So Sneaky: 3 Things We All Missed When #BoycottUber Was Trending

Michelle Farhang
Michelle is a San Francisco native working in advertising. Her 2017 resolution was to freeze more, so she decided to make the leap over to the east coast. In between her explorations of Manhattan, you can find her reading, Netflix-binging or attempting to teach herself how to play guitar.

In a magic trick, a magician often uses misdirection to deceive an audience to focus on one thing in order to distract their attention from another. And in the first weeks of Trump’s presidency, it’s getting clearer to see that even though Trump might not be good with the words – or even have the best words, he does have a very strategic inner circle that may not be acting as recklessly as they appear from the outside, and the anti-Uber outrage is a clear example of how easily we are tricked to play into it.

Think about it. How did you hear about the anti-Uber action? My social feed, for instance, told me that Uber was disgustingly trying to profit off of the Muslim ban protests. But even when I read the tweet that launched the outrage, I felt like I was missing something.

On January 28, the New York Taxi Workers Alliance vowed to boycott working at the JFK airport from 6 to 7 p.m. in support of the protest.

At 7:36 p.m., Uber tweeted that it would drop all surge pricing that normally would’ve been in affect with such a huge crowd trying to get home to avoid profiting from the demand.

While there is arguably more Uber could have done to support the protest, retweets and shared posts caused immediate anger and reactions that involved more than 200,000 people deleting the app, celebs included. When all you hear is that, 1. Uber tried to profit off of protests, and 2. The CEO supports Trump as a member of his executive council, it’s easy for outrage to spread like wildfire. But while a retweet button is easy to press, it’s even easier for a lot of important information to fall hidden to the side.

Example: when Trump’s executive order was announced, the CEO of Uber publicly stated that the company was actively working to support all employees affected by the ban, including plans to compensate those unable to return to work. He also clarified that had made the decision to be a part of Trump’s economic advisory board to have a seat at the table and have the opportunity to speak up, saying that was exactly what he planned to do at the first meeting.

Needless to say, after hundreds of thousands of angry tweets and deleted Uber apps, he stepped down from the board and announced a $3 million support for drivers affected by the ban. While more financial support for those affected is certainly a positive, it’s far from a win to lose one more person at the table that might be able to voice the concerns of Uber’s millions of users.

While Trump’s team certainly couldn’t have planned for the anti-Uber distraction, they could rely on the fact that the executive order would cause mass protests and upset—and rightly so. But in the midst of our anger and our protests to violations like the ban, it’s important to not miss what’s happening in the other hand of the magician. And in that hand, there has been quite a bit happening that we’re missing.


1. The purge of the State Department

During the week of the announcement of the ban, the White House “carried out an abrupt purge of the State Department’s senior leadership” removing key foreign service officers that have served the White House across multiple presidents of both parties in “posts that are essential to the day-to-day running of the department and US missions abroad.”

What does this mean?

This purge, like the movie, is scary. It leaves nearly the entire State Department unstaffed during these first weeks of the Trump presidency, where big moves like reinstating the global anti-abortion law and the Muslim ban are taking place. While there have been transitions in the state department in the past, this one is unique because of its abruptness. Officials normally stay in their positions until their replacements step in, but were given only days to leave with no replacements in sight.

Additionally, power is being consolidated to Trump’s inner circle (think: Bannon, Preibus), with the tasks that normally fall under the role of this department, like setting up foreign contacts, are now being carried out by Trump’s son-in-law.


2. Trump filed for his 2020 candidacy on Inauguration Day this year.

So what?

In all presidential incumbents over the last 38 years, Trump filed two years earlier than any, causing concern that this opens up the ability for US nationals to funnel money to Trump through his campaign committee as “contributions” while non-US nationals can of course continue to use Trump hotels and businesses.


3. The Department of Homeland Security ignoring the federal court order to halt detentions of those targeted by travel ban.

While you might’ve forgotten every state capital you learned in history class, it’s hard to forget the concept of checks and balances. Remember the Executive, Judiciary and Legislative branches? As a U.S. history refresher, the three branches are in place to maintain a balance of power. The DHS ignoring one of those branches is a not-so-subtle hint that the executive branch is challenging that court power.

That being said, some glimmers of hope shined on through when three federal judges denied the Department of Justice’s emergency stay last week shortly after U.S. Federal Judge James Robart issued a temporary halt to stop Trump’s executive order nationwide and immediately.

Trump firing the acting attorney general for not supporting the ban—also not a good sign.

While separately these may not seem nearly as important as an unconstitutional ban, they add up to something just as scary. It’s important to pay attention—not just to the trending issue shown on one hand, but to what’s happening at the same time in the other, especially when it’s a weakening or loss of our system of government and a balance of power slowly shrinking to one small circle of people. Instead of jumping on trending hashtags or banning Uber, we need to pay attention to the moves of a team that frighteningly seems to know exactly what it’s doing.