Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Wouldn't the giant TOASTERS be a dead giveaway? (THIS is a THING?!)

So there's really no news organization you can trust anymore. That's the downside to this new media Internet everyone's online all the time Twitter Facebook generation or whatever it is we're calling it this week: News organizations, which are typically not your best revenue generators, are increasingly resorting to generating the news in a weird sort of synergy that, while boosting the bottom line, means that you can't trust them at all to accurately report the news.

Put another way: News organizations need to make money, and how they're making money is by lying to you, but they're doing it subtly, and they're doing it with the help of a new breed of people who desperately want to be interviewed about how they desperately don't want to be interviewed.

The problem with news organizations, of course, is that what they have to sell is a hot commodity for about 0.0000000000001 seconds. Let's take a hypothetical news event, which I will make up for the sake of this example:

Giant Semi-Intelligent Pieces Of Toast Attack Bismarck, North Dakota!

Leave aside for the moment that nothing happening in North Dakota, which is technically not even a place, is really news, and leave aside for the moment the fact that I just broke the news, accidentally, that the government has been hiding the existence of Giant Semi-Intelligent Pieces Of Toast from you, the gullible public. When you read that headline, of the story I just broke, it was news to you.

And it was also news to the 10,000,000 other people who read this blog on a daily basis (don't bother checking the site counter, that stat is accurate) and who just went and posted that piece of news on their Twitter or Facebook or other account, and the 10,000,000 people who read their stuff then clicked the link and posted that story to a blog which was read by 10,000,000 other people, and so all that news value dropped faster than prices for tech stocks picked by a hot sophomore venture capitalist who I'm sure didn't get her job just because she managed to exactly match the fantasies of the 10 guys who hired her:

This is Ernestine Fu. She is a sophomore in college.
She just got hired by a venture capital
firm, and was given authority to give
$1.3 million in funding to a tech startup
your day going?

Where was I?

Oh, yeah: News organizations and how you can't trust them. The fact is, news organizations break news at their own expense, only to then have the Huffington Post go and reprint it all so that people like me will read HuffPo for free and never bother going to the original site for the news, and because of that, news organizations are going broke.

So they have to resort to increasingly desperate tactics like getting their news anchors to write books (which they sell on the air) or getting their news anchors to record albums (which they sell on the air) or other publicity stunts that will help cross-collateralize the news world and keep selling media, like today's THING, which is THIS:

Faking a Walkout on an Interview.

You might have recently heard that Christine O'Donnell, who is a person you will not remember 10 months from now, "walked out" on an interview by Piers Morgan, who is a person I suspect might be more involved in the Rupert Murdoch Phone Hacking Scandal than we are being told. Link

And if you follow me on Twitter, which you should because I frequently Tweet-While-Jogging and I am fascinating while I am jogging, then you know that I think the whole thing was a setup -- not just because I'm secretly a closet-conspiracist who instantly thinks everything up to and including the weird guy in my parking garage who's always getting dressed in his car is part of some giant conspiracy, but also because the O'Donnell walkout was so clearly a B.S. walkout, as judged by

(A) The fact that CNN couldn't possibly hype that walkout enough, and
(B) Christine O'Donnell mistook her cue for when she was supposed to walk out, thereby tipping her hand that this was a fake walkout.

Both of which, as we'll see, show that not only did CNN and O'Donnell likely conspire to fake a walkout for ratings, but also help prove that all interview walkouts are fake.

Let's delve into this further with some information:

What THIS THING is, in a nutshell:
The Fake Walkout is the modest person's version of a celebrity sex-tape. Now that it's no longer possible to kick-start a career simply by making a sex-tape, people have to do something else to attract attention, and one way to do that is to walk out on an interview.

Why is that, you might ask? Let's use the example of the Christine O'Donnell interview walkout to see, in "real life", as it were, why people think the Fake Walkout works to generate publicity.

