When Free Speech Costs Double
By John McCarthy
All the world’s a stage, but the modern American media business is but a shill game.
So Tina Dupuy is right to make a distinction between Free Speech and Free Enterprise.
The two things aren’t related as it turns out (not even kissin’ cousins if you’re watching “Duck Dynasty” or “Honey Boo Boo.”)
The reason no one defends Alec Baldwin, Martin Bashir and Phil Robertson on Free Speech is because the Free Market sorts all that out on its own.
Advertising agencies pay big bucks for demographic studies of television audiences that let them know whether someone who is watching “The Martin Bashir Show” is more likely to gargle with Scope or Listerine.
Demographic studies allow companies to make more efficient use of their precious advertising dollars by scientifically pairing a product with a select “target” audience.
The idea: to maximize the chances that someone watching the show will actually go out and buy their product once the show is over.
Statistics like age, sex, marital status and household income provide ad agencies’ media buyers with the information they need to more accurately predict which shows companies should “bet on” to sell more products.
If you make squawking duck whistles in Louisiana – and aren’t fond of shaving implements – have we ever got a show fer you – yee ha! Get ‘er done!
The usual suspects: Alec, Martin and Phil were thrilled when MSNBC and A&E respectively – asked them to host shows on their networks.
At that time, with apologies to Sally Field and The Academy, the networks “really, really liked them!”
Or so they thought. (It IS what their agents told them then.)
But really, really, truth be told, what the networks REALLY wanted from that fearsome threesome was RATINGS – because the higher the ratings – the more the networks can charge for the shows (A)lec, (M)artin and (P)hil were/are on.
Only, sometimes these hosts, well, ur – get a little full of themselves – and go on homophobic gay bashing jaunts (as in the cases of Alec and Phil) – or attempt to give 2016 Republican Presidential candidates lessons in historic slave punishments – as in the case of Martin.
And that’s not what they were hired to do. What they were hired to do was to get increasingly more audience share for their respective time slots. Nothing more.
The fact that Phil kept his job (because his A&E show is highly rated) proves the point.
Get ‘er done, as Larry The Cable Guy, now The purple Prilosec OTC Guy, used to say.
When A-M-P started yelling “fire” in a crowded movie theaters nationwide, network execs ran screaming for the exits.
It might take “brass balls to sell real estate,” as Alec famously said in the movie “Glengarry Glen Ross,” but ShamWow! balls might have gotten her done just as efficiently for MSNBC. After all, it’s all about branding. Not all about them. The stars, that is. Only the stars’ egos don’t always inform them thus and so.
So when the “Hunt for the Red October” star’s toxicity level soared after TMZ started videotaping Alec Argument gay bashing paparazzi nearly every night live on tape – Mr. Baldwin went the way of Mr. Bashir, BEFORE HE DID. Bye, bye Bashir. Bet you don’t cry for him now, Al-ec-ti-no.
As Dupuy writes: “Corporations should not have to sponsor people who say things [that] will hurt their brand.”
And so they don’t – but in fact – they never have.
Case in point: Andy Warhol and the Campbell’s Soup Company. Arguably, nobody did more (in terms of free advertising) for a product (with as little effort and as much fanfare) as Drella did for the Campbell’s Soup Company with his then-shocking consumme can paintings in 1962. The complete set of 32 was ceded to the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) for a round $100 million – an individual Campbell’s Soup Can painting sold for $11.8 million in 2006.
But three years after Warhol’s death, when the paintings were still reasonably-priced (by corporate-buying standards,) the Campbell’s Soup Company CEO was asked point blank if the company had ever broken down and bought one of the paintings to display in their Camden, New Jersey world headquarters.
Campbell’s just said “no.” The company did not want to “officially” marry Warhol’s image with their own.
So there you have it. “The more things change, the more they stay the same,” as Yogi Berra once said.
The game has never changed, whether it is soap powder and hair tonic advertised on “Truth or Consequences” – or Hot Pockets & camouflage gatling guns advertised on “Duck Dynasty” – it’s all just a shill game.
Under which “rock” is the celebrity hiding?
Go ahead, pick one.
Duck, duck, goose.
© Copyright 2014 Secret Goldfish Publishing House/John Francis McCarthy
John McCarthy is an investigative reporter, artist and photojournalist based in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Please send questions and comments to: [email protected]