Thursday, July 29, 2010

On Glenn Beck's Side (for once)

Barry Ritholtz thinks Glenn Beck is scheming:

I disagree.

I think Glenn Beck is making money in a more honest and transparent way than how most of us pay our bills. When I read over Jess Bachman's chart (above), I couldn't help but think of Thank You for Smoking.
Not only does protagonist come up with an internal advertizing campaign like Beck's (but for cigarrettes instead of for gold), "Now, what we need is a smoking role model, a real winner. . . .

Indiana Jones meets Jerry Maguire. . . . Right, on two packs a day. . . ." featuring Brad Pitt and Catherine Zeta-Jones smoking healthy cigarettes in the nude in the future in space, but he also iterates and reiterates what he calls "the Yuppie Nuremberg defense": some variation of "Everyone's got a mortgage to pay."

Our economic system is such that, for a person to make a living doing whatever-it-is-Glenn-Beck-does, one must sell something. To make money doing anything, one must sell something. I put affiliate links all over this post in hopes that you, you personally, will click one, buy the product, and we will get a cut. Also, maybe the movie covers are illustrative.

Side note: I have never been able to wrap my head around how the system is supposed to work: everyone sells things and makes a profit. Where is the source of all this money? How can it be a zero-sum game? I understand on the individual level how things work, but I have trouble imagining the big picture. Maybe Bachman could make an illustration of that for me?

Back to business: Remember Judge Doom's dream in
Who Framed Roger Rabbit?? Billboards everywhere came true! I realize that the film takes place years before it was written, filmed, or released, but even in the era in which the film takes place, the economy was moving towards its current configuration. Brad Pitt and Catherine Zeta-Jones may not be smoking Sector Sixes nude in space, but they have to hock products for a living too. If you catch

Twelve Monkeys or Se7en or Meet Joe Black or Burn After Reading or Inglourious Basterds on a network station, your film will be interspersed with "commercial breaks" filled with filmed advertisments. These ads imply and deny implying mutual support of the real and/or fictional people involved with the film that is bookending them. You might even see an ad where Catherine Zeta-Jones explicitly states mutual support of a beauty product. Even in theaters and on most dvds, commercials precede the feature. Many, perhaps most, films include embedded product placement.

Compare the fund-raising practices of Brad Pitt and Catherine Zeta-Jones to those of Glenn Beck. Beck is just about as transparent as possible. Goldline advertizes during both his radio and television shows. Beck promotes Glodline during both his radio and television shows. Beck even appears in Goldline advertizements. Beck is just short of explicitly saying, "I make money for Goldline, and Goldline makes money for me."

Beck is a weasel who is probably eventually going to laugh himself to death, but his arrangement with Goldline is hardly secretive or dishonest.