Thursday, October 8, 2015

No one cares, Barry

The latest person to play the "I'm leaving" card: Barry Diller, chairman of IAC. In an interview with Bloomberg's Erik Schatzker, Diller said that he'd "either move out of the country or join the resistance," if Trump becomes President.

For those unaware, IAC is media and internet conglomerate that owns brands ranging from Match.com to HomeAdvisor to The Daily Beast to The Princeton Review. Spawned from the Home Shopping Network and bought by Diller in the mid-nineties, IAC is one of those companies that is based on ownership. It creates nothing, it builds nothing. It's profits are derived from advertising and membership fees from its various online businesses.

And there's nothing wrong with that. It's a valid business model. But if there's anyone out there gasping for air, worried that Diller's threat means something, that a titan of industry is threatening to pull up stakes and quit America, don't kid yourself. If Barry Diller leaves, no one will really notice, aside from some high-end restaurants and the like. Because it's not like he can take his businesses with him. They're built around the American consumer and are making him a fortune. Billionaires don't tend to simply give up on these kinds of revenue streams. But if he did, so what? Is anyone really going to be in dire streets if Match.com or HomeAdvisor shuts down?

These kinds of whiny "I'm taking my ball and going home" threats are nothing new from the self-important. There was a real landslide of such stupidity in 2000, as celebrities like Alec Baldwin, Eddie Vedder, and Robert Altman all promised to abandon the United States if George Bush became President. Not to be outdone, some with a more conservative bent made similar statements with regard to Obama, including Ted Nugent who threatened to actually die.

These kinds of pronouncements are really the cheesiest kinds of self-important statements and, I think, reflect just how much ego drives the actions and words of far too many people. Because no one is following through on this claptrap. And anyone with half a brain, which I'll willingly stipulate that all of these folks possess, knows that one President or another isn't going to have such an impact that the nation as a whole will suddenly become something totally different. So why bother making these empty promises? Ego.

They're under the mistaken impression that they matter far more than they really do. If Alec Baldwin had left the country in 2000, what would we—as a nation—have lost? A couple of seasons of 30 Rock (I'm assuming Baldwin would have come running back when Obama was elected)? Elizabethtown (we can only hope)? Perish the thought. So to is the case with people like Diller.

Of course, Diller's threat is built around the idea of Trump becoming President, and since that's pretty unlikely, it's an empty threat. Still, the fact that he made it at all says something. As does his characterization of Trump as a "self-promoting huckster," given that Diller's fortune is built around the idea that people can be easily taken. I mean, IAC's properties are legitimate businesses, but by and large they all operate from the recurring payment model, a model that is based on people forgetting to cancel services they are no longer using.

So maybe I'm wrong. Maybe people will care if Diller leaves and takes his businesses with him. Maybe they'll be happy.

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