A popular conspiracy theory has it that the SARS-CoV-2 virus was created in a Chinese laboratory.

This idea is, quite plainly, preposterous. The state of the art in genetic engineering is nowhere close to achieving something like this.

It isn’t a stretch to figure out that this finger-pointing exercise is being promoted by people who want to distract us from the obvious true source.

Which is? Check out these three UFO videos recently released by the Department of Defense.

The question we need to ask and answer is why the DoD chose this moment to release them. The answer is, I think, easily discerned. Without these videos, significant portions of the defense budget would be diverted to dealing with the immediate threat the virus poses.

But with these videos, the Pentagon can make a credible case for investing heavily in the advanced weaponry we’ll need to counter an alien attack.

Which is, of course, exactly what the aliens want us to do. Aliens advanced enough to traverse interstellar distances will easily tailor more viruses. The less we invest in pandemic response to instead develop weapons we’ll never have a chance to use, the more the aliens win.

Except that if this were really the Pentagon’s plan it would have released videos that aren’t so grainy and fuzzy. We need to think a few moves ahead to interpret the data.

The cui bono (who benefits?) method of analysis is useful for this analysis.

Who benefits? Zoom benefits! Maybe the virus was designed and produced in its secret laboratories. What, you never heard of these? That just proves they’re secret.

Who, after all, has benefited more than Zoom? Well, Amazon, maybe, but it didn’t need the virus. It’s been taking over the world just fine without it.

But because of social distancing, Zoom’s share price grew from around $70 when the virus first emerged to a recent peak of $170, and that’s in spite of sloppy security practices that otherwise might have caused InfoSec officers around the world to insist on a more hardened alternative.

But, you might object, surely Zoom lacked the financial resources to build and staff a virus engineering lab.

It’s a reasonable objection, but one that’s easily explained: Zoom had co-conspirators. Take, for example, Goody. As a purveyor of products that keep hair under control, Goody must be seeing a dramatic uptick in demand, as people of all genders, with their cutters shuttered, find themselves with too much hair, and in the wrong places.

No, I haven’t been driven to wear a man bun yet, but the handwriting is on the mirror. It’s only a matter of time.

Okay, enough. Fun is fun, but what’s the point?

In spite of their outsized impact on our political dialog, conspiracy theories are promulgated and promoted by only a small minority of our fellow citizens. They’re more loud and irritating than numerous.

What encourages conspiracy theories to thrive is, in contrast, quite common. That’s the desire, whenever anything goes wrong, to find someone or something … no, I was right the first time, to find someone to blame for it.

In our national political dialog the standard of blame is tribalism. Not that many years ago, the standard of blame in IT was Microsoft, and before that IBM.


Wrong subject. The right one?

Much of the workforce has transitioned to Remote status. In the short term the challenge was ensuring everyone has enough bandwidth and the right access to be productive.

By now, all but the tardiest adopters have made it this far. It’s time to prepare for Stage 2 of the transition to working remotely, which is social dysfunction.

Social distancing is making us safer. It is, however, also making us crabbier, and that’s true even for those of us whose current situation is more inconvenience than serious problem.

With everyone stressed we’re more likely to scrutinize for trivial defects and, having found them, to assign blame. And that’s when things go right. When they go wrong, blamestorming is the entire agenda.

We human beings have a very strong tendency to divide everyone in the world into two groups: Us and Them. We’re the Good Guys; They’re the Bad Guys.

As we increasingly work remotely, the population we each consider to be We will inevitably shrink.

At least it will shrink unless we each, as leaders, adopt active measures to circumvent it.

Because the desire to blame can and will easily overwhelm even the most solid sense of team identity.

Blame the aliens. The ones in the UFOs, that is.

We just finished watching The Borgias. It was, while entertaining, not particularly accurate history.

In the hierarchy of entertainment based on actual human beings, it wasn’t a true story. That would have meant everything depicted in it happened as depicted. Nor was it based on a true story, where the basics happened as shown, but with some plot points and character development enhanced for dramatic impact.

No, The Borgias was, like The Moral Hazard of Lime Daiquiris, the novel Dave Kaiser and I co-authored, inspired by a true story — neither its creators nor Dave and I let mere facts interfere with entertainment value.

It was, in a word, fiction.

But never mind all that. Instead, mind all this: During the time we were enjoying the show, I happened upon an old (2004) KJR that talked about servant leadership, and another that discussed the popular diagnosis of psychopathy among business leaders.

Which led me to wonder how servant and psychopathic leaders would have fared in early renaissance Italy.

My not particularly unpredictable guess: The psychopaths would have fit right in. The servant leaders? Not so much. Not only wouldn’t they have lived to a ripe old age, but in the Middle Ages they probably wouldn’t have lived to a ripe middle age.

Which, sadly, calls into question the whole notion of servant leaders. As Machiavelli (nicely depicted in The Borgias as the Florentine ambassador and Cesar Borgia’s occasional mentor) explained in The Prince, “Any man who tries to be good all the time is bound to come to ruin among the great number who are not good. Hence a prince who wants to keep his authority must learn how not to be good, and use that knowledge, or refrain from using it, as necessity requires.”

In Renaissance Italy this meant having no qualms about engaging in armed conquest and the occasional assassination. In the modern workplace, backstabbing is more often metaphorical, but, I suspect, no less frequent.

If your career is academic you might consider basing your thesis research on this question. The easy part: a survey that asks a random sampling of employees whether they’ve ever been backstabbed. I predict an arithmetic mean of 100% with an error bar of +/- 0.01%.

Just as easy: also asking whether they’ve ever engaged in backstabbing — for this I predict the mean will be below 5% (error bar of +/- 1.0%). If I’m remotely close that would mean five percent of the workforce routinely victimizes everyone else.

Except that what would really mean is that most of us, faced with anything less than adulation by our managers and peers, conclude we must have been victimized while those of us who receive adulation from our managers and peers figure it must be well deserved.

Which gets us back to how the Borgias behaved in The Borgias (sorta plot spoiler alert, but only in general). No matter who they tortured, killed, imprisoned, or inflicted other forms of mayhem on, they just couldn’t seem to figure out that they had so many enemies because they tortured, killed, imprisoned, and inflicted various forms of mayhem.

The Borgias might not be accurate history. But as a metaphorical account of how psychopathic business leaders think and respond, this is, in my experience, a not-unreasonable rendering.

Which leads to this: If you aspire to reach the executive ranks and want servant leadership to shape your actions, be prepared for disappointment.

Whatever else, you’ll have to research potential employers carefully and subtly, and especially consider the affiliations and histories of those on the board of directors. If you don’t like what you know about the companies they come from you probably won’t like the management culture of the organization they govern.

Usually, when discussing the role of fiction vs fact in developing a worldview, the KJR position is that you should rely on facts to make your decisions, with fiction being a useful way to illustrate your thinking.

But in the question of servant vs psychopathic leaders, it’s the idea that those with a servant-style temperament are likely to reach the top echelons of the organizational chart that’s fiction. The Borgias illustrates the point nicely; the Borgias and their enemies and allies demonstrate it.