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We're all still products being sold. But now we're pigs.
September 29, 2011 2:32 AM   Subscribe

Just over a year ago, blue_beetle commented that "If you are not paying for it, you're not the customer; you're the product being sold." This made the rounds for a bit, as people recognized the truth in it. (Previously and previously on MeTa) Today, his comment has been featured -- without attribution -- on a "demotivational poster" comparing Facebook users to pigs.
posted by knile to MetaFilter-Related at 2:32 AM (171 comments total)

I've seen words to this effect or paraphrases quite often in the recent past online in blog posts and articles. It may indeed be due to blue_beetle's comment specifically or it may have emerged from elsewhere.

This isn't to to defend uncited quotations however, since those do get me riled up about lack of appropriate credit.

Here in this October 2010 article its attributed to Bruce Schneier

Social networking websites are "deliberately killing privacy" in order to make a profit, according to renowned security author Bruce Schneier.

Speaking at the RSA Europe security conference in London on Tuesday, the BT Counterpane CTO cited Facebook as the most heinous example of social networks cashing in on users' openness toward sharing personal details. "Don't make the mistake of thinking you're Facebook's customer, you're not – you're the product," Schneier said. "Its customers are the advertisers."


Blue_beetle said it on August 26th 2010 - he could have made an impact with his comment that stayed with his readers and emerged in a different context where perhaps a citation may not have been appropriate. This is my benefit of the doubt interpretation.
posted by infini at 3:01 AM on September 29, 2011


Either way, the poster has not attributed the quote.
posted by infini at 3:02 AM on September 29, 2011


With no disrespect meant to him, I'm quite certain that blue_beetle is not the first person to have made that kind of observation.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:08 AM on September 29, 2011 [23 favorites]


This is the exact quote attributed to [redacted]

Here's a tweet on 31st August 2010 where its an OH (overheard) : that's cited here 11 days later.

[can you tell I get riled up about unattributed quotes?]
posted by infini at 3:08 AM on September 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


A google search shows that blue_beetle's aphorism is fairly widespread around the internet, and I haven't yet found a source that predates his comment.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 3:26 AM on September 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm quite certain that blue_beetle is not the first person to have made that kind of observation.

Obviously. The Facebook "you're the product" business model was in place long before before the withering description of it was made.
posted by three blind mice at 3:34 AM on September 29, 2011


I'm outraged.
posted by doublehappy at 3:36 AM on September 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


This aphorism has long been said about commercial television, so it way pre-dates social networking sites.
posted by salmacis at 3:42 AM on September 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


three blind mice: Obviously. The Facebook "you're the product" business model was in place long before before the withering description of it was made.

infini: Either way, the poster has not attributed the quote.

Is this thread a practical joke? This aphorism describes, to some degree, at least, any medium that sells advertising, and has done for a long time. And "product being sold" is tautological.
posted by doublehappy at 3:46 AM on September 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


We've talked about this lots here and folks have come up with pre-blue beetle versions of the quote many times, as I recall.
posted by mediareport at 3:52 AM on September 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


I didn't pay for my Metafilter account. Who would like a nice fresh Jofus sandwich?
posted by Jofus at 3:53 AM on September 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Hold the pickle. Naturally.
posted by Jofus at 3:53 AM on September 29, 2011


Are you halal?
posted by Meatbomb at 3:56 AM on September 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


Depends, did you pray before you sliced my jugular?
posted by infini at 4:14 AM on September 29, 2011


This thread is not a practical joke. I didn't recall seeing in previous threads, and a look through them now doesn't show, actual evidence of that precise wording being used previously.
posted by knile at 4:16 AM on September 29, 2011


This made the rounds for a bit, as people recognized the truth in it.

Really? How about us haters of truth who disagree?
posted by Splunge at 4:31 AM on September 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


Why do they have to insult pigs like that?
posted by Horselover Phattie at 4:32 AM on September 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Not only is the phrase gaining in usage, but in typical hipster fashion, the Guardian has decided that it's a cliche. To quote:
It's a cliché but worth repeating: if you're not paying for it, you're aren't the customer, you're the product.

posted by seanyboy at 4:33 AM on September 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


If you aren't paying for it, you aren't the customer, you're liable to be done for six months non-parole for handling stolen goods. I hope you like green tracksuits and shoes with no laces.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 4:37 AM on September 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


If you're not paying for it, you're borrowing it from the library and will return it in a couple weeks.
posted by Midnight Rambler at 4:42 AM on September 29, 2011 [14 favorites]


I've heard slight variations on that expression for years. blue_beetle was quoting an internet meme. Come on. Silly metatalk.
posted by spitbull at 4:52 AM on September 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


If you're not paying for it (in some way) you must be celibate.
posted by spitbull at 4:53 AM on September 29, 2011


We are paying for Facebook, just not with cash.
posted by COD at 5:05 AM on September 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


If you are paying for it, you should probably use a condom.

Also you should probably get tested just for the heck of it, afterwards.


I mean, that's just what I heard.
posted by pickinganameismuchharderthanihadanticipated at 5:19 AM on September 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


I can't believe that it's barely been a year since the Digg redesign. I feel like I quit Digg years ago.
posted by Senza Volto at 5:29 AM on September 29, 2011


"Sister, what's a quickie?"

"I sell information about your network of friends and your tastes and preferences to advertisers, same as on Facebook."
posted by Horace Rumpole at 5:31 AM on September 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


Richard Serra, "Television Delivers People" (1973)
posted by neroli at 5:35 AM on September 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


blue_beetle's statement is a well-known fact and has been since before he was born, probably. I first read about it when blue-beetle was but a teenager, in Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television, which came out in 1978.

Another way of phrasing his comment is: Look around a poker table. If you can't spot the mark, it's you. And that statement's been around since before any of us were born.
posted by dobbs at 5:38 AM on September 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


so what?
posted by nathancaswell at 5:41 AM on September 29, 2011


Even if b_b was the first person to say this exact pithy phrase, I think there comes a point in internet discourse where you can't own something like this. Are we supposed to be offended by the misattribution, or the facebook pigs thing?
posted by Think_Long at 6:05 AM on September 29, 2011


Can I say hi to my mom?


