The Circle of Friends, A&E, a Case Study, Part 1

The Japanese have a saying that every man is composed of four men.

First is the man who is known to the public-at-large; Second, the man who is known in his professional and social world, Third; the man who is known to his closest friends and family, his inner circle, and Fourth; the man who is known only unto himself.

If those four are in harmony, the Japanese call this Wa.

Think of these as circles and that we live in all four simultaneously. Most of us don’t really have a first circle, unless we are in the public eye. NSA doesn’t count. That is a circle belonging to well known names (company brands), celebrities, actors and artists, and their public, politicians and their “public.”  Kim Kardashian has a public. So does Billy Graham. People like Kardashian, Lohan, Cyrus, seemingly play their games entirely for their public, but in truth, even airheads are driven by some measure of pleasing, competing with, or tweaking their second and third circles. We can’t really know  which. It’s rarefied air, but not always fragrant.

So, it’s the second and third circles we know best, for in those two circles our reputations and our status among peers are found. This is the circle where we move about daily. The office. The shop. The paparazzi. But there’s also the rod and gun club, or the ladies flower auxiliary. It’s in this second circle where we compete to achieve financial success, position and power, but also to attain a high status among our peers as the best apple pie baker at the county fair. (Aunt Bee). We already know the worst bakers of truth in America are the media. Still they try for that blue ribbon, no different than Aunt Bee.

It’s in the third circle where we sit around and gloat and crow about our victories or complain about our various defeats, embarrassments or insecurities. It’s where Aunt Bee tells Andy how nice it was to finally beat Clara Edwards for that blue ribbon. With most of us, Circle 3 is our best friends and wives, drinking buddies, and maybe our priest, or at least some private confessor. It’s also where we share our best stories, especially gossip. Life is stories, and usually those with a victory or defeatt in them are the ones with legs.

More than a few emperors, seigneurs, and kings confessed to courtesans in this inner circle, (which beat priests by a wide mile) often giving those Mme di Burry’s great power that sometimes changed history. So, you can see why Circles Two and Three are the most interesting, and complex, for more often as not, they make history in ways  even the best historians can’t uncover. This is why the “why” part of history will always be 50% speculation, making modern historians, much like the “current events” value of so-called journalistic gossip, about as valuable to serious students of history as  stork behavior is to child birth.

Consider for instance, just how many powerful men in American in 1910 had wives who were suffragettes, and who relented on that hot-button political issue on that account alone. Cold eggs. Then consider how many of those strong women, finding profit in this particular weakness in men, dropped the whole marriage charade altogether, and, dropping the C out of WCTU, formed feminism so that now, the old haunts of those powerful men in New York are now ruled by a consortium of lesbians and castrated eunuchs.

This is how history often turns. Powerful men prefer to socialize with other wealthy men instead of their factory hands and families, where not only they, but their consorts share more than just Aunt Bee’s recipes. Gossip, novel ideas, pet projects and crusades. And competitions result… over more than sequined black strapless gowns. So every social event can produce an after action, where those new ideas or fads are run through a human mass spectrometer that may help in reshaping a company’s business model, its product line, its direction, it political affiliations and its brand, and maybe even its bottom line., all for good or ill, just to keep peace in the family. If trophy wives are involved, multiply what I just said by a factor of five.

For the working entrepreneur this is usually way too much variety for his or her tastes, still, it must be indulged, due to that circle within a circle. And those cold eggs.

This is why that Fourth and final Circle, Wa, Harmony, or its absence, is so important to an outcome. It is our sextant, a guiding light which brings equilibrium to all the competitions between and within the other circles. Or it can be what crashes us on the rocks. Either way, gangster or saint, Bonnie or Clyde, Tracy or Hepburn, it truly is known only unto ourselves. Our integrity, or lack of it, is housed here. So is our honor, self-respect, our ideals, our moral code, our hopes, dreams, as well as our greed, our avarice and petty hatreds, etc. This fourth circle is inseparable from our soul; it is the judge that decides how we will react to the daily conflicts within the other three circles. It is where we answer to ourselves alone, or to any Higher Power who may accompany us. Or not.

No matter how low-born or high-born, how educated or uneducated, rich or poor, these four circles exist in all of us to guide the decisions we make, and in the end, to determine how we will fare in the end.

There is a point to this, only it will take two parts to complete.

Where I want to lead you is in being able to have some understanding about the one question we have been asking for over five years, and that is “Why?” Why did John Roberts flip? Why doesn’t Charles Krauthammer publicly call Barack Obama a liar, a criminal, and call for his impeachment? Why doesn’t FoxNews repeat the same general things about the entire Democrat Party? Why won’t Roger Ayles let them? Why couldn’t Mitt Romney then? Why can’t he now? Whay can’t GW Bush now? Why didn’t Darrell Issa stand up and throw something, anything, a pen, a potted plant, anything easily at hand, at all the men and women who have testified before his committee and knowingly and blatantly lied? And on and on.