O'Donnell, remember, gained notoriety by being a pro-witchcraft/anti-masturbation Racist Tea Party candidate for U.S. Senate, proving that in this great country of ours, one need not be sane or qualified to get 20% of the racists in a state to think you're worth electing. When enough sensible Delawareans made it to the polls to derail O'Donnell's ability to derail our government, that should have, but did not, spell the end of the public's paying attention to O'Donnell.

It did not end the public paying attention to O'Donnell for one reason: O'Donnell wasn't done being paid attention to -- as you'd expect, from someone who had so little filter on her need to be paid attention to that she would happily spout off whatever garbage popped into her head ("I went to a satanic mass! I hate masturbation! I'm not a witch! I'm a Tea Partier!") -- but, O'Donnell had a problem: she wanted attention paid to her, but nothing she was doing anymore was worth paying attention to.

So she wrote a book.

Writing a book is not hard. I've already written five, and I can almost never find my keys in the morning. Snooki wrote a book. So did that one boring girl from The Hills. And Ethan Hawke wrote one or two, even though technically speaking he's really grimy looking.

The fact that O'Donnell wrote a book doesn't impress me at all, especially because she likely didn't write it herself anyway but had a ghost writer do it. It was just the next stage of the life cycle of the modern celebrity -- get noticed, then stay noticed.

O'Donnell then got what she wanted: people were paying attention to her, in that she was booked onto shows to talk about her book. And that's when she ran into Piers Morgan.

In recent weeks, Piers Morgan's ratings have been bad. A sampling of recent days shows Piers finished, in his time slot, among cable news shows consistently third or fourth out of five. Not good.

So what's a poor talk-show host to do, when he's being trumped over and over by the likes of Dr. Drew? Stage a ratings gamble, that's what.

Here's the video:

The walk-off occurs rather early on, and you can see, at 2:50, O'Donnell says "Are we off?" and looks to someone off camera, while Piers gamely tries to act as though she did not just blow it. (You can also hear O'Donnell giggle once she's off camera.)

That's not the only evidence of the Fake Walk-Off, though. Consider O'Donnell's poorly-phrased argument for why she won't talk about what's in her book:

"Because I don't think it's relevant."

That is, it's not relevant to talk about what's in her book... the book she's there to talk about. Nobody thought beforehand to talk about why she'd walk off. They just thought to have her walk off, and assumed that things would take care of themselves.

Want more evidence?

Piers Morgan released tape of the walk-off in advance -- on his blog and to other sites, to hype the walk-off.

Want more evidence? After she walked off his show, Piers tried to help sell her book!

Want more evidence? CNN ran with this story -- featuring it on Showbiz Tonight, among other shows that I saw cover the Piers Morgan walk-off, and got tons of news coverage for Piers Morgan not only on its own shows, but on other shows, with O'Donnell going on to other news organizations and not walking off -- but talking about the walk-off.

Piers kept up the hype, too, having professional something-or-other Gloria Allred (why does she turn up in every single story?) come on his show to declare that Piers had not sexually harassed O'Donnell, and another guest on the show was quoted on Piers' blog as describing the walk-off thusly:

"this controversy that apparently everyone is talking about. Piers Morgan: he's dangerous, he's cheeky, who's going to walk out next?"Link

Morgan worked this walk-off for all it was worth: He got Jimmy Carter's speechwriter (that being indicative of the high-powered guests Morgan can command, absent fake walk-offs) to comment on it, too -- the speechwriter being one of two guests invited on the next night to talk about the (pre-planned)(fake) walkoff -- and got one of his staffers to do a post-mortem on walking out O'Donnell after the walkout, posted clips of the show on his blog (again), did a show on how not to walk out on an interview, and got his CNN coworker Jeanne Moos to do a whole report highlighting the (Fake) Walkout:

O'Donnell, meanwhile, was milking it just as much: she quickly rose to the top of Google trends, probably the first time she'd been on top since Dan Savage declared the final 42 days before the election to be "Masturbate to Christine O'Donnell Day(s)" . (Slate said she got 200 articles on Google News about the walk-off alone.)

