How Jack Welch’s Reign at G.E. Gave Us Elon Musk’s Twitter Feed

When Jack Welch died on March 1, 2020, tributes poured in for the longtime chief executive of General Electric, whom many revered as the greatest chief executive of all time.

David Zaslav, the C.E.O. of Warner Bros. Discovery and a Welch disciple, remembered him as an almost godlike figure. “Jack set the path. He saw the whole world. He was above the whole world,” Mr. Zaslav said. “What he created at G.E. became the way companies now operate.”

Mr. Zaslav’s words were meant as unequivocal praise. During Mr. Welch’s two decades in power — from 1981 to 2001 — he turned G.E. into the most valuable company in the world, groomed a flock of protégés who went on to run major companies of their own, and set the standard by which other C.E.O.s were measured.

Yet a closer examination of the Welch legacy reveals that he was not simply the “Manager of the Century,” as Fortune magazine crowned him upon his retirement.

broken up for good.

the fateful decision to redesign the 737 — a plane introduced in the 1960s — once more, rather than lose out on a crucial order with American Airlines. That decision set in motion the flawed development of the 737 Max, which crashed twice in five months, killing 346 people. And while a number of factors contributed to those tragedies, they were ultimately the product of a corporate culture that cut corners in pursuit of short-term financial gains.

Even today Boeing is run by a Welch disciple. Dave Calhoun, the current C.E.O., was a dark horse candidate to succeed Mr. Welch in 2001, and he was on the Boeing board during the rollout of the Max and the botched response to the crashes.

When Mr. Calhoun took over the company in 2020, he set up his office not in Seattle (Boeing’s spiritual home) or Chicago (its official headquarters), but outside St. Louis at the Boeing Leadership Center, an internal training center explicitly built in the image of Crotonville. He said he hoped to channel Mr. Welch, whom he called his “forever mentor.”

The “Manager of the Century” was unbowed in retirement, barreling through the twilight of his life with the same bombast that defined his tenure as C.E.O.

He refashioned himself as a management guru and created a $50,000 online M.B.A. in an effort to instill his tough-nosed tactics in a new generation of business leaders. (The school boasts that “more than two out of three students receive a raise or promotion while enrolled.”) He cheered on the political rise of Mr. Trump, then advised him when he won the White House.

In his waning days, Mr. Welch emerged as a trafficker of conspiracy theories. He called climate change “mass neurosis” and “the attack on capitalism that socialism couldn’t bring.” He called for President Trump to appoint Rudy Giuliani attorney general and investigate his political enemies.

The most telling example of Mr. Welch’s foray into political commentary, and the beliefs it revealed, came in 2012. That’s when he took to Twitter and accused the Obama administration of fabricating the monthly jobs report numbers for political gain. The accusation was rich with irony. After decades during which G.E. massaged its own earnings reports, Mr. Welch was effectively accusing the White House of doing the same thing.

While Mr. Welch’s claim was baseless, conservative pundits picked up on the conspiracy theory and amplified it on cable news and Twitter. Even Mr. Trump, then merely a reality television star, joined the chorus, calling Mr. Welch’s bogus accusation “100 percent correct” and accusing the Obama administration of “monkeying around” with the numbers. It was one of the first lies to go viral on social media, and it had come from one of the most revered figures in the history of business.

When Mr. Welch died, few of his eulogists paused to consider the entirety of his legacy. They didn’t dwell on the downsizing, the manipulated earnings, the Twitter antics.

And there was no consideration of the ways in which the economy had been shaped by Mr. Welch over the previous 40 years, creating a world where manufacturing jobs have evaporated as C.E.O. pay soars, where buybacks and dividends are plentiful as corporate tax rates plunge.

By glossing over this reality, his allies helped perpetuate the myth of his sainthood, adding their own spin on one of the most enduring bits of disinformation of all: the notion that Jack Welch was the greatest C.E.O. of all time.

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Astronauts on Set: Space Station May Host Wave of TV Shows and Films

“We’re finally able to open our doors to private citizens and allow others to experience the magic of living and working in space,” said Dana Weigel, deputy manager for the space station at NASA. “The dream is really to allow everyone access to space, and this is a pretty exciting starting point here.”

