Trump and the risks of narcissistic leadership

Professor Mark Stein discusses how Donald Trump shows signs of being a narcissistic leader – and why people have good reason to be concerned.

In 2013 I published a paper about the risks and problems of the narcissistic leadership of a New York based billionaire businessman. The paper happened to focus on Dick Fuld, but in 2016 it may well have focused on another New York based billionaire businessman, Donald Trump. Lehman Brothers’ Headquarters, where Dick Fuld was Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, was after all just a stone’s throw from Trump Tower.

Trump has all the characteristics of a narcissistic leader, and all the warning signs are present: we have good reason to be concerned. One key feature of the narcissistic leader is hubris, an exaggerated sense of one’s own value and worth. Trump emblazons buildings, aeroplanes and golf courses with his own name; regularly speaks about how he has ‘good genes’; and talks of how uniquely talented and clever he is.

 

Other key characteristics are the narcissists’ over-inflated view of their own power and knowledge, something Trump is often prone to remind us of. Trump talks of how he will re-shape the balance of global power, redressing the way, as he puts it, America has been ‘raped’ by other countries. This suggests that, aside from a large degree of naivety, he has omnipotent delusions about his capacity to exert influence, and an over-inflated view of his ability to understand and shape global politics.

 

Narcissistic leaders also tend to be contemptuous of others who they see as inferior to them. Trump’s now notorious suggestion that he has the right to sexually assault young women because he is a ‘celebrity’; his shocking mimicry of a disabled reporter on live television; and his branding of Mexicans as rapists and drug-dealers; are some of the ways in which he shows contempt for others, many of whom will be the very citizens he will act as President on behalf of.

 

An inclination for vengeance is yet another feature of the narcissist, one which also has deeply worrying consequences. Trump’s working up his supporters into a frenzied excitement about Hillary Clinton’s emails, shouting ‘lock her up’; as well as his threats to prosecute any woman who accused him of sexual assault etc., all speak of a deeply ingrained need for revenge.

 

The delusional nature of Trump’s narcissism and his excessive view of his own power and knowledge are laid bare by the fact that – somewhat ironically – he made his name by presiding over the American television version of ‘The Apprentice’: Trump has served no apprenticeship whatsoever for the post of he is about to assume, with every one of the previous 44 US Presidents having served in senior positions in government or in the military or both, where Trump has held no such position. This speaks of an extraordinary sense of grandiosity, of a failure to learn and develop, leaving Trump to feel that he can assume a position – the most powerful in the world – without any obvious preparation for the post.

 

Worryingly, while they may manage adequately when times are good, narcissistic leaders tend to deteriorate rapidly when there is a downturn. Indeed, the central argument of my paper is that narcissistic leaders may be ‘incubating’ problems that only become manifest at a later stage because such leaders become persecuted, and often highly vengeful, when the going gets tough. Put differently, the over-confidence of narcissistic leaders is often just a mask that is used to protect them against deep vulnerability; and being vulnerable or ‘thin-skinned’, they tend to react sharply, vengefully and sometimes brutally when times are difficult, and this may only become manifest at some later point in their career.

 

Given that Trump will be working closely with many Republicans who have made it clear that they have a visceral dislike for him; that he will have to work alongside global leaders who are profoundly dismayed and in deep shock about him and his approach; that he seeks to dismantle the very foundations of post-war US governmental policy, both domestic and international; and that he has no obvious skill or experience to be doing this job; the ‘going’ looks not just ‘tough’ but tumultuous and extraordinarily difficult, and for that reason Trump’s reaction is likely to be highly problematic. Because of these character issues, whatever our political views, we should have deep concerns about a Trump presidency.

Originally published at http://staffblogs.le.ac.uk/management/

Glam Rock Socialism

The music writer Simon Reynolds has a new book out, Shock and Awe: Glam Rock and its legacy, from the Seventies to the Twenty-First Century. To coincide with it’s publication, he wrote an article in the Guardian with the headline, Is Politics the New Glam Rock? Funnily enough my fellow Free Association writers and I wrote our own article a few years back, proposing Ziggy Stardust as a potential model for the kind of political leader that could fit into a libertarian socialist politics. Despite starting from a similar move, thinking political leadership through the terms of Glam Rock, Reynolds’s conclusion couldn’t be more different. He holds Donald Trump up as his example of a politician in the Glam Rock style and that’s certainly not what we had in mind. Of course, pop culture is ambiguous and contradictory by nature, that goes doubly so for Glam, still it’s interesting that those ambiguities can be worked out in such different directions.

