February 12, 2019

Bezos: Dick pix schtick tricks hicks & hacks


Photo c/o Seattle City Council licensed under CC BY 2.0

While the story hasn’t finished playing out yet, the votes are in, and according to most of my lefty media heroes the richest man in the history of — well, the planet, Jeff Bezos, is a hero for standing up to extortion from a smutty gossip rag.

Let’s discuss.

First of all, in the rush to fawn over Bezos for standing up to extortion, one silly little irony is being overlooked: The main reason Jeff Bezos is the richest man in history is because of extortion — that is, his, of the manufacturers who supply him.

Jeff Bezos is, in fact, the greatest American robber baron of all time. Flagrant antitrust violations, long-standing tax avoidance, labor abuse, union busting, predatory practices devastating competition — it’s all there. He’s been undermining the principles, values, and workings of our democracy as a business plan.

Now, as @maninthehoody has observed on Twitter, he’s “about to finesse sending his dick pic to the entire world as an act of democracy.”

Bezos is getting the msm treatment he is because 1, the super rich just make some people giddy, apt to think that if someone is that rich they must be a genius; and 2, because he owns the Washington Post.

Number one is why people are missing the part of the story whereby the richest guy in the world did the stupidest thing in the world. They’re rendered Bezos’ colossally stupid act to the back of their minds because it’s, it’s … not possible … for such an incredibly brilliant person to do — that ….

Number two, his ownership of the Post, is where his defenders go on the rare occasion they have to confront any aspect of who Bezos really is: “But he’s made the Post better!” they blurt in near panic. Which, in truth, he has. (If you overlook the shrinking coverage of books in the print edition — a development of rather bitter irony in a newspaper whose owner made his primary fortune off books.)

But have you noticed many hard-hitting stories about Amazon in the Post? (And meanwhile have you noticed embarrassing stuff like this — a story that twists its panties into an excruciating Gordian knot to explain that NOT ALL GOB-SMACKINGLY RICH PEOPLE ARE BAD.)

There’s been very little coverage, for instance, of Amazon’s massive lobbying efforts. For just one example (getting slightly more coverage elsewhere): The company wants the legalization of far bigger tractor trailor trucks than are currently legal. There’s some lobbying. In fact, Amazon wants those trucks to be tandem vehicles. There’s some more lobbying. And all that, by the way, would require a massive upgrade of the nation’s entire system of highways and bridges. Some serious lobbying going on there. And of course, the real aim is to get someone else to pay these costs-of-doing-business for Amazon — the taxpayer, of course. You.

And by the way, isn’t it also convenient to own the newspaper the politicians that you’re lobbying read first every day?

(And hey while you’re at it, why not put a headquarters there that will employ a lot of people and make you a big local influencer to boot? Something that nearly everyone in DC saw coming from a mile away. Bezo’s motivations were that obvious — just not to journalists, apparently.)

And not everyone thinks Bezos has been that hands-off about using the Post to further his aims for Amazon — just two days ago, New York City councilman Brad Lander accused the Post of running a “threat” on behalf of Amazon against New Yorkers opposed to the company opening a headquarters here.

But none of that is coming up while the msm is busy clutching its pearls and reveling in the attack on a sleazy gossip mag that offends its sense of propriety — a magazine that matters not a whit to the culture at large beyond its ability to absorb nasty stories about our president and make them go away.

A side note: Inadvertantly but interestingly, the story is also revealing of clubbiness in the book biz: Jon Fine, for example, is the attorney who “laid out the blackmail terms” to Bezos (and may be disbarred as a result). He’s been, over the years, corporate counsel at Knopf, an executive at Open Road Media, as well as at Soho Press, and, yep, Amazon.

Full disclosure: Jon Fine called me a liar in this New Yorker story. (Hi Jon!)

But back to the Bezos love fest, which, to me, echoes the mindless adulation of another rich thug, Donald Trump. Maybe it’s true that the blackmailing of Bezos is a foreign plot — the Saudis trying to block coverage of the god-awful murder of Jamal Khashoggi and its implications, as Bezos suggests in his weird stream-of-consciousness “No Thank You Mr. Pecker” memo (which, of course, is about what can happen when you don’t say no thank you not now Mr. Pecker to yourself).

Or maybe it’s just Occam’s razor — the degenerate friends of the president and of the Saudis at the Enquirer, doing what they do on behalf of their cohort, clumsily, via some other insider. Because there’s no doubt the National Enquirer is one skanky outfit.

But no matter what Bezos suggests nor what the media seems eager to bray, neither conclusion will make Jeff Bezos a hero of our democracy. The story of an historically large thug standing up to a lesser thug has no heroes.

Nor is Bezos doing something particularly altruistic on behalf of journalism. He’s a 55-year-old man who cheated on his wife and texted dick pix to his girlfriend. This is not Andrew Carnegie making up for self-perceived sins by funding a stupendous, life-changing network of international libraries to educate the poor. (I feel I should note that Andrew Carnegie, at least, obviously exalted books; Bezos reduced them to widgets.)

Plus, Bezos will come out of this still the richest man in history, sheltered from any possible danger or damage. Beyond getting a dinger on his massive ego, what actual risk did he ever face?

Bezos will also come out of this, still, as someone who, like Trump, has done far more — and lasting — damage to the culture and, in the way he’s impacted publishing and free speech issues, perhaps to democracy itself … than any rotten gossip mag ever could.

So if you’re reporting on this story, please cut the crap. Don’t shield who Jeff Bezos really is in a rush to feel good about beating up the Enquirer.

What the story of Jeff Bezos and the Enquirer reveals so far is simply that sleazy people do sleazy things. Also, that Jeff Bezos is actually even sleazier than I thought he was.

Which is saying something.



Dennis Johnson is the founder of MobyLives, and the co-founder and co-publisher of Melville House. Follow him on Twitter at @mobylives