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Do The Ethics and Politics of The People Who Make and Sell Your AV Gear Matter?

by Jerry Del Colliano July 25, 2021
Ethics of Audio

Ethics of Audio

1-BaywatchFor the first time and more than a year and a half, many Americans are looking to the future with a renewed optimism. Here in sunny Los Angeles County, we survived the worst COVID-19 week of the global pandemic, with hospitals at full capacity, vaccine demand far exceeding supply, and even, reportedly, our own variant. PPP was nearly impossible to come by, even for hospitals with global reputations and/or multi-billion-dollar backers. It was ugly.

But things are getting better. As I hammer into my retro Apple keyboard that I thankfully found NOS (new old stock) on eBay.com, just above 50 percent of Americans are fully vaccinated and that number increases every day. Trusted media outlets talk frequently about a return to a “Booming 20s” as we had 100 years ago, via a bounce back from a pandemic. And who could argue with them? Signs of inflation aren’t hard to find around these parts. In the sunny, beachside neighborhood where we live, which is famous for having the Baywatch headquarters (but without Hoff and Pam in skintight red swimsuits), there isn’t a house for sale under $2,500,000. Ouch. Gas at Sunset and Pacific Coast Highway (normally a suitable spot to fuel up at a “fair” price) is just a shade under $5.00 per gallon for self-serve. It might have been $3.50-ish during the heights of COVID-19. Our 28-year-old McMansion needs a new kitchen badly. I had been researching my options in February 2020, before COVID, when I was a little more flush with money from the sale of my old AV publications.

2-CabinetRefresh

I had the contractor, Cabinet Refresh, come out to re-bid on the project. Scott Viers, the owner and founder of the company, tells me that since we last spoke, the cost of a sheet of standard MDF plywood has increased from $32 per sheet to $90. My new bid reflects the new reality. The cost on the remaining Wolf and Sub-Zero appliances is still to be determined, because I can’t bring myself to call the distributor. I mean, who am I kidding? I would be lucky to even get my hands on the appliances due to supply chain shortages. Money is “cheap” if you are willing to borrow it. The housing market is on fire and I am looking for a deal on my new kitchen? Good luck, Jerry. Good luck.

3-Qanon-Shamen

4-Atlanta-Truist-ParkWhile my overall outlook about the future of the world is much more rosy than it was this past fall, especially after an American president got on stage and incited an armed insurrection of the U.S. Capitol building, resulting in numerous deaths and many more casualties (the worst to our collective and oldest-in-the-world democracy). What I have been thinking about is the purpose-built divide in this country and what we can do about it on a personal level. One underrated tool that we all possess, no matter which side of the aisle you side with, is the power of the economic ballot. When the GOP decided it was in their best interests to keep people from voting on Sundays after church, or using absentee ballots, or even to get a bottle of water to drink while waiting in line to vote, major companies all around the nation, led by many in Georgia like Home Depot and Delta Airlines, clarified that such partisan attacks on voters are unacceptable, and that there would be consequences. Controversially, Major League Baseball pulled the upcoming All-Star Game from Atlanta and their gorgeous new field, thus punishing the state financially for their grossly anti-democratic acts. Good for them for making a statement, but what can you do as an AV enthusiast?

One argument to be made is that, if you simply don’t care who makes your AV gear and what their beliefs or ethics are, you can reasonably do nothing. If your top goal is to eke the most value out of your system on your personal budget, without regard for making a political statement, I will not shame you for not being “Audiophile Woke.” You have priorities with audio and video at the top of the list.

Personally, I choose to spend my money with a conscience, but I warn you it isn’t as easy as it sounds. Let me give you some personal examples with public stories:

5-Popeyes-Chicken-Sandwich

  • Chick-Fil-A: (easy to avoid) This fast-food chain is well known to have been anti-LGBTQ religious zealots, and my view of religion is that there is no room for hate like that. Pressure from people who don’t want hate in their chicken has forced the company to stop donating to such hateful charities as USAToday.com has archived. For me, it is a little soon for forgiveness, but I will consider it someday. My bigger issues are that:

     a) I am fat enough that I don’t need a chicken sandwich and

     b) Popeye’s is better.

6-Dreamliner-787

  • Boeing, Raytheon etc: (Hard to avoid, mid-level) Can you say Luftfahrtforschungsanstalt? Without the intellectual property that the United States could swipe from Germany after WWII, could our economy have been the world leader in aerospace and defense? I doubt it. But can I say that I refuse to fly on a Boeing plane because of it or that I object to us building a drone or missile system with what we learned? Not really. Do you see how this can get less than black-and-white?
7-VWBeetle
  • Porsche: (worthy of thought, mid-level) I have owned three of the last air-cooled Porsche cars (a 1995 C2, a 1997 C4S and a 1997 Twin Turbo) and, when I bought it, I didn’t think about politics and history. If I did, it is hard to argue who Ferdinand Porsche designed the VW Beetle for back in the day as “the People’s Car”. Is the company different today? Yes, I think they are, and I’d likely buy another Porsche under the right circumstances.
  • Facebook: (Getting Trickier) Let me be clear: I have my issues with Mark Zuckerberg. I think he is a gutless billionaire who is stealing our data and selling it to our enemies for their political gain and his stock’s ongoing financial gain. Have I canceled my Facebook account? Not yet, but I’ve thought about it. The problem is: Facebook is one of the elite best sources for “programmatic marketing” which allows me to specifically target people who I want to sell things to with surgical precision and cost-effectiveness. That’s hard to walk away from. On a more basic level, my new work team communicates on Facebook Messenger, thus I can’t be on the platform, although I sure as hell don’t like it. I’ve thought of suggesting a move to Slack, but I am the noob, and where do I get off suggesting change this early on?

