This morning, the ordinarily coherent and insightful Barry Ritholtz featured a letter from $GM supplier Gregory Knox in reply to the $GM mother ship’s request for “support” and “urgent action” on $GM’s behalf from its fiefdom. What they got back from Mr. Knox was urgent, but hardly supportive: a double-barrel castor-oil rant, scattered as can be and just as self-righteous as the first, against the “entitlement mentality”, the “world’s most overpaid, arrogant, ignorant, and laziest entitlement-minded ‘laborers'” and their “atrocities”, against “our new ‘messiah’, Pres-elect Obama”, against “the rest of the world” and their anti-capitalist bias, and pretty much everything in between.

Mr. Knox asserts that $GM has made its own grave, and I have seen nothing in my decades in this country to doubt that. It’s pretty obvious, and has been for a long while, that it’s a company that executes poorly at many levels, outgamed from time immemorial by its more business-savvy competition. As for its most imminent demise, there is somewhere a Madoff parallel to draw: only when the inflows slowed down did the veil come off the failure entirely.

The problem with Knox’s letter is equally grave, however, founded as it is on absolute certainty–his own–about a point of view he cannot articulate coherently–also his. Rather than convince anyone of anything, he spews an illogical and ill-reasoned set of misaligned beliefs that must add up to an argument because, well, he says they do. His sanctimonious tone (“Don’t even think about telling me I’m wrong. Don’t accuse me of not knowing of what I speak.”) cannot hide the fact that he cannot argue, because he cannot make a case. His writing cannot be wrong, because it demonstrates an incapacity to understand what it would take to be right. He hardly knows what he’s talking about, because he’s not talking about anything. Which is precisely why he asks his reader not to accuse him of not knowing what he’s talking about.

I do not dispute for a moment that laziness, sloth, and greed have run rampant in American industry and the American dream, but the deeper problem is that we’re a bunch of undereducated jackasses, and now that the inflow has slowed, we can’t hide it any more. Global Dominance and the Power of Success have kept us safe in our beliefs, and those beliefs are now failing right alongside the dominance and the success, just as we try to fall back on them as salve to the wounds we inflicted on ourselves by believing in our beliefs instead of fucking learning something.

So Mr. Knox jumps up and down on paper, rolls up Detroit, $GM, the Obama Jesus (who, apparently, was elected to perpetuate sloth’s atrocities), the bank bailout, productivity, free-market capitalism, parenting, and failed parenting in one happy glob of amalgamated rhetorical gibberish–please do read the whole thing, as an outstanding Goofus to useful writing’s Gallant–and closes by saying

Sorry – don’t cut my head off, I’m just the messenger sharing with you the “bad news”. I hope you take it to heart.

Oh, Mr. Knox, I have taken that bad news to heart. But you are mistaken: You are no mere messenger, unless that letter wrote itself. Because it is bad, bad news. $GM will be sold off for parts and change, while you will go on believing yourself to be the angel Gabriel a-trumpeting bedrock truth from on high, despite the fact that you offer us twelve hundred words of goop. No thinking, no clarity, no insight, just a bunch of words shuffled together from the loudmouth deck of punditry that now passes for thinking in this country, turning it up to 11 day after day. Cable news will be in touch.

We have a deep thinking problem, in both senses, far deeper than our economic woes. Sure, the economy collapsed, but as we seek to rebuild we are being outthought, and firing off idiotic rants all the while. We cannot take responsibility for it, because we cannot see it, because we cannot think outside our own beliefs. The first responsibility of an education is to understand the value of replacing belief with knowledge, prejudice with appreciation of complexity.

Business is neither an intellectual nor a rhetorical pursuit, of course. But we are not going to hack our way out of this crisis with a bunch of pieces of our minds. Especially angry, clumsy, lumpy, dribbling bits like this one, still circulating at least 6 months after it should have yellowed and flaked away in Gregory Knox’s outbox.

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