Monday, 3 September 2012

Pay attention at the back: Michael Green has something to say

Meet Michael Green. He's written the 'must-read guide to bouncing back from recession to growth'. I don't know who said that, because there's no quote attribution, but I strongly suspect it was Michael Green, because - as will become clear - attribution is somewhat tricky with 'Michael Green'.

In case you're not good with metaphors, there's an illustration to go with 'Michael Green's' text:



It's a fascinating book - breezily (and illiterately) written with a healthy dose of distrust for 'The Experts' and a rock-solid faith that 'There Is Daylight Ahead', 'a penny saved is a penny earned', and that you should 'Make Lemonade From Lemons'. It's a mix of very familiar clich├ęs, Alan Sugar-style bluster and Alcoholics Anonymous positive thinking ('Decide To Recover'). Then it veers into a kind of Internet Scamming for Dummies. 

The origins and extent of the recession take up all of two pages (no complicated or subtle economic theory needed here), and the perpetrators appear to be 'foreigners', quickly followed by 'the government', which is firmly in the 'Experts' (always within scare quotes) camp. And anyway, the recession has been good for us all - it's just that our moaning means we can't see the benefits to us as well as to the '1%':


Get up off your arse and MAKE MONEY! And in case you're worried that all those around you are suffering, GET A LIFE. Out comes the classic Tory/Samuel Smiles line: 'Be as good to you as you can - do not sacrifice yourself for everyone else's comfort all the time'. Because FTSE CEO's definitely didn't take a 43% pay rise the year after the crash. No sir. 

Anyway, Bouncing Back continues in this platitudinous vein for 34 pages. Why am I delighting you with the insights of 'Michael Green'? Well, it's because he's got form. Firstly, 'Michael Green' runs a company called TrafficPaymaster, which will sell you software to fool Google's algorithms to up traffic to websites and therefore increase advertising revenues. You know the kind: you Google something, hit a promising link only to discover that it's a random accretion of other people's work scraped together to drive ads for more protuberant genitalia and so on. It's not, to put it mildly, a classy way to make a living. The word 'spiv' springs to mind. But it is the kind of 'get rich quick' scheme beloved of people who'll try to sell a book advising you to make lemonade from life's lemons. How quick? Well, 'Michael Green' told his marks customers that they could
"make $20,000 in 20 days guaranteed or your money back" – if they spent $200 buying his bespoke software.
even though Google has some strong words for this kind of parasitic behaviour:
Its AdSense policy says: "Sometimes we come across sites that are using software to generate automated content. These sites might look like normal news sites, but the information is completely plagiarised. Scraping content and passing it off as one's own is not only wrong, but it also happens to be a serious violation of our policies."
But you're probably still wondering why I'm devoting space and time to the seedy spivvery of some no0mark internet scamster. The truth is that 'Michael Green' doesn't exist. He's a pseudonym for one Grant Shapps. That's Grant Shapps MP. Grant Shapps, Minister of State for Housing in the UK Government. The Grant Shapps who is tipped for promotion in tomorrow's Cabinet reshuffle. 

It's funny, I grant you. It reinforces all my previous prejudices about the kind of shady types who become Tories, and about Mr Shapps in particular. But it's also profoundly depressing. In public, Shapps makes speeches about investment, and the 'real economy', and innovation - all the usual buzz-words. But with his secret identities - several, adopted, he claims, to keep his business and political lives separate, and I can see why - he abandons the public good, society, 'all in it together' and tells the suckers who listen to him that the real way to prosper is to abandon everyone else, forget making or designing things, and simply pull off a scam

Sadly, 'Michael Green' hasn't entirely managed to prevent his shady and dishonest tactics from crossing the barrier between his brain and Grant Shapps'. Anyone perusing @GrantShapps might notice that for a busy MP and Minister, he follows an awful lot of people - over 24,000, with roughly 55,000 followers. That's a lot of reading even for a Twitter obsessive such as myself. And that's not all: busy Grant follows and unfollows about 300 people a day, presumable while he's on his tea break. It is of course entirely coincidental that his (now technically his wife's) company recommended an app called TweetAdder for the purposes for getting a 'BIG' following by, er, automated mass following and unfollowing. 

As he's a government minister, he's presumed to be amongst the best 25 or so brains in the combined parties' ranks. Now that's a scary thought. 

So far we've had David Laws fiddling his expenses. Jeremy Hunt hides between trees and secretly promotes the interests of Rupert Murdoch over the public good, Michael Gove using his wife's email address to hide his dodgy and partisan dealings in the education sphere (in an attempt to evade the Freedom of Information Act), and Liam Fox forced to resign after he failed to make any distinction between his friends' arms-dealing and intelligence businesses, sinister military-industrial pressure groups and his responsibilities as a government minister. 

This isn't just a matter of competence or political differences: the recurrence of very similar cases in which government ministers are found operating in the grey areas legally and morally suggests that after only two years, this government is rotten. It can't seem to find a minister able to elevate the public interest over and above his own pursuit of money, power or influence. At the top, of course, is a prime minister incapable of making the right kinds of value judgements. No wonder we're in a mess. 

1 comment:

Ewarwoowar said...

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