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There’s three parts to Reynolds’s case for Trump as Glam stomper. He begins by arguing:

Trump’s appeal is generally seen in terms of his doom-laden imagery of a weakened, rudderless America. But there is something else going on too: an admiring projection towards a swaggering figure who revels in his wealth, free to do and say whatever he wants. Trump is an aspirational figure as much as a mouthpiece for resentment and rancour.

This idea of projection is vital in understanding the relationship between fan and icon, or follower and leader. It describes the way icons act as screens upon which fans project their own desires. The most successful icons come to stand in for particular social fantasies, which can tell us much about contemporary society. So what fantasy does Trump represent? I think its the fantasy of a sociopathic version of freedom.

Adam Kotsko argues, in his book Why Do We Love Sociopaths?, that the overwhelming popularity of sociopaths in contemporary TV, from Tony Soprano to Jack Bauer to contestants on The Apprentice, reveals an obscured social fantasy of what it would means to be free. The hypothesis is:

that the sociopaths we watch on TV allow us to indulge in a kind of thought experiment, based on the question: ‘what if I really and truly did not give a fuck about anyone?’ And the answer they provide? ‘Then I would be powerful and free.’

Doesn’t this reflect part of Trump’s attraction for many Americans? His lack of human empathy, backed up by his money, frees him from the rules and bounds of human decency within which the rest of us are trapped.

If Trump represents a sociopathic aspiration, then it’s his glitzy vulgarity that links him to Glam. To this Reynolds adds a secondary charge of shared megalomania.

Trump and the glam rockers share an obsession with fame and a ruthless drive to conquer and devour the world’s attention. Trump actually plays “We Are the Champions” by Queen (a band aligned with glam in its early days) at his rallies, because its triumphalist refrain – ‘no time for losers’ – crystallises his economic Darwinist worldview.

While all icons and leaders want attention some want it in order to further a cause. Tump and the Glam Rockers are accused of wanting attention for attention’s sake. Which leads us to the final characteristic with which Reynolds ties Trump to Glam, his inconsistency.

Bowie conjured up new personas to stay one step ahead of pop’s fickle fluctuations and keep himself creatively stimulated. With no fixed political principles, Trump’s only consistency is salesmanship and showmanship: the ability to stage his public life as a drama.

Of course, the ambiguous play between authenticity and artifice is central to the attraction of pop culture and Glam Rock pushes this to the extreme. But it’s here that Reynolds undercooks his analysis in the Guardian article. He has to play down Glam’s artifice in order to link it to Trump. In Shock and Awe, on the other hand, he goes much further and reveals aspects of Glam that lead away from a Glam Rock Trump.

Glam rock drew attention to itself as fake. Glam performers were despotic, dominating the audience (as all true showbiz entertainers do). But the also engaged in a kind of mocking self-deconstruction of their own personae and poses, sending up the absurdity of performance… Glam idols… espoused the notion that the figure who appeared onstage or on record wasn’t a real person but a constructed persona, one that didn’t necessarily have any correlation with a performer’s actual self or how they were in everyday life.

Trump’s inconsistency is lazy and insouciant; it’s very different to Glam Rock reinvention. I get no sense that there’s a real, more nuanced Trump hiding beneath the mask. He is Trump all the way down; an empty vessel built of immaturity and insecurity all packaged up with a sociopathic sheen. Such emptiness can actually be an asset for an icon, making it less likely that people’s projected desires will be contradicted.

By contrast, Reynolds holds up Jeremy Corbyn as, “the real anti-glam leader of our age… viscerally opposed to – and fundamentally incapable of – political theatre”. Corbyn’s shtick is sincerity. As Gary Young perceptively argues, Corbyn’s supporters don’t come to his rallies “to be entertained” but “to have a basic sense of decency reflected back to them through their politics.” It’s an approach that builds on the Left’s desire to be seen as decent and honest but in some ways it plays into the prejudices of the seething mass of ressentiments coursing through British society. I worry that Corbyn represents the fantasy of historical consolation, his decency says ‘we may lose in the here and now but history will prove us right in the end.’

