Thursday, March 05, 2009

Michael Viner's Huffington Post Column: Decoded!

A few days ago, I used my editor/agent/superhero powers to decode the press release about former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich's book deal with Phoenix Books. Now, the president of Phoenix Books, Michael Viner, has published an article on the Huffington Post about the reaction to his company signing up Mr. Blagojevich. And so, using the same superpowers, I will now decode Mr. Viner's HuffPo article (actual article in italics. Decoded article in bold):

A lot has been said this week about Rod Blagojevich and about his book deal with Phoenix Books. It seems that the issue is the presumption of innocence is no longer with us. As a publisher who believes that there is more than one fascinating story here I am puzzled as to why we have been made part of the story.

Decoded: Please keep talking about our book deal and Mr. Blagojevich. For the love of God, public outcry, controversy and curiosity is the only way we're going to make money on this thing. Also, I am puzzled (with joy!) as to why we have been made part of the story. And in case you missed it, Phoenix Books also has a large selection of popular fiction and mystery books. 

When Harper Collins decided to pay $3 million to O.J. Simpson there was no public outcry until the book turned out to be a great hoax. Little Brown paid Paula Barbieri $3 million for having accomplished no more in her life than having had a fling with the same Mr. Simpson. There were no lessons learned, there were no compelling reasons. Mr. Blagojevich may or may not have committed a crime; that is for the courts to decide. However, the rush to judgment was a landslide seemingly aided by political lobbyists and those with their own agendas. It could appear that Mr. Blagojevich considered breaking the law, but whether he did or not is a decision for a jury, and not the spectators to make.

Decoded: Gee, I hope Mr. Blagjoevich isn't reading this, because I just compared him to an accused murder/convicted felon and his talentless girlfriend who showed her boobies in Playboy.

His story is in large part, the story of how the lobbyists in America work and how integrity can easily be lost. The casual free drink turns into a free lunch and is often followed by a paid speaking engagement for a trumped up audience. These are followed by fact finding trips to luxury vacation spots and a myriad of other temptations that seem to be, for many in government, part of the standard perks. If through Mr. Blagojevich's book we learn how the system works from someone who is as critical of himself as the system that he used, and perhaps abused, then this is a cautionary tale worth telling.

Decoded: Kinda weird that I use the phrase "if through Mr. Blagojevich's book" considering I'm the one who bought it, and I should probably know what he is and isn't going to discuss. Unless, that is, I bought it as a cynical public relations ploy in the hopes that the scandal surrounding an impeached governor will sell books and raise the profile of my company. But come on, do you really think I would do that? ;-)

The effort to block his story from being told makes it all the more enticing. If Mr. Blagojevich is guilty, that guilt is shared by myriads of public officials as well -- and the true victim of these excesses are you and I -- the American public.

Decoded: After all, how could you expect Mr. Blagojevich to have told his story? It's not like he ever did any media appearances in which he could have discussed it or anything. And if Mr. Blagojevich is in fact guilty, the victims are you and I...oh wait. Not 'I' as in 'Michael Viner' because if the book does well I'll be making a ton of dough off of Mr. Blagojevich. So really it's just you.

I cannot recall a book that delineates the pitfalls and the failings of any governor. But if this book is well and honestly told, then it is one that should be a guidepost to all those who serve, or would serve, the American public. As well as to the lobbyists who have contributed to many of the problems in our system and have caused the present economic dilemma. While governor, Mr. Blagojevich took on the drug companies and many other lobbyists. It is not beyond the realm of possibilities that his swift ejection from power has something to do with the windmills he tilted and the transgressions that he made.

Decoded: Again with the 'Ifs'! I mean, you'd think I had no idea what was actually going to be in this book! And you know what else isn't "beyond the realm of possibility"? Flying monkeys! I mean, have you seen "The Wizard of Oz"? That looked real!

It is an open secret that exceptional pressure was exerted on publishing companies not to publish this book. The reasons why will become self evident, and I only ask that the public at large give him a fairer trial than the railroad ride he was given out of his role as governor.

Decoded: Yes, the book will fully expose the reasons why publishing companies were pressured not to buy this book. Namely the fact that paying money to a disgraced politician might not be the most savvy public relations move, not to mention the fact that Rod Blagojevich is about as well-liked in this country as Bernie Madoff and herpes. And by "give him a fairer trial" of course I mean please take $25 that could otherwise go towards buying groceries, filling your gas tank or paying bills and give it to Mr. Blagojevich and myself. Did I mention we have a line of popular fiction and intriguing mysteries?

Whatever the verdict, this is not a black and white case, and we hope to at least show the full scope of the rainbow web behind these events.

Decoded: As you probably know, both rainbows and webs are incredibly thin and transparent. I felt that this was an appropriate metaphor to use in describing Mr. Blagojevich's book. He really is lucky to have me as a publisher.

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