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Tuesday, January 26, 2016 

36 Quotes From Davos That Prove How Fucking Shallow Our Leaders Are.

And so to Davos, the highly agreeable Swiss resort where every January the great and good gather at the World Economic Forum to discuss Uganda, hit the slopes and in their downtime, submit bromides and clich├ęs to the hacks tasked with following them.  The ostensible theme of this year's junket was The Fourth Industrial Revolution, each word capitalised just in case any of you should doubt that the arrival of the Internet Of Things, Automation and 3D Printing really does herald a fourth industrial revolution.  Instead of say, exacerbating inequality, with skilled middle earners the next in line to discover themselves out of a job while the top 10% carry on accumulating more and more wealth.

Still, it won't do to be cynical when in the presence of so many masters of the universe, leaders of men and the occasional actor/musician/philanthropist hopefully invited along to make the aforementioned despise themselves even more.  Besides, how could you be when what we really need to do, in the words of one of our foremost innovators and style icons is


It's not clear whether those are will.i.am's optimism goggles, or if he's instead been sold an old pair of NHS glasses of the kind I wore back in the 90s by an enterprising sort who knows a sucker when he sees one.  Either way, you have to suspect that worn by anyone else the goggles would do nothing, for will.i.am is without doubt one of life's natural optimists.  How else could you go through life knowing that you had any sort of involvement with the Black Eyed Peas, let alone wrote songs like Shut Up, My Humps or I Gotta Feeling?  As Mark Kermode said of Guy Ritchie, regardless of the terrible things most of us have done, we can wake up in the morning and reassure ourselves that at least we didn't direct Revolver.  Ritchie can't, and nor can will.i.am repudiate Boom Boom Pow.

Will.i.am you can't help but assume was invited along in the spirit of Dinner for Schmucks, where a dinner guest imagines they've made it but has in fact been asked to attend so they can be mercifully mocked for being, err, a schmuck.  To quote Kermode again, it's plain that we in fact are the schmucks here, but will.i.am is a veritable Oscar Wilde compared to most of the other speakers at Davos, with the WEF helpfully providing us with the "36 best quotes" from the summit in easily consumable Buzzfeed-style image form.  5 individuals are judged to have captured the zeitgeist well enough to appear twice, with Christine Lagarde, head of the IMF, Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook, Marc R. Beinoff, Sharan Burrow and new Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau clearly the most likely to inspire the next generation of politicians and business leaders.  And with Sandberg expressing thoughts like these, who could possibly disagree?

It's not clear whether this is a barely guarded shot across the bows of Mark Zuckerberg from his direct underling, and it's almost certainly not a reference to how Zuckerberg Zuckerberged the Winklevosses and Divya Narenda, but it is of a piece with how Sandberg has marketed herself as this great spokesperson for women, a role which the broadsheets have fallen for completely.  Facebook itself often gets a much freer pass from the press than say, either Google or Amazon, despite being just as rapacious, just as indulgent of libertarians as the rest of Silicon Valley, and just as resistant to paying tax.  Compared to her other quote mind, it's a penetrating insight:

Considering this can be disproved by reading almost any Facebook thread, it makes you wonder just how often Sandberg spends on her own site.

Then again, Davos would not appear to be the place to go should you want to hear anything other than the consensus, at least until it stops being the consensus and it becomes clear There Is No Alternative to whatever the new consensus is.  Hence


which even by Cameron's usual standards is top draw meaningless bullshit.  What is competitiveness?  How do you "hardwire" it into the EU?  Does he believe or understand any of the words coming out of his mouth?  Exactly how banal and dreary must the rest of the summit have been for this to be chosen as one of the top quotes?


And as we also know, you can't hug your children with nuclear arms.

It's best to leave the last words to Benjamin Netanyahu, as his is one of the few quotes that genuinely does mean something:

Most people would argue that the exact opposite is the case, that one of the keys to tackling extremism is offering an alternative, providing hope where there seems to be none, presenting a future where what and who you are no longer affect your chances in life.  Netanyahu though means precisely what he says: he and Likud rely on despair prevailing indefinitely, that the "wild fantasy" of a viable Palestinian state is impossible to realise thanks to the policies he pursues, and which the international community continues to wring its hands over.  Even at a crap talking festival, the Israeli prime minister is far too fatheaded to do anything other than say what he means.

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I pity the person who had to watch all of those speeches, multiple times probably, to find something, anything, that could be extracted to use as a 'best quote'

The Netanyahu one is actually quite chilling when I think about it in context (and how loosely the word 'extremist' can be defined).

I was nodding along to the Netanyahu quote until I realised that he meant the exact, precise opposite of what I thought he was saying.

"You can't drop bombs on hopes and dreams. So you need to find other ways of destroying them."

Cheers, Bibi.

I think the Netanyahu quote misses off the end where he says "...And that's why I practice asymmetrical warfare".

I really don't know what to think about these quotes. Are these people genuinely deluded, do they really believe that this is cutting edge insight? Is this just PR to make people think that these political and business leaders actually care about us plebs? Is this what happens when politics drinks the TED talk Kool Aid?

I have the suspicion that Cameron meant competitiveness in the sense of UK companies being up for more EU contracts, or at least a desire for TTIP to get ratified. Or does he want to spread the turning of community against community through austerity and demonisation that he and his government seem so in favour of all through mainland Europe?

I'm also finding it harder and harder to be sympathetic to the idea how more women in business or in politics would change things for the better. Yep, because Carly Fiorina at HP did so well, and Harriet Green at Thomas Cook really brought her female sensibility to the boardroom! Thinking about it, Christine Lagarde while French Finance minister was allegedly so helpful to Bernard Tapie, so there is that famous female caring coming through there. Gender is no obstacle to being inept, or incompetent, or merciless or just outright criminal.

To me, the disconnect really is astounding.

If anything, Davos for a lot of these people is about salving their consciences: yes, the majority who attend are free-marketers who spout on about how there has to be less red tape and more innovation, but there's also a few like Joseph Stiglitz who are serious about tackling inequality, so they feel by just being in the same space as them and hearing them talk that they've done their listening for the year.

Then they head back home and announce the deal they reached with Google on tax.

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