HI MOM!!!1!!!!!
posted by slogger at 6:07 AM on September 29, 2011


Previously
posted by DU at 6:07 AM on September 29, 2011


Well, I must say that this is, for me, the first time this page has actually felt like a bunch of 4channers complaining about tumblr stealing their memes.

Unattributed quotes are bad, yes, but as pointed out this idea has been around for quite a while now.
posted by Aquaman at 6:08 AM on September 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


Today, his comment has been featured -- without attribution -- on a "demotivational poster"

As opposed to the other motivational posters with a bibliography attached to the back. Welcome to the Internet.
posted by yerfatma at 6:09 AM on September 29, 2011 [16 favorites]


Does this mean I can start suing people who copy my metafilter comments?
posted by CautionToTheWind at 6:13 AM on September 29, 2011


Have at it
posted by DU at 6:17 AM on September 29, 2011


Does this mean I can start suing people who copy my metafilter comments?
posted by Think_Long at 6:19 AM on September 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Think long and hard about what you are doing, Think_Long...
posted by CautionToTheWind at 6:24 AM on September 29, 2011


Goddammit.

blue_beetle IS NOT THE ORIGIN OF THIS IDEA *EVEN ON METAFILTER ITSELF*

If you are not paying for it, you're not the customer; you're the product being sold.
posted by blue_beetle at 4:41 PM on August 26, 2010

The member of facebook is not a customer, they are the product. The advertisers are the customers.
posted by idiopath at 2:02 PM on May 17, 2010


Are we done here yet?
posted by mediareport at 6:29 AM on September 29, 2011 [12 favorites]


There's no such thing as a free lunch.
posted by Elmore at 6:35 AM on September 29, 2011


Wait. It's free to join Facebook? Sign me up.
posted by Elmore at 6:36 AM on September 29, 2011


We have to pay nothing for the barn

This sentence hurts my brain.
posted by Quonab at 6:38 AM on September 29, 2011


The idea is not original to blue_beetle, something that blue_beetle has happily acknowledged in the past when this has come up.

The specific comment by blue_beetle unquestionably seeded a hell of a lot of internet reiteration of the phrase in quotations and mutations of his formulation, because for whatever reason it ended up getting retweeted and reblogged to hell and back at the time.

So that it keeps making the rounds over the last year is something he gets credit for, but at the same time it's an aphorism and so not something you can really make so much of a fuss about as far as lack of integrity in the chain of attribution since for folks who hear it as "oh, that's a good formulation of that old saw" it doesn't even come across as something necessarily attributable.

There is a picture of me on the internet, eating a giant donut. People here may be aware that it's me eating that donut, but it has escaped onto the internet as well where all people know is that a giant donut is being eaten by some guy. Now and then someone sends me a "ha, nice donut pic" note. Now and then someone sends me a "hey, this site is using that picture of you and the donut but they don't say why" note. It's both my giant donut picture and just a giant donut picture.

Quantum attribution. Schroedinger's Cite. There is no justice in memes.
posted by cortex (staff) at 6:39 AM on September 29, 2011 [5 favorites]


Are we done here yet?

No.

I'm gonna defend the expectation of attribution of the quote to blue_beetle. No, he's certainly not the first to come up with the idea, but as far as I know he is the first to express it in that particular way, so an attribution is appropriate.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge is undoubtedly not the first person to note the irony of dying of thirst while surrounded by [salt] water, but "Water water everywhere/nor any drop to drink" is still attributed to him.

If we demanded that not only the particular expression of a quotation, but the idea behind it was original to the speaker/writer before granting attribution, Bartlett's Familiar Quotations would be about three pages long.

As opposed to the other motivational posters with a bibliography attached to the back. Welcome to the Internet.

That something is commonly done does not make it right.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 6:40 AM on September 29, 2011 [6 favorites]


he is the first to express it in that particular way, so an attribution is appropriate.

I'm a big fan of credit where it's due, but in this case you're going too far.
posted by mediareport at 6:45 AM on September 29, 2011


I don't care to address attribution issues, but I find the virulence in the specific formulation of words of the Blue_Beetle version fascinating. Did this word constellation evolve quietly, biding its time, until it reached a level of peak pithiness that allowed, or forced, it to spread so exponentially? Or was the internet privacy issues agar just perfectly fertile for infection by a good enough, but fresh, version of this idea?

At any rate: neato.
posted by dirtdirt at 6:51 AM on September 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Having just arrived from browsing a 100 MB ppt by 8 people with a significant chunk of it based on the topic of a certain group blog, I was pleased to note that it had a metafilter FPP cited as source. Not bad, academia.
posted by infini at 6:52 AM on September 29, 2011


How so, mediareport? It seems to me that the popularity of a quote often lies as much, if not more, in the pithy way in which it expresses its idea as in the idea itself.

If someone else expressed the same idea in substantially the same way as blue_beetle before he did, I will gladly withdraw my claim (while likely substituting a claim that the quote should be attributed to that other person instead).
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 6:52 AM on September 29, 2011


It seems to me that the popularity of a quote often lies as much, if not more, in the pithy way in which it expresses its idea as in the idea itself.

This.

Doesn't blue_beetle's version sound nicer than Schneier's? Its memorable, thus repeatable.
posted by infini at 6:54 AM on September 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Samuel Taylor Coleridge is undoubtedly not the first person to note the irony of dying of thirst while surrounded by [salt] water, but "Water water everywhere/nor any drop to drink" is still attributed to him.

When have you ever heard anyone cite Coleridge when the say that phrase? If pressed for a citation, it would come back to Coleridge, but if I were making a stupid poster on the cheesburger webiste with the "water water everywhere . . ." quote, I would not have cited my source either.
posted by Think_Long at 6:56 AM on September 29, 2011 [4 favorites]


Wait what is Coleridge's stance on Facebook?
posted by shakespeherian at 7:02 AM on September 29, 2011 [4 favorites]


When have you ever heard anyone cite Coleridge when the say that phrase?

Well, the aforementioned Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, for one. And Wikiquote. But more generally, I'll admit it's not a perfect example because it falls in the category of "source is so well-known that it doesn't need an explicit citation,"* which blue_beetle's comment does not.