Another strategy presents itself when we look at how Reynolds positions Glam Rock historically in Shock and Awe. He sees it as a transitionary moment in the move away from a countercultural structure of feeling. “Abrasive honesty and an appeal to ‘reality’ and the ‘natural’ were the most formidable weapons in the counterculture armoury”, says Reynolds. Glam is cast as a reactionary move that emerges when that armoury becomes exhausted. “It was a retreat from the political and collective hopes of the sixties into a fantasy trip of individualised escape through stardom.”

Our own position is very different. We live in a world in which individualised escapism is firmly in the driving seat, celebrity is routine and banal, and the idea of a counterculture seems impossibly remote. But at the same time the coordinates of change are flickering back into life. In many countries young people are shifting Left, while active social movements are animating some of the stars of pop and sport; Beyonce’s performance at Superbowl 50, for instance, or Colin Kaepernick’s refusal to stand for the national anthem. In these circumstance perhaps Glam could act once again as a model for a transitional moment but this time in the opposite direction, helping us move from individualised escapism to collective engagement.

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That would be a strategy of pushing through Glam rather than withdrawing from it. Embracing the openly constructed nature of Glam icons, with their “mocking self-deconstruction of their own personae and poses” to create the kind of radically de-mystifying model of a political leader we suggested in Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide.

It was precisely the explicit otherworldly inauthenticity of Ziggy Stardust – a supposed emissary through which alien visitors were speaking – that made him such an effective transferential figure. Whereas [Johnny] Rotten’s persona could be mistaken for the actual person of John Lydon, this was less the case with Ziggy. Yet many wanted to adopt the persona because it showed them a way forward: they used it to change themselves and to recognise others who were doing the same. Moreover, it was the suicide of the character, with Bowie killing it off and adopting a new one, which forced the audience to recognise the mechanism of transference. Unlike the final Sex Pistols gig, this transformation didn’t treat the fans as imbecilic subjects of a swindle. Instead it revealed Ziggy Stardust as a shared contrivance through which both star and audience were transforming themselves. Of course even this is not enough for us. The trick is to do away with the star while retaining the character.

It’s unclear what this strategy would look like practice. Perhaps we could start by reconceptualising our figureheads as comets rather than stars, after all they don’t generate their own illumination but are brought into visibility by the active social forces moving through them. To go further we could draw on our long history of collective pseudonyms, such as Captain Swing and Ned Ludd, who became points of unity despite being enacted by different individuals. Then there are the multi-user names experimented with in the 1980s and 1990s, of which Luther Blissett is the most famous. This in turn led to the invention of San Precario, the patron saint of precarious workers, a figurehead for the common condition of workers who don’t share a common workplace. In a similar vein we find the precarious superheroes who hoped to spark a kind of psychic defence by pointing out where the really heroic endeavours are to be found in contemporary society. We might even find it in pop music, with the rebirth of past icons within the problems of the present, or even the future. Which ever way it works out Glam Rock Socialism needs icons that counteract the sociopathic myth that we don’t need other people. They need to be icons that undo themselves, revealing the charisma of collective intelligence beneath the myth of individual genius.

The post Glam Rock Socialism appeared first on freely associating.

Originally published at http://freelyassociating.org/

The future will only contain what we put into it now

Fredric Jameson described one of the impasses of postmodern culture as the inability ‘to focus our own present, as though we have become incapable of achieving aesthetic representations of our own current experience.’ The past keeps coming back because the present cannot be remembered.

Mark Fisher: Ghosts of My Life: Writings on Depression, Hauntology and Lost Futures

It’s hard to find traction these days. Just when you think you’ve got a handle on things, they slip out of your grasp or melt away to nothing. So it’s easier to cling to the past. Safer, too. If you want an aesthetic representation of our own current experience, perhaps you can find it in Bake-Off, Brexit or the latest reboot from Hollywood.

