If a Secretary of Agriculture gave a speech to the Iowa Pork Producers Council, touting his Department’s efforts to keep the cost of hog production low and the price of pork high, with exports flowing to a pork hungry world, no one East of Davenport nor West of Des Moines would give a chitlin’.
But when a high visibility industry mogul offers up opinions in Hollywood, California about the state of their industry, an awful lot of people take notice and think that whatever is said is profound. Gimme a break, why don’tcha? Billionaire celebrity/opportunist (and former Obama-shill) Oprah Winfrey makes a speech coming out against sexual harassment. What took you so long, Hollywood celebrities? Just about every female in America with a family to support and or a career to establish has had to deal with sexual harassment and has had to for over a hundred years. This presence of harassment is what gives the outcry resonance. But Hollywood can’t all of a sudden lead the charge against sexual harassment when it more or less perfected the practice. Harvey Weinstein was the benefactor nobody wanted to talk about directly, He made a lot of careers for the people there. Period.
Let’s think of Hollywood and the public relations and advertising industries as the public opinion mongering infrastructure. They are losing their ability to shape public opinion. Oprah Winfrey and her network, magazine, book club and Weight Watchers endorsement make their money by convincing businesses that they can craft opinion. If Oprah likes it, then a bunch of people will buy it, so Oprah, Inc. implies. Yet the internet and communications revolution have delivered, perhaps, a fatal blow. It is analogous to the introduction of the printing press. Five hundred years ago information and opinion suddenly moved beyond the medieval universities and their libraries. Literacy expanded dramatically. The dissemination of new ideas from philosophy to navigation suddenly had much wider audiences.
With every new blog and YouTube post, the old way slips a bit more. And the moguls who think they control things, lose a little bit more. And there will be a day when the world will not only get by without Hollywood or Madison Ave, but also Microsoft and Google and Silicon Valley.