Yesterday afternoon the BBC gave us - inadvertently of course - a wonderful example of how ideology helps sustain class divisions.
On The Media Show, David Liddiment said his commissioning of Who Wants to Be A Millionaire? was a "huge risk." His interview was immediately followed by news that 800 people could lose their jobs if the Grangemouth petrochemical plant shuts down. This shows how whilst bosses talk about taking risk, it is workers who actually bear it.
To ram this point home, Mr Liddiment said that the danger he faced was of a "huge rollocking" - ahh, diddums - or "maybe" losing his job.
I'll concede that bosses' job tenure is often quite short. But this is no evidence they take risk. For one thing, their big salaries are (or should be regarded as) in part a risk premium. For another, they often walk into other jobs; management might not be a transferable skill but rent-seeking is. And, of course, they often leave with big payoffs. And this is not to mention the physical risks; factory workers are in far more danger of death or injury than TV executives - which is powerful refutation of the just world hypothesis.
Why, then, do bosses they present themselves as risk-takers? A paper by Olivier Fournout helps explain. He shows how the image of the boss has much in common with that of movie heroes. They are men of will-power, skill and resolve - often mavericks - who are on missions for the greater good.
Talk of "leadership" serves a similar function. It is self-aggrandizing rhetoric which flatters mere functionaries; if you pay people to do as you tell them, you're a boss, not a leader.
What's not so clear is why they do this. One motive, I suspect, is simply to satisfy a narcissistic self-image.
Whatever the motive, the effects are doubly dangerous.
The other is that such rhetoric serves to legitimate inequalities of income and power. After all, heroes deserve big rewards don't they?
The true tragedy here, of course, is not that bosses do this; we all like to big ourselves up. It's that they get away with it. How often does the media describe bosses as "business leaders"? And how rarely does it describe workers as "risk-takers"?