However, if it offends you so much I will make a mental note to make an exception in your case and never attribute your quotes to you.

*Or maybe it isn't; in my first draft of that comment I had attributed it to Alfred Lord Tennyson until I thought that maybe I'd better double-check.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 7:05 AM on September 29, 2011


/googles cortex eating giant donut
ECHO BASE, THIS IS ROGUE TWO... I FOUND IT, REPEAT, I FOUND IT
posted by nathancaswell at 7:09 AM on September 29, 2011 [5 favorites]


Does Facebook Really Care About You?

Apple users pay handsomely for the privilege of putting themselves in the company's hands. Facebook does not enjoy this same level of trust with its nonpaying subscribers.

That's because on Facebook we're not the customers. We are the product.

posted by Brian B. at 7:11 AM on September 29, 2011



When have you ever heard anyone cite Coleridge when the say that phrase?

Who the fuck is Coleridge ? That was Iron Maiden.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 7:13 AM on September 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Wait what is Coleridge's stance on Facebook?

"The Nightmare Life-in-Death was she,
Who thicks man's blood with cold."
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 7:13 AM on September 29, 2011 [4 favorites]


Coleridge wrote a whole poem to go with that line.
posted by spitbull at 7:14 AM on September 29, 2011


Coleridge wrote a whole poem about Iron Maiden?
posted by elizardbits at 7:16 AM on September 29, 2011 [6 favorites]


No one really owns anything. In a sense, one could say that all your base are belong to us.*

*Toaplan, Zero Hour (1989, translation 1991)
posted by brain_drain at 7:16 AM on September 29, 2011 [4 favorites]


However, if it offends you so much I will make a mental note to make an exception in your case and never attribute your quotes to you.


? Whose offended? Just debating a point.
posted by Think_Long at 7:16 AM on September 29, 2011


Maybe this is just me showing off how poorly read I am, but (a) I know the Coleridge line, (b) I wouldn't with a gun to my head have been able to tell you that it was by Coleridge nor what work it's from, (c) I am aware that I could in theory find out if I wanted to attribute the quote in some formal context, but (d) making a demotivational poster or similarly silly internet image is not that sort of context.

A whole lot of stuff pierces the public consciousness as free-floating quotation. Not that it can't or shouldn't be tracked back for attribution when possible and sensible, but a good line is a good line on its own merits a lot of the time, independent of the auctorial pedigree. People hear shit that sounds good, remember it, repeat it, etc. This is kind of a fundamental component of how we acquire language, something we started doing a long time before the concept of credit-where-due entered human culture, and lay attribution is a bit hopeless as a result, as people routinely forget, confuse, re-invent or neglect attribution even in those cases where they'd have any idea what the notional attribution ought to be.

Benjamin Franklin
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:18 AM on September 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


? Whose offended? Just debating a point.

Fair enough. I'll rephrase: if it is your assertion that quotes do not require attribution on the internet, I'll try harder to follow that principle in the future, beginning by not attributing your quotes to you.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 7:22 AM on September 29, 2011


Coleridge wrote a whole poem to go with that line.

I'm sure I'd love to hear it, but I'm presently on my way to a wedding.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 7:23 AM on September 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


I find it odd that people are so het up about blue_beetle not originating the idea. He didn't and it's besides the point. His formulation is pithy and memorable. Finding a better way to rephrase an old idea is a great triumph.
posted by Kattullus at 7:25 AM on September 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


If you're not paying $20, it's not the same as in town.
posted by mullacc at 7:26 AM on September 29, 2011 [8 favorites]


Coleridge wrote a whole poem about Iron Maiden?

And you look up Wordsworth's epic on Judas Priest.
posted by aught at 7:30 AM on September 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


Little know fact: Whitman's "barbaric yawp" was referring to Steven Tyler.
posted by Think_Long at 7:40 AM on September 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


Fair enough. I'll rephrase: if it is your assertion that quotes do not require attribution on the internet...

I've you're get riled about people not maintaining high end editorial standards on memebase, you probably ought not distort other people's statements.

I mean it's memebase for God's sake!
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 7:44 AM on September 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


I wanted to make a power point proving definitively that the Epic of Gilgamesh was not in any way related to Justin Bieber but these are the sort of things that I have promised myself I would not do anymore during work hours.
posted by elizardbits at 7:45 AM on September 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Kid Charlemagne, notice the "if" in that sentence.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 7:47 AM on September 29, 2011


Can I critique the phrase now?

While I find it to be increasingly true, it's a cold and brutal observation on certain trends in capitalism. It's about bottled water replacing drinking fountains. But it doesn't have to be that way, and it's depressing how willingly we accept it as the truth.

Anyway. I'm sure this kind of unattributed quoting happens all of the time off line, it's just easier to track the propagation and attribution online.
posted by Stagger Lee at 7:48 AM on September 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


The last thread we had on this contained several citations of versions of the phrase that predated his use of it.
posted by Miko at 7:51 AM on September 29, 2011


Actually it's kind of ironic that we'd be debating ownership of that phrase.
posted by Stagger Lee at 7:55 AM on September 29, 2011


Here's my comment from that thread with examples, and I think there there are some others, though I haven't reread.

Nothing against blue_beetle, who phrased the idea economically and caught the eyeballs of lots of people here, but it's an idea that goes back pretty far in media criticism -- complaining that this poster doesn't cite him shouldn't be any different than complaining that he didn't cite the previous sources.
posted by Miko at 7:55 AM on September 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Fair enough. I'll rephrase: if it is your assertion that quotes do not require attribution on the internet...

That was not my assertion.
posted by Think_Long at 8:02 AM on September 29, 2011


complaining that this poster doesn't cite him shouldn't be any different than complaining that he didn't cite the previous sources.

On the contrary, I believe there is a difference. As I stated before, my objection is to not attributing the expression of the idea, not to not attributing the idea itself.

The examples in your cited comment are much further from blue_beetle's formulation than the poster is from his. The only difference between the poster and blue_beetle's exact words is the substitution of "you're" for "you are."
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 8:04 AM on September 29, 2011


That was not my assertion.

