Why a Truck Full of Dead Chickens Is Better than the Internet (or, a Trip to the New Media Expo)

I just came across this and thought it was worth posting here (so I don’t have to write anything on a Saturday). It’s an excerpt from something I wrote for a podcast six years ago while I was attending the New Media Expo in Las Vegas. That conference started out as a social media conference but morphed into something quite different.

This is a weirdly unhinged and curse-laden take on the conference. Viewer discretion is advised. 😁 And as my writing sometimes does, it quickly veers off track into a screed on the death of the middle class. It ends abruptly because it’s an excerpt.

I assure you I was not walking around every day as angry as I sound here.

The New Media Expo used to be a great place to learn a lot of arcane, insidery shit about Google and Twitter and human behavior, but no one talked about any of those things this year – not one session. The whole vibe is becoming entrepreneurial – or at least that’s what everyone says.

The guy who gave the opening keynote speech, who is apparently very famous and everyone loves him – well, his big thing, or what he’s known for – is something called THE SMART PASSIVE INCOME BLOG and THE SMART PASSIVE INCOME PODCAST.

He seems like a nice enough guy, but you know – that’s not what I come to this conference – or ANY conference – for. Passive incomes and mountains of pseudo-entrepreneurial bullshit.

What I don’t get is — is that what an entrepreneur is now? Someone who finds a PATH TO RICHES and PASSIVE INCOME? What happened to making something people wanted to buy? Whatever happened to making something, period. When did everyone become a god damned Amway salesperson?

Everyone at NMX seems obsessed with monetizing and increasing their income stream. What the hell is an income stream? I guess it’s an income stream because of those shysters and con men who talk about cash flow. And streams flow, right? Sure. So do sewers.

Listen, we all need money, that’s the way shit is set up. That isn’t going to change. But I think what stinks about all of this, about all of these people trying to become Internet millionaires is there’s absolutely nothing underneath any of it. It’s a big empty, shitty echo chamber.

It’s a thousand people running around networking but none of them actually does anything. They’re all learning how to build audiences and build networks and build and build and build and they’re building a god damned beanstalk to nowhere. There’s nothing at the end of it.

I was laying in the bed in my hotel room last night wondering why it all annoys me so much. These kinds of people have always been out there – you used to see their infomercials on late-night TV. All the get rich quick shit, where the only person getting rich is the one selling you the foolproof plan.

I felt sorry for people who bought into that shit, and I feel sorry for the people who saved their pennies to come to Las Vegas to the New Media Expo and are just being sold a bill of goods.

So many of the speakers are just people selling courses to people that teach them how to sell courses to other people. It’s like a snake eating its own tail. YOU CAN DO ANYTHING YOU WANT TO DO! No, actually, you can’t. THE ONLY THING STANDING BETWEEN YOU AND SUCCESS IS YOURSELF! No, there’s an entire fucking world standing between most of us and success.

Anyway, I was asking myself why it all seemed so tawdry and horrible and I think it has to do with everything in the economy now and the way the world is going. Or at least the way this country is going.

There aren’t any middle-class jobs left, which is why there’s no more middle class. We’re becoming a country where you’ve either got it pretty good, or you’ve got nothing, there’s hardly anyone in between anymore. But the thing is, most of us live in between – most of us are not exceptional, and we’re not really dumb, we’re just in between.

It used to be that there was a huge economy there. Millions of jobs you could do and make enough money to buy a house and start a family, make some kids to send off to war. But that’s all disappearing and it’s disappearing really quickly.

What replaced the high-paying auto worker jobs? What replaced the machinists and the railroad workers or the postal workers or the factory jobs where you could waste your life but still have kind of a semi-decent life after they’d used up all of your good years? What happened to those things? They’re all gone.

My father wasn’t educated, he grew up on a chicken farm, for Christ’s sake. But, you know, legend has it that the Phillips chickens were prized in the city. People would wait for my dad and his brothers to get into St. Paul every week with their chickens and they would line up to buy the freshly murdered birds. Yeah, the Phillips chickens. Must have been quite a thing to see.

Anyway, after he left the farm – as all 12 of the kids did – he worked as a mechanic and took on second jobs when he could. He owned a gas station with his brother, he owned a bar. He was ambitious and he could do things with his hands and he was able to make a good living doing those kinds of things. And I don’t think he has a high school diploma.

Someone like my dad now, these days – what do they have to look forward to? Someone now…I mean, to get the money to start up a gas station or a bar, that kind of money just isn’t within the reach of someone like my dad. Or someone like me, for that matter.

So we’re left with this big void, where the half of the country that used to be in the middle is just lost with nowhere to go but a job at Walmart. So everybody is looking around saying, “What the hell?” and trying to find another way to make some dough. And then along comes this magic cash machine called the Internet.

I get why today’s ambitious person is looking to the Internet as a possible way to do something, but the problem is…there are no chickens. There are no delicious chickens, there’s no gas or an oil change for the car, there’s no beer and a shot. The things my father did provided actual goods and services.

These people looking for Internet money don’t have anything to offer. There’s nothing there. What do they create? Content?

I hate that word, content. You have to create content! Perhaps the word bothers me because I am a writer, not a content creator. People have such an unquenchable need for content that there are companies who do nothing but churn out useless articles about every subject under the sun. Just pure, awful shit articles, three paragraphs about nothing, but it’s content, man, and we need more content!

day 11


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