[Originally posted at Medium, mostly because I was curious] My oldest friend and I have just launched a boutique advertising network for independent gaming websites called Eudaimoneers. It’s about the least likely thing that me-of-20-years-ago could have imagined doing. It’s disconcerting, but it feels good, man. I’d like to tell you some of the why of both.
You’ve probably seen Bill Hicks’ advertising rant from back in 1993. Even if you haven’t, the probability approaches 1.0 that you’ve seen somebody reference it if you’ve ever read a single message board thread in the last 20 years where people were talking about advertising. But just in case, here it is (and there’s a lot of cursing and barely-suppressed anger and general billhicksiness, so: warning if it’s new to you)
Here’s how he starts, just in case you’re not up for the swears
By the way if anyone here is in advertising or marketing… kill yourself. It’s just a little thought; I’m just trying to plant seeds. Maybe one day they’ll take root — I don’t know. You try, you do what you can.
Seriously though, if you are, do.
Aaah, no really. There’s no rationalisation for what you do and you are Satan’s little helpers. Okay — kill yourself. Seriously. You are the ruiner of all things good.
That’s a strange way to kick off an essay about trying to launch a new advertising business, I know. Stick with me.
Remember George Carlin’s ‘Asshole, Jackoff or Scumbag?’ Well, if you’re not an old fart like me, you might not, so enjoy:
This Carlin bit comes to mind, or to my mind at least, about… well, about 5 to 10 times a day, to be honest, lately. Because let’s face it folks: we are positively awash in assholes, ass-deep in jackoffs, and drowning in a sea of scumbags. Turn on the TV and you’re assaulted with full-auto barrages of all three. We’re lied to, manipulated, and milked for every last goddamned bit of consumer-juice we’re good for, pretty much every waking second. Let’s not even get into the mild-mannered khaki-wearing foryourowngooder digital buttspelunkers at the NSA, and their shitweasel enablers in every boardroom and Congressional Blowjob Parlor the world over. But I sense I am getting away from my main point here. Focus, stav.
To wit: fuck these guys. Specifically, fuck the Interactive Advertising Bureau. Also, fuck the Digital Advertising Alliance. While we’re at it, fuck the Network Advertising Initiative, the Direct Marketing Association, the American Advertising Federation, the Association of National Advertisers, and just for fun, fuck the Interactive Advertising Bureau all over again. Fuck them in the eyeball with Hitler’s petrified diesel-dipped dick.
Here’s why (beyond the obvious).
Are the people behind this assholes, jerkoffs, or scumbags? I will let you decide, gentle reader.
Whichever way you go, the sheer dimwitted audacity of that is kind of breathtaking, isn’t it? I mean, it doesn’t take much in the way of balls to lie to stupid people in the media these days — hell, it’s expected — but doing it in print seems quite a bit more ballsy. And stupid.
Stupid and Ballsy™, the new hit show on Fox, coming this fall.
But I’ve got to thank them for dragging their big dumb testicles across my chin. I must admit that working up a nice frothing head of righteous indignation at stuff like this helps reassure me that even though I’m getting old, I’m not getting any more willing to gobble down the crap and ask for more. Recreational fury keeps the valves clean.
So, anyway: they recommend you send an email to [email protected] to somehow validate the spurious FUD-flavoured bullshit they’re spouting. Me, I’d suggest you send a message to that address, too. But perhaps one that compliments them on their massive, stupid, stupid balls.
Here’s your Superbowl-and-circuses, Citizens™! Please enjoy the clash of these broken, opiated gladiators we have assembled for your pleasure. You will also enjoy these messages exhorting you to buy more products and services. Because the awareness that you have no value as anything but Consumers may upset, you are encouraged to treat our crass blandishments as entertainment. More entertainment to entertain you! We have been assured that there will be no shortage of websites that will fall all over themselves to give you a chance to watch our ads online, just in case, heaven forfend, that you were unfortunate enough to miss the opportunity during the game itself. We aim to please, as long as pleasing means you’ll like us more and buy more of our useless garbage.
Oh Oracle Google! Consort to the Apple-onian godhead, second among our modern pantheon, the smoke of our ad-view offerings wafts skyward, and your powerful limbs engorge with ad revenue. It is a mere 4% of your Olympian might that does not spring from selling us Product, and we in turn swell with pride. Even Facebook, so unloved but so tightly wound around our lives like the snakes on fleet Hermes’ staff, even Facebook is an ad-revenue eyeball-offering 85%-er.
Our Dionysian rites, on screens big and small, are littered with more Products more!, sometimes so risibly over-the-top as to temper the bite of tragedy with some welcome if undeliberate corporate comedy. And music — oh terpsichorean muse — we enlist your aid in winging ever more goods into our hands. Goods, I say, because goods and products are the same, and they are Good!
OK, enough faux-classical silliness. Yes, the cranky old man has a wild hair up his butt again. But all of these things and more boggle me right upside my head.
