Over the past week or so, President Trump has gone on the offensive against Amazon and Jeff Bezos, in the only way he knows how: through Twitter. As with most of his other Twitter storms, Trump has gained media attention, and much of his criticisms are childish and misguided. In reference to Jeff Bezos, a source close to the White House said: “Trump is like, how can I f-ck with him?” For Trump, his feud and obsession with Amazon and Jeff Bezos is personal, and, this is one of a few cases where, while Trump reaches some of the right conclusions, his steps to getting there are all wrong.
Trump’s attacks on the Washington Post demonstrate an area where he’s on the right track, but not quite there yet. As the New York Times is quick to point out, the “Amazon Washington Post” as Trump calls it, is not, in fact owned directly by Amazon. Still, Jeff Bezos owns both companies, it is not far-fetched to make the connection between the lack of reporting on the Washington Post on Amazon’s business practices and both companies being owned by Bezos. While The Washington Post claims that “Democracy Dies in Darkness,” part of their policy prohibits their writers from “Disparaging the products and services of The Post’s advertisers, subscribers, competitors, business partners or vendors.”
Such a broad clause allows for The Washington Post to effectively censor their content creators from reporting or otherwise speaking publicly about the abuses of companies related to The Post. Trump also misses the mark by not mentioning Amazon’s $600 million worth of cloud computing services to ease coordination between the CIA and other intelligence agencies. Trump, (as well as the rest of us) should really be questioning if the Washington Post can be trusted to objectively report on the intelligence community.
Rather than going after the imagined misuse of the Post Office by Amazon, Trump should go after Amazon for their unethical treatment of their workers. Just a few years back, Amazon made headlines when several workers fainted after being forced to work in 110 degree heat. As if that wasn’t bad enough, just recently, some Amazon drivers in the UK were forced to “pee in bottles and skip lunch” in order to meet deadlines.
As far as business practices, Amazon has shown a pattern of unethical behavior and a gross mistreatment of their employees: this is a company with no regard for occupational safety and that does not treat its workers with the respect and dignity that they deserve. Rather than taking steps to ameliorate their relations with their employees, Amazon instead patented a wristband that would electronically track workers’ movements, and that would “vibrate against the wearer’s skin to point their hand in the right direction.”
If that sounds odd to you, it should, as it's basically the same as a shock collar for a dog. In this case, I’ll give Trump some credit, but he still misses the overall point: We shouldn’t look at Jeff Bezos and Amazon as one of capitalism’s success stories, but rather as an example of how dangerous unfettered capitalism can be.