Fanning the flames of Commerce
Posted: January 8, 2013 Filed under: blogs, consumer, crass commercialism, douchebaggery, weird
The collective members of the ‘OSR’ (whatever or whomever they might be) have frequently been pilloried and mocked for promoting themselves through mutual admiration societies and you-scratch-my-back-I’ll-scratch-yours reviews of whatever it is that they may be churning out this or that week. Often, that criticism is on the mark. Most of the reviews written by the OSR about the OSR are softballs. The important question to me is why anyone is surprised or angry or outraged at this.
Why some folks expect the unpaid, obscure and unloved members of the OSR to be infected by an unvarnished desire to tell the whole truth is beyond me. Anyone who has ever opened a newspaper or magazine or visited the website of ‘real’ publications to read any reviews of anything (products, entertainment, services, you name it) written by ‘professionals’ will know, if they have half a brain, that 90% of these reviews are PR pieces in disguise. Did Gene Shalit ever see a movie with Bruce Willis that he didn’t gush over? The Who seem to ‘reunite for the last time’ every couple years, yest despite astronomical ticket prices and Townsend’s dramatic leaps having become timid hops, no one from the popular press states the obvious (“I wish they had died before they got old”). Airport ‘magazine stands’ are filled with magazines that are just glossy, expensive brochures for cars, clothes, computers, crap, etc. Yet we react with horror or dismay or outrage that some blogger posting his whimsy on blogspot with a few dozen followers would write, “Joe Schmoe just wrote a new adventure and sent me a free review copy and I liked it and you should too so buy it!” The self appointed ‘truth crusaders’ of the Internet react with shock and outrage as if they have just revealed the next Watergate, except instead of Nixon and tapes and conspiracy we’ve got one hobbyist sending another a pdf and saying, “Can you review this? Thanks!” Stop the fucking presses ’cause the truth crusade is gonna blow the lid off of this thing! Please.
When I was a teenager I remember reading music reviews that told me whatever was featured was ‘unbeleiveably good’ and I would save up my money and run out and buy it and 90% of it was utter shit. This was before the Internet — or at least before I had access to any Internet — when in order to read ‘reviews’ of stuff, I had to buy the newspaper or the magazine or fanzine in which the review was written — so teenage me was getting fucked twice… the first time when I bought ‘Trouser Press’ or ‘Thrasher’ or whatever else I was buying at the time in order to read useless ‘reviews’ that were hyping whatever they were told to hype and the second time when I bought the shitty music that the ‘journalist’ in the magazine was promising would change my life for the better. As a result, I ended up with a large record collection, only a small percentage of which got listened to more than once or twice. When I got to be around sixteen or so I wised up and started swapping tapes with friends and going to independently owned used record stores that were half way across town because they would let you preview a record if the sleeve was already open and they weren’t listening to something else at the time… these stores were like that store in that John Cusack movie. Many of the shit records that I had bought under the recommendation of the ‘professional’ journalists were sold for pennies in store credit to the used record shops — the most ill-advised purchases were dumped in the ‘free for the taking’ box that sat beside the exit in one of those filthy but beloved record stores. I’m not bitter about this — I consider it a part of my transition to adulthood.
In my defense, at the time I was young and didn’t usually know the difference between shit and Shinola at first look or listen — it took time to figure out. And, along the way, I learned some valuable lessons… the most valuable of which was that the best way to determine the relative merits of this or that was to sample it and decide based on criteria you formulated on your own. Looking back, I suppose if the journalist in question was doing blow and drinking champagne with Robert Plant, he would have been inclined to say that Robert Plant’s post Led Zep solo work was ‘brilliant.’ Fourteen year old me didn’t agree — but I didn’t have the gifts of hookers or blow or expensive champagne to color my perceptions — all I had was a piece of vinyl in a cardboard sleeve with some pseudo-pop vaguely Motown yodeling on it from a has been.
Unfortunately, this means that I think most reviews are useless. At this point, I’m actually OK with that and don’t bother with reading any reviews unless I’m interested in the opinions of the reviewer. Some people just write interesting or entertaining reviews. But, as a part of the decision making process, reviews are usually just a waste of time — 90% of them are bunk and in order to figure out what is bunk and what isn’t, one usually has to buy or read or watch whatever the fuck is being ‘reviewed.’ In a world full of salesmen, you shouldn’t assume that you have any friends in the marketplace. Were all just customers. Expecting the members of the OSR to be better than the rest of the world is probably just stupid, naive, stubborn or some combination of all three.