You know what? I’m a little weary of hearing about your conferences, your camps, your cozy cash-on-the-barrelhead confabs. I don’t want to know what web-shaking new thoughts percolated through the sponsored-by-Starbuck’s IRC backchannel while some Internet Smellovision™ rep droned and powerpointed onstage. I don’t really need to see more Flickr pictures of grinning gaggles of bloggers glistening with teraflopsweat, a little too eager to prove that they socialize in other venues besides World of Warcraft.
Don’t try and tell me that ‘business weblogs’ or ‘the business of weblogs’ are anything but business. Go ahead and do your business. Make your money: we’ve all got to. Convene with your peers and drive your value propositions down the ROI highway. It’s all good. We’re lucky if we can make a living doing something we love. But if what you do and what you say in this shared textual space of ours is about selling something, then it’s about selling something. Don’t bullshit us. Lines blur; everything gets a price tag slapped on it.
I’m not looking at your ads, and there’s no way I’m clicking them, unless I’m right-clicking on them to add them to my Adblock list, and I’m cursing you for making me go through that small tribulation.
Then my nose opens up and the fingers begin to flex when I read again how you were talking to that netfamous guy about this other well-known weblog guy, because that’s what famous internet guys do — they network. They do it publicly, and dignify it by calling it ‘conversation’. Networking obviates the need for latex gloves while giving a socialmedia reacharound.
Conversation as intercourse. Intercourse as commerce. You know somebody’s getting f–ked. I think it might be us. Ad copy tattoed on our lover’s forehead, and we’re so inured to it that we don’t even notice anymore. We’re trying to make love in the middle of the marketplace, but we’re just getting screwed.
Conferences are where salesmen go. Because that’s what salesmen do — they network. They sell. They place ads where we’ll see them, so they can sell us something. Salespeople. Salespersons, I guess. Salors and salestresses. They sell. Lomans, not shamans.
We’ve got the salesman archetype etched into the cultural DNA by now — we see cheap suit a little sad, a little desperate, the armpit-stained Flying Dutchman of the strip malls. We hear faux-friendly NLP-creepy patter, we cringe, even if we’re not sure why. Salesman selling something at us makes our sphincters tighten in a pre-fight-or-flight reflex. Does mine, anyway. And thanks at least in part to the blithely worshipful way that your average blogjockey has of beating the bones together at the foot of the Google Monolith, Adsense has infiltrated our online culture, has made slightly sad dry-haired Holiday Inn revenants of all of us, trapped in a coach seat next to some guy trying to sell us some shit we don’t need, waiting to get a word in edgewise so we can sell him some shit he doesn’t want.
My god, it’s full of ads! Ads by Goooooooooogle. There’s something hidden in that inviting string of ‘ooooooooooo’s waiting to be teased out by a modern day steganographic Nostradamus. While making his ‘o’ face.
(Yeah, I flog Dreamhost here, and I run Adsense on one of my other sites. I’ve become as guilty of this sort of whoring as the next poor rube. I’m squatting as deep in the shit as you are, pants around my ankles, ‘raising the level of discourse’.)
‘But wonderchicken, my cranky friend,’ you may well object. ‘If you don’t like it, just stop reading it! Nobody’s holding your feet to the fire here. Let those who can and want to spend their time and money sitting in threadworn conference centres with others of their adoptive sept and clan do so, and do not begrudge them their participation in the Monetary Blogdustrial Complex. It is an Engine of The New Economy! It is a bitwork bulwark against the Old Media Hegemony, from which we can together launch our Social Media Enfilade! A rising tide of advertising and self-promotion lifts all boats! We need the evangelists and the shills to Get The Word Out! The Long Tail will always be there wagging the Big Dogs, rich strata of abandoned and automated weblogs, linkfarms and pr0n, and lonely people bellowing out across the virtual rooftops to their audiences of search bots, googlenauts and bemused relatives. The human experience, made hyperlinked. Google will index it all, and get rich on the carrion-clicks that it sells to the office cubicle fools who Aren’t Us! It’s a Brand® New Day!’
Yeah, I know. But I felt like I needed to launch a barbaric yawp into the aether, because I miss it sometimes. And these things can be bad for you if you just let them build up inside. Hi Dave!
Weblog people love to jerk off into the Google Kleenex™ (still in beta), rub the resultant mess all over their faces, then post about it on their sites. They’re putting the Goo into Google at thousands of litres per second. They’d pile on and collectively hump it into a smoking hole in the ground if they could find enough holes to plug with their techno-weiners (or grind its G-pelvis to dust, if they’re she-geeks, I suppose).
Investors love the Goo as well. If they got in on the ground floor, they’ve made enough money that they just don’t give a shit what’s going on in the dungeons beneath the Googleplex. “Hell, the cafeteria lunches are legendary, and the corporate motto is “Don’t be evil”, right? Look at that stock price! We’re too busy running around naked with bouquets of rolled-up dollar bills sticking out of our asses to worry about details!”