The fact that the past keeps coming back seems to be part of the post-modern condition, the sense that the present is somehow broken or inaccessible. As such, it’s inescapably bound up with the logic of advanced capitalism. Neoliberal principles are being relentlessly applied to the field of art and culture, asset-stripping recent history for bite-sized chunks that can be sold back to us. It’s a vicious circle because this then feeds into a cynical (half-assed) subjectivity which is quick to embrace lazy, cut-price nostalgia – like those never-ending “Do you remember Spangles and Spacehoppers?” TV shows. This is culture as comfort-food, an oppressive regurgitation of the same pap masquerading as something different. It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that we’re running on the spot, fiddling while Rome burns.

But just as there’s more than one past to excavate, there’s also a different sort of looking back. Sometimes you need to reflect precisely in order to go forward. We’ve been raking over the bones of our own dead – writing about 1980s anarcho-punk for a new collection by Minor Compositions as a way of writing about the political impasse of 2016.

Like punk, anarcho-punk had a conflicted relationship with the past. While it liked to position itself as a rupture, a break with all that had gone before, there was also a clear continuity with many aspects of 1960s counterculture – something which Crass would make explicit later on. In The Kids Was Just Crass we argue that whatever the claims of any pop-cultural revolution, there can be no wiping out of the past, no Year Zero. Instead, “moments of excess open up the future precisely by reconfiguring the past, unclogging history and opening up new lines of continuity”.

Perhaps there are now other lines of continuity to explore. Anarcho-punk emerged some 35 years ago under conditions which seem eerily familiar – a rampant Tory government, a deepening economic depression, a grassroots Labour left under attack from its own party, a groundswell of racism fuelled by fears over immigration, etc – all played out against a backdrop of impending global apocalypse. The word ‘crisis’ loomed large then, just as it does now. Crisis? Yeah, sometimes it feels like we’re always living through a crisis – if not a crisis of the state, then a crisis of the economy, or a crisis of movement. But in the early 1980s it definitely felt like we were living at the fag-end of an era. And in retrospect that’s exactly how it turned out. There’s something similar about 2016, a sense that our world has been interrupted, put on hold.

In the years following the defeat of the Paris Commune, Stephane Mallarmé defined the era as inert time, a period when “a present is lacking.” That also seems fitting today: the present cannot be remembered because it barely exists. It’s hardly surprising that the past keeps coming back to haunt us as we try to work out how to step into the future.

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The post The future will only contain what we put into it now appeared first on freely associating.

Originally published at http://freelyassociating.org/

Zombie ads

A little while ago, I did some empirical research on outdoor advertising. We travelled round Nottingham photographing every outdoor ad we came across. One thing which we noticed when collecting the data was that many outdoor ads are out of date.

Time and time again we saw adverts for movie’s which opened months before and special offers that had ran out. I’ve been thinking about these and I think the best way to describe them is zombie ads. My guess is that outdoor media owners have some low value inventory where it simply doesn’t make sense to remove ads but people don’t want to use the space that much. So once they’ve put ads up, they get left in place.

This seems like a sneaky way for advertisers to get a lot more exposure for their ads than they pay for.

 

Originally published at socialstudiesofmarketing.wordpress.com

The Morning after Brexit

 

Brendan Lambe. Lecturer in Finance and an Irish European, reflects on the meaning of the referendum.

 

On the morning of the 24th of June we awoke to a Britain which had changed utterly. A palpable sense of bewilderment remains with us still. In no quarter was the sting of this decision felt more keenly than among the citizens of the other EU states who have made Britain their home. Women and men who now, by virtue of this decision, have become marginalised in a country where they work, invest, spend, teach, build, create and contribute in the myriad of other ways.  I am amongst this number, as are many of my colleagues and students.

 

We teach, work and learn here at this University. Just like every University in the country, Leicester draws from a pool of individuals from across the globe willing to come here. Alongside what they may learn, many take back with them a sense of what it is like to live in this beautifully liberal and progressive society. For those who are not fortunate enough to come from a place that permits them to live in the way that they desire I think that they go back home with a vision of what could be. And let’s not forget that through this exercise we generate a lot of money that contributes to the prosperity of every person in our land.

 

But, I have to get used to not referring to any of this as ‘ours’, because it’s not ‘ours’ anymore, is it? The country where I have made my home, spent my energy, applied my skills, built friendships and gave everything I have to appears to no longer welcome me or others without UK passports. ‘Our’ beautiful creation might fade into history, but are we to let it?

