The way I remember it, back in the day, billionaires preferred to live in the shadows, reclusive figures who avoided the spotlight. Or at least the most famous ones were the ones who were, ironically, the most reclusive. I’m thinking of course of Howard Hughes. Paul Allen was known to be pretty undercover too. And Warren Buffett has been described as an introvert, not exactly a social butterfly. Forbes did an article on the “richest people you’ve never heard of” back in 2008. Here’s a Business Insider list from 2015 of the world’s most “secretive billionaires”. And while, certainly, billionaires have always made headlines, recently a few of them are frequently making celebrity-style headlines. Elon Musk, for example, hangs out with celebrities, falls in love with celebrities, gets into social media messes like celebrities, and is covered like a celebrity. Then there’s Jeff Bezos, the richest man in the world. He’s front and centre at award shows. He’s taking pictures with movie stars. He’s getting a divorce. He’s dating Lauren Sanchez. It may or may not have been an affair. The National Enquirer has been all over it.
And now he’s written a blog post (on Medium!!!) in which he may have invented a new word (“complexifier”) that includes descriptions of his dick pics and pubic hair. And what’s amazing is that in doing so, he’s made the dick pics the least interesting part of the story. Bezos, obviously, knows what he’s doing – and it’s not like he hasn’t been credited for all the things that he knows how to do. But did you know that he would be this good at the gossip game?
Back in January when the Enquirer first broke the story that Bezos and Lauren Sanchez were together, publishing text messages that the two had been exchanging, Bezos’s lawyer said that he “supports journalistic efforts and does not intend to discourage reporting about him”. At the time I was like, OK Jeff Bezos, I appreciate that. Because you know the typical old school celebrity move is the shutdown. That’s why celebrity publicists are notorious for their yelling skills – every day they’re calling outlets to yell at them to take down a story or to change a story or to do another story. This is not what Jeff Bezos was doing, initially. He was not shutting down the reporting on him. But he did want to know where the reporting on him was coming from. His investigators apparently have been trying to find out, and/or confirm, if the Enquirer’s reporting wasn’t coming the usual leak zones (friends and associates trading information, garden variety whispering from one metaphorical front lawn to another) but from government zones, speculating that a “government entity” may have been involved in getting Bezos’s texts over to the Enquirer – and it’s not like the Enquirer hasn’t been in the news this year for its relationship to the government, specifically the Trump administration.
It’s a bonkers f-cking story. And, again, the thing that I’m fixated on is not the actual reporting but the NOT reporting, the leverage of not reporting anything at all. Jeff Bezos’s big issue isn’t that the Enquirer wants to run pictures of his dick. It’s that ironically they’re using the pictures of his dick to blackmail him and The Washington Post into NOT reporting their alleged activities with and on behalf of Donald Trump. This would be a different conversation if the Enquirer had just gone ahead and put Besoz’s dick on their cover all like, “the richest dick in the world!” Holding his dick hostage to advance a situation in their favour, with another publication no less, is another situation entirely. Clearly they weren’t expecting that this would be Bezos’s move.
Interestingly it’s a move from “a playbook perfected by pop stars”, celebrities – famous and non-famous women, actually – who have demonstrated how to use gossip to their advantage. As Kieran Corcoran writes, “actresses, social media stars, and, indeed, ordinary people have also been threatened with leaks of explicit photos of themselves, and took a similar decision to beat their extorters by going public”. Of course the risk to those women, even Kim Kardashian, was far greater than any risk Jeff Bezos, the RICHEST MAN IN THE WORLD, would be taking on. But still, the point here is that the richest man in the world, while managing one of the biggest companies in the world, might also have been learning how to gossip well and manipulate it in his favour.
Have a great weekend!
Yours in gossip,