These buy-it or don’t-buy-it decisions get difficult in audio/video, too, perhaps in ways that you didn’t or don’t know. Here are some examples for you to consider with your audiophile and videophile budgets (and no, I am not naming company names… not even if you beg).

  • Would you buy ungodly expensive audiophile cables from somebody that goes full Trump package to publicly make fun of people with autism and COVID-19 on Facebook?
  • Would you support an audiophile company that took PPP loans the same COVID-19 month that the CEO bought a new 6-figure sports car?
  • Would you buy an amp from a beloved AV company that might have “borrowed” some intellectual property about said amps from a major, multi-billion-dollar, well-known industry leader?
  • Would you buy audiophile speakers from a company that publicly takes a high moral position, but has high-up executives who are adulterers on staff?
  • Is it OK for an audiophile company to paint speakers in a conservative state of the country in ways that would never meet state standards for environmental protection in your state?
  • Would you buy a subwoofer from someone who owned a loosely defined patent that was well-protected by a local judge friend?
  • Would you buy a pair of wireless headphones or an all-in-one speaker from a company that sues over trademark infringement at every possible chance, because they know that they can win because they have more billions of dollars?
  • Would you buy AV cables from a company that encourages the specialty AV media to drive their fleet of exotic cars before going to a fully hosted sporting event?
  • Would you buy a pair of speakers or a top-performing AV receiver from a big electronics conglomerate that supports giving instruments and lessons to kids in schools in the United States who can’t afford a music program, because their schools are so poorly funded?

These are all real-world examples of products that you could vote on with your economic ballot, but they all require consideration. My advice is to be mindful but not a mental case about these often tricky issues. Folks, there is such a thing as being too woke, just as there are countless examples of right-wing or left-wing hate that trickles into our AV. It is likely impossible to build out your system and knowing every skeleton in the closet at every AV manufacturer. At the same time, being mindful of supporting those companies that aspire to or actually meet the ethical standards that you set for yourself? This is all part of the journey.

 

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Recent Forum Posts:

Kwa posts on August 24, 2021 07:11
My responses:


  • Would you buy ungodly expensive audiophile cables from somebody that goes full Trump package to publicly make fun of people with autism and COVID-19 on Facebook?
  • A: Full Trump don’t mind ; making fun of people with disabilities no ; expensive audio cables never
  • Would you support an audiophile company that took PPP loans the same COVID-19 month that the CEO bought a new 6-figure sports car? A: Don’t care
  • Would you buy an amp from a beloved AV company that might have “borrowed” some intellectual property about said amps from a major, multi-billion-dollar, well-known industry leader? A: “Borrowed” based on whose definition?
  • Would you buy audiophile speakers from a company that publicly takes a high moral position, but has high-up executives who are adulterers on staff? A: if you mean woke self righteous virtue signaling hypocrites - don’t like them - so no
  • Is it OK for an audiophile company to paint speakers in a conservative state of the country in ways that would never meet state standards for environmental protection in your state? A: I think if you are ok buying Chinese products when equivalent US products are available you have to be ok with this one else you are a hypocrite
  • Would you buy a subwoofer from someone who owned a loosely defined patent that was well-protected by a local judge friend? A: I don’t get the question
  • Would you buy a pair of wireless headphones or an all-in-one speaker from a company that sues over trademark infringement at every possible chance, because they know that they can win because they have more billions of dollars? A: if I am correctly guessing the company the answer is no
  • Would you buy AV cables from a company that encourages the specialty AV media to drive their fleet of exotic cars before going to a fully hosted sporting event? A: Sure if they are of good quality and reasonably priced.
  • Would you buy a pair of speakers or a top-performing AV receiver from a big electronics conglomerate that supports giving instruments and lessons to kids in schools in the United States who can’t afford a music program, because their schools are so poorly funded? A: who wouldnt buy from a company like this if they sell products of good quality for the money - I would pay a bit more for equivalent product from a good company
Edigstunes posts on August 08, 2021 22:31
Revealing to see who believes they are the arbiter of “ethics”, but I don't come here for biased political viewpoints, so I just ignore articles like this one.
Ajarjay posts on August 01, 2021 21:54
I’m happy to see you discussing the topic. Honestly, I’m the past I had pegged the editors of some of these articles as pretty staunch conservatives. When you assume….

I was delighted to see this article and know that some of your authors are more politically nuanced.

End of the day, right and wrong matter, and voting with dollars works, but it can oftentimes be an issue of diminishing returns. To that end, I think it’s good sometimes, but simply isn’t something you can do all the time. With Chik-fil-a, I wonder about the franchisees that just want to run a good local restaurant. With Coke, I wonder what percent of their employees do not agree with the decision of their management regarding voter rights. Ultimately, I try to stand for, and incentivize, goodness and kindness. I don’t use Facebook, I don’t do my pillow, and I don’t do hobby lobby, but I honestly don’t know the political and moral basis of many large companies, and I think the can be nuanced and complicated, therefore, it isn’t always straightforward. Nevertheless, I was happy to read your article and think we should try to do our collective best.

-Best wishes
Stevemilleresq posts on July 31, 2021 08:36
Hey, Jerry glad to see you back in print, and if anything no one can argue that you're inconsistent In your views or hesitation in publishing them. Hope to see more of your writing.
bladerunner6 posts on July 31, 2021 07:45
highfigh, post: 1496040, member: 36433
Some have no choice because of a lack of money or because they drove all of the other small businesses out. I hate the latter reason. It's like the business version of ‘Bambi Meets Godzilla’-

It takes a minute, but you'll see my point.


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Thanks for posting- I have been a fan of Bambi versus Godzilla for decades.

I realize some people have no choice because there are no other options where they live or there are no other options where they live that are affordable. I respect those people making those decisions.
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