 

At the time of writing over 4.1 million people have signed a petition to hold this referendum again, under terms which would ensure a proper majority of the electorate. The argument for this approach is reasonable and is not without precedent. In 2009 the Irish electorate were asked to vote for a second time on a referendum to accept the Lisbon treaty, they did so after 17 months of deliberation and informed rational debate, and the second response was resoundingly in favour. The reason for the difference between the two sets of results was that the second time the electorate were more informed of the implications of their decision.

 

Parallels can be drawn between the Irish situation and ‘our’ own. Arguably the performances of this country’s politicians did little to help the electorate arrive at a fully considered decision. I use the term politician loosely because the two leading figures in the leave campaign were unelected to the House of Commons and therefore are unaccountable to the electorate either for the promises made or the validity of the invective used against their opponents.  Already the backtracking has begun with the £350 million has now been exposed for the empty claim that it was. More promises are doubtless to be rescinded as each morning we wake up to a reality more stark and grim that that of the day before.

 

Enough has been written about the holes in the Leave campaign’s argument. Few of the two million strong group of teachers, nurses, doctors, builders, designers, university professors, factory operatives and businesspeople who work here and who hold EU passports were convinced by them. None of us truly believed that we were surplus to requirement and perhaps more poignantly, we didn’t believe that you did either. Few could imagine that the British people, whom we count amongst the closest of our friends could engage in what amounts to an act of collective xenophobia.

 

And yes, we have heard that we will get to stay, that all we need to do is to fill out whatever point scoring cards which will help us determine whether we are worthy to work for, not with, you. You forget, we have already given you our skills and experience and this has contributed to the relative prosperity that together we enjoy. Britain never would have reached the economic strength that it has without us or the generations of immigrants who came before us. We have enriched this society and continue to do so, make no mistake about that. Yet, we, like you, want to believe in the society to which we give everything, but how are we do this now?

 

In Economics, the Latin phrase ‘Ceteris Paribus’ translates roughly as ‘all things remaining equal’. Predictions through economic modelling are often made on the assumption that all other conditions remain as they were.  The predictions for future prosperity put forward as the economic rationale to leave relied heavily upon all things remaining as they were. The promised benefits through Brexiting were to be added to the existing economic strengths enjoyed here.

 

But, things have not remained as they were. On the morning of the referendum 2 million EU citizens living and working here believed in the collective project of the UK, an endeavour based on strength through togetherness. The very next day that belief had vanished. We may continue to live and work amongst you but how can we be ‘for’ you, how can we be ‘for’ Britain when you have shown that you are not ‘for’ us?

 

There is some hope, the referendum is advisory not binding.  Everything can go back to how it was, we are ready to believe in you again if you will do the same for us. Add your name to the petition for another referendum, add your voice to those who are calling on parliament to debate the legitimacy of invoking Article 50. Join the protests that are being held across this land that may somehow convince this nations politicians to have the strength to call for a rethink. We have stood alongside you every day as together we have worked to produce a society that we can all be proud of. Now, stand with us.

Originally published at http://staffblogs.le.ac.uk/management/

Leicester – A Champions League City

 

Martin Quinn discusses the urban policies and strategies which have made the city of Leicester so successful in recent years.

 

Leicester has made the headlines in a number of ways of late, home of the champions of English Football as well as highly successful basketball and rugby union teams. Even the cricket team started the 2016 season with a win. Coming shortly after the discovery of Richard III in a City Centre car park its been quite a period in the limelight for a City once described by Terry Wogan as “often mentioned in traffic reports but otherwise unknown to mankind”. However as the ‘Economist’ has recently picked up on there’s a lot more to Leicester than sport and dead kings, as scholars of regional economic development show us.

 

In many ways a classic example of a small to medium sized second tier city, Leicester has grasped the development opportunities presented to it by a succession of devolution and decentralisation policies put forward by Government since the mid 2000s. In doing so it offers a series of pertinent lessons for economic policy makers. Starting with the sub-national review of economic policy in 2007, Leicestershire put in place one of the first Multi-Area Agreements (M.A.A.) in the Country between the City and County Councils. The other Cities in the East Midlands struggled to put similar agreements in place. Indeed as a whole the East Midlands was not successful in creating networked governance between the public and private sectors.

