As writers, we focus on developing a platform – the friends, fans, and colleagues who have a vested interest in our work. It’s what drives sales, playing an important role in dictating our successes or failures. And if we achieve any sort of success, our platform can grow exponentially. Our reach – and influence – explodes.
Public figures have huge platforms. Indeed, their platforms can extend beyond the scope of those who actively participate in the “work” they produce. Not everyone watches Jersey Shore, but most of us have an idea of who Snooki is – perhaps through newspaper articles, interviews, commercials, or water-cooler gossip. (She even has a New York Times best-selling book, but let’s be very clear: her ghost writer is a NYT best-selling author, not her.)
Sometimes celebrities say or do things that irk us. For instance, Mark Whalberg recently made an insensitive blunder by claiming he’s a real-life superhero and shoulda-coulda-woulda changed the events of 9/11. He’s since gone on to apologize.
It makes me consider the moral and ethical responsibilities and implications of platform.
Some very successful writers have allowed their politics to creep into their platform, becoming very vocal about their beliefs – be it religion, sexual orientation, political parties, etc. In fact, it may even be another aspect of their platform. But very personal opinions and beliefs suddenly become highly public and political.
Now, we all have beliefs, including some that we’re willing to get aggressive about – be it emotionally, physically, politically, or financially. We are right in our belief, and others are wrong. Absolutely, 100%, irrefutably wrong, and we’ll use everything at our disposal to ensure our belief is maintained, that other beliefs are squished. This doesn’t make it right, but it’s an aspect of the human condition.
So what happens when a high-profile writer uses their platform to further their “controversial” belief? What happens when our support and readership – as expressed through the purchasing of the product they release – allows them to fund their aggressive actions towards the furthering their beliefs?
What are our moral and ethical responsibilities as readers?
We want to stay current, and we want to read the books that are extremely popular. But if those authors use the cash generated from the sale of their books to further their own agenda, we are funding a belief that we don’t wholly support.
To be clear:
- Author X writes book Q.
- Book Q is awesome and has huge success.
- But, Author X believes A, and is very vocal/political about said belief.
- Author X uses the millions of dollars of income generated from book Q to fund / support / further belief A.
- We believe that belief A is wrong.
- If we purchase book Q, we are funding Author X’s opposing belief.
See what I’m getting at here?
It’s a challenging topic, and it can generate a lot of controversy. We pay attention to it when it comes to the food we eat, the places we support or boycott, the products we purchase – from organizations and even countries – but do we consider it with the books and films we purchase and view?
What are your thoughts? Should readers support popular literature produced by authors who finance diametrically opposed beliefs? Should we educate ourselves about the personal beliefs of the authors we read and make our purchases based on how well their belief lines up with our own?
Please comment below and share your thoughts – but let’s keep it a constructive debate.