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Influential Men of 2009

by Miles Mathis

Don Draper, fictional winner of a fictional poll

And now from the file of “just when you thought it couldn't get any worse.” If you will remember, for some reason I stooped last year to critiquing the AskMen magazine list of 2008's most influential men (I think I was angry that my vote for the Cookie Monster had been disqualified for a hanging chad). Of course I don't subscribe to any of these magazines, or read them online, but my startpage is at one of those big webservers that serves up a pile of propaganda posing as news everyday, for our edification (brainwashing). Out of sheer curiosity, I click on these items occasionally, to see how far gone we are as a species this week (a scientist must keeps tabs on everything, including that). So last year I came up with a few recommendations based on my reading of the list, leading with the recommendation that you don't ask the modern man anything, if you want a sensible answer (not that I am anti-male: I could say the same for women and their magazines, but that is another paper).

Now here I am once more, a glorious year later, wasting another hour in between real projects that take real concentration, amusing myself and possibly you by addressing again the preposterosity of modern culture (and making up words). I was led into this by the headline at Yahoo that Don Draper had been voted the most influential man of 2009. Since I don't watch TV (except occasional reruns of Bewitched on DVD), my immediate reaction was, “hunh?” It turns out Don Draper is a fictional character, the lead of the TV show “Mad Men,” currently airing at AMC. This slapped me in the face with irony without having to know more, since we find the mad men of the 21st century yearning to be fictional characters, despite the fact that the majority of them already are. For the most part and in general, modern males look, act, and speak like androids improperly programmed to mimic human behavior; like holograms beamed to the earth by aliens—aliens not fully versed on the complete creature; like two-dimensional, slick-paper punch-outs from a Dick and Jane story. I find myself feeling the edges of people I meet, to see if the perforations are still intact. This tells me how long they have been out of the book (or novelization, actually).

I will return to that metaphor, but I want to switch gears for a moment. Upon closer inspection of the actual article in AskMen, I quickly tasted the aura of the piece. After spitting for many minutes, I put it into this prosaic form: the whole thing is a fake. The poll and the voting and so on is a sham. It never happened, or if it did, the results were pushed. Not that men aren't misguided enough to vote for a fictional character, but in this case I don't believe they did. I propose that AskMen is a front for big business and that it has clandestine ties to the media in all forms. What it did, most likely, is take bids from all over the western world: AMC simply posted the high bid. This list is just an advertisement posing as a poll. AskMen didn't ask men anything, it asked advertisers for bids.

This is another reason we find Don Draper at the top of the fake poll. Yes, Don Draper is a top advertising director in the show. So we may guess that real advertising directors—the ones making or recommending these bids—are the biggest fans of Don Draper. They love to see their own business glorified.

I have let the modern man off the hook to a small degree, since this election, like all modern elections, was stolen. If there were any votes from actual human men, they were stuffed and padded and extended by votes from big business. The votes were counted by Diebold. However, it remains true that "Mad Men" is a very popular show, so we must reel in the modern man once more, hooking him heavily in the cheek. I took the time—the subtle and mischievous gods know why—to study this Don Draper, and he is not the sort of fake person a real person would choose to be influenced by, or even entertained by. First of all, we have that advertising thing. Not to put too fine a point on it, most big advertisers are scum. They are professional liars, paid to sell useless and often harmful products to people who don't need and don't want them. Don Draper is based on the real-life (I say that generously) character Draper Daniels, the head of a big Chicago agency in the 1950's that created the Marlboro Man campaign. QED: Point proved. Draper Daniels was paid big money to make lung cancer look sexy, and the producers of “Mad Men” are paid big money to make a shallow phony like Don Draper look sexy.

Draper (Jon Hamm) looks great in a vintage suit and hat, and he has lots of affairs, and that is the real reason the show is popular. The men who watch and supposedly voted here do so because they yearn for a slick job where they can wear expensive suits and bed younger women at will. If they have to take a job that sells death and ruination and sin by disguising it as health and vigor and uprightness, well, so what? If they have to be surrounded by a entire class of fake, plastic people, so what? If the young women they “get” to bed are also fake and plastic and annoying and shallow, so what? This is what they want, and they will want it until they get it. Only then will they realize they were on the wrong road. By then they are 50 or 60, and have been smoking and drinking martinis for 40 years, so they are incapable of bedding anyone, least of all a beautiful, sensible woman.