 

Three main lessons can be drawn from the experiences of both the East Midlands and Leicestershire. I have discussed these elsewhere (Quinn 2013, Quinn 2015) but, briefly, they are that place has an important impact on policy outcomes, the role of local government is critical and that strong leadership is essential. Without the pull of regional identity or an obvious area of economic functionality to draw together the private sector the East Midlands Development Agency (EMDA) struggled to attract private sector involvement in its governance initiatives, especially outside of its Nottinghamshire base. For Leicestershire however this was not the case. Businesses in the City and County tend to have a clear sense of place and belonging and there are obvious economic advantages to be had from collective efforts to grow the Leicestershire economy.

 

Leicestershire was also in a position to take advantage of two other inter-related factors that the other cities in the region were not. Firstly, local government can play a crucial role in governance at the sub-national tier. The local authorities in Leicestershire understood the need to work together despite their political differences. The involvement of the Councils in the M.A.A. gave it a sense of legitimacy and power that EMDA’s efforts simply could not achieve. Secondly, and related to this, Leicestershire has benefited from strong political leadership throughout the last decade. Initially through the political leaders of the City and County Council in putting together the M.A.A., and latterly the Elected Mayor of the city. These individuals have driven the economic agenda in the redevelopment of the city and without similar such strong leadership other areas of the country have lagged behind.

 

A major element of the physical regeneration of the City has come through a focus on the cultural, arts and heritage industries. This was a bold move by the authorities as the City and County had little or no reputation as places with strong arts industries. The City Council and then the Elected Mayor pursued the creation of a new Cultural Quarter which transformed a previously derelict part of the City. This included the building of a multi-million pound theatre (CURVE) and independent cinema and arts centre (Phoenix) at a time when local authorities were under increasing pressure to reduce spending. Alongside this the City also tapped into the discovery of of Richard III by creating the Leicester Heritage Trail emphasising the Cities rich, if largely ignored, history.

 

As the Economist points out, Leicester was at one stage the second richest City in Europe behind Vienna and has the building stock to reflect this fact. The innovative reuse of old building stock and imaginative reworking of the City’s infrastructure has seen a growth in the number of small entrepreneurial businesses being set up with Leicester now having the fastest business growth rate outside of London according to the economist.

 

This is discussed in new book chapter written by myself and Dr Richard Courtney of the Enterprise and Public Policy research unit that is due to be published later this month. Much of the focus of research into the use of culture and heritage focuses on Richard Florida’s seminal work on the creative class in large metropolitan areas, which may sometimes seem out of reach to smaller Cities. We argue that Leicester’s use of heritage and culture should be viewed through the lens of the work of Lindeborg on the ‘Cinderella Principal’ in small Danish towns and Cities. Here places with little or no background in arts and culture use it to create an image from scratch which attracts new investment.

 

The development of the office of the Elected Mayor has also produced some interesting results, especially the extent to which the local population has become engaged in the process. The concept of Elected Mayors is a relatively new one in England with even London only establishing its in 2000. Several Cities in England have rejected the opportunity to establish such a role and where ones have been put in place turn out in elections has been disappointing. In Leicester however the elections to date have seen turnouts of 41% in 2011 and 59% in 2015. The office also attracted one of the local MP’s to relinquish his seat in the House of Commons to stand for election, a reverse of the usual trend which has seen impressive local leaders leave local politics to take a place on the national stage.

 

The credibility that Sir Peter Soulsby lent to the office of Mayor has allowed him to establish a clear role as the leader of the Cities economy. There are echoes here of the manner in which first Ken Livingstone and then Boris Johnson have established the role of mayor for London as a much more powerful position than the legislation actually intended for. With rumours emerging that Andy Burnham is considering a run for the new position of elected mayor for Greater Manchester England could soon have a series of powerful political figures whose authority derives from their locality rather than Westminster. Leicester, as it does with sport, is at the forefront of these developments, and might be a model for others to follow.

Originally published at http://staffblogs.le.ac.uk/management/

Cyborg’s shopping list p1

The cyborg’s shopping list.

Marketing is not science. It is not art. It is science fiction.

 

NOTE TO SELF http://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/marketing-and-sales/our-insights/cracking-the-digital-shopper-genome

Originally published at socialstudiesofmarketing.wordpress.com