Then I am failing to understand your point. OK, your only explicit assertion—at least in the comment I was directly replying to—is that you would not cite Coleridge if you used "Water water everywhere/nor any drop to drink" in making a stupid poster on the cheesburger website. Was that supposed to be illustrative of a more general principle you are advocating?
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 8:10 AM on September 29, 2011


I repeat other people's phrasings of various things without really noticing. I bet you do, too. It's called "lexical alignment" and it's how we get common aphorisms and slang.

In cases where someone's career stands to benefit from a citation, it really is a complete asshole move to plagiarize them. It is actually possible to make a career out of internet commentary, but last I checked, the people who do that still host the content themselves, or at least arrange a special webpage for it.

If we're going to apply the same attribution standards to internet comment threads that we apply to journalism and academic essays then I think we've got to apply them to spoken conversation as well, which will be inconvenient, because I'm no good at remembering precisely who I heard something from. I guess I'll carry a tape recorder.
posted by LogicalDash at 8:13 AM on September 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


I Can Haz Cheezburger is like the Katamari Damacy of memes anyway. Anonymous should rattle their cage a bit to keep them honest.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 8:14 AM on September 29, 2011


In cases where someone's career stands to benefit from a citation, it really is a complete asshole move to plagiarize them. It is actually possible to make a career out of internet commentary, but last I checked, the people who do that still host the content themselves, or at least arrange a special webpage for it.

If we're going to apply the same attribution standards to internet comment threads that we apply to journalism and academic essays then I think we've got to apply them to spoken conversation as well, which will be inconvenient, because I'm no good at remembering precisely who I heard something from.


I have had long arguments within the walls of academia that looked down its nose on writing published on blogs or websites, even though it was practice based from real world experience. They'll take a blog post and change it enough (but not enough to pass copy fair) and then pass it off to be published in a book? Whose career has benefited from whose brain?
posted by infini at 8:19 AM on September 29, 2011


assertion contention attribution argument citation observation thesis, it's an effing messageboard comment ya'll
posted by nathancaswell at 8:20 AM on September 29, 2011


I know for a fact I said something similar in a metafilter thread before Blue Beetle said it, and I was just repeating something I had read elsewhere.
posted by empath at 8:20 AM on September 29, 2011


I'm a big fan of credit where it's due, but in this case you're going too far.

You crossed the line, Callahan — turn in your badge!(*)

(*: First time written on the Internets.)
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:24 AM on September 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


I repeat other people's phrasings of various things without really noticing. I bet you do, too.

It's very likely I do. When I notice, I try to provide attribution. If I don't, what can I do?

However, that statement seems at odds with the following one:

In cases where someone's career stands to benefit from a citation, it really is a complete asshole move to plagiarize them.

If people are doing it without noticing, they're likely not noticing what the source is either. How is someone who is copying someone else's phrasing unconsciously expected to know whether they are unconsciously copying it from a random comment on an internet message board or from a major work that could actually help the author's career?
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 8:27 AM on September 29, 2011


"You are the product" + television
posted by empath at 8:27 AM on September 29, 2011


and a news search.
posted by empath at 8:28 AM on September 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Senza Volto: "I can't believe that it's barely been a year since the Digg redesign. I feel like I quit Digg years ago"

Speaking of which, I emailed their tech support a couple weeks ago just after the one year mark. They still have no plans to restore any of the posts, comments, favorites, etc. that were deleted without warning during the supposed upgrade, despite promises made to the contrary at the time. Fuck 'em.
posted by Rhaomi at 8:30 AM on September 29, 2011


You've done it again, Metafilter! No internet phenomenon, no matter how trivial, is safe from our crack team of investigators. GiveWell, Cheeseburger, bloggers with fake personae; no one is safe. Watch your ass, cuz we sure as hell are.
posted by Brocktoon at 8:34 AM on September 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


On the contrary, I believe there is a difference. As I stated before, my objection is to not attributing the expression of the idea, not to not attributing the idea itself.

Well, not in academic citation. If that's where you're coming from, there really is not a difference in whether or not you would cite this. I mean, if you're writing something in which you're going to cite, you're going to cite - you acknowledge that despite your felicitous phrasing which makes your articulation of the idea wonderfully memorable, you did not originate the idea yourself.

You seem to be looking for quote attribution, though, not citation. But there's no proving that this person read the quotation here, attributed to blue_beetle. It's been documented left and right here that that exact phraseology has entered the parlance and been replicated in so many places that there's no guarantee the poster creator originally encountered it with attribution. If you don't know you're quoting an individual, you don't know enough to attribute.

And some have argued that the precise phraseology was used before blue_beetle's casting of the phrase here, though I haven't run down every link to verify. In any case, I don't think you copyright short phrases; it seems like you can trademark names and phrases but not copyright them to insist that they are always used with attribution.
posted by Miko at 8:39 AM on September 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


? Whose offended? Just debating a point.

My offended.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:40 AM on September 29, 2011 [9 favorites]


In any case, I don't think you copyright short phrases; it seems like you can trademark names and phrases but not copyright them to insist that they are always used with attribution.

One click.
posted by infini at 8:43 AM on September 29, 2011


One click.

I don't understand.
posted by Miko at 8:49 AM on September 29, 2011


Verydemotivational stole their entire oeuvre from Despair. I'm certainly not surprised to see a website that just lifts stuff from other people as a business model forego the attribution.
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:50 AM on September 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


You seem to be looking for quote attribution, though, not citation.

Yes, I think that's an accurate statement of my position.

But there's no proving that this person read the quotation here, attributed to blue_beetle. It's been documented left and right here that that exact phraseology has entered the parlance and been replicated in so many places that there's no guarantee the poster creator originally encountered it with attribution.

I suppose I see your point, although I could at least hope (futilely, I know) that people at least make an attempt to identify the source.

And some have argued that the precise phraseology was used before blue_beetle's casting of the phrase here, though I haven't run down every link to verify.

I haven't run them all down either, although I did a bit of searching on my own. The nearest I found (prior to blue_beetle's comment) is "You are not the customer. You are the product." by commenter "root" on September 7, 2006, in Bruce Schneier's blog here. But even that doesn't capture the "If you are not paying for it" part of blue_beetle's formulation, which I feel is a critical part of the popularity of this version.

