The Cost of Bad Judgement — #102

Taylor, Trump and Tel Aviv.

Good morning,

This week, I learned that it is not common knowledge that PR agencies reach out to young leaders and founders, offering to "build their careers".

I regularly get emails from agencies who promise me "guaranteed results" to help me get onto the Forbes 30 under 30 and other similar lists.

Some even give you the money back if you don't get listed.

Sweet deal.

Too bad I'm already well beyond 30. What about you?

This is PR; it's nothing new. But what seems to raise some eyebrows is that individuals and not brands are being promoted. And that it is just the way the world works for some of us.

"Oh, that's completely average".

This Business Of Fashion article (paywalled) is on a similar topic: the PR agencies behind the "It Girls" of our time.

Going back to Forbes, they want to gain exposure and introduce their brand to new audiences. They couldn't care less if the people they list are objectively the "best".

However, this might explain why the 30 under 30 list has issues with people listed through the years now facing prison. Because if you're willing to pay big money to get listed on a talent list, you might be willing to do other things to get ahead.

  1. Lie to investors

  2. Fake the impact of your invention

  3. Bribe foreign governments

It's funny how poor character seems to show up predictably throughout life.

And how it seems undeniable to any millennial that life is about selling your soul to the highest bidder.


A quick heads up: I've swapped sections around a bit in this issue to make it less text-heavy.

Enjoy the reading!


Small things first

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The News Section

We curate news that tells us something about the world and how it's changing, trying to uncover topics you might not get from other sources.

Trump Spend $130 Million in Donor Funds on Legal Fees, Amid Growing Legal Battles


As legal challenges mount for the former United States president Donald Trump, he must direct increasing funds towards addressing legal fees.

In recent years, groups linked to former President Donald Trump have used approximately $130 million in donor funds to cover legal expenses, as revealed by OpenSecrets. This trend is evident as he faces multiple legal battles related to the 2020 election.

Trump's legal expenses span a broad range of cases. The former president has been charged in four criminal cases over four-and-a-half months. In New York, he faces 34 felony counts connected to hush money payments to a porn star. In Florida, he faces 40 felony counts for hoarding classified documents. In Washington, DC, he faces four felony counts for his efforts to overturn the 2020 election. And in Georgia, he faces 13 felony counts for his election interference.

But Trump is clearly a lemonade maker. His campaign has used the legal troubles to fuel fundraising efforts for his 2024 presidential campaign. Following his indictment, his campaign and joint fundraising committee raised over $15 million in just two weeks.

Trump's political operation, which includes multiple groups like PACs and super PACs, has significantly increased spending on legal fees each year since 2021. During the first half of 2023, the collective spending on legal costs surpassed $27 million, already exceeding the $23.3 million spent in the previous year.

However, this escalating pattern of legal expenses raises questions about how the former president utilises donor funds...

Meta Unveils Massive Takedown: Historic Online Influence Operation Linked to China

Disinformation, China

Meta announced on Tuesday that it has taken down what it believes is the most extensive online influence operation of all time.

A broad-reaching pro-Chinese operation targeted social media users in Taiwan and a handful of the island's allies like the United States, the United Kingdom and Japan. The campaign primarily spread pro-China messages and amplified criticisms of the United States and other Western policies.

Meta estimates that the campaign involved 7,704 accounts, 954 pages, 15 groups on Facebook, and 15 accounts on Instagram. Researchers found evidence of the campaign on over 50 online platforms, including YouTube, TikTok, Reddit, Pinterest, and X (formerly known as Twitter).

The campaign targeted journalists, human rights activists, and other critics of the Chinese government, and Meta believes this campaign is an extension of a continuous effort known as "Spamouflage" that emerged in 2019. Ben Nimmo, global threat intelligence lead at Meta, said this is one of the biggest takedowns of coordinated inauthentic behaviour they've encountered.

The campaign initially posted content directly to Facebook and Instagram, but automated systems quickly detected these posts. This made the campaign operators start posting on smaller platforms to amplify those posts on Meta's social media sites later. Still, the campaign consistently struggled to reach real people, according to Ben Nimmo.

With growing anxiety over a possible Chinese invasion of Taiwan, Meta-researchers expect the threat actors behind the campaign to rebuild and keep trying.

Violent Clashes Erupt in Tel Aviv Between Eritrean Government Supporters and Opponents


Violent clashes erupted in Tel Aviv between Eritrean government supporters celebrating Eritrea Day and opponents of President Isaias Afwerki. Israeli police intervened by firing stun grenades to quiet the clashes, with some protesters throwing stones at law enforcement and setting fire to trash bins.

