In his words: "I am just a professional writer, which means I don't do blogs and try and get money for whatever I write."

Profit moves ‘influencers’ of our time

Published Oct 22, 2018, 12:09 am IST
Updated Oct 22, 2018, 12:09 am IST
The Bible tells us that many were influenced and converted to follow Jesus through watching miracles such as the raising of Lazarus from the dead.
People buy books and don’t read them; or they read them and hate them.
 People buy books and don’t read them; or they read them and hate them.

“An apple a day keeps the doctor away
But it didn’t do well for Adam
Lord Krishna climbed the apple tree,
Saw swimming gropies and had ‘em

This was long before the ‘metoo’ mob
Who swapped the boots on feet
Though Eve’s temptation remains as strong
There are no easy apples to eat.”
From
Mehli’s Melodies
by Bachchoo

 

I was recently asked how many followers I had. The question took me somewhat by surprise as I thought she might be working for people I owed money to. I admit that on occasion, when my literary agent tells me that one book or the other is on the top of some best-seller list, I have asked how many copies had been sold.

Numbers of books being sold doesn’t amount to having followers. People buy books and don’t read them; or they read them and hate them. At one literary occasion I shared the platform with a popular writer who shamelessly admitted that he or his representatives bought thousands of copies of his books on publication to ensure that they got into the best-selling charts and were hence subject to the infectious virus of popularity.

My questioner explained that she had a following on some “platform” or other. Or perhaps she said she wrote a blog which millions of people accessed and read. I had to admit that I don’t write blogs and hardly know what they are and that I am not on Fritter, Facelift, Rentagram, Slapchat or whatever else amuses the idle. (Oh dear, here go my five, sort of, followers — my children — the price of opinion!)

I am now familiar with the fact that some people express opinions or plant photographs of themselves dressed in particular ways on these flatforms, and thousands if not millions of people look at them and are prompted to say “like”. When they do, they become followers and are counted amongst the thousands or millions that the person can claim. I am also savvy enough to know that some of these people acquire these vacant-minded followers for their vain thoughts or narcissistically posed photographs (known as “shelfies” — where they should be stacked) in their millions and then ask people who sell things such as clothes or makeup to give them money to advertise these goods.

These people, the shelfie-wallas are known as “influencers” and the mugs, who fall for their shelfies, are these followers.

I suppose the people who are advertising their goods through these influencers must be paying them in the absolute confidence that the million or however many followers will subsequently buy their products. Any world-wise person knows that advertisers don’t speculate and don’t spend their money without a damn good prospect of selling their brilliantly seductive perfumes, their drop-you-dead-with-envy garments or even their snake-oil remedies.

I assume, through my complete faith in capitalism’s profit motive, that the influencers are not conning the product-placers. In the world of commerce the number of followers is probably a genuine indication of the mugs who will buy products which their influencer gets paid to peddle.

But what of the realm of politics? One of the largest followings for tweets on Litter is held by — surprise, surprise — Donald J. Trump. He has zillions of followers worldwide. In the capitals of the European Union, in Beijing and New Delhi and no doubt in Moscow or Salisbury or wherever Russian spies and murderers hang out, people in power want to know what the Donald is thinking.

No doubt there are people without the aforesaid power in the depths of the Congo or on the beaches of Love island, who follow the world’s most famously wigged blonde to pick up the droplets of wisdom trumpeted on Jitter every hour.

Some of these, let’s say the Russians, certainly don’t look upon these tweets from the Donald as followers of influencers would. If he endorsed a brand of cigarettes or a particular wig-maker, both would be banned from entering Russia. Others who pick up his tweets do so to poke fun at them and no doubt some psychiatric researchers access them for professional purposes.

Even so, one can be sure that in the deserts of Nevada and in coffee-franchises in Nebraska, genuine followers pick up the Donald’s words with respect and wonder. Never has one man communicated instantly with so many.

Now picture a scenario in which the Donald is impeached and thrown out of office through that, or through some other procedure specified by the labyrinthine protocols of the US Constitution. Will his following dwindle from oceanic proportions to the residue of a skunk’s urine? I rather think so. And after he kicks the proverbial bucket (I’ve never understood that allegory, so gentle readers, do explain!) will he have any followers?

Contrast two figures, both prophets of God. Jesus Christ, it is biblically proclaimed, had 12 close followers known as apostles. Muhammad they say initially had four.

The Bible tells us that many were influenced and converted to follow Jesus through watching miracles such as the raising of Lazarus from the dead. I am sure he acquired a great many followers at the wedding feast when he converted water into wine. And his sermon on the mount is always depicted by the Classical Masters as having been broadcast to a throng.

That was in his lifetime. Count then, through the ages, the following he acquired. The same is with Prophet Muhammad. Both of them were influencers and never sold a thing.

When asked, as I said, how many followers I had, I quoted Polonius from Hamlet saying “never a follower or a followed be”, and was instantly told that he said no such thing but told someone never to lend money or to borrow it. I was, I protested, modernising the quote.

(Do I have your permission to put this column up on some platform as my blog? Please? — fd. No! And don’t be silly yaar! — Ed.)

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