In any case, I don't think you copyright short phrases;

My argument does not rely on copyright; that is an entirely separate issue. My position would be unchanged if the quote were in the public domain.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 8:52 AM on September 29, 2011


Miko: " I don't understand."

I think it's in reference to Amazon's 1-Click patent, but I don't see the connection since Amazon was suing over use of the technique itself, not the phrase "one click."
posted by Rhaomi at 8:53 AM on September 29, 2011


> One click. I don't understand.

1-click, actually. As in Amazon's land grab.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 8:54 AM on September 29, 2011


Yep.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 8:54 AM on September 29, 2011


Trademark is different to copyright.
posted by seanyboy at 9:02 AM on September 29, 2011


A stitch in time flies like an arrow.
posted by Splunge at 9:05 AM on September 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


I could at least hope (futilely, I know) that people at least make an attempt to identify the source.

Well, me too, but that depends on knowing that it's not a direct quote - I think this is something that's easy to imagine is a general idiom, like "pretty is as pretty does," or "don't eat anything bigger than your head." I guess I don't want to attribute to malice what can be explained by ignorance. Or more likely simply not really caring where the content comes from.
posted by Miko at 9:09 AM on September 29, 2011


Trademark is different to copyright.

Yes, of course, that's why I mentioned it. But the phrase does not seem to be trademarked, and it's not protectable under copyright.
posted by Miko at 9:10 AM on September 29, 2011


> One click. I don't understand.

1-click, actually. As in Amazon's land grab.


I'm getting old. This was such a big deal when it first happened. Brick and mortar, bricks and clicks. Are they even relevant terminology anymore?
posted by infini at 9:15 AM on September 29, 2011


Attributions on demotivational posters makes about as much sense as attributions for graffiti on the wall.
posted by stinkycheese at 9:25 AM on September 29, 2011


I'm still waiting for my LOLCats settlement.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:29 AM on September 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm still waiting for my LOLCats settlement.

From your 11905 LOLCats?
posted by Miko at 9:33 AM on September 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


I like their fine print

Incorrect source or offensive?
posted by infini at 9:36 AM on September 29, 2011


So what we need is some fine print from now on:

"If you are not paying for it, you're not the customer; you're the product being sold."
(blue_beetle]

... who was paraphrasing something said about television better part of forty years earlier by a guy who was channeling Marshall McLuhan, who like all good Roman Catholics was divinely inspired by Jesus H. Christ.
posted by philip-random at 10:05 AM on September 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Same sentiment expressed in 2006, and it wasn't new then.
posted by straw at 10:35 AM on September 29, 2011


Wait what is Coleridge's stance on Facebook?

Compulsive talker and over-sharer that he was, Coleridge would've loved Facebook. I mean, his notebooks run to a half-dozen volumes and his correspondence to another several, at least. Not to mention all of his 'zines. Wordsworth, on the other hand, would've hated Facebook. Southey would've joined just because everyone else did, only to disapprove of it greatly in his private messages to Wordsworth; De Quincy would've joined because Coleridge joined first and Lamb would've joined just to post updates like "OMG SIS IS MAD. LOL."

As for pigs, never wrestle with them.
posted by octobersurprise at 10:49 AM on September 29, 2011 [7 favorites]


It seems clear the cited example is an exact pull (though who knows where from - interestingly William Gibson has been tweeting recently about what he calls "Twitter attribution decay.")

Also that "poster" (it's just a picture, really, isn't it? seems to be just another user-submitted meme site, I mean, as created work goes that is about as bottom as the barrel gets. Not to say it's right but seriously, is anyone expecting anything like attention to attribution there? I mean feel free to be offended but talk about setting yourself up for frustration. I bet they stole those pigs too.
posted by nanojath at 10:57 AM on September 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


I really have a very hard time seeing why it is so hard for people to understand the difference between an original expression of a sentiment, and the sentiment itself. I don't think anyone is claiming that blue_beetle came up with the idea that audience is a marketable commodity, but that his formulation was striking and went viral.

This is starting to look like a weird kind of bullying. As if blue_beetle isn't worthy of being credited. He expressed succinctly and memorably a sentiment that is increasingly relevant to modern discourse. I'm baffled as to why this is something to argue about.
posted by Kattullus at 11:07 AM on September 29, 2011


I'm baffled as to why this is something to argue about.

It's about the relative value of form vs. content. Original content is hard to come by; Catchy slogans about the content are churned out by Madison Ave constantly.

blue_beetle deserves every credit for a catchy slogan, but the value assigned to it by some members of Metafilter seems way out of proportion for what it is.

Now me, I enjoy a good catchy slogan. I don't think I'm going to go running around the net trying to verify attributions though.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 11:25 AM on September 29, 2011 [4 favorites]


A well-turned phrase is a priceless gift that tarnishes a bit with each regifting. Like a brass spittoon.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:30 AM on September 29, 2011


Anyone know who drew the pigs?
posted by RobotHero at 11:33 AM on September 29, 2011


This is just making me feel that I should be getting more free stuff.
posted by El Sabor Asiatico at 11:37 AM on September 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


De Quincy would've joined because Coleridge joined first and Lamb would've joined just to post updates like "OMG SIS IS MAD. LOL."

Meanwhile, Lord Byron would've been thwacked on laudanum, oblivious to the whole thing.
posted by philip-random at 11:40 AM on September 29, 2011


... and for what it's worth, I'm still waiting for my residuals on the only riddle I ever coined that achieved escape velocity. You do get residuals for riddles, don't you?
posted by philip-random at 11:44 AM on September 29, 2011


I hereby award blue-beetle damages in the amount of $1,000,000. court is adjourned. *bangs gavel*
posted by facetious at 11:45 AM on September 29, 2011


It's not too late to register a trademark as a service mark of blue_beetle, inc.
posted by Miko at 11:55 AM on September 29, 2011


Everyone knows that I said that while getting high with a friend in college back in 1989. Of course, I was refering to the public education system in a capitalist economy.
posted by perhapses at 11:58 AM on September 29, 2011


Since I have nothing to add to my comment the last time this came up I'll just drop it again.