Why can’t anyone in the right circles yell “Liar!” out loud, except Joe Wilson?

In scanning  over the daily news I can’t think of a single day that has gone by I haven’t asked “Why” at least once or twice. Quiz: Why isn’t Eric Holder in jail? Answer: Because someone(s) has decided it is not worth his reputation to try and put him there? Question: Why? Answer: Because of some circle of friends.

That is almost always the answer. And is why we must consider this phenomenon called “the circle of friends” before answering it.

Each of these four circles represent a pecking order. Clearly, as the group gets smaller, it has a greater influence on the way we act in the world around us. Once upon a time an actor would pay his managers to keep his public (Circle #1) from ever knowing what everyone in his Circle #2 always knew about him; booze, cheating on his wife, drugs, etc. JFK got elected with just that sort of assistance, by never letting his public ever think the unthinkable about that suave, handsome man, when all the media and political insiders knew it. My sister still refuses to believe it. At one time, in the 50s, no one in Hollywood, friend or enemy, would have gone to Hedda Hopper with the latest episode of John Wayne being carried out of one of his favorite watering holes, or the time they let him sleep it off on the pool table. Nor would Hedda have printed it. That was only news “in the circle.” And good Lord, everybody knew about Rock Hudson, except his public.

Loyalties within circles were simpler then. And the media wasn’t inside them, but it’s own circle, orbiting outside. (More on that later, for the media isn’t the lone culprit here.)  Circles are more complicated now. Now they seem to carry all sorts of fine print and stresses. Even involuntariness and uninvited guests, as we recently witnessed during the public conflict between A&E and the Duck Dynasty-Robertson family. As you know, after ten days that seemed like ten months, and much media chatter, A&E totally surrendered, while making a face-saving announcement that an “agreement” of some sort had been reached. Everyone knows better. As I wrote last week, quoting Sun Tzu, “Supreme excellence consists of breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.”

Once suspended I assume Phil Robertson simply laid back in his easy chair, maybe went hunting, but did nothing to change A&E’s mind. He simply allowed the bed A&E made for itself to be slept in.

(You can learn nothing about this contretemps unless you understand two very important things; 1) at no time was A&E, the brand and corporate person, about to let go of this hundred-plus million dollar property called Duck Dynasty, and 2) the Robertsons had clearly stated they could live without it. Two entirely different world views had collided, probably because an A&E official, maybe more, two or three ranks below the custodians of that brand and bottom line had made a precipitous decision putting those millions at risk. A game of chicken? Who knows? But it was a roll of the dice no A&E executive could afford to toss. People who know business know this.)

Too dimwitted to see or understand this, media stories focused entirely on this sitzkreig  between A&E and the Robertsons and the homophobia sideshow, according to a template of quite frankly, one of those uninvited circles. The main conflict actually came exclusively from within A&E and “their” various circles of friends.

Analysis:  A&E is a company and a brand, a for-profit entertainment company. Entirely Circle 1, their top management had a bottom line and a name to protect. More than that, A&E answers to higher bosses as well (Disney), also for-profit. So A&E management were never as  entirely in-charge of this affair de coeur with the Robertsons as they have likely made themselves out to be among their circle of friends on the black-tie-and-champagne circuit. (My old CEO, $800M company at the time, spoke with his CEO boss, $3.5B, daily, which is routine.) As I just stated, with hundreds of millions of dollars at stake, and a measurable percentage of the company’s entire revenue and public persona at stake, there was never really any doubt how that part of the conflict with the Robertsons would turn out. Had the stakes been only a few hundred thousand dollars, a mess of crawfish, and the risk of losing a few thousand viewers, the sorts of decisions MSNBC or Piers Morgan over at CNN confronts almost weekly, the result would have been different. Then they would have cut the Robertsons loose without blinking, and let the PC-dogs over at GLAAD feed on their bones. Biznez.

So, the real existential events occurred within A&E and A&E alone, for A&E is also a group of individuals. And individuals with positions, salaries, houses, families, reputations, in other words, their own personal circles to protect, not just the corporate brand, which in every text on fiidcuiary responsibility, is their primary job to protect. For fun, let’s say ten of these A&E execs, VP’s most likely, are paid really handsome salaries, and enjoy the fruits of their positions to be able to rub elbows in several different prominent circles, including many shared by the same people who were most offended by Phil Robertson’s remarks; GLAAD, the LGBT coalition, not to mention several arts and croissant groups in Hollywood, New York and Washington, who may be both donors to those advocacy groups, and volunteers and sponsors. Maybe even cohabitants. (You never know how show people swing.) And each of those people have their own circles of friends, who also attend other black-tie and champagne functions.

