beverages."
Emphasis on the revenue.
The program trains and incentivizes waiters to first push diet sodas, iced teas, and smoothies on customers, but if the obtuse bastards insist on drinking water, then it should at least be of the bottled type (like, oh, Coca-Cola's Dasani, for instance). What's so absurd about all of this is that a one-liter bottle of water takes more water to produce than it contains. Bottled water is also environmentally disastrous, sometimes worse for kids than tap water (which is better regulated and safer), and is in fact often tap water itself.
The NFL's present may look bleak, what with all the scandals and falling ratings, but hey, at least the future looks worse. Football isn't just losing its younger viewers at alarming rates; it's also losing its younger player. As in, little leaguers. Considering that these kids are both the league's most avid future viewership and the talent pool it's supposed to draw stars from, this is approximately the same as being punched in the groin with a porcupine while pooping a whole pineapple.
But as the saying goes, desperate times call for evil methods, and the NFL has taken that wisdom to the all-consuming black void where its heart should be. Recognizing the importance of the next generation to their financial future, the league has turned its attention saving the children ... from their moms.
See, a big reason the NFL is losing young players is that the (occasionally lethal) danger the sport poses to their children many has made many parents, especially moms, understandably reluctant to let kids join their local teams. This is unfortunate for the NFL, because their own research shows that 60 percent of their most devoted fans begin following football before elementary school, and the best way to catch them is to have them play the sport.
So to alleviate their mother's fears, the NFL has started running so-called "Moms Football Safety Clinics."
New York Jets
Pictured: A better O-line than what the Jets have.
The moms are put through drills and, more importantly, taught reassuring little tidbits like how football is safer than cycling or that the media only makes it seem like there's a lot of concussions in the sport. It's a shame that both those "facts" are patently false. They also downplay the risk of brain damage inherent to the game, or plain pretend there's no such thing, and straight-up emotionally blackmail moms by saying stuff like "I never wanted my kids to not chase their dreams because I was afraid of something." When you put it like that, how can one not send their child out there to potentially suffer severe brain damage or death?
Most of you are probably vaguely aware of Enron as being evil, even if the specifics have long since retired into anonymity on some Caribbean island paradise with prostitutes and a lifetime supply of rum. Suffice to say, they were pretty darn bad. Of course, not every rumor you hear about what happened in Enron is as bad as it sounds. Some are worse. For instance, in 2001, amid stories that Enron had intentionally caused blackouts so they could create more demand and raise energy prices, CEO Kenneth Lay indignantly assured the press those were nothing but "conspiracy theories." And then, two months later, a tape surfaced showing Enron intentionally causing blackouts for those exact reasons. 0:39 here is the most incriminating part:
In the tape, an Enron employee called Rich (or Dick) calls a power plant in Las Vegas and asks them to "get a little creative, and come up with a reason to go down." The guy on the other end agrees, like it's no biggie. This wasn't the only time they'd done this, but this instance is particularly bad because it happened during the California energy crisis, when the government ordered generators across the West to be directed to that state. Another tape from this period has employees laughing about "stealing" $1 million a day out of California and scamming old grandmas, only to segue into a conversation about TV and how "something's wrong with the country."
The end result? Enron made a sweet $1.6 billion in profits, and California Governor Gray Davis lost his job to the goddamn Terminator.
A decade ago, social media was a way to waste a few minutes doing stupid quizzes and stalking other people's beach photos. Today, it's how the majority of us get our news (and beach photos; some things never change). What you see when you log into Facebook can shape your mood, opinions, and even inspire you to become more or less politically active. And if you know anything about Facebook as a company, you know that's terrifying.
Remember the time Facebook copped to influencing people's emotions by highlighting positive or negative posts in their timelines? The more angry rants and bitchy dramas they make you see, the grumpier your own posts become. Well, that's not the only time they've done something like that. During the 2010 U.S. congressional elections, Facebook did another experiment wherein they basically tried to guilt random people into voting by showing them the profile photos of more civically responsible friends who already had. The results? After examining voter records, Facebook estimated that they influenced around 340,000 people to get off their asses and go to the polls.
Now, Facebook (probably) hasn't been using these semi-Jedi mind trick powers to, say, influence their users to vote for specific candidates ... but they have been taking money from other people doing just that. You might have heard about how they sold $100,000 worth of ads to Russian troll farms during the 2016 election, or how their algorithms consistently pushed fake news stories over real ones. And fake news, it's been well established, can have very real consequences, from mass panic to pizza-inspired terrorism.
Sure, there are other ways to deliver misleading or divisive news to people, but what sets Facebook apart is the fact that they know everything about you. All your "likes," quizzes, and comments are used to create "personality profile" which Facebook's advertising clients can access, which is how you end up seeing ridiculously specific ads like these:
Do underestimate someone who sees this and isn't immediately creeped the fuck out.
And the same way Facebook can narrow down your favorite ice cream flavor or Ninja Turtle, it can also determine your political inclination. Last year, Donald Trump's campaign used a company called Cambridge Analytica (which had also worked on the Brexit campaign) to target potential Clinton voters and show them information that might make them go "Eh, I'll sit this one out" on Election Day. At the same time, Facebook's advertising tools also allowed anyone to target people whose interests included things like "Jew Hater" or "Killing Muslims." A well-placed fake news article about Clinton hugging a rabbi while wearing a hijab could have easily translated into a whole bunch of extra votes against her.
As information like this comes to light, Facebook keeps saying they'll take steps to make sure these tools aren't abused (again). Hopefully they get their shit together before the 2020 election, because one of the guys who might run then is named Mark Zuckerberg, and he looks like a real piece of work.
Take a break from shitty corporations and social media with an outdoor furniture set that is bomb as hell, fire up your futuristic new outdoor grill and maybe setup a cat little cat house out there too. Got dogs? Well, I don't know. I think they're ok just laying on the ground, right?
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