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Bruce Bialosky

Big Brother Has Finally Arrived

Absence of Malice is a 1981 Sydney Pollack film starring Paul Newman that I recently rewatched. If you have not seen it — or have not recently — it is timeless. Newman’s character is accused of killing a union boss which he asserts he is innocent of the charge. Sally Field plays a reporter who writes a story “accusing him” of the crime. During one encounter, Newman says “I gotta know where that story came from. ‘Knowledgeable sources,’ you said. You write what they say and then you help them hide. You say you have a right to do that, and I got no right to know who they are.” Fields says “If they clear you. I’ll write about that too.” Newman replies. “What page?”

Matters have not changed much when it comes to the press except they now attribute most claims to “experts say” and we are supposed to drop to our knees and thank them. Yet this kind of behavior has spread throughout our society. You are aware of it – “it” is called cancel culture. People express something on social media, and they are harassed for being a bigot etc. etc. etc. We now have advanced past cancel culture as proceedings have gotten even worse and this needs to end.

My friend Mike is someone I have known for about 30 years. There are good people in your life and then there are people you are thankful for having in your life. Mike is one of those quality people that is a rare gem in our culture today. We have worked together on mortgage loans for years. He is someone I trust totally with my personal matters and those of my clients. He always does the right thing in all aspects of his life.

A few years back Mike decided to leave his job at a mortgage bank to move to Wells Fargo. He thought the banks had put a stranglehold on jumbo loans and he was on the outside looking in. He needed to be on the inside. He made a very successful transition. Everything was peachy until one day.

He was on his cell phone when he received another call. He put the person on hold and went to the second call. It quickly became clear what the person was calling about and Mike asked him, “Are you a headhunter?” The caller avoided the question and went on. Mike reminded him he was on another call and asked him again about being a headhunter. After the third request to determine if the caller was a recruiter, the recruiter stated, in an offended tone of voice “I guess you have more important things to do than speak with me” and he hung up the phone on Mike.

After the call ended, Mike saw he had the telephone number of the caller and texted him his thoughts about the person’s behavior. He invoked a word that is akin to a calling the person a less than worthy human. Mike did not use one of George Carlin’s seven dirty words. He was communicating in a text from his personal phone between two people.

The Caller complained to Mike’s boss. Mike’s boss spoke to him. The boss did not react to the Caller and let Mike know he had received the report. The vindictive Caller did not stop there, he went further in the organization. The next thing Mike knows he was fired. He was not given an opportunity to explain his actions.

This is a person who had a spotless record with the company. This is a person who had a private interaction. The person with whom he had the interaction was neither an employee, a customer nor a vendor of Wells Fargo. The communication did not appear in social media – not Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or TikTok. It was a private communication between one person and another. The Caller — who had been rude and invasive had now become — the Victim.

The news was stunning to say the least. Mike did not act as an employee of Wells Fargo. He was a private individual. This is no longer just an issue of “cancel culture.” We could have anticipated this. Now if you are an employee of a company, your comments to a random store clerk can jeopardize your job. If you do not like the job your auto mechanic has done, and you give him a “piece of your mind,” you can lose your job.

It is unclear where all this ends. I can tell you that I am extremely thankful I started my own business years ago and beholden to no one except the Beautiful Wife. We used to live in a free country where the freedom of speech meant freedom of speech. Soon every word you say will be under a microscope and Big Business will be cowering to every perceived offense.

Shame on you Wells Fargo.