Over 100 people were injured, including around 30 police officers. Disturbing videos on social media show how Eritrean government supporters use clubs to attack anti-government protesters.

The clashes emerged during an event organized by the Eritrean embassy to mark Revolution Day, celebrating the Eritrean War of Independence from Ethiopia. President Isaias Afwerki, who has ruled Eritrea since its independence in 1993, faces criticism from human rights groups for his oppressive government, leading to the United States and EU sanctions.

Approximately 25,500 Eritrean refugees live in Israel, many of whom fled over the Egyptian border.

Earlier in August, a similar conflict between Eritrean regime supporters and their opponents took place in Sweden during an Eritrean cultural festival. This conflict left at least 52 people injured, and about 100 people were detained. Sweden has close to 50,000 Eritrea-born immigrants.

These events shed light on how national conflicts extend beyond borders and emphasise Eritrean refugees' difficulty in finding the safety, security, and opportunity they seek when leaving home.

The Insights Section

We're constantly searching for strategic insights that tell us something about the world and how it is changing.

Shift in Priorities: Gen X Tech Employees Reevaluate Importance of Work After Pandemic

Work, Technology

Gen X has lost its enthusiasm for the tech industry after a year of layoffs, cutbacks, returning to the office and lost equity value.

While Gen X tech employees pioneered the "work-hard, play-hard" culture in the tech industry, there seems to be a significant change in the priorities of Gen X (individuals born between 1965 and 1980) after the pandemic.

According to recent data from Qualtrics, 68% of Gen X now consider work to be less important in achieving their life goals than it was before the pandemic. This shift is the most pronounced among all generations of tech workers, signifying a departure from the industry's traditional focus on lucrative compensation and perks.

As a comparison, about 49% of millennials find work more important now than before the pandemic, and a majority express aspirations to work at prominent tech firms during their careers.

Half of tech employees express a greater motivation by their company's mission and values post-pandemic. Notably, Gen X tech workers appear less motivated by these factors, with only 38% finding their company's mission and values more motivating than before. In contrast, (millennials born between 1981 and 1996) remain optimistic about their future in the tech industry.

The "Great Resignation" wave prompted many tech workers to switch jobs for higher pay and remote work opportunities. However, the industry's growth trajectory was disrupted as the tech market experienced stock price declines and layoffs due to changing circumstances.

Google Trends Reflect Changing Tides: Diminished Hype for iPhone 15 Launch

Business, Technology

Apple has scheduled an event for September 12, where they will likely unveil the iPhone 15. But the excitement around new iPhone models seems to have diminished over time.

Google Trends data shows that people eagerly searched for "new iPhone" whenever a new model was announced. Recent releases, like the iPhone 12 Pro in 2020, generated less online buzz than earlier models like XS / Max in 2018 and 5C / 5S in 2013.

For this year's model, speculation includes improved satellite communication, better wireless charging, and a larger screen. The iPhone 15 is expected to be the most expensive model due to global inflation and manufacturing issues. Estimated prices range from $799 to $2,000.

Taylor Swift Becomes First Female Artist to Hit 100 Million Monthly Spotify Listeners

Culture, Business

It's no cruel summer for Taylor, after all. This week, she became the first female artist to reach 100 million monthly listeners on Spotify.

The Weekend is the only artist with more monthly listeners – 110 million, and Bad Bunny comes in third at 80 million.

Americans Show Mixed Digital Knowledge: High Awareness of Elon Musk, Limited Understanding of Deepfakes


A new study by the Pew Research Center shows that the digital literacy of adults in the United States varies based on the subject. For example, 87% can correctly identify which password is the most secure option out of four choices. 67% know that cookies track website visits and activity. However, only 48% can correctly identify an example of two-factor authentication from a series of pictures.

80% know Elon Musk was running Tesla and Twitter in April 2023, and 77% know Facebook changed its company name to Meta. But only 42% know a deepfake is a seemingly actual image, video or audio of something that didn’t occur. And that 32% know large language models, such as ChatGPT, produce answers based on word patterns and relationships they previously learned from text pulled from the internet.

The survey indicates that Americans answer a median of five out of nine digital knowledge questions correctly. Only 26% of adults in the United States can answer at least seven questions correctly, with 4% getting all nine right.

The public's digital understanding differs by age and education level, with adults under 50 generally having better digital knowledge than those 50 and older, and college graduates outperforming those with less education across multiple questions.

That was all for today. See you next week! ✨