Blue_beetle's version is nice because of its explicit generality, which is lacking in the other versions I've seen. The generality also happens to makes it more thematically coherent; every concept in 'If you are not paying for it, you're not the customer; you're the product being sold.' is about money changing hands. 'Facebook' or 'TV' or 'Newspapers' have to do with other things as well, and including those in the phrase makes it more cluttered.
posted by Anything at 11:59 AM on September 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is a lot of hand-wringing over a pretty small instance of "theft." I mean, we're talking about a single image on memebase, not the cover of a bestseller.

By the way, the pig cartoon is stolen from here.
posted by O9scar at 1:04 PM on September 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


The internet used to be for lists. Now it's for remixes. Ideas are more important than attribution. The meme singularity approaches.
posted by doublehappy at 1:06 PM on September 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


The internet used to be for lists. Now it's for remixes.

I thought it was for ranting.
posted by Miko at 1:09 PM on September 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


I have been saying almost exactly the same sentence for a few years now in talks that I give on Media Awareness to college freshman. At least 4 years. Maybe 5.

It's not a very new thought, it just blows the minds of many people wide open when they first hear it. So it's very memorable.
posted by bilabial at 1:11 PM on September 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also, sometimes you are the product and you're still paying for it (cf movies, magazines).
posted by Miko at 1:14 PM on September 29, 2011


We need a new t-shirt for the next sale: overthinking everything
posted by infini at 1:26 PM on September 29, 2011


If you're not paying for it, you're not the over-thinker. You're the plate of beans.
posted by double block and bleed at 2:27 PM on September 29, 2011


This is a lot of hand-wringing over a pretty small instance of "theft."

No one in this thread called it theft until you did.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 2:37 PM on September 29, 2011


overthinking everything

I feel like this should be attached to some sort of absurdest painting, like a drunk flamingo in camouflaged clothing using a flame thrower to burn a stack of guitars while Abe Lincoln controls the whole scene like a puppeteer with marionettes.
posted by quin at 2:40 PM on September 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


You know, it occurs to me that the message at the centre of all this is almost certainly going to be used, if it hasn't already, as a justification for charging people to access things that could otherwise be free to access; e.g., paywalls on websites that are already sufficiently supported by ads.

I mean, I can see someone reading, "If you are not paying for it, you're not the customer; you're the product being sold," and coming away with the the message "If you pay for something, you're not the product!" Well, no, you're still a product, only now you're paying for the privilege.
posted by Sys Rq at 2:50 PM on September 29, 2011


You know, it occurs to me that the message at the centre of all this is almost certainly going to be used, if it hasn't already, as a justification for charging people to access things that could otherwise be free to access; e.g., paywalls on websites that are already sufficiently supported by ads.

But look at what you got for $5!
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 3:29 PM on September 29, 2011


a justification for charging people to access things that could otherwise be free to access; e.g., paywalls on websites that are already sufficiently supported by ads.

But that's how you run in the black and grow a business.
posted by Miko at 3:53 PM on September 29, 2011


This is starting to look like a weird kind of bullying. As if blue_beetle isn't worthy of being credited.

Oh come now, let's not get even more insane about this than we are already. blue_beetle seems 100% cool with it every time he's spoken about it - and 100% cool with everything in general - and I'm genuinely nonplussed at how many people are willing to take arms in his name for the sake of an epigram sweet lawd a'mighty.

If the originator of the words in question seems to have no problem with their plague-like dissemination in the wider world, I confused as to why anyone else cares.

You're right, though, it is a weird kind of bullying; the kind that's not bullying at all!
posted by smoke at 4:56 PM on September 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


I once tried to explain this concept to a college girlfriend who claimed that the product that commercial television sells is "pop culture", whatever that means. I fumbled around a lot and couldn't quite articulate the concept in a way that made sense to anyone but me. blue_beetle's explanation, whether it originates with him or not, clearly gets it across quite well.
posted by brundlefly at 5:28 PM on September 29, 2011


Television is not in the business of providing content to viewers. It is in the business of providing eyeballs to advertisers.

(I forget who said it first)
posted by Devils Rancher at 5:58 PM on September 29, 2011


This is starting to look like a weird kind of bullying. As if blue_beetle isn't worthy of being credited.

Oh goodness, no. I'm sorry if that's the way it came across (sorry, blue_beetle, wherever you are). Like I said, I'm a big fan of credit where it's due, and definitely roll my eyes when mainstream outlets don't credit cool websites directly for something good. But blue_beetle's formulation strikes me as *very* similar to many other formulations of the same idea, going back years. It's neat that his version got picked up, and I think it's clear where the demotivational poster folks got it, but I dunno. The outrage just isn't there on this one.

Funny story: last night, before this thread was posted, I actually used blue_beetle's exact formulation on local access tv. Seriously; we were talking about Facebook. I just think that in this case - where the idea was very closely stated at MeFi months earlier, and has been very similarly stated for decades - that any claim to originality is, eh, just a bit weaker than the framing of this particular MeTa implies.

Hasn't blue_beetle acknowledged in the past that the concept wasn't original? I seem to recall that but I'm too drained after fighting to get the cat into a cage all afternoon to search.
posted by mediareport at 6:25 PM on September 29, 2011


I actually used blue_beetle's exact formulation on local access tv.

Hey, I did that just a few weeks ago too! You can see it here [password is democracy if it asks for one]. I thank blue_beetle for the resurgence of this meme in my mindhole.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:21 PM on September 29, 2011


I've seen it a few times on my Facebook, by users bitching about the new changes. Its less obnoxious than some of the other anti-consumerist white noise, but its still silly.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 8:59 PM on September 29, 2011


Facebook selling me as the product means I don't have to do as much work selling myself.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 9:01 PM on September 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


I thank blue_beetle for the resurgence of this meme in my mindhole.

