Snowflakes and the Culture of Blame 


So far, the 21st Century has seen a relentless evolution of the 'culture of blame'.  Students at universities now need 'safe spaces' where their tender ears may not be assailed by any incoming information that they might possibly find distressing.  Those unfeeling individuals who may articulate inconvenient facts which cause others existential angst are therefore guilty of 'micro-aggressions' and must be rooted out, and humiliated in the most public ways imaginable.  In practice, it is quite difficult to even live in a world where every undesirable thing that happens is Someone Else's Fault, and the practitioners of this kind of pathology pull off the feat by establishing a kind of notional ethical divide between themselves and everyone else.  The other party simply doesn't have a valid perspective on things: they must be guilty.

Unfortunately, this kind of culture pervades financial services regulation, notably in relation to the organs of redress.  In a recent case of the most egregious misrepresentation by a complainant (in which they persisted, apparently uncorrectable, over a period of two years), the FOS's adjudication was profoundly apologetic that it could not find sufficient reason to rubber-stamp the demand for cash.  In the present environment, even that kind of mealy-mouthed refusal must be an intolerable offence to those who seek to locate the responsibility for their dissatisfactions elsewhere.  For that is what they have, somehow, been taught to believe.  It is as if our public schools have become hothouses for churning out children who have no responsibility for anything whatsoever.  Which does, when you think about it, lead to a certain logical conundrum:  if nobody is ever responsible for their own actions, how then is it possible to apportion blame to someone else?  Truly, it all revolves in ever-decreasing circles.

Thus, the pursuit of redress is becoming a kind of noble thing, the actions of the social-justice warrior against the imagined failures of just about any kind of financial intermediation, where the future does not quite match one's reductionist expectations.  The good news for the claimant is that even a failed application to the FOS is quite likely to result in some kind of recompense for 'distress and inconvenience'.  Apparently, innocent regulated firms are not permitted to experience 'distress and inconvenience'.  And, whilst the organs of redress revolve rapidly within their own circular vortex of activity, we now have new potential risks that advisers should be thinking about.

I refer here to the vexing matter of 'cyber-crime'.  In case you hadn't realised, there's a lot of it about.  Very often, it involves making intelligent people do very stupid things, the kinds of things which no self-respecting adviser would ever actually expect his clients to do, if one makes the (erroneous) assumption that people act rationally, especially when it involves their own money.  And, when intelligent people do stupid things, which result in them losing money to a fraudster, what do you think they do next?  Yes, they look for someone, within reach, upon whom they may fasten the blame - and you can bet your bottom dollar (before they take that too) that the Adviser is a convenient candidate for the post.  In a world where it is apparently the Adviser's job to take responsibility for other people's stupidity, it may be worth just re-acquainting yourself with ValidPath's guidance on the matter.

If you are concerned about your own online security...

Here's a recent article in The Guardian which discusses the nature of the latest phishing scams, and (very usefully) contains a number of links to relevant resources.

Kevin Moss, 29/10/2019