AGORAPHOBIA

We all marvel at the ability of wingnuts to sell books to other wingnuts. You really have to hand it to people like Malkin, Beck, Coulter, and O'Reilly; they may be lacking in both sanity and brainpower but they know how to sell books. Yes, the sales figures for books like Going Rogue and Slander are fudged – many of the books purchased in bulk by chain stores and internet retailers are eventually returned unsold – but that does not change the fact that a lot of actual sales are taking place.

How do they do it? They do it the same way that McDonald's gets people to spend billions on food that is grotesquely unhealthy and doesn't even taste good – by delivering a cheap, consistent, and utterly predictable product to lazy people who like nothing better than mind-numbing routine. They have identified an audience that is willing to buy books, perhaps even eager to buy books, but insistent that the books contain no facts or opinions that are not already shared by author and reader alike. It doesn't make sense to you or I, but I think it's worth emphasizing that wingnut authors are not merely selling bile and predigested thought to both flatter and inflame the prejudices of their audience. They are also selling predictability. That is an underrated commodity. People don't just watch According to Jim and eat Twinkies because they're stupid; people do it because it protects them from the unfamiliar and delivers a product that will never, ever surprise them or make them think.

Sometimes, however, the wingnut money machine runs into a snag. Case in point: Glenn Beck's "Christmas Sweater" live show. It sold 17 tickets in New York. I know NYC is a tremendously liberal place, but in a city of 17 million it sold 17 tickets. Ditto Boston. Washington proved to be a real hotbed of Christmas Sweater fandom, selling 30 tickets. His best draw was in Seattle (70 tickets in a 450-seat venue). There are but a few potential explanations for the fact that a man who can sell a million books at the drop of a hat cannot attract enough ticket buyers to fill out a football team.

1. Mouthbreathers who buy Beck/Malkin/etc. books have a limit. They aren't bright but they're smart enough to realize that a Glenn Beck Christmas performance is going to be ass-breakingly terrible.

2. The show is guaranteed to flop in big cities but would have more success if it adopted the Palin Book Tour Strategy, i.e. appearing only in forlorn places where hopes and dreams congregate to die.

3. Beck fans simply are terrified of leaving their homes to be near other human beings and refuse to do so without a very good reason.

4. What exactly a Glenn Beck Christmas show might look like is unclear – Is it political? Is it a play? Comedy? Are there musical numbers? – and thus utterly unacceptable to a fan base that demands unwavering predictability.

I lean strongly toward #4, if only that the most logical choice, #1, would require me to give Beck fans credit for having some taste or intellect. That's not happening. No, this is about predictability. Like a McDonald's that decided to sell shepherd's pie and souvlaki, Beck's attempt to pad his wallet and stroke his ego falls flat because he neglected to understand how much of his appeal is tied up in his ability to deliver a consistent ration of shit. To many Americans the fact that it is consistent is appealing enough to outweigh the fact that it is shit.

19 thoughts on “AGORAPHOBIA”

  • POLITELY CORRECTING PSEUDO-GRAMMAR: "It doesn't make sense to you, or ME…" This has been another version of POLITELY CORRECTING PSEUDO-GRAMMAR. We now return to your regularly scheduled content of the message.

  • Come on, Ed. As you're a recent transplant to the south, I think you're really undervaluing #3 as well. Also, I suggest a #5: Movies are about $10 these days, and these are not people who can afford to throw away $10 for just 90 minutes of entertainment. Well, "entertainment."

  • Okay, but I think you are seriously undervaluing the Egg McMuffin. That's some tasty goodness.

    And 17 tickets…that's pure win.

  • Given Beck's daily verbal incontinence, perhaps his fan base doesn't think he is holding back something special for the paying customers. Since hearing his tearful monologue about his "butt surgery", I wonder how much is left to tell.

  • Aslan Maskhadov says:

    I think you are giving these guys too much credit for selling books. For one thing, aren't most of these books ghostwritten anyway? I assume they are also well funded and have major marketing corporations behind them to ensure that they occupy more shelfspace. Go to a Borders some time and look at the books that occupy prominent places in the store, and of which there are several copies available. Glenn Beck's ghostwriter's latest screed will be prominently displayed, with plenty of copies, hardback, with a colorful glossy cover. By comparison, Professor Gerald McFacts' In-Depth Examination of the Roots of International Terrorism will most likely be put out by a much smaller publisher, with no pictures on its paperback cover, and it will be buried between Sean Hannity's I Love Freedom a Lot and Michael Savage's Kill the Fuck out of the Muzzies.

