|What do you think the Devil is going to look like?|
The subject of sales is on my mind. I am writing a piece on what consumer brands need to know to market (sell) their products in Asia — no small feat considering there are two dozen official languages in India alone. I am reading all the coverage and commentary about Trump's big televised sales pitch last night for his beloved (and pointless) wall, thinking of the people (including some I know personally) whose paychecks are being held hostage because of this stunt. (I'm more than a little pissed at the broadcast networks for carrying a political speech in prime time. Even they
are terrified of the guy. But I guess the networks, being run by businesspeople, are beholden not so much to their responsibility to the public as to their ratings and their relationships to the mighty and powerful — in other words, sales.) I'm hardly the first person to make the point, but everything, everything
is sales. If you're an advertiser, you've got to sell. If you're in a relationship, you've got to sell. If you're a politician, you've got to sell. Even journalists are always selling: selling the idea that they're credible, selling whatever case they're trying to make with whatever piece they're writing at the moment and, in certain cases, when not busy exercising their First Amendment duties and serving the public trust — including at a former employer of mine that tracks its editors' outreach to sales prospects via Salesforce and rewards or punishes them accordingly — selling ad space, not to mention selling themselves out. (This was the same place where a boss of mine once told me, during a conversation about journalistic independence and credibility, "We're not Woodward and Bernstein, you know.") All this has me thinking of that scene from the terrific and prescient film Broadcast News where Holly Hunter's character, Jane, confesses to her best friend, Aaron (Albert Brooks), that she's fallen in love with the morally ambivalent, mashed-potatoes-for-brains anchorman Tom (William Hurt), who they heretofore have actively despised. Aaron's response on learning this unsettling news:
"Tom, while being a very nice guy, is the Devil. What do you think the Devil is going to look like? Nobody is going to be taken in by a guy with a long, red, pointy tail. What's he going to sound like? [Hissing sounds.] He will be attractive, he'll be nice and helpful, he'll get a job where he influences a great, God-fearing nation. He'll never do an evil thing, he'll never deliberately hurt a living thing ... he will just by bit lower our standards where they are important, just a tiny little bit, just coax along, flash over substance, just a tiny little bit ... and he'll talk about all of us really being SALESMEN."
But at the end of the day, if we're all salesmen, doesn't that make us only human?
Or, are we the Devil?