Finally, a surreal euphemism for a urinary tract infection that I can say in a Cornholio voice! Thanks, jessamyn!
posted by Sys Rq at 9:57 PM on September 29, 2011


My Ferris Bueller schtick was not original, and I disavowed originality right from the get-go. However, it's now extremely difficult to find any mention that pre-dates mine. You can't predict or control your 15 minutes of Internet fame.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 1:50 AM on September 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think even Cracked cited you.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 2:42 AM on September 30, 2011


A variation on the aphorism appears today on the front page of Arts & Letters Daily, apparently recasting a version by Siva Vaidhyanathan.
posted by cgc373 at 6:31 AM on September 30, 2011


If you're not the product being sold, it's $20, SAIT.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 8:39 AM on September 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


See also Chomsky (emphasis mine):
Take the New York Times. It’s a corporation and sells a product. The product is audiences. They don’t make money when you buy the newspaper. They are happy to put it on the worldwide web for free. They actually lose money when you buy the newspaper. But the audience is the product. The product is privileged people, just like the people who are writing the newspapers, you know, top-level decision-making people in society. You have to sell a product to a market, and the market is, of course, advertisers (that is, other businesses). Whether it is television or newspapers, or whatever, they are selling audiences. Corporations sell audiences to other corporations. In the case of the elite media, it’s big businesses.
posted by milquetoast at 1:06 AM on October 1, 2011


The Consumerist has picked it up, with a link back to the original comic, before it got captioned, by lord-knows-who.
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:59 AM on October 1, 2011


^oops, thanks asavage for tweeting that.
posted by Devils Rancher at 9:01 AM on October 1, 2011


Here's a prior example, which also happens to contradict the famous blue_beetle formulation:

My favorite moment comes in an anecdote about a [Harvard] MBA candidate who, not getting his way, complains to an administrator, “I’m the customer! Why are you treating me so badly?”
To which the administrator responds, “you’re not the customer. You’re the product.”


Note that the Harvard MBA student did in indeed pay, and yet he is still a product.
The source of the quote is from "Ahead of the Curve" published in 2008
posted by storybored at 1:50 PM on October 1, 2011


Yes, paying for it only means you contribute cash to the revenue stream, not that you're still not a product.
posted by Miko at 7:05 PM on October 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Today, his comment has been featured -- without attribution -- on a "demotivational poster"

Well that sounds about right.
posted by krinklyfig at 8:30 PM on October 1, 2011


The "product" analogy is awkward, because a successful impression from an ad doesn't imply you'll buy what the ad is selling. It only weakly implies that you'll recognize the subject of the ad when you see it again, which is just likely enough to make you buy it that businesses are willing to spend a lot of money on ads. But they can't tell how effective the advertisement was until the sales figures come in, and they can't have any kind of certainty (barring self-congratulatory delusion) that a particular ad had a particular effect on a particular group of people.

I guess it's the easiest available analogy for expressing what advertisers want, but the implication that all Facebook users are in thrall to a nebulous corporate brotherhood doesn't really promote intelligent discussion of the genuine privacy issues in play here.
posted by LogicalDash at 8:23 AM on October 2, 2011


The "product" analogy is awkward, because a successful impression from an ad doesn't imply you'll buy what the ad is selling

I still think it's apt, because it's not dependent on the user actually buying the thing the ad is for. It refers to the fact that users are simply a number shared by the ad sales team of the media outlet. You're the product in that you - as part of a large aggregate number of people - are being marketed to advertisers, who can then, in theory, reach you through paying for an ad placement that is deemed favorable. This could be because of demographics, clickthrough rate, your address, whatever. This is all bought and sold before the advertiser actually has any idea whether the audience will buy the advertised stuff; the transaction is between two businesses, and it only refers tangentially to the question of whether any of those people will buy any advertised stuff. It is also actually really difficult to tell whether advertising works - sometimes you can, but most of the time it's more of a black art. You can't always correlate increased sales to increased advertising, even if both occurred at the same time. In any case, purchasing effect is not even discussed at the time of the ad sale, usually, except in the abstract.
posted by Miko at 7:26 PM on October 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


It refers to the fact that users are simply a number shared by the ad sales team of the media outlet.

So are "hours worked" and, for that matter, dollars. I think it would make more sense to use the language that the marketers themselves use: they sell impressions. Just like how taxi drivers don't sell destinations, they sell rides.
posted by LogicalDash at 10:14 AM on October 4, 2011


Make more sense where? Like, "You're not the customer, you're the impression being sold?"
posted by Miko at 11:38 AM on October 4, 2011


What I'm trying to suggest is that the pithy aphorisms don't say much when you look into them. Thanks for demonstrating.
posted by LogicalDash at 11:54 AM on October 4, 2011


This one encompasses a lot; it's a big idea boiled down into a pithy sentence, which is why it's so abundantly quoted. I disagree that it doesn't say much. It says a mouthful, and entire texts have been written on the idea.
posted by Miko at 8:07 PM on October 4, 2011


Maybe I'm some kind of metaphor-zombie, because all I see is "Advertisers OWN you!" put on top of an otherwise uninformative description of the marketers' business model. You could equivalently say, "If you're not paying money for the product, you're paying with your impressions." This describes the same business model; you're paying for Facebook and Google and so forth by being impressed with their ads--maybe not buying anything in them, but remembering the stuff in them such that you'll recognize it next time and have some kind of reaction--and maybe not buying it even then, but when absolutely everyone in your social circle is impressed somehow by a particular brand of jeans or whatever, that brand becomes valuable.

See, now I've described the business model a little more thoroughly, and expressed the same "mouthful" that's allegedly wrapped up in "If you're not paying, you're not the customer, you're the product!" Only I don't think that aphorism actually has the business model wrapped up inside of it. I think it's just catchy because it's terrifying, and because the metaphor can be easily interpreted to refer to something real in case the "Advertisers own your soul!" terror trip isn't enough to sustain the conversation

It's easy to redefine your concept of "ownership" so that advertisers really DO own you; I think this serves little purpose other than to demonize and/or lionize the advertisers.

