When it Comes to Publicity, Authors Have No Shame
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
Fish and wildlife officials are plugging their plan for panthers, opponents are plugging their case against it. And commentator Andrei Codrescu says it seems that everyone is plugging something.
When the world's leaking, you've got to plug it.
ANDREI CODRESCU reporting:
I'm not sure what plumber in the past thought of those unforgettable words, but it all came back to me when a friend from Boulder wrote to me that I should plug some recent book. Not long after that, there came another message asking me if I might plug some other book. And then one after another, for about a week, people wrote and called with urgent requests for plugging some time consuming object.
Few things irritate me more than requests to use my little public forum to plug this or that. First of all, if I like something, I will plug it unbidden, or even do an unasked-for tie-in product placement. There is something else going on here though, and it's a major symptom of the contemporary sickness of marketing.
People won't ask you, like they used to, to take a look at something to see if you like it or not. They just assume that, since they know you, you'll plug whatever it is. It wasn't so long ago it seems that people were just a slight bit ashamed of trying to get you to sell something. For the longest time, it was a no-no to push your friends to sell stuff for you, because it was presumed that your friends might think that you valued your racket above the friendship.
But then, the world changed.
I'm not sure when it changed, but it suddenly became okay to sell anything to anybody and through anybody. To push products shamelessly, to enlist your friends in your hustling schemes, to promote, to spam, to do anything to get the crap out there, even to buy space on your skin and to sell your mother at a discount.
What changed was the world, which went from being a seemingly random and possibly liberating cluster of events to being a modular Rube Goldberg-esque machine through which flow only products linked to one another by tubular marketing. Public and private forums including friendship, which is the most private of forums, became occasions to sell things. All forms of talk, including dialogue and conversation, began existing solely for the purpose of plugging stuff. The exchange of spontaneous content to the sense of adventure and common welfare disappeared to make room for contents that waited, pre-packaged, just outside the forum.
I defy you to find now a single talk show on the radio or television, private or public, that doesn't have a commercial tie. There is nothing left to the world of public expression today that does not serve a product. What's more, an exchange the void of commercial interest seems empty. Product placement has become the equivalent of animation. The product is like the engine that animates the event. Once it is placed at the center of the event, it makes the whole thing, including the people, come to life.
Plugging has become compulsory. Everyone must plug something at all times under the threat of having the world leak away.
There's nothing worse than being unplugged. Unplugged, you leak away and cease to exist. Which makes the plumber of yore a bigger philosopher than he knew.
SIEGEL: Andrei Codrescu's new book shall remain nameless. He teaches at a university that we won't mention either. But this is NPR, National Public Radio.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.