Advertisers, the whoring undead scum that take everything they touch and convert it to shit, they’re nuts-deep in the Goo. After all, Google is an advertising company first and foremost, now. If it’s not the world’s biggest trader of weapons of shit conversion, it’s certainly the most exciting. “The eyeballs! The delicious sweet tangy eyeballs, filled with goo! Let a thousand text-ads bloom!”
Hell, I use its services a hundred times a day, literally. There’s wonderchicken goo in the bucket, too.
We live in a world where the country that calls itself the Champion of Freedom and Democracy tortures prisoners in an archipelago of secret prisons. Where the evil dimwit homunculus known inexplicably as the Leader of The Free World unapologetically claims the right to spy on the communications of his own citizens. A squinting faux-cowboy weasel who launches his hobbyhorse war in Iraq on lies, grudges, and incompetence one day, sells it as crusade for Freedom, then turns around, drops and mouths the potent rhinohorn-stiffened economic cock of the Chinese the next. Don’t get the wrong idea, though. It’s manly, Texas-style dong-wrangling. It’s realpolitik.
And it’s enough to make your head spin. Rather than green vomit, though, words fountain out, splash and drip down the walls.
But hang on: the plot — convoluted and far-fetched as it already is — thickens. The Freedom Through Torture (Liberty Through Surveillance Department) gang wants Google to disclose information about its users. Google says “No way, we’re like totally not evil!” Almost the very next day, as they used to say in the fairy tales, Google then turns around and says “Hey, we’re totally going to censor search results in China, though! It’s not all that evil, right?” Are you seeing a pattern here, too?
Google is full of shit. The fact that they’re not the only ones does not excuse them.
And though there are a few weblog people out there saying “My little revenue-goo stream is not worth throwing in with this kind of thing,” the river of Goo shows little sign of drying up. Same thing goes for the investors, not surprisingly, and the marketing shit-alchemists know there’s no such thing as bad publicity.
So Andrew McLaughlin, who is Google’s Senior Policy Counsel, whatever that means, says:
Noted Large and Smart weblogger David Weinberger, who is indeed Smart, and Large in the sense that he is one of the brighter sources of light in our in our texty netherworld, and casts a long shadow in the cashosphere that has attached itself limpetlike to us over the past couple of years, well, he gives Google a bit of a pass, though he admits to ‘being torn’ in face of McLaughlin’s justification. Well, OK. It’s true that nothing is black and white. Grey is the new black.
In classic wonderchicken style, I’m entirely untorn, though.
Andrew McLaughlin is also full of shit. That’s no surprise — he’s a lawyer, right? But his artless waffle tastes a lot like Bush’s pet lawyer, Alberto Gonzales, helping to justify torture. But you know, only some torture. “Waterboarding, sleep deprivation, ‘stress positions’, psychological cruelty? Evil? Well, less evil than thumbscrews, castration, disemboweling, stuff like that, right? We’re totally all about the freedom and the democracy!”
What’s inconsistent with Google’s corporate motto — remember, it’s “Don’t be evil!” — is being evil, you asshole. Remember #6, from the ‘ten things’: “You can make money without doing evil.” This isn’t rocket science, and David Weinberger notwithstanding, it’s not complicated.
Google is a company, and more significantly an advertising company, and that means that the truth is that nothing can come in the way of whoring itself out for a sleazy but necessary buck or two. You have to keep your investors happy. It’s evil to get down on your knees in the filth and suck that cock in the back alley, then stab the guy and steal his wallet. It’s less evil to just drain the goo and let him stagger away. Yay! Everyone’s a winner, and you can rest easy, at least after you’ve scored some smack to keep the demon at bay. You have to keep your dealer happy. Not to mention your pimp.
Google doesn’t need to be in China. There are other search engines, domestic and international. The absence of Google is not going to suddenly deprive those poor Chinese citizens — the ones looking over their shoulder to see if the government is watching — of the ability to find information about washing machines and condoms. The only reason Google ‘needs’ to be there is the money. The sweet, filthy, repressive, execution-happy, police state money. Google wants growth, because that’s what investors want. Growth. Not the metastatic cancer cauliflower kind of growth either — they want those graphs pointing skyward, proud and erectile. They want to get in to China, build a foothold. And they’ll do evil to get that market share.
But there’s no actual need. No need to get down in the filthy alley in front of the Chinese government. Let Baidu have the money. Let someone else do it. You can make money without doing evil.
“Removing search results is inconsistent with Google’s mission, providing no information (or a heavily degraded user experience that amounts to no information) is more inconsistent with our mission.”
Let there be no confusion. Google’s mission is to make money. And holy crap, those Chinese have got some money these days.
Words have meanings. We’ve never been at war with Oceania. f–k you, Google.
[Update, long long after the fact (June 07 2006)] : ‘We were evil, Google founder admits.’ The ‘it’s only business’ apologists can commence to sucking my balls….. now.