Sunday, March 29, 2015

The Invisible Scalps of the Marketplace

Random surfing on a lazy Sunday afternoon:  over at Cole's jernt, some low-hanging fruit got me thinking a bit (I know, I know, throw your worst at me). Normally, watching some bien pensant fool get hoist on his own petard after giving low-wage food service staff a hard time would give me a pretty fat outrage boner.

But this is nuts -- as ham-fisted as this schmuck's attempt to Do The Right Thing and speak Truth To Power turned out, he lost a $200K/year job, $1M in stock options, received a bunch of death and bomb threats, and now lives with his wife and four kids in an RV, on food stamps. All for a dumb two-minute video he shot almost three years ago.

Meanwhile, if you're a butt-hurt cheapskate pastor, you can get an Applebee's waitress fired over a shitty comment on a receipt, involving a $6 tip, and still peddle 27-page self-help books at ten bucks a pop. (And take your tax write-offs, of course, no doubt including the aforementioned meal.)

I'd say Adam Smith paid a huge price for a relatively minor transgression, and that these viral incidents happen randomly, and without proportion. People get away with being raging assholes to waitstaff everywhere, all the time, while others lose their careers because they said something stupid.

And yet Donald Trump continues to fester in the public eye, a turgid, nasty reminder that karma really is just a fiction we tell ourselves, to reserve the hope of justice in an entropic, indifferent universe.

What got Smith dinged up is that he chose to insert himself into a politically contentious issue, one that clearly has its share of potentially violent bozos. But it's not even the bozos and weirdos that were the problem -- the problem was the mere potential that Smith expressing his opinion and pissing off a bunch of emotionally retarded people could be bad for business.

Corporations and their sponsors rule the world now, and perceptions and marketing matter more than ever. Sometimes that works out for the best; as Arizona found out last year, and Indiana is about to find out soon, gay people buy stuff, and so companies are loath to piss them off. Who knew?

Watching the video, Smith's uncalled-for smuggery and his abuse of the staff stand out. While he was polite enough to Rachel the fast-food worker, his senseless trolling on what he gloated was a busy day was shitty and unnecessary. What did he think was going to happen, that Rachel was going to get on the phone with Dan Cathy and tell him that his unkind comments about gays cost them a free cup of water for some rich douchebag?

But again, he paid a more-than-harsh penalty, for what virtually any food-service worker will tell you was a comparatively minor transgression, and it was mostly because he aggravated an interest group that are organized and skilled at intimidating their opponents. You hear of Phil Robertson getting any bomb threats, losing any part of his livelihood, over all the hateful shit he's said over and over again? Me neither.

Perhaps the most interesting part of this story is that Smith's story has resurfaced because he -- wait for it -- put it into an e-book, which has been amazingly poorly received, and whose description shows Smith's unfortunately thin skin.

[Pro tip -- never put this sentence anywhere near the product you're trying to sell:  Update as of 3/27/2015, 6:45pm, PT, regarding the many 1-star ratings my book has received today and yesterday, I would like to note that I have only sold 17 digital copies thus far, yet there are 23 1-star ratings on my book. This fascinates me! LOL!]

Then again, after the disproportionate punishment they've received for their high crimes, it would be understandable if Adam Smith or Justine Sacco came off as a bit sensitive.

No comments: