Friday, August 13, 2010

All Print is Fine Print

In Wall Street parlance, when someone is pumping a stock mainly because he owns it himself, he is said to be "talking his book." In other words, he isn't objectively analyzing the stock's merits; he is promoting it so its value (and his wealth) will rise. Naturally, all humans "talk their book" in some form, but today we’ll highlight how a certain form of book talking corrupts actual books (i.e., the press).

Those who complain about the press usually gripe that the outlets parrot the views of their sponsors. Not a crazy supposition. But something less talked about--and more insidious--is that in the media, there is no working balance between honesty and profitability. The closer you get to the truth, the farther you get from the black. And the audience is the problem.

Take Cosmo, or as I call it, Hymen Times. That rag is basically Weekly World News without the hard-hitting Elvis coverage. I'm sure Cosmo's staff has some true believers, but I suspect more than a few know they're just accomplices in a campaign of mi$information.

Each issue of Cosmo features cutting edge scholarship like, "Ten Ways to Please Him" or "What your man wants to say but can't." These at least sound informative, if you can escape the "Chocolate Chip Cookies: Are They Making Him Distant?" section. Unfortunately, once you reach "Ten Ways," you're treated to advice bearing no resemblance to any desire held by any hetero, non-institutionalized male since the fall of homo erectus. I can state with categorical certainty that doing Sudoku together using only your toes tickles no man's fancy.

Let me show you a Cosmo advice list for women reflecting men’s actual desires:

Page 1: Be a monogamous, round the clock nympho.
Page 2: See page 1.

What men want is rapt devotion in the bedroom and laissez-faire everywhere else. Basically, Hong Kong compressed into a cute, compact female. But you won't catch Cosmo admitting that, because if they did their readership would dry up faster than a reference at a figure of speech. So to keep readers from collapsing in despair, Cosmo instead caters to the most infantile dreams of its most infantile readers. And because average women have never heard such dreck, many end up mistaking Cosmo’s witchcraft for "inside scoops."

Unfortunately, what ails Cosmo also ails the "higher" forms of media. No media outlet can show us The Wizard and remain solvent.

CNBC, "America's business channel," can't tell its viewers that America's "dynamic" economy is built on borrowed money and reserve currency shenanigans, or that day traders (their core audience) rarely make money, or that literally almost every mutual fund underperforms the market. BORING! CNBC has to keep the witless watchers watching, and that means telling them this market is red, white, and blue hot! Take off your pom-poms and get in the game! BUY BUY BUY!!!

When it comes to cynical, full throttle book talking, Rolling Stone is practically a handbook. Rolling Stone has long postured as contrarian, even though it gives slobbery grandma kisses to every trend that comes along. When hair metal died in the early 90's, they began speaking of it in the kind of somber, unbelieving tones you'd expect from a medical journal discussing the days of leech treatments. Never mind that RS had spent the 80's hyping bands like Cinderella. They now wanted it understood that the days of hair metal were dark and unenlightened. Never forget.

But the second hair metal returned, what did this pillar of integrity have to say about it? "Dust off those mullets, kids! REAL ROCK is back!!!"

Naturally, Rolling Stone was just talking its book, and I don’t blame them. You can't turn a profit reporting that every band since Radiohead has been a disgrace. If they copped to that, no one would buy the issue featuring Taylor Swift’s strategy for exiting Iraq. And I'm sure any day now they'll have an article telling us Fergie Ferg is not a butta face, but rather an example of the new "Marmaduke chic."

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