The trial of Elizabeth Holmes (Theranos)

Come to think of it, I affected a bit of a lower voice when I was a radio dj decades ago.

It’s one thing to lower your voice an octave. It’s quite another to lower it so much it doesn’t sounds normal.

I get that “Elizabeth Holmes, Entrepreneur” is a character she created in the mold of Steve Jobs as her public persona. Pretty sure every major CEO, politician, celebrity has a public persona that is not their real self. I don’t hold that against her, especially as a woman she has to deal the “likeability penalty” that men don’t.


All I know is the first time I heard her low voice, it struck me as weirdly unnatural. Very uncanny valley.

It’s also of a piece with the many other lies she told, retold and then told again over several years, as she endangered lives and wasted more than a billion of investors’ dollars. We know now, and I hope the jury will see, that you simply cannot believe much of what she says and, in a way, who she is or holds herself out to be.

One half of me thinks: judging a woman by her voice is yet another manifestation of our culture’s bigotry against women in position of authority. Who cares if a manner of speaking is affected? It’s like complaining that her hair is not its natural color.

The other half of me thinks: of course a Bene Gesserit witch uses the Voice.


Plus some characters

I find her low voice odd and distracting, not because it’s low, but because it has a weird quality to it, kind of Kermit the Frog-like to my ears.

But I don’t consider it duplicitous or some sign of untrustworthiness. She lies like a rug, but her voice isn’t one of those lies.

My “fixation” is only when I keep seeing people act as if we’re saying it’s weird to lower your voice at all. But that’s not what we’re arguing. We’re saying that you can go too far, in a way that sounds goofy and fake.

Sure, public speaking will teach you to use your full voice, which tends to be lower in pitch. And, for women with higher voices, they will usually be taught to use their natural lower tone, and not have as much variation in pitch. However, you will also be taught that you should sound natural, not like someone putting on a voice, because that will make you seem insincere.

Yes, I get that you guys can’t hear what we’re talking about, which is part of what makes it difficult to understand our point. But I ask this: which makes more sense? That we are all imagining something that isn’t there, or you guys aren’t perceiving something that we clearly hear?

I’d say the latter. I particularly say that because I was a vocal major in college. Not only did I learn how to change the timbre of my voice, but I also learned how some people have a harder time hearing the difference than others. While these people aren’t exactly tone deaf, as they can still hear basic pitch, they have a hard time with timbre. They have to be taught to hear these differences in singing voices.

I think it’s telling that the perception of whether her voice tells us anything about her character is so evenly divided between those of us who can hear the difference and those who can’t.

I don’t actually disagree with @puzzlegal at all that a woman lowering her voice tells us nothing—that it is normal. I don’t disagree with her that having a male voice can make people listen to you when they wouldn’t otherwise.

I just argue that Elizabeth Holmes went beyond that, and that this can tell me something about her character. It tells me that she take the normal things to the extremes. And that fits with everything else we know about her.

To the extent that her voice sounds goofy and fake, that just seems to me like she’s not particularly good at modulating her timbre, to get to a deeper-but-still-natural-sounding pitch, rather than some sort of indication of her deep character flaws.

As to the “fixation”, I don’t know, maybe it’s just my own distorted perception, but it just seems like there’s as much discussion in this thread of her voice as there is of the actual fraud she committed.

I would probably judge a man if I thought his voice was affected. For me, Holmes’ voice doesn’t just sound deep it sounds odd. Like someone on Saturday Night Live playing a character in a skit. I’m not going to hold it against her because in the grand scheme of things who cares? But her voice when taken with everything else, it sure looks like it’s part of a pattern to fool people.

What difference do you think some of us can’t hear? She certainly uses a much lower voice when making formal presentations than she does in other contexts. I don’t think that’s hard to hear.

I just don’t think that reflects on her character. I mean, i think she has a lot of character flaws, and probably killed a bunch of people due to promulgating bogus medical tests. But I don’t think that’s related to her using a lie voice for public speaking.

The defense rests:


From the Wall Street Journal:

The government said it wouldn’t bring a rebuttal case, which signaled the trial is heading for closing arguments. U.S. District Judge Edward Davila said those would take place Dec. 16 and Dec. 17. That means the jury will start deliberating late on Dec. 17, a Friday, or on Dec. 20, the week of Christmas.

We will find out soon about Holmes’ fate.

Not much going on lately…

The defense rested last week, and closing arguments are tomorrow. So a little lull right now, but there will possibly be a verdict before Christmas.

Yes, tomorrow. And the delays in this trial have delayed Sunny Balwani‘s trial. That was supposed to begin on 1/11, and now will begin on 2/15.

An update:

They deliberated Monday and Tuesday with no verdict. They have today off and resume tomorrow. If they still haven’t reached a verdict after tomorrow, it is likely they will break until January 3.

“Uh, could you send up all the exhibits and transcripts of testimony? We forgot a bunch of stuff.”