Inseparable from this too-much-too-muchness is Bezos’s writing style. Though Bezos employs (through The Washington Post) some of the best editors in journalism, he appears to have used none of them in composing his post. As such, it is choppy, jargon-filled, and a little hard to follow. Bezos lurches between past and present tense. He introduces an aside about the financial success of Amazon, then starts a new paragraph with: “OK, back to their threat to publish intimate photos of me.” He refers to his ownership of the Post not as “complicating” (which is a word), but as a “complexifier” (which isn’t).
Not that the post is unreadable—it is, instead, quite literary. It can feel inescapably Dickensian: AMI’s priapic owner is repeatedly called “Mr. Pecker.” It has the silver-age shabbiness of noir: One of the alleged emails refers to “a photograph of [Lauren Sanchez] smoking a cigar in what appears to be a simulated oral sex scene.” Sometimes it even gives way to the disorganized, business-school poignancy of George Saunders. Writes Bezos: “My stewardship of the Post and my support of its mission, which will remain unswerving, is something I will be most proud of when I’m 90 and reviewing my life, if I’m lucky enough to live that long, regardless of any complexities it creates for me.” (We can assume that Bezos is referring to any complexities his ownership of the Post will cause, but the actual grammar of the sentence—and the events of the past year—suggest that time itself can often be a complexifier.)
It is, in short, incredible content. And it’s not entirely wrong to read it as spectacle, because it is spectacle, after all. Refusing to be extorted is the ultimate power move. And it masks what isn’t spectacular here, too. It is ultimately one man’s calculation about how best to protect himself, his family, his reputation.
What is Bezos’s post? It is chatty and confidential. It is overwhelming and oversharing. It reveals how Jeff Bezos thinks, in uncomfortable detail. It is writing that says something about its author while also doing something for its author. It is a set of words on Medium, a fancy blogging platform owned by a billionaire. It is a tale of how once-liberating ideas—about the freedom of the press, the joy of photography, the instantaneousness of the internet—were ultimately contorted and made into playthings of powerful men. A decade ago, blogging heralded a new and “golden era for journalism.” Now it is this.
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