Remember Uber, that wildly convenient lifesaver of an app that that allowed you to procure an unsettlingly inexpensive ride in the personal vehicle of a real person who barely ekes out a living wage for their troubles? Many of you deleted your accounts altogether in the wake of a horrific twelve-month stretch for the company in which we learned that it fostered a culture of horrifying sexual harassment; worked even harder to squash drivers’ occasional efforts to unionize; and capped the whole thing off with a viral video in which Uber’s billionaire CEO told a struggling driver that he simply needed to, and I quote, “take responsibility for his own shit.”
What is Uber’s official response to all of this, you ask? Spray painting a hashtag on a building. But of course.
Yes, working with an arts group in the Bay Area that, among other things, puts on corporate team-building events incorporating elements of graffiti and street art, a handful of Uber employees threw some paint up on the wall in San Francisco’s Mission District in the form of a giant “UNDELETE” hashtag. The finished product looks vaguely like a set piece from one of those D.A.R.E. propaganda videos that taught you, a fifth grader, that smoking marijuana once would turn you into a meth head in a matter of days.
To be far, Uber has launched an internal investigation into the harassment allegations and the company culture more generally, which is good. By responding by doing something like this, which implicitly asserts to the world that all is well, and that there is no longer any cause for consumer concern, and that perhaps that anti-Uber hysteria was always a bit over the top—We fixed that bad stuff, America! Ready to start ride-sharing with us again?!—puts fully on display the very same cocktail of corporate arrogance and tech-bro naïveté that got the company in this position in the first place.
Look, if you want to allow your employees to put on some disposable smocks and particulate masks and play around with spray paint for an afternoon, great. Office morale could probably use a boost right now. But may I humbly suggest painting anything other than this? “BEAST MODE”? A Mac Dre mural? Steph Curry chewing a mouthguard? I don’t know, a car? There are lots of reasonable ideas out there that don’t require you to so thirstily and dorkily declare yourselves wholly absolved of your sins.
Also, notice anything interesting about this group of 20 smiling Uber employees who want to reassure you that its sexist culture has been appropriately addressed, and that it’s totally morally defensible to use the service again?