Sex sells — there’s no doubt about it. In fact, one report says the porn industry generates upwards of $6 billion annually as of 2018. And that’s probably a conservative estimate. But there’s another sensation sweeping the nation — anger.
Anger has always been there. However, it has grown from small waves hitting the shore to a full-blown tidal wave in recent years.
It seems those who present controversial views are raking it in. One person who has figured this out is podcaster Joe Rogan, whose net worth is reportedly $120 million. Just recently, he called my country of Canada “communist”, and our prime minister “sketchy.” I doubt he knows what communism actually means, and I doubt that he’s ever sat down to speak to PM Justin Trudeau to draw this conclusion. He even called him a “dictator” — a bold statement, considering what dictators have done to their own people (and others) throughout history. (Mandating vaccines during a deadly pandemic is hardly mass genocide.)
Anyways. Here we have Rogan. I admit I don’t listen to him, and don’t intend to. But it seems like he’s found the secret to success is riling up his audiences. He knows he can engage a lot of people by being contrarian — despite whether he actually believes what he’s saying.
Hmm…. who else have we seen like this within the past decade?
The “masculinity is in danger” message
Well, straight out of Canada, we have Jordan Peterson. This is a man who has amassed a lot of loyal followers by stirring the pot.
He’s afraid for men. He believes the patriarchy is in danger, and that women essentially need to step back into line. Apparently, a lot of men agree with him. He also likes to use his Twitter account to take cheap shots at women — like this recent comment about a Sports Illustrated cover model. Did he need to make the comment? Is he an authority on what’s beautiful? No, but just like Rogan, Peterson knows his audience. He knows they will hungrily eat up his words, and buy his books.
Of course, we can also look to Donald Trump. He made his entire term as president about spouting anger and hate, getting his base so fired up that they eventually stormed the Capitol in an attempt to overthrow democracy. When he eventually conceded the last election, Trump’s own base turned on him and called him a coward.
Trump loves the spotlight. That’s no secret. He needs to be loved — his boundless ego craves it. He found a way to get this love — by spreading hate through encouraging division and even violence. He realized that by spouting hateful garbage on a regular basis and throwing tantrums, he could hold power and make a lot of money on the backs of his supporters. (Trump’s fundraising efforts are starting to fizzle out — he pathetically tried to fundraise through his ex-wife’s passing.)
It’s not just individual personalities riding the wave of anger, of course. Fox News makes a lot of money from tossing nonsense at people who don’t know any better. How much? Forbes cites Fox’s 2020 ad revenue at more than $1 billion — more than its less right-leaning competitors.
If you really want to know the slant of a news organization, read its opinion columns. A quick look at the most recent opinion pieces on the Fox News website include: “Abortion decision exposes how woke corporations are hostile to American families” and “Biden’s big government socialism means that nothing works right in America” (what an absolutely horrible headline).
It’s clear Fox News is trying to get their viewers/readers to nod along with them in disgust. It won’t lead to solutions to big problems like assault weapons and climate change, but it will help keep Fox News on top of its competition. It has amassed a huge audience, and it will keep pumping out angry messages in the name of profits.
Even their “star” anchor, Tucker Carlson, with the resting angry face, has echoed the belief that tough men are becoming extinct. But he knows what he’s doing — he’s making a lot of men out there beat their chest in defiance. He is their Pied Piper, leading them into the land of malcontent and fear. But even Carlson admits he can get carried away by his own words.
Creating disagreements is the whole point
As some high-profile people have discovered, being contrarian makes bank. People love to read the opinions of those who are angry or tout wild conspiracy theories (cough cough Alex Jones cough). The claim of Jones’ that irked me the most was that the Sandy Hook school shooting was staged. He must know deep down that what he said about that particular tragedy is garbage — but he also knew it would generate a lot of discussion. (He eventually admitted the shooting was real, but then claimed the victims’ families suing him for defamation were acting on behalf of the Democratic Party. Jones also blamed psychosis for his misleading statements.)
Here’s the thing about right-wing celebs that have made anger and hate their brand. The left fights back fiercely — as it should — but in doing so, unwittingly thrusts these angry preachers further into the spotlight. If the left simply ignored them, the controversial firebrands would simply be shouting into an echo chamber.
I realize I am also propping the aforementioned anti-woke celebrities up on a smaller scale. I also admit that I sometimes want to hear what these people have to say, just to disagree. This is what their goal is — it’s not about affirming their beliefs with their own base. They want to incense the other side, to provoke them. This continuous cycle keeps them comfortably atop their thrones, letting their riled up base fight their battles for them. And at the same time, it puts money in their pockets from ads, endorsements, and even crowdfunding on Christian platforms.
So, is anger really the new sex from a marketing perspective? Well, it’s impossible to say for sure. There are no clear numbers to compare.
With all of the OnlyFans accounts — which lets a person perform directly to an online audience for a subscription fee — there are plenty of people making money from sex. In fact, if you’re good at it (and you’re hot), you can make 270 times the average wage. You don’t have to be a celebrity, either.
Sex will probably always sell well. It’s part of human nature. But so is anger. In fact, anger has been called the internet’s “most powerful emotion.”
The difference is that while many people who consume sex choose to stay behind closed doors, those who are angry want to be seen and heard like never before — even if it means shaking their fists in unison as the world burns around them.
This post was previously published on medium.com.
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