Harvard Dining service Strike, Google, Terrorism and American Revolution

The Harvard dining service has been on strike, and the dining service has been unable to accommodate all the students. At least for me, the lines are longer and the food is worse. What does this have anything to do with Google and American Revolution?

Collateral Damage

It is purely a conflict between the Harvard administration and the dining service workers. Then they decide to go on strike during the school year, not in summer. And it is extended. This decision is tactical: it brings about collateral damage. If they strike during summer, most of the students are gone, and Harvard has enough backup people to keep things going — the managers (who do not belong to the union) can work as regular employees, not to mention Harvard does employ some workers not from this union. So the disruption will be minimal. Without disruption, it will be a power match between the administration and the union. The union probably understands that the mighty administration might prevail, or at least, they possess limited bargaining power.

So the tactics is to impose some collateral damage. Make the students miserable. As the Harvard students are as vocal as they are pampered, they will sure be a powerful force. They might protest and exert pressure on the administration, if it works out. That is, if they do not direct their anger at the strike itself. This is not trivial, as I definitely heard highly critical complaints among students. The game is to bet on where the anger will ultimately go. With the current atmosphere if political correctness (which the Harvard Administration has itself inflicted) and the left-leaning culture (which the administration has a role promoting), the dining service is betting on the anger, at least ostensibly, will go against the administration.

I should note, that I do not want to make a value judgement on who is right. It is beyond me (actually anyone) to calculate a just wage. My interest is purely to focus on tactics.

It doesn’t have to be

The key point here is that there does not have to be a collateral damage. It is all part of a plan. In fact, this key element is present in many events.


Google ostensibly left China because it says it won’t offer censored content. There are two types of content, sensitive content and unsensitive content. My bet is the unsensitive content makes up more than 99.9% of the content. By bundling these two contents, Google is imposing a collateral damage on ordinary users (who does not bother to look up sensitive content) and hope this majority will complain loud enough as to make Chinese government budge. To say Google’s move is principle driven is naive beyond comprehension, as one only needs to look at how Google tampered with search results to unfairly compete with Yelp and etc.


There are conflicts between two political power A and B. A is too powerful, and B is on the losing side. So B attack A’s civilian, so as to inflict collateral damage on them. The hope is to make them complain so that A will pursue a more isolationist policy and leave B alone.

Some might protest that by drawing the analogy between terrorism and dining service, I am painting a negative picture of the strike. No. The tactic is neutral. It can be employed by the good and bad. What is more, let me add more cynically, one has many terms for terrorism. When the victim is US, it is called terrorism. When the attack is directed towards victim in China, it is no longer terrorism (see example 1, example 2, etc.)

American Revolution

To balance out the negative painting (if you insist), let me add something to cheer the readers up. American revolution. Remember what Americans did after the Stamp Act and other acts that replaced Stamp Act? Yes, Boycott. The tactic is to inflict collateral damage on the business people, who like harvard’s students, are highly vocal and exerts lots of political power.


All the events mentioned involve the same tactic: inflicting collateral damage where it does not have to exist. The hope is to make a third party angry, and they direct anger at my opponent. But anger can fly either way: when framed as terrorism, anger is directed at the terrorist; when framed as a principled movement, the anger is directed at the other party. The key is to frame it nicely and conceal the intention of inflicting collateral damage. Tactics is always useful in a world where people are stupid, but that stupidity (receptiveness to manipulation) makes the outcome of tactics unpredictable. It might very well back-fire. That is probably why pundits and people with an agenda likes to make analogy: if you make an analogy with terrorism, it looks pretty bad; if you make an analogy with American Revolution, it looks damn glorious.