Don't pretend this is what the show is teaching them, because it isn't. It is teaching them just the opposite: it is teaching them to want all these things. The advertisers behind the show need them to want all these shiny plastic things, because that is what they sell. They sell suits and hats and gym memberships and hair transplants and make-up for men and so on and on. The show is glorifying the American male, hiding that glorification a bit by taking it back to the '50's. But by going back to the past, the glorification can be extended and heightened, since the human mind has always been a sucker for nostalgia. There may be something wrong with the contemporary male, but Oh! if we could just go back to the '50's, when men were men.

Infantile, pathetic, deluded, yes, but it sells like hotcakes. Sell the American male a earlier form of himself, a Hemingway-ified, John Galt-ified paean to manhood, to keep him from noticing that his current form of banal narcissism is a direct outcome of these earlier forms.

And, hey, we can now sell him hats, too! I know without even looking that the hat is making a comeback in NYC and LA, since I can see that this was one of the goals going in. We have no new ideas, in fashion or anywhere else, so recycle the old ideas. The hat is a product that costs money, so bring it back! If the advertisers were really thinking, they would bring back watch chains and ruffled collars and shoe buckles and handkerchiefs and gloves and monocles and codpieces and anything else that was ever worn in history. What they want to do is load the modern man down with products, so he should be wearing at least 50 pounds of garments, toiletries and dry goods at any one time, even while asleep.

Just to show you what a farce this all is from the word go, let us return to the backstory. We are told that Don Draper was in the Korean War. That figures, since war is always part of the story of the American man. But he isn't any sort of hero. That would be too obvious. No, Draper actually killed his army buddy in an accident, but rather than take responsibility for that, he switched identities, changed the story, and was awarded a purple heart. To say it another way, he found a way to be rewarded for killing a friend. And he was doubly rewarded, because this friend was upwardly mobile, while he was not. The show doesn't dwell on this; rather, it spins it. This doesn't make Draper a creep, we are made to feel, it makes him “mysterious.” Like Gatsby and Ted Bundy, his good looks allow him to get away with this and a lot more, but the audience never calls him on it. Why? We may assume it is because they wish to be good looking enough to get away with stuff. They wish to buy a suit, a hat, and a position, so that they may dodge responsibility indefinitely. That's a positive influence for you.

As per the modern advertising blueprint, AskMen sells all this as just the opposite of what it is. The blurb for number 1 leads with this: “Draper values personal honor.” No he doesn't! He has a purple heart for killing his friend. That is the opposite of honor. He works in advertising. That is the opposite of honor. Then we are told this: “Don Draper's business culture might have its share of viciousness and intrigue, but it's also one in which identity and personal accountability is sacrosanct.” Advertising in the '50's was about the sanctity of accountability? Hardly. Advertising in the '50's was the same as it is today, when these advertisers at AskMen can lie right to your face. As long as the lie has a picture of George Clooney and Brad Pitt next to it, you will take it and thank them for it.

But enough of Don Draper. At number 3 on this list, we have another fictional character, President Obama. Obama is just a high-priced pitchman, selling the military, banking, oil, and globalist product of his corporate backers. He is the Marlboro Man in blackface, convincing you to buy a hundred forms of cancer. Smiling in his expensive suits and male make-up, he reads from the teleprompters to convince you that we need to give the banksters another free trillion, that we need to torture people who have been charged with nothing, that we need to be at war all over the world, that we need to give up freedom for security, that we need new taxes, that we need to move on. It is hard to believe that the Pentagon and Goldman Sachs and Exxon-Mobil were outbid by AMC, but we may assume that Obama's promoters don't feel they need to top every list. That would look suspicious. Besides, Draper needs the promotion more than Obama right now. Obama has been on the TV everyday for three straight years. Even Goldman Sachs understands the meaning of oversaturation.

Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook's face) is at number 4! He shelled out some major dough for this placement, I would guess, but, hey, the CIA is paying him very well. He can afford it. Does anyone over age 8 actually believe that a human manchild, no matter how braindead, would vote for Zuckerberg without the CIA waterboarding him first?

