-1.4 C
New York
Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Subscribe

Porn and Tanks

Porn and Tanks

Courtesy of Scott Galloway, No Mercy/No Malice @profgalloway

I moved to London six months ago. Within two weeks a fortnight the Queen died, the pound crashed, and a head of lettuce outlasted the new prime minister. Since then, I’m more struck by the similarities, vs. the differences, between New York and London. One clear distinction though: Royalty. Or more specifically, the nation’s tortured relationship with its monarchy.

Until the 20th century, monarchies were the most popular form of government. They ranged in political authority, from symbolic (constitutional monarchy) to autocratic (absolute monarchy). Hands down, the most awesome thing about monarchies were the titles: emperor, empress, king, queen, raja, khan, tsar, sultan, shah, pharaoh. I asked my youngest over breakfast if he’d mind, from this point forward, referring to me as “Khan of Marylebone.” He seemed open to it.

Besides the cool titles, however, dressing people up in crowns, gold, and silk because of who their parents were is weird. And, unsurprisingly, it makes them weird, too. Today, monarchies the world over are a museum of troubled people. While he was crown prince, the current King of Thailand appointed his pet poodle Fufu to the position of Air Chief Marshal. Princess Märtha Louise of Norway claims she can communicate with animals and angels; her celebrity shaman fiancé, who believes cancer is a choice, likely concurs. Juan Carlos I of Spain fled to Abu Dhabi after cashing $100 million in fraudulent checks. Prince Andrew is (fill in the blank).

It’s no surprise that the institution is ailing. The hereditary nature of monarchies is their most glaring comorbidity. I can prove to each of us that 99% of our children are not in the top 1%. Just as my TV career has weakened and/or killed four streaming networks (CNN+, Bloomberg Quicktakes, Vice, BBC+), an actress from the USA network may be the pathogen that kills monarchies … everywhere. Although, as the internet has pointed out, Meghan should be credited with achieving what we all aspire to accomplish: convincing our spouse their family is awful.

In today’s media landscape, where there is friction there is attention that can be monetized. Netflix paid the couple $100 million dollars to tell the tale of how a woman in her late thirties saved a prince from the horrors of Buckingham Palace. Netflix was on the better side of this deal: The show racked up 82 million viewing hours in its first week. Harry’s book, meanwhile, sold more copies in its first week than any non-Harry Potter title in history.

Worship

As a species, we can’t choose whether we worship — it’s built into us. However, we can choose what we worship. America doesn’t have royalty, so we make do with Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian. Same thing, without the crowns and community center openings. People who are famous for being famous, who have no real authority or evident talent, except an ability to capture attention and monetize it, a skill often rooted in shamelessness and an insatiable need for attention that sparks their outrageous actions/statements. Social media’s algorithms elevate the theatrics, bringing more attention to monetize, incentivizing increasingly outrageous behavior, and the wheel spins. There’s a word for this.

The “porn” cycle is why, in my view, Donald Trump was elected president and Elon Musk was, at one time, the wealthiest man in the world. Both brought a form of talent, genius in the case of Musk. But their embrace of a new medium and their knack for outrageousness and/or shamelessness built them the best brands in politics and business (for a few lettuce lifetimes, anyway). Somewhere between 49% and 51% of branding boils down to one thing: awareness (see above: famous for being famous). Harry and Meghan were willing to go where no other royals would — Royal Family dysfunction porn. The key is to be first — their antics are titillating because we haven’t seen this much detail before. Just as celebrity sex videos no longer launch careers, the book advance Bhutan’s Prince Jigme Namgyel Wangchuck would receive for a tome of shitposting his family has likely dropped dramatically.

You Had One Job

Ever since the Royals lost the power to govern (and frequently when they had it), the job has been to be a figurehead: Be polite, stand up for what’s right, make Britain look good, don’t say what you really think — and especially, use discretion regarding family dysfunction. Newsflash: Everyone’s family is dysfunctional, and it rarely helps to go public with the really awful stuff. Sure, dad’s affair makes for interesting conversation at Thanksgiving, but it’s likely to make the next several hundred dinners less pleasant. Shitposting your family to strangers is unnatural and destructive. For royals, discretion is more than a responsibility — it’s the entire job. The House of Windsor brand is a function of what some exceptional servants (the monarchs) have done for the past century, but it’s mostly about what the rest of the family hasn’t done.

