Sean Spicer, United Airlines & Star Wars Celebration - The Saul Report 16/04/17

This seems a timely week to start The Saul Report. The news has been dominated by United Airlines deplorable handling of a seemingly overbooked plane, and Sean Spicer’s idiotic comments about Hitler and Assad. In less serious but deeply irritating news, Nintendo also announced the halt of production for the NES Classic Edition. But, there have also been lighter moments, namely everything coming out of the Star Wars celebration this weekend. So, strap in as we go through the biggest stories of the week from current affairs to nerd culture and everything in between.

Sean Spicer’s Unfortunate “Holocaust Centres” Statement

Sean Spicer has had a tough time in his first three months as Press Secretary for Mr Trump. You probably heard about his latest gaffe earlier this week, where he compared Bashar Al-Assad to Hitler, who “didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons” — this, of course, despite the millions of Jews who were exterminated in gas chambers in the Holocaust. Making matters worse, the comment fell during the Jewish festival of Passover. In Spicer’s own words, what he said was “inappropriate and insensitive”. It has since prompted calls for his resignation. You can see the whole thing in the video below.

Truth be told, I feel sorry for Spicer. He clearly has an incredibly difficult job, and doesn’t always handle it particularly well. Interestingly, Andy Card, who was George W Bush’s Chief Of Staff, acknowledged how hard what Spicer has to do is, and attributed it largely due to Trump’s “spontaneity” (it’s worth noting that Card also called the comments “completely inappropriate”.)

Those calling him a “Holocaust denier” I think are missing the fact he did, albeit wrongfully, and inappropriately, reference the Holocaust in the “centres” statement. Equally, his numerous appearances across media to apologise for everything he said I think appear sincere in their regret. If he and the White House really were denying the Holocaust ever happened, I don’t think apologies would have come in the way they did, or at all for that matter. This isn’t to take away from what Spicer said, of course.

Interestingly, Rob Bray, former Press Secretary for Gov. Bill Weld (Rep.) said “part of the role of a press secretary is to be a foil and look stupid so the boss doesn’t look stupid”. This idea is taken further by Francine Prose in an op-ed over at The Guardian. It seems slightly cynical to me, and I’m not sure I totally buy that all the gaffes are simply to distract from Trump’s wrong-doings, but it’s certainly an interesting viewpoint. Spicer said of his own job, that it should be to “amplify the President’s actions and accomplishments…[he thinks he’s] let the President down [here]”.

Yes, what he said was awful, misguided, ignorant, and ill-informed, but it’s hardly the worst thing to come out of Trump’s White House this week, let alone in the three months he’s been in office. I honestly believe it was an honest mistake, and I think it’s one Spicer has apologised for in a way that shows his sincerity.

United Airlines’ Horrendous Week

United Airlines haven’t been having an easy time PR-wise recently. Just this week, they’ve been in the news twice for negative incidents with their passengers. The first came by way of Dr David Dao, a 69 year old physician, being forcibly dragged off the flight by Airport Security. You can watch the video below.

This came about after the airline had failed to account for four members of their crew needing to fly back on the plane; as such, there were too many people for the number of seats. Following unsuccessfully asking for volunteers to leave the plane, offering $800 for anyone who did volunteer, crew chose four people at random to vacate their seats. One of these was Dr Dao, who clearly didn’t want to leave, reportedly saying he needed to get back to his patients. So, Airport Security were called to remove him. In the process, Dao lost two front teeth and broke his nose; his lawyer has since said he would need reconstructive surgery.

Later in the week, a second incident occurred when a scorpion reportedly fell from an overhead locker on to a passenger on a flight from Houston to Calgery, stinging him under the fingernail.

The sting, while “not…life threatening” (according to a physician on the scene) was another blow for United Airlines. After the first incident #BoycottUnitedAirlines was trending on Twitter for two days, and the company reportedly lost as much as $1 billion in market value.

United has since changed its policy: off duty crew will now be allocated seats one hour before flights to avoid such a situation arising again. The three law enforcement agents have also been suspended, and all passengers on the affected flight have had their tickets refunded.

I think what this really demonstrates is the airline’s shocking lack of care for its customers. I’ve never flown with United, and the Dr Dao story certainly doesn’t make me want to even think about doing so. I think this no doubt presents a huge problem for them: I’m surely not alone in thinking this way, and without passengers, you can’t have an airline.

The knock-on effects, however, could be positive. If this does encourage an airline-wide policy rethink, and an increase in the thought given to customer care, the airline experience can only get better, and I think that’s a huge win for the consumer. What happened to Dr Dao is simply awful. It’s a failing on all accounts by the airline, its staff, and the law enforcement agents, but, as I say, I do think it could be turning point in how airlines value their customers, especially depending on how the Dao’s lawsuit goes.

Nintendo Kill The NES Classic

In a blow for many people, Nintendo decided this week to kill their immensely popular, but vastly under-produced console, the NES Classic Edition. It featured a line-up of 30 classic NES games, and was available for an incredibly cheap £49.99 at launch here in the UK.

It’s an abrupt ending to the life of the console. Nintendo announced this week that North America would be getting its last shipments “for this year”, “throughout April”. Interestingly, however, the Famicom Classic’s (the Japanese version [the NES was called the Famicom, Family Computer, in Japan]) production is only being halted temporarily. Since the news, prices have reportedly tripled on Ebay.

What makes this move even more strange is how well the system was doing. In their sales report in February, Nintendo announced the Classic had sold 1.5 million units. At the time, Nintendo President Tatsumi Kimishima cited difficulty in procuring parts as the reason for insufficient stock, apologising as people avidly searched for the console.

This begs the question, why would Nintendo stop production? If it was selling so well and there was still more demand, why would they cut off the revenue stream?

I think perhaps the answer lies at the feet of the Switch. It has sold just under 1 million units in the US to date, which is excellent, but I wonder if Nintendo see the NES Classic as a distraction from the Switch for people, and, in cancelling it, are trying to encourage people to buy their main console.

The reason supplied to IGN was that it wasn’t intended to be a “long term” product. This could perhaps suggest that an SNES Classic will be coming this year, and is another year long pursuit, to be replaced by the next classic edition and so on…

I think the most likely explanation however is probably that we’re going to get a Virtual Console announcement for the Switch very soon, and Nintendo want to concentrate on bringing Classic games there rather than to these special editions that appear to be somewhat difficult to make. It still seems like a strange move, and I’m still annoyed I never got my hands on one, but, from the point of view of wanting to sell the Switch, I can almost see where Nintendo are coming from. Almost.

Star Wars Celebration

The Carrie Fisher Tribute

Carrie Fisher went into cardiac arrest while on a plane bound for Los Angeles on 23rd December 2016. She passed away three days later. She portrayed the hugely popular Princess Leia in the Star Wars movies; this is their fantastic tribute to her.

The Last Jedi’s Epic First Trailer…

There’s little more to say than simply watch the trailer, and be excited! December can’t come soon enough!

Research Notes

Sean Spicer


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