  • I was just bumbling around a really vast multi-language (but mostly English) bookstore here in Singapore called Kinokuniya, they have a huge U.S history section, and prominently feature all of Barry Hussein's books. Going Rogue is stocked, but, according to the sales assistant I spoke to, they're not selling. Finally, I had to stand in a long queue of fellow purchasers to buy my books, which reassured me, in a weird way ("hey, look, people still read!), that the world is not going to hell in a handbasket.

    It's nice to be somewhere where people neither know nor care about Beck, Malkin, et al.

  • Halcyon,
    Normal movies are about $10 these days. An article at Think Progress (click here) says that Beck charged $20 for these tickets. That's insane, which I suppose is par for the course for him.

    A writer at True/Slant attended the showing at one theater and reported back his take on why it was so terrible. I feel bad for his wife, who didn't know much about Beck before going with him.

  • Aslan Maskhadov says:

    That doesn't surprise me Prudence, Americans who travel the world generally don't become radical conservatives, at least not the type that likes Palin. Knowledge is to these fearful hicks what Holy Water is to a vampire.

  • Bitter Scribe says:

    The highways and byways of showbiz are littered with the bodies of performers, from Liberace to David Caruso, who rocked on TV but couldn't make it to the big screen.

  • Don't forget that quite a few of those books are bought by right-wing foundations, which would have trouble attending a show

  • I think it must be a combination of #1 and #4–and that it has a lot to do with the saccharine pablum (mixed metaphor?) he's offering this go-around. People turned out aplenty for his "comedy" show because he offered to be snarky and mean-spirited about the kind of people his audience loves to hate. In other words, he offered them a big ol' heapin' helpin' of sadism. But weepy feel-goodiness? Um, no, this is not a major component of his arsenal. Beck can and does get weepy and sentimental with regularity, but it's always in service to the conclusion of "so let's get those bastards and take back our country! To the barricades! Who's with me?!" But there needs to be that "fuck them, am I right?" payoff to his message, or his audience doesn't want to hear it. "Yes, Glenn, I'm properly emotionally overwrought–now whom should I vent my anguish upon?" "No one–this is a good-timey sing-along-type deal." "Um…yeah, I'm washing my hair that night."

  • I think Halcyon has hit upon the real reason. Most of these wackos' disposable income went to the 9 bucks the Elk Pie Lady charged for her incontinent screed. Beck will have to wait another year, till they rack up ten more dollars.

    I haven't seen any good reason to trust official book sales figures. After you've exposed the unreliable mechanism that estimates them, I choose not to believe any of the bullshit about Sarah Palin being on any best-seller book lists. I propose we instead track Regnery Press' market valuation over the last few years.

  • It would be interesting to find out exactly why the Beck Christmas extravaganza failed so spectactularly. I suspect poor marketing, and cost of the show. I suspect wingnuts know what the Beck product/brand is, crazy as it is, and I'm less convinced that variation from brand is the problem.

    OTOH, I think you're on to something with this predictability idea. I was struck by Sarah Palin's dislike of Hawaii when she was a student cuz it didn't fit her little view of the world.

  • His sweater looks like something Rambo would wear in the twilight of his years, as he shuffles down to the bingo hall at the nursing home, muttering incomprehensibly about them darkies and charlies.

  • I can't recall where I saw this, but didn't the show sell briskly in the heartland? What I had read mentioned a town in Texas, referring to it as 'rural' — and I think one of the commenters pointed out that it was a suburb.

  • Crazy for Urban Planning says:

    Hi ginandtacos people, I'm a new devotee to the blog, and its fantastic. First comment:

    I support explanation #3 and the comment "nobody" made (What I had read mentioned a town in Texas, referring to it as 'rural'

  • Crazy for Urban Planning says:

    My comment didn't entirely post, I'm too lazy to re-write it. Suburbs are the problem because suburb dwellers never talk to anyone because they are totally auto oriented. The problem with America is we have an over-abundance of private space and not enough public space. Where did my post go?

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