Simon Cowell is at number 5. Gee, Obama must be pleased to be on the same list with Simon Cowell. The President is only marginally more influential than the host of the Gong Show, and marginally less influential than a phony actor playing a phony character on a soap opera. AskMen says, “You can't help but admire the man behind American Idol.” Somehow, I can help it. I guess I am just like that: I never had to eat a whole bag of Lays potato chips, either, and I never did like-a that spicey meatball, and I never wanted to be an Oscar Meyer wiener.

Michael Jackson is at number 6. Somebody really knows how to sell records. This bid is perfectly timed, since all the re-releases are still on the shelves and on the charts. If Epic didn't buy itself this placement, I need more proof.

Down in the 40's, we have both Jacques Herzog and Santiago Calatrava. This is just more circumstantial evidence this list was rigged. How many American men have even heard of these guys? They have to be buy-ins. On a real list, made from actual votes, these two would not make the top 10,000. Maybe a few architects do read AskMen, but they are still going to be outvoted 1,000 to one by the sports and actor voters. In a real poll, Herzog and Calatrava would be below Gary Coleman, Larry the Cable Guy, Tom Bosley, and the 1980 hockey team's third alternate.

Same for Italo Zucchelli. This is just the Calvin Klein entry this year. Nobody voted for this guy. Nobody.

Robert Pattinson is another buy-in, this time from Hollywood. I could see Pattinson high on a list voted on by teenage girls, but the guys that were supposed to have voted for Draper and Usain Bolt and Lebron James wouldn't vote for pretty-boy Pattinson.

Andre Balazs, who owns a posh hotel in New York, is presented to us as a top vote-getter. Nope. I don't have to believe everything I read, and I don't believe this. What I believe is that Andre actually got fewer votes than Zucchelli. By my rules, he voted for himself, was penalized one vote, so his total is -1.

Jeff Bezos. Who are these people? Actual human men are going to vote for the founder of Amazon? Sure, and next year they will vote for the executive vice-president of marketing at Ebay and the copy boy at Mozilla and the bike messenger at Oracle.

Bear Grylls is the Discovery channel rep on the list, a handsome phony positioned to make you go to REI and spend $120 on a pair of pants that you could get at Old Navy for $15. Grylls holds the record for indoor freefall, among other things, which is again ironic. The American or British male has been in indoor freefall for about a century now, which makes Grylls record of an hour and a half seem paltry. Grylls also paramotored over Angel falls with an expeditionary group in an attempt to reach the highest, most remote mesa in South America. . . where they could leave a few empty Dasani bottles and Powerbar wrappers. He circumnavigated the British Isles on a JetSki (really), adding ten thousand gallons of petrol and exhaust to the biosphere, and holds the record for highest open-air dinner party (truly), at 25,000 feet, under a hot-air balloon. In practice for this important and memorable feat, he made over 200 parachute jumps, wasting enough fossil fuel to light Rwanda for a month. In future, he will attempt to circumnavigate his own ego on a raft inflated by his own carbon offsets. The trip is expected to take 11 weeks, with favorable winds.

If you don't believe in buy-ins, check out Gary Vaynerchuk at number 18. Gary is a wine critic, sandwiched in this list between Ashton Kutcher and Ryan Seacrest. Does Ashton even know how to spell wine? Can Ryan remove a cork, from his ass? The wine business must be good, is all I can say, if Gary can afford to buy in above Seacrest and Clooney and Pitt.

Jack Dorsey is just a lower-ranked Zuckerberg. Dorsey is the guy behind Twitter, which will last into next year, maybe, when it will be replaced by Twatter. Again, I bet no one voted for this guy except his own executives and bankers and agents.

Likewise, Tom Ford is a higher placed Zucchelli. Ford simply outbid Calvin Klein for this placement.

Dana White, of Ultimate Fighting, is one more example of my thesis. He has money to buy this sort of promotion. This list is nothing more than propaganda for big business. It is a transparent and ridiculous fictional poll topped by a fictional character, in a fictional country on a fictional planet in a universe only statistically and hypothetically allowed to exist (check Wikipedia if you don't believe me: page: quantum mechanics).

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