Last week, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos accused the National Enquirer of “extortion”, claiming that the tabloid had threatened to publish pictures featuring his penis. Posting a blog on Medium, the tech billionaire wrote: “Of course I don’t want personal photos published, but I also won’t participate in their well-known practice of blackmail, political favors, political attacks, and corruption.”
Now, I love a bit of celebrity gossip. I’m gripped by it in the way that most people are gripped by a good Olympic trampolining final or the birth of their first child. If my CV weren’t already so full of worthwhile volunteer work, I’d be able to fit in a section about my interests, and right at the top – just below ‘Walking on the pavement’ and ‘Eating my greens’ – would be ‘Investigating celebrity scandals’.
I can spend hours unrolling Twitter threads about Ariana Grande’s love life. I’m interested in managers and agents and keep an anthropological eye out for publicity stunts. I’m apprenticing myself to their techniques – noticing the way that celebrity relationships start or fizzle out just when a new movie or album is about to drop. I secretly hope that, one day, like a sort of glitzy Hunger Games, my name will be called, and I’ll have to manage the image of a walking, talking shit-show like Liam Neeson.
A PR disaster will always be magnified when it involves sex. We’re all just horny monkeys, at the end of the day. And yet, the moralization of sexuality (thanks, Mrs Whitehouse et al!) makes managing your client’s appeal in this particular area a very tricky business.
We know by now that leaked nudes or sex tapes can make or break a career. Of course, publishing someone’s nude pictures against their wishes is wrong in every circumstance. But a young celebrity on the rise may choose to plan a provocative photoshoot to draw their ever-fickle audience’s eye. The likes of Judi Dench or Steve Carrell, however, probably wouldn’t benefit much from a spread of naughty pictures.
Politicians and business people (especially female politicians and business people) are caught in the catch-22 of needing to be sexy enough that they don’t get death-threats, but not so sexy that they get death-threats. The stakes are higher than they might be for someone in showbiz (there are investors and voters to worry about) but, then, they’re also lower (I personally don’t care).
These unglamorous industries just don’t lend themselves to salacious gossip in the same ways that music and movies do. There’s not much fantasy in bureaucracy and casual Fridays. Putin’s topless adventures aside, the fact of a public servant’s body is…dull.
Jeff Bezos, ‘person of means’ that he is, is somewhere between celebrity (sexy) and civilian (always unsexy). And this is why the news that he’s allegedly being blackmailed over nudes drew nothing but a shrug from this self-proclaimed leak-lover.
His dick pics (or dicktures pictures) don’t have the cultural heft of Taylor Swift’s navel. Because I know that Jeff Bezos has a cock, and, while that’s nice for him, I don’t care. I probably wouldn’t be able to pick him out of a line-up of bald white guys, even if most of them were my uncles. On the National Enquirer’s part, it’s just bad business sense. Why not show us something that people actually want to see, like another article about Ellen DeGeneres being a commie devil?
The National Enquirer is a den of outrageous and spurious nonsense — and this is coming from someone who genuinely believes that Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt will get back together some day. Their headlines are reminiscent of cheap magazines we get in the UK, but might even make the likes of Take a Break, Chat and Only 50p! wince. A recent winner: ’Psychic says that Ted Bundy’s GHOUL haunts MURDER SITES!’ Not even Ted Bundy’s ‘ghost’. His ‘ghoul’.
Such a striking mélange of bollocks and exclamation marks stinks of its owner’s close relationship with the American President. At the end of the day, it’s a shitty publication potentially doing yet another shitty thing. And they should be punished accordingly.
But, and I can’t stress this enough, I do not want to see Jeff Bezos’ dick.
1. Seattle City Council from Seattle [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
2. Karen Seto CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5108817
3. Kremlin.ru CC BY 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0)]