Friday, April 12, 2019

"And The Winner..."

I wrote a post recently, based on a newspaper article I read about Elizabeth Holmes who developed a machine that could test for illnesses, analyzing a single drop of blood.  The machine didn’t work, though Holmes firmly insisted it did, building a 9 billion-dollar business bankrolled by others, believing she was right.

A week later, I read another article on the same subject and decided to write about it as well.  Well not really about it.  No, yeah, about it.  Though not the same “it” the article’s writer’s specifically talking about.

The second article focused less on Elizabeth Holmes, the “con artist”…

Wait.  Lemme talk about that first.

I put “con artist” in quotes because that’s what the article’s writer, columnist Mary McNamara, brands her.  McNamara equates Elizabeth Holmes with Bernie Madoff.  I think that’s not right.    

Consider the difference:

BERNIE MADOFF:  “I’m going to bilk people out of millions of dollars.”  

ELIZABETH HOLMES:  “This isn’t about money.  I’m offering a revolution in health care.”

There is a distinction, although both schemes involve elements of lying and deceit.  Bernie Madoff didn’t invent the “Ponzi Scheme.”  Ponzi did.  (Otherwise, it’s the “Madoff Scheme.”) Following the tried and false “Ponzi Scheme” template, Madoff went in with a clear intention to defraud.

In my view, Elizabeth Holmes did not consciously set out to scam anyone.  Instead of a “con artist”, I would rank her in the category of (possibly deranged) “True Believer”, offering an inspiring but deeply flawed faith.

Jim Jones, without the Kool-Aid.

Moving on…

Eschewing the “con artist”, McNamara’s primary focus lies elsewhere. 


“How come we are so willing to be hoodwinked?”  (My quote.)

“Why are we desperate for rescuing heroes?”  (My quote.)
“{Why} after all the scandals and messy falls, {do} we still need to create larger-than-life characters who look good on magazine covers when there are so many normal-size people doing actual good work?”  (Her quote.  With syntactical adjustments.)

Point taken.  Though despite our misguided priorities, is there really a market of stories about “normal-size people doing actual good work”?

McNamara goes on.

Concerning Wall Street Journal reporter John Carreyrou who decided to explore the Elizabeth Holmes phenomenon and the machine that seemed too good to be true…

“…by the time his {Carreyrou’s) book came out last year, Holmes’ story was fueling every media trend going:  two documentaries… a podcast; a possible feature film starring Oscar winner (Jennifer Lawrence) and approximately 375 millions stories, blog posts, memes, satiric videos and late-night jokes.”

That’s a big number.  I wonder who counted them?

“I lost my place.  Damn, I have to do it again!


My point is not about hungry audiences drawn to “meteoric rise” and “calamitous fall” stories.

It’s about stories themselves.

And how stories, like the gambler betting “Red” and “Black” at the roulette table,

… can’t lose.

“Up” or “down.”

There is always a story.

(As long as that “Up” or that “Down” is sufficiently extreme.)

Does that bother anyone else? 

That no matter what, there is always a story?

My mind runs to the “Cub Reporter” of yesteryear, sent to grab lurid snapshots of grieving widows or bloodstained bodies, their “Tableaus of Tragedy” accompanying screaming headlines.

Not to get “lofty” or anything, but stories are like capitalism.

Runaway trains…

Just doing their thing.

Coming in all shapes and sizes.

“Unscrutinized rises.”

“Magnificent downfalls.”

“Maybe we should look in the mirror” newspaper columns.

Oh yeah,

And this.

I didn’t need to write this.

Why did I?

Because it’s a story.

Who knows?

Maybe, like Elizabeth Holmes,

I thought it would change the world.

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