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E10. Lou Reed’s Nephew Takes Up Media Criticism
"What I really like about media criticism are the economics.”
Lou Reed’s Nephew was preoccupied for the next few days. I heard him furiously typing away, though he was otherwise silent.
“Whoa,” he said, finally, in what seemed like an invitation to conversation.
“How would you describe … this thing you do?” I asked Lou Reed’s Nephew. I had been wanting to ask him for weeks.
“Here? For work?”
“Yes.” As my own project wore on, I found myself increasingly fascinated by Lou Reed’s Nephew. He seemed to do nothing and everything. He dawdled. He grazed. He improvised, but never, ever did he seem to worry. I wanted to know his secret. I worried all the time.
“I do what I please,” he said. “Compromise is moral treason.’”
“Lenin?” I guessed, sensing a quotation.
“Blin.” Lou Reed’s Nephew said. “Todd Blin. We were thirteen when he said it. He went to a high school where he had to wear a jacket and tie, so he might as well have been Lenin. I have never doubted its truth.”
“How did Todd turn out?”
“Exiled, I believe.”
“What are you working on today?” I asked.
“Media criticism,” he said.
“I didn’t know that was an interest of yours.”
“What interest? Who’s not interested in media?”
“It seems easy. All I do is scan the web for media news, then—when news happens—I weigh in.”
“How do you weigh in?”
“Briefly, for efficiency,” he said. “If the news is big and surprising, I might say ‘Whoa.’ Or if I want to approve of someone else’s analysis, I just say “Nailed it!” Those seem to be the rules. I’m just getting started. But what I really like about media criticism are the economics.”
“You’re getting paid?”
“No, but media criticism takes so much less time than media creation it hardly matters. I’m bound to come out ahead. I mean, a New York Times story must take at least twenty minutes to write. I can weigh in on it in about twenty seconds. There’s no way the media creators will be able to keep up.”
“It’s asymmetrical warfare.”
“Exactly. Big, slow media won’t know what hit ’em.”
“Whoa,” I said.
“I’ve also been dabbling a little in influencer marketing,” he continued.
“That’s hot these days.” I had only a vague sense that this was true. I had not kept up with things like I used to. “What’s your approach?”
“Companies send me products and I work with clients who have enormous social media followings to ridicule and insult these products online.”
“Don’t you ‘mean praise and fawn over’?”
“No. That’s played out.”
“If you pay someone or provide a product to them in exchange for a positive review, you must disclose that. There are laws. But there is a loophole.”
“It isn’t clear whether you have to disclose it if you’ve been paid to despise a product.”
“Big brands buy this pitch?”
“It was entirely their idea. People see right through praise, even if it’s genuine. It’s so easy. So unbrave. (And bravery is everything now.) Bile feels authentic. It carries the ring of truth. Genuine scorn outsells feigned praise.”
“Oscar Wilde?” I guessed, sensing another quotation.
“Who’s she?” Lou Reed’s Nephew asked.