It’s a complicated network, only not like the network of Hollywood in the 1950s, for unlike the 50s’ where privacy was the top concern, these modern networks seem to demand, as the price of admission, a relinquishment of privacy, or even freely-expressed thoughts, and that every member must publicly allocute his or her allegiance to the other members of the circle. These professions of faith are almost religious in nature, but also made under a type of social duress unlike the Hollywood of the 50s, In fact, contrary.

It is unnatural and I suspect also uncomfortable, for as we saw here with A&E, at the first sign of real stress, it fractured. As contrived and artificial a network of circles of friends I can’t imagine. I can’t help but think of the minefield of a circle Kim Jong-un’s uncle tried to walk through in North Korea…but failed.)

What to do? What to do? cries the A&E execs. It’s the inherent frailty of these artificial circles that makes me want to discuss A&E in this context, for there are many people in these extended circles who by one route or another have extorted their way into membership. Seriously, can you name even ten people who actually want to hang out with Jesse Jackson? It’s like three powerful businessmen at the Los Angeles Country Club being compelled to invite a homeless bum to join their foursome every Saturday lest their other business friends, who are compelled to do the same, think them socially insensitive, or worse, reactionary. Making for a rotten day of golf. (I remember in the mid-60s going to a golf course that was owned by the local Methodist college. On the first tee there was a sign that read “No cursing allowed.” Looking around at the almost empty course, my friend and I said. “Who would know?” Then remembering just Who really owned this golf course, we threw our clubs in the back of the car and went to Putt-Putt. No fun here.)

Unraveling this sort of network is important, for I am quite certain that several people over at A&E who either feared for their jobs, or maybe even lost them, but who also know business hardball, are not blaming Phil Robertson for having jerked that knot in their shorts. It was that damned circle of uninvited guests.

So, let’s look at it from the point of view of one A&E exec who may have made the near-fatal suspension. What exacerbates his existential situation could be 1) that he is gay himself and has real, not politically, shared beliefs with these groups. This presents a true conflict of allegiances, which can take  a man all the way into Circle Four to resolve…which incidentally the Robertson clan did instantaneously. Or 2) he has, in his various re-tellings of his corporate power while on the black-tie and champagne circuit, embellished his power or position, so given the impression he can actually kick more redneck butt than he ever really could (a common swagger among the kneepants generation especially, I’ve found)., thereby placing himself out there in a face-losing comeuppance if a conflict of interests occur, (This is common by the way.) Then enter the third circle of conflict, family, Circle 2.  If the A&E execs, collectively or individually, find they’ve walked into having to choose between losing the house, the Lexus, Lisa Jo’s ballet lessons, or losing face with a gang of anonymous snippy gays, it ain’t really a hard call.

But it is still a real downer, having to make these choice,…only they are less likely to blame the Robertsons than you think. And that’s what matters here for it is a fissure crack in the whole design of this system.

A Broken Design

What the Robertsons’ achieved won’t help us in our bigger battle against the Left, for rarely do we get to play the green (money) card in beating them. But what the Robertsons did cause to be revealed is the overall weakness of political correctness-advocacy groups such as GLAAD among the for-profit business circles in the entertainment industry. This signal has already gone out to the industry at large.

I can’t provide any hard rules except to point out that, as Robert De Niro, as Al Capone, said in the Untouchables. “They got nuttin’! Nuttin’!”

We have lived far too long under the illusion that these advocacy groups have great power, and that power is so strong they can shut anyone up.  The real victory of the Robertsons was in exposing the weakness of the coalition of these circles, for most corporate insiders in the entertainment industry have looked at this through the same eyes as the A&E execs I just described. And they will begin to distance themselves from sucking up to many advocacy circles on the black tie and champagne circuit They will view gay-advocacy groups, which are not in “the business,” as more complicit in their job security anxiety than a bunch of hayseed Christians in Louisiana..

Though you’ll never see it firsthand, know that this is occurring already. It is political advocacy, not the Robertsons, who have painted a scarlet letter on their foreheads.


Understanding the power of these real and superficial circles of friends should lead us to having a better understanding of “why” Charles Krauthammer can’t say certain things we most want to hear. It’s not just his circle of friends, but his sense of decorum for circles that are real, not contrived. Frederich Hayek sent Charles and all the others a warning about this before he died, which I’ll tell you about in part Two.

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