Is that what you want?
posted by LogicalDash at 4:48 AM on October 5, 2011


I think you're essentially correct that it encapsulates a business model. That's essentially what I was saying. The quote hits home for people, though, who have had no exposure to this business model and may never have considered the idea at all, who many have grown up instead thinking "How wonderful that all this entertaining stuff -- TV, music, Facebook -- is given to me for free!" Critical evaluation of sources in popular culture isn't a big part of most public school curricula, and it's likely that most people haven't encountered this idea until some point later in life. It also continues to be a perennial thing to discuss in an age in which so much media is attempting to transition to an ad- or data-supported model rather than a fee-for-service model.

Bilabial made that point about the impact of the statement early in the thread.

So if you're familiar with the business model, you're like "Yeah, of course, everybody knows that." The phrase draws power from being a concise way to express to people who have never thought of themselves as a product that they are one, and has the potential to introduce a new understanding of how "free" things are really paid for.

I also think there's a dimension in which you're more than just a series of impressions to advertisers. Cumulatively, as your behaviors and your consumption habits change in response to advertising and to the use of free media, you change as well. WIthout critical attention, we can become something different, something more aptly described by the term "product," in the sense you hear with a phrase like "I'm a product of the 60s" or "I'm the product of a broken home." We become a product when we go through a shaping process which makes us readier to sell again and again.
posted by Miko at 5:06 AM on October 5, 2011


Am I correct to suppose that the implication in saying, "you're the product being sold," is that it's bad to be in this position? It seems to be intended to terrify people who are afraid of being played.

That's exactly what you'd want to do at the start of a media studies course, to convince your students that it's important to study this stuff. You can go further into the details of the business model later.

When you're not going to go further... when, for instance, you're making a poster on the internet that portrays Facebook users as happy little ignorant piggle... I don't think it's reasonable to expect that the people who are impressed by this poster will go on to do their homework to learn about Facebook's business model and the hazards thereof, so as to make a better informed decision about Facebook and related businesses. I think, if they're made afraid, they'll just stop using Facebook. Maybe other social networks, too.

Perhaps that's your objective. But as for you, Miko, that doesn't seem to be what you're trying to do. You're trying to make people think diligently about their media choices. For that, using a poster like this as a tag line--not even a catchphrase, because you're not engaging in a dialog yet, you're just putting up a poster--well, it doesn't seem to serve your interests. Fear doesn't make people philosophical.
posted by LogicalDash at 6:19 AM on October 9, 2011


Ideas have to be introduced somehow. I definitely think that a-ha moments can come from anywhere, and obviously this message does resonate with people and spur further thinking. If it didn't, it would not have been picked up and circulated so widely. Its very prevalence is its own evidence for being thought-provoking.
posted by Miko at 7:55 AM on October 9, 2011


I think its prevalence is no evidence at all for being thought-provoking. It's a catchy expression, to be sure, but the fact that people have caught the expression and started using it says nothing about what they think about it. A lot of people just hate Facebook and glommed onto this as something bad to say about Facebook.
posted by LogicalDash at 8:34 AM on October 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


isn't that originally a Burroughs quote? i could've sworn i read it in something or other he did.
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 5:24 PM on October 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Maybe so, LogicalDash, but regardless of how some people use it and whether other people see a germ of an interesting idea in it and gradually come to learn that it represents more analysis of how certain media outlets work, you seem bound and determined that you aren't going to see any value in it no matter what. That's fine, but I do disagree; think it's an important foundational principal of media critique, no matter when and where it is encountered. If some people are introduced to it and don't take it any further, well, that's fine, but that doesn't mean it's an empty phrase, just that some people aren't thinking very deeply about it. So be it. I'm not sure why it troubles you so much, but I don't see any need to argue the phrase itself is somehow vapid just because some of the people who thought it was interesting might be.
posted by Miko at 7:52 PM on October 16, 2011


isn't that originally a Burroughs quote? i could've sworn i read it in something or other he did.

Burroughs was credited with saying something like, "If you can't spot the mark in the room, then you're the mark." He's also quoted on wikiquote saying something similar:

The junk merchant doesn't sell his product to the consumer, he sells the consumer to his product. He does not improve and simplify his merchandise. He degrades and simplifies the client. "Letter from a Master Addict to Dangerous Drugs", written in 1956, first published in The British Journal of Addiction, Vol. 52, No. 2 (January 1957), p. 1 and later used as footnotes in Naked Lunch
posted by Brian B. at 7:52 PM on October 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


Oh, pretty fascinating sidelight there!
posted by Miko at 7:53 PM on October 16, 2011


Which raises the thought: the intellectual formulation can be mapped out in other ways. So there's also this: "If you're not at the table, you're on the menu," which is attributed to a half dozen different people and arose in the oughts sometime, apparently. And "If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem," "If you're not outraged, you're not paying attention," and "if you're not growing, you're dying," all of which share a construction and all of which contrast a common-sounding first clause with an unexpectedly harsh-reality second clause.

There are more similar constructions. I've started noodling around in Google Books and Google using an open-ended search string for similar formulations. Kind of interesting - it's the construction itself that's sticky, and content can be swiped in and out to fit the situation. (Not that this makes the content uninteresting or untrue, but the syntatical formulation is what gives it the hook that makes it more attention-getting and thought-provoking).
posted by Miko at 8:06 PM on October 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


@Brian B.

Thanks! I knew it was something like that. You wouldn't happen to know exactly where that he said that, would you?
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 11:10 PM on October 16, 2011


If not in Naked Lunch, it's no doubt in his biography, Literary Outlaw. There are two of them, but I only read that one. It was a repeated theme of his, as I recall. As for the product quote, it is especially prescient since addictive substances create their own demand and transform their own market into a slave economy for the price of a maintenance dose: "Junk is the ideal product... the ultimate merchandise. No sales talk necessary. The client will crawl through a sewer and beg to buy." My favorite quote of his, however, is unrelated: A functioning police state needs no police.
posted by Brian B. at 6:29 AM on October 17, 2011


Miko, you probably know this, but such a construction is called a snowclone, and is usually expressed by replacing the variable parts with the letters x and y. Binging "snowclone if you're not x you're y " may turn up some more examples for you.
posted by seanyboy at 6:56 AM on October 19, 2011


This may be useful for your search miko:

http://slashhome.org/code/snowclone_google/current/snowclone_google.html
posted by seanyboy at 7:03 AM on October 19, 2011


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