And because of that, people are still talking about O'Donnell a week later. And while Slate says her book isn't selling, 2,300th in the nation for a minor political tract from a failed one-time candidate isn't too shabby. (The book is, as of today, 19 in "state and local government" books, ahead of Fareed Zakaria's book, among others. Fareed didn't walk out of any interviews lately, though.)(The book is curiously, ALSO 34th, making me question Amazon's sales rankings.)

So the Fake Walkoff is a publicity stunt. It consists of:

(A) doing something noteworthy enough to get interviewed, then
(B) taking offense at something in the interview, and then
(C) walking off,
(D) ideally onto the set of the coLinkmpanion show, where you'll discuss the walk-off.

When Did THIS THING start?

With Dan Rather, of all people.

Rather, back in 1987, was miffed that CBS decided to shorten the evening news by six minutes to finish up covering a tennis match, and so he walked off the set of the Evening News. While it's understandable that people would be driven to distraction by other people paying attention to tennis, Rather's reaction is the earliest known walk-off I can find, and I even went so far as to google the phrase "Did Lincoln ever walk out of an interview" because everyone knows that Lincoln did a lot of stuff, so maybe he walked out of an interview, too, leaving his interviewer sitting there with a shovel and a chunk of coal, waiting to finish the interview.

But no dice. If Lincoln walked out of an interview, historians have thus far managed to cover it up as effectively as the Obama Administration did that Giant Toast.

You haven't forgotten about the Giant Toast, have you? You know it's Semi-Intelligent, don't you?

When did THIS THING officially pass into pop culture?

Probably not before Dan Rather passed out of pop culture -- Rather's kind of faded from our mindset, nowadays, hasn't he? A sad end for the man who was the inspiration, via a pistol-whipping, for the REM song "What's The Frequency, Kenneth?"

I'm going to go with this year. While it's true that in 2010, the Fake Walk-Off reached global proportions, with Russell Crowe walking out of an interview, some other foreign guy doing the same thing, and even Julian Assange pulled the Fake Walk-Off last year, it wasn't until this year that the Fake Walk-Off hit full swing, with Marc Anthony, Kat Von D, and Paris Hilton serving as your "entertainment" contingent of Fake Walk-Offs, while Rahm Emanuel and Congressman Jim Moran brought the Fake Walk-Off to politics before O'Donnell faked her way through it.

If there was any doubt that 2011 was the year of the Fake Walk-Off, consider that not only are there more of them this year than any prior year, but it wasn't until 2011 that we, as a culture, got to see this actual sentence in print:

Ilyasah Shabazz, third daughter of Malcolm X and Betty Shabazz, walked out of an interview with NPR's Michel Martin.

That comes from an NPR story, covering the Fake Walk-Off (from an interview on NPR!) by Malcolm X's daughter over questions of whether Malcolm X may have sometimes been gay. And it's the combination of gay rights, NPR, Malcolm X, civil rights, and Fake Walkoffs that makes me say that's the pinnacle of the Fake Walk-Off.

Is THIS THING still going on? Obviously, it is. But not for long because, remember, when Republicans do a THING, that THING dies. Christine O'Donnell-- antimasturbation Witch that she is -- is a Republican. THIS THING is dead.

Can You Sum Up The Fake Walk-Off For People Who Skimmed Through This Post and Just Want a Quick Takeaway?

I can't believe you asked me that. Honestly, I find this kind of insulting. I don't have to sit here and take this. [Picks up keyboard, puts under arm, storms off.]

Okay, see what I did there?

Nice, right?

Oh, and before I forget, I was going to give you your picture of January Jones, to go with that post-leading picture of Martin Henderson, but I have, instead, decided to give you this picture of Giant, Semi-Intelligent Pieces of Toast Attacking Bismarck, North Dakota:

Oh, what the heck. You stuck it out this far. You earned this:


Rogue Mutt said...

Come on, that's nothing. William Randolph Hearst instigated the Spanish-American War through his newspapers.

Briane P said...

Are you implying that the Spanish-American war had more of an impact on the US than Christine O'Donnell's views on gay marriage.