Marshall McLuhan famously said “Control the media. Control the message.”
Look, if the world’s richest man decides to blow up his marriage, and take nude photos of himself to share with his lover, that’s his business.
Is it salacious? Yes.
American Media Inc, the parent of tabloid newspaper The National Enquirer, acquired nude selfies of Jeff Bezos. At the same time, the Bezos owned Washington Post was investigating the company. Naturally, American Media Inc responded by trying to bully Bezos into forcing the paper to stop the investigation.
What was their threat? They threatened to post the nude pictures. I mean, sure, maybe Bezos should’ve shown a little more restraint but love makes us all a little crazy.
And what bullying tactic did American Media Inc use to threaten Bezos? As Bezos shows us, they used e-mails. That’s right, e-mails. Perhaps the LEAST secure form of modern communication. Which leads me to believe that American Media Inc must’ve thought the threat would make Bezos shake in his shoes . . . or they lacked any degree of intelligence that one might associate with a lawyer.
Turns out it’s the latter.
Truth be told, even if Bezos had capitulated, those pictures are out there. They live on a server somewhere so there’s no going back. He would have been beholden to AMI and at their mercy. However humiliating it must have been, he reacted with intelligence . . . certainly, more intelligence than he showed taking the photos that got him into this mess.
I have to say that culturally, this is a new low. What’s worse? The world’s wealthiest man taking nude selfies to share privately with his lover and then when he gets called out on it, he investigates the company? OR is it the company that makes a dimwitted attempt to bully him into stopping the investigation? Obviously, it’s a photo finish but it certainly points out where we’ve landed culturally.
If there is any humor to be gleaned from this, it’s that the nudie or “d*** pic” of the world’s richest man is being bullied by a guy named . . . wait for it . . . David Pecker, who is the CEO of American Media Inc.
I suspect every parent everywhere has said “Don’t put in writing what you don’t want other people to read”. Well, except maybe the parents of the lawyers at American Media Inc.
It’s sage advice.
Jeff Bezos, by calling out American Media Inc, has in effect admitted that the photos exist. Whatever, that’s neither here nor there. As the owner of The Washington Post, Bezos could’ve very easily dictated the narrative, or crushed this story a’la Charles Foster Kane. He didn’t. Whatever foibles and cracks that are now showing for Bezos, that says a lot about the man.
Also interesting is that he chose a neutral blogging platform, Medium, to post his letter. No press release. In so doing, he has flipped the narrative from his personal troubles to the attempted extortion by a corporation.
Control the media. Control the message, indeed.
We should take note because his post is careful and calculated. Love him or hate, Jeff Bezos is a smart guy and how this is being played means something. However, what exactly it means, we may never know. It wouldn’t surprise me that whatever it is, it’s not to David Pecker or American Media Inc’s advantage.
Ultimately though, what’s the more important story? Private nude selfies of the world’s richest man or the tyrannical, and pathetic, backroom extortion attempt of a corporation that owns a tabloid?
A version of this was originally published on TheLatest.com on February 8, 2019.