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Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Bezos the gattopardist

It's not surprising Bezos responded so sympathetically to the New York Times's takedown of Amazon, it's exactly the right move. It appears daring by suggesting employees read the story (which of course they're all going to do anyway), which seizes some of the initiative and story control. It goes all the way to agreeing with the most outraged reader, then offers an alternative story with its own attractive values, in the light of which the New York Times story is insignificant. Plus there's probably a dash of actually making changes internally and making the obvious change of appealing directly to employees to contact him about breaches of empathy, which he probably wasn't doing before!
And of course it has the benefit of being partially true, even if he's not quite so surprised as he's acting. He is also careful not to say any of those things didn't actually happen, just that they are not what he wants to characterize the experience of working there. so to an employee who feels that there is truth to the article, but also likes working there in many ways, it encourages them that the most negative aspects are being taken seriously. And it doesn't insult their intelligence or the word of other employees.
In Italy there's a marvelous vocabulary of political machinations, owing much to Machiavelli and a novel every educated Italian has read, The Leopard (talian: Il Gattopardo). One of the greatest of their political words is gattopardesco, meaning "gattopardism", which comes from a quote from the book. A young aristocrat is explaining to an older aristocrat that outright resistance to the popular outrage at the old regime is the wrong strategic move, and that they need to appear to champion the popular movement in order to prevent reforms that would actually erode their power:
"Se vogliamo che tutto rimanga come รจ, bisogna che tutto cambi", "if we want everything to remain as it is, everything needs to change".

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