Producers of Discovery’s “Who Wants to Be an Astronaut” expect the winner to be on board for the second Axiom mission to the space station, which might take off six or seven months after the first one. For now, an agreement between the Discovery team and Axiom has not been finalized, and NASA has yet to choose Axiom to conduct the second private space tourism flight.

The NASA-led part of the station could accommodate two private astronaut missions a year, space agency officials have said, and other companies are also interested in participating.

“We are seeing a lot of interest in private astronaut missions, even outside of Axiom,” Ms. Weigel said. “At this point, the demand exceeds what we actually believe the opportunities on station will be.”

Still, on Tuesday, Axiom announced two people who would be in the seats for that second mission: Peggy Whitson, a former NASA astronaut who now works for Axiom, will be the commander, and John Shoffner, a paying passenger who made his fortune as head of a company that manufactures conduits for fiber optic cables, will serve as pilot for the mission.

Dr. Whitson, who holds the record for the most cumulative time in space by a NASA astronaut — 665 days — joined Axiom as a consultant a year ago, in hopes of getting to space again and adding to her record. “Yes, most definitely,” she said. “That was the carrot.”

Mr. Peterson said plans for the Discovery show grew out of discussions with Axiom early in 2020 and that it would be “a premium documentary” and less like “Survivor” or other ruthless reality television competitions.

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Netflix Chronicles Byron Bay’s ‘Hot Instagrammers.’ Will Paradise Survive?

BYRON BAY, Australia — The moral quandaries of life as an Instagram influencer in the famously idyllic town of Byron Bay are not lost on Ruby Tuesday Matthews.

Ms. Matthews, 27, peddles more than vegan moisturizers, probiotic powders and conflict-free diamonds to her 228,000 followers. She is also selling an enviable lifestyle set against the backdrop of her Australian hometown’s crystalline coves and umbrellaed poolsides.

It’s part of the image-making that has helped transform Byron Bay — for better or worse — from a sleepy beach town drawing surfers and hippies into a globally renowned destination for the affluent and digitally savvy.

“I do kind of have moments where I’m like, ‘Am I exploiting this town that I live in?” Ms. Matthews said recently as she sat at The Farm, a sprawling agritourism enterprise that embodies the town’s wellness ethos. “But at the same time, it’s my job. It puts food on the table for my children.”

advertised on Instagram that morning. “They’re basically branding our town.”

The backlash has raised questions about who is entitled to control and capitalize on the cult of Byron Bay, a place now known for its slow and escapist lifestyle, where the bohemian has been glossed into a unified jungalow aesthetic of tasseled umbrellas, woven lanterns, linen clothing and exotic plants.

Some argued that the reality show would focus on a sliver of influencers whose picture-perfect presences on Instagram don’t represent the “real” Byron Bay. In doing so, they said, the show would expose the town to unwelcome outsiders.

“What right do they have to exploit grand Byron?” said Tess Hall, a filmmaker who moved to Byron Bay in 2015 and organized the petition and paddle out. She added that she feared the show would draw “the wrong type of person” to the region and share the town’s secret beach spots with the rest of the world.

“We’re not Venice Beach,” she said. “It’s a different vibe.”

moved to town.

a culture of localism is marketed on a global scale. “Our values of sustainability have powered a market of unsustainability,” she said. “Byron has become a victim of its own brand.”

according to a recent government street count.

Along the coast, some people sleep in tent shantytowns in the sand dunes and bushes, while others — many of them in stable employment — move between short-term accommodations, friends’ couches and their cars.

John Stephenson, a 67-year-old massage therapist, has spent several years living out of his station wagon. “It’s embarrassing,” he said as he gathered belongings from a storage unit before moving into temporary accommodation. “I don’t look like a bum, but I feel like one.”

In other parts of town, though, the illusion remains intact.

One balmy evening at the Cape Byron Lighthouse, a man dressed in a feathered fedora, a bolo tie and neck-to-ankle denim was photographing two of his children picking flowers. He was so consumed with capturing the moment that he did not notice that his third child, sitting behind him, was at risk of falling down the hill.

A woman with a yoga mat slung over her shoulder shouted to him. The woman, Lucia Wang, had just moved to Byron Bay the previous evening. She had come, she said, for the town’s beauty and healing properties.

“The first thing you need to do is just go to the ocean and have a swim,” she said. “Everything will be OK.”

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