Saturday, August 29, 2009

Inflammatory Writ

The story as I understand it goes like this. My friend J.B. worked at Barney's in LA. He started a Twitter account completely (he thought) unrelated to working at Barney's. He, like so many of us, started a Twitter account because it's what young people are doing to communicate, keep in touch, share information and what-not. He also, like so many of us, didn't consider for a moment his worklife in starting a Twitter account. Why would he?
I also understand that there is a television show called Hung which airs on the cable network of HBO (I wouldn't know. I choose not to pour crap into my eyes and ears.) One of the stars of that show is named Jane Adams. I'd never heard of the show or the actress until this morning and I think I was happier before.
Jane Adams and entourage went to Barney's and was served by J.B. Her agent paid the bill and did not leave a tip. J.B. wrote a quick joke on Twitter about Jane Adams stiffing him for his tip. Jane Adams, or her agent or someone, found J.B.'s tweet (Who hasn't indulged in the sick vanity of searching their own name online? Be careful what you search for.) and, if I'm getting the story right, Jane Adams came back and gave J.B. the tip (which J.B. also tweeted.) Then she went to Barneys, complained, and Barney's fired J.B. It's probably also worth mentioning that at no point did J.B. tweet the name of Barney's where he worked, so pretty much until they fired him their name was in no way attached to the debacle in the public sphere.
It is also worth mentioning that 1) I emphasize that J.B. wrote this on his personal Twitter with no visible connections to his job and 2) J.B has a newborn daughter to support.

I know J.B. He is an old friend of mine and a good man who works hard and is very talented. I cried during his beautiful final scene in a play we worked on in college. He has a family. He has a great smile. He is funny and warm and cares about the people around him.

So, the rant goes something like this. First of all you have the prima donna actress whose actions bring to mind grim memories of Day of the Locust and the French Revolution. Really this sort of celebrity pomposity (the self-Googling, the having "the help" fired) may have flown before this, the Second Great Depression, started, but we're talking about people's lives and livelihoods here. We are talking about a man who is trying to provide for his baby, and some actress on a hit television show throws a tantrum which gets him fired.
Then there's the television show which my wife described to me because she'd heard it described in an interview on the radio. Suddenly the decadent and masterbatory culture that surrounds Jane Adams made a lot more sense. The entitlement that would lead someone to behave in that manner was evident.
Second, you have Barney's which first of all fired a worker on the whim of some elitist. (There is also the freedom of speech issues which, if I didn't know J.B. personally and care about him, I would find to be the most disgusting part of this story.) To them people are so disposable and workers so desperate that businesses think they can micromanage into our private online life. But this just shows how archaic the thinking of the management at Barney's is. Either they are ignorant of or quick to forget the Iranian Election and the online outcry over CNN's lack of coverage thereof, the viral video for "United Breaks Guitars," and how we, the internet, are standing up as a people to take down Glen Beck. How dare you, Jane Adams! How dare you, Barney's! You've grown far too comfortable slopping the bourgeois troughs. On a whim you think you can fire people, ruin lives, take food from the mouths of hungry babies? How dare you! We will tell the world!
I would say that I will never watch another HBO television series although, to be honest, I could have said that yesterday or last week or last year. I am in no danger of ever seeing an HBO television series. I could also say that I will never patronize Barney's again due to their draconian policies toward their employees but, really, honestly, I'd never even heard of the place before this morning. I can honestly say that I will certainly patronize neither hereafter but, in truth, I probably wasn't going to anyway.
However, what I can do is this. I can get up in the public square and say that this shall not stand. We are not going to sit back and allow a world where the greedheads roll their cold, heartless tanks over our children. Our actions have consequences? Well, so do yours.
We can make this world whatever we choose. Spread the word.


  1. Sounds as if this Jane Adams is just trash. Pity your friend didn't use an anonymizing moniker for his twitter account. Yeah, I agree about HBO, Barney's, etc. We much prefer to make better use of our resources than to pour them down the swirly or to make toilets of our own eyes and ears.

  2. Placing oneself online makes one visible. Maybe not Highly Visible, but visible. Therefore I am careful who and what I write about which makes it difficult for sometimes you WANT to write about those whom you would hope never find you online. Caution and precaution is my general motto. (Are they the same????)
    P.S. Very, very sorry to hear about your friend's loss of job. And I snub my nose at the insensitive people who laid him off. I'd turn off HBO but we don't subscribe and I'd boycott Barney's except I don't have a clue as to what they even sell.

  3. Few corrections: Apparently there was no entourage, just the actress who on the first visit skipped out on the bill, then the agent came days later to pay the amount on the bill and stiffed the tip, then the "screaming drama queen and my friend getting fired" incident.

    You know, so often I hear stories of this sort of thing happening to someone, but really this is to the point of absurdity and cruelty. I could see if someone was badmouthing their employer online and trying to drive away customers. But clearly nothing at all like that was going on here.
    I wonder if it should matter as much as it does. I wonder if what we say in the public forum in our off-time, provided we aren't trashing our employer, should have any bearing on our employment. I think that it ought not.
    Along with that, yes, I think we do become highly visible when we get online. It's like speaking in a very crowded town square. But along with the dangers there is power and responsibility that comes with that power.

    Thanks, the support I've seen rallying around my friend has been very heartening.

  4. Unfortunately far to many people with "names" or think they have "Names" are also rude and arrogant and we the little people tend to let them get away with it. Like the jocks and stars who are on drugs or do illegal things and we just smile and give them a little tap on the hand and then wonder why the young of America think everyone owe them a living.

  5. A great book out a couple of years ago called The No Asshole Rule. Barney's owners/manager's need to read up on it. They should have fired the customer.

  6. Good policy. Nothing makes me want to flee a business quicker than a loudmouth jerk be they employee or customer.