Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Lies, damned lies, and @aplusk and @bjmendelson

I came rather late to this tempest in a teapot, but it appears that Ashton Kutcher and the Village Voice have had a little spat.

It all began Kutcher was quoted as saying

It's between 100,000 and 300,000 child sex slaves in the United States today.

The Village Voice responded with an article entitled "Real Men Get Their Facts Straight" - a play on the name of Kutcher's and Demi Moore's campaign, "Real Men Don't Buy Girls." The point of the piece? The Village Voice could find no support for the numbers quoted by Kutcher above.

Kutcher did not take kindly to the piece, and tweeted (in case you haven't heard, Kutcher is a Twitter user) that the Village Voice has soiled hands in the matter, since they accept ads from escort services and don't check the ages of the escorts.

Reactions to the tempest have varied, ranging from the "this proves so-called social media experts are nothing but" types of criticisms, to the "who cares about the accuracy of numbers? one enslaved child is one too many" types of criticisms of the critics.

Of course, if the end justifies the means, then Kutcher is a failure because he hasn't done enough.

Imagine the good that Kutcher could do if he tweeted that there were 5 million child slaves in the U.S. today. That would get people to do something.

Or better still, what if Kutcher claimed that Twitter could help rescue 3 million sex slaves? Sounds like a win-win for everyone.

But Kutcher already has an ally:

The That 70s Show actor tweeted messages to American Airlines, Columbia University, Disney and Domino's on Friday asking "are you aware that you are advertising on a site (the Village Voice site) that supports the Sale of Human Beings (slavery)?"

Kutcher's tweets prompted a quick response from American Airlines, who wrote, "Thank you! will do! RT @AmericanAir @aplusk We will address this IMMEDIATELY. Can you please DM us detail of the site, including a link?"

See the @AmericanAir tweet here.

On Friday afternoon, Kutcher posted an update about the airline's business with the paper's parent company, Village Voice Media, indicating that they were pulling advertising dollars, "Thank you! Via dm @AmericanAir --> Heads up: Ads should be down w/in the hour. Blank ads are being served for now."

Unfortunately, this didn't make @AmericanAir a hero in the eyes of everyone. @KevinMRyan:

Love how @AmericanAir reponds to Kutcher's twitter accusations but not people who actually fly the airline

And people like Brandon Mendelson maintain that the child sex statistics aren't the only things that are false:

The Asshole Based Economy consists of people who package and sell lies for their own gain. On the Web, that's usually Cyber Hipsters, marketers, and other stakeholders in the myth of social media like analysts, advertising agencies, and corporations heavily invested in the myth.

And what do these people do when they are criticized?

Misdirection: The issue is quickly changed to something that's more favorable to the Asshole Based Economy Member. "Don't pay attention to the fact that I got my shit wrong, let's look at this other awful thing. Isn't that just awful?"

And in the age of transparency, in which we are all supposed to disclose everything that could possibly influence us (which reminds me that I have to disclose that I don't watch much TV, so therefore may be negatively biased toward TV actors), Mendelson wonders if Kutcher's motives should be a little more explicitly disclosed:

[T]he tactics Kutcher is encouraging people to utilize to fight the sex slave trade don't really solve the problem at all as much as they line the pockets of large not-for-profits, and if you think large not-for-profits are less greedy, evil, and shitty than large multinational corporations, you got another thing coming: They're worse....

So Kutcher does this thing, lines his pockets, lines his friends pockets, gives out bad information, and pretends to care about an "important" issue.

Question - would Mendelson have written such a post about Kutcher if Kutcher had responded to the Village Voice article in a different way?

Answer - probably not.

Oh, another disclosure - Mendelson is writing a book that will not necessarily praise social media practitioners, so his post above helps to promote his book and provide him with immense wealth and fame and maybe a guest spot on "Two and a Half Men." Or maybe not.
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