23 October 2011

In which I actually -gasp- defend the Obama campaign?

Well, sort of.
Atomic Nerds | LabRat | Bad-Breath Distance of Poe’s Law

So, to recap: In order to glitz up Obama’s message about supporting and creating jobs for Americans, Obama wishes some Americans to work for him for free with not even a guaranteed hope of so much as potentially in any way gaining future jobs from the non-job. That’s a messaging fail it takes some genuine talent in the field of arrogance and tone-deafness to achieve, it’s not a mundane fail.

The only way I can follow the campaign’s thought process here is that it genuinely has no idea that 2012 will be at all different than 2008.
This is, obviously, an enormous political misstep. And I think LabRat's diagnosis of the cause is right on. (Read the rest of the post if you haven't heard of this story before; I don't have the time to recap it now and LabRat does a great job of it.)

So, big ol' fail by the Obama campaign, right? Well, yeah, but — and I can't believe I'm about to type these words — I want to defend this. Obviously it is politically bad, from a "messaging" standpoint, or whatever you call it. But I don't think there's anything actually wrong with this program.

(1) Campaigns regularly ask people to volunteer distributing signs, making phone calls, etc. Often the only compensation, besides the warm-and-fuzzies I am told some people get from contributing to the moral clusterf### of electoral politics, is a chance to shake hands with — or even be in the same room with — the candidate.  Why not ask designers to contribute along similar lines?

(2) The campaign made an offer to designers: make a poster; you'll probably get nothing; but maybe you'll get a memento. If you don't like the deal, don't take it. If you do, do. It's between the campaign and anyone who wants to take them up on the offer, and no business of mine.

I would vastly prefer if Obama was willing to offer me the same courtesy to make employment offers on whatever terms I want. That will be a cold day in Hell arid summer in DC, but nonetheless, being the magnanimous man that I am, I am willing to refrain from judging any trades he wishes to offer to willing participants, no matter how ridiculous I find the terms.

(3) Yes, yes I see the irony in promoting a message about "creating jobs" in a way that doesn't create jobs. But there's a difference between national policy and individual action. What makes sense for the nation may not make sense for this organization in isolation. Hypocrisy has become the non plus ultra sin of American politics, and I don't think it should be.

Besides, this is hypocritical only on the superficial, most easily seen level. Let's say you think re-electing Obama will result in lots of job creation. (I don't have any clue why you would possibly think so, but let's assume you believe that in good faith.) Sacrificing a couple of design jobs now in order to secure many jobs in the future is a reasonable thing to do under this assumption set.

Again, I would vastly prefer if he took a moment when hectoring the rest of us about "good jobs" to acknowledge that different potential employers have different circumstances leading them to make different decisions about job creation, and those differing decisions are not ipso facto wrong.  But the problem with the contradiction between his actions and his rhetoric lies in his rhetoric, not his actions.

The way to resolve this hypocrisy isn't to discontinue this program (though that is exactly what will happen if indeed it has not already) but to stop bullying a heterogenous group of people with a heterogenous set of needs into making a homogenous set of hiring decisions that meet his personal opinions about what constitutes a "good job."


PS I've heard complaints about design contests before.  There are now companies devoted soliciting design proposals with only the winner(s) getting paid.  I believe Stack Overflow used one (99designs?) and caught some grief for it.  I've heard similar complaints about some newer stock-photo services which use a similar system.

I honestly don't understand the problem with these.  If you don't like the terms, don't participate. If it's acceptable to the buyer, and it's acceptable to the seller, then it's acceptable to me.

The objections seem to boil down to "but I'm a professional!" Good for you. If you can't execute your craft better than the amateurs lining up to submit to these contests, that's your problem. If you can execute, then you can also command higher prices or better terms.  You don't get to prevent competition from amateurs because it hurts your business or wounds your pride.  (Or because it exposes the fact that other people don't value your output as highly as you think they ought to.)

No comments:

Post a Comment