Endangered

Prediction: We’ll never stop obsessing over celebrities, but the living anachronism of the modern monarchy won’t survive this generation. Harry & Meghan are not the first royal scandal, but they are a variant the monarchy does not have immunities for: an attractive Duke and Duchess driving Porsches to Soho House who are —  at their core — porn stars.

As we’ve written about before, power is a psychological intoxicant. Any system that guarantees individuals power based on their bloodline is bound to fail — because eventually, you’re going to get a bad king/queen/prince/actress. We’re witnessing this in real time. Monarchies passed their expiration date a century ago. The grace of Queen Elizabeth was royalty’s (formidable) last line of defense. What Marx said about capitalism, that a system based on self-interest would collapse under its weight, is playing out in the Houses of Windsor and Soho.

Distraction

Last week’s news about the monarchy reminds us how irrelevant they’ve become. France realized this centuries ago and separated its monarchs from their head(s), while the U.K. (more elegantly) subordinated the monarchy into a PR function. As the weapon of mass distraction that is H&M captures our gaze, more meaningful things are happening in Britain. Specifically, a government led by the democratically elected son of Indian immigrants has made an important decision.

Tanks

This past Saturday, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced the U.K. is sending 14 battle tanks and 30 artillery guns to Ukraine. The U.S. has been the most prolific supporter of Ukraine thus far, contributing more military aid than every other country combined. There have been clear limits on the type of aid we’ll provide — defensive weapons, ammunition, nothing that might indicate we are in something more than a proxy war. If that sounds stupid, trust your instincts. Ian Bremmer has correctly stated that NATO is essentially at war with Russia.

The U.K.’s act is meaningful both symbolically and militarily. Fit with a 55-caliber, 47-round L30A1 tank gun, two hatch machine-guns, and a 26-liter V12 diesel engine, the Challenger 2 is one of the most formidable tanks in Britain’s (or anybody else’s) fleet. The AS-90 is a self-propelled howitzer that can fire 6 rounds per minute nearly 20 miles. Mr. Sunak sent these at real cost — the Army’s top general stated this will significantly weaken the country’s own armed forces. The U.K. also believes, however, that this serves its interest in protecting its people — to fight against tyranny, wherever and whenever it crops up.

Repeats vs. Rhymes

They say that history doesn’t repeat itself, but it rhymes. Isn’t it, in fact, repeating itself? A murderous autocrat invades Europe, the West aims to avoid direct confrontation with an enemy that targets civilian centers, and the allies are drawn into a war incrementally … only to realize later their recalcitrance made things worse. The Challengers will make a difference. They’ll likely inspire Germany to send its equally impressive Leopard tanks and help Ukrainian defenses inflict further damage on Russian forces, inspiring more aid to Ukraine.

Democracy

The need to protect democracy, the antithesis of monarchy, has never been more urgent. In the past few years we’ve witnessed democracies across the globe come under attack. There is a great deal to be hopeful about, though. Specifically: As a tyrant pushes his own people across borders into gunfire, much as another did 80 years ago, Western democracies are unifying.

The West’s response to Russia’s invasion is a historic achievement. Within hours of Putin’s tanks pouring over into Ukraine on February 24, NATO mobilized a military response. Germany, whose military policy for the past six decades has been don’t, immediately shipped Ukraine 1,000 anti-tank rockets and 3,000 small missiles. Even our financial institutions united, issuing sanctions designed to choke Russia’s central bank. Almost 12 months later, we remain resolute in our fight against Putin.

Harry and Meghan weakened monarchies last week. However, this is folly compared to the leadership Britain demonstrated this week. Porn is titillating, tanks are profound.

Life is so rich,

P.S. My Brand Strategy Sprint is back in mid-February. Watch the first lesson here, then become a member to take the full course. If you sign up by the end of January, you’ll get 25% off (see code here).

Subscribe
Notify of
0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Stay Connected

159,282FansLike
406,812FollowersFollow
2,160SubscribersSubscribe

Latest Articles

0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
()
x