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When the market started hemorrhaging, the leadership was very slow to react. Hiring continued for a time, and the delusional company meetings persisted for much longer. Morale remained high since the CEO steadfastly refused to lay off anyone, thereby upholding the company’s core value, immunity from consequences. We staggered through the rest of 2000 as the dot-com collapse became first a trend and then a fait accompli. But the values of the new utopian capitalism died hard.
Finally in early 2001, the layoffs began, first in a surgical strike that the CEO promised was a one-time event, and then in ongoing, and often unannounced, waves. People finally began to lose faith, and they scrambled for soft landings, but the job market was none too hospitable. Those of us who remained took on more responsibility, at least in a manner of speaking. I began managing a graphic designer who reported to work sporadically, with excuses for his absences ranging from apparently ongoing deaths in the family, to a sudden marriage, to troubles with the INS. HR was very supportive of me in making clear to him that if he messed up for a seventeenth time, he was really going to be in trouble.
The new realities were most bitter for the company’s legion of younger employees, many of whom were working their first job after school. For them, the dot-coms had been a glorious extension of college, with salary and benefits thrown in. Now it was all crashing down and they would have to get real jobs. It was reminiscent of the 1960s, when the student radicals had to traipse off to graduate school once the fun was over burning flags and slandering soldiers.
By the time the planes hit on September 11, 2001, the company was down to about half of its peak size. The events of that day, and their devastating effect on the economy, accelerated the shakeout. I knew that my own days were numbered, but I wasn’t having any luck in the job market. I managed to hold on at the company for another six months.
AS DIFFICULT AS THAT PERIOD was for everyone — the recession may have started with the dot-coms, but it didn’t end there — I couldn’t help but find pleasure in seeing the guilty punished. The many industry magazines devoted to Internet coverage shrunk from 200-page, ad-laden manifestos, to 80-page, elegiac husks. Underlying the post-mortems was the barely-contained rage that the house party had ended, and that accountability had returned like a couple of angry parents. I thought that this must have been what it was like to read Ramparts after Nixon was re-elected.
Now it all seems so much further away than five years. Our culture purges dead wood and elevates upstarts with such ruthless rapidity that the dot-com euphoria hardly seems any more relevant in 2005 than the pet rock craze of the 1970s. It was just one of those moments in time when a group of people — Investors? Venture capitalists? Journalists? All of us? — went a little mad, but the spasm passed.
The technology marches on, and god bless it. The culture is gone, and good riddance. Or, as one of my colleagues used to say at the end of every vaporous marketing meeting: “Whatever, dude.”
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?