Richard Quest is the devil

CNN business news anchor Richard Quest. (Reuters)

CNN business news anchor Richard Quest. (Reuters)

In the last few years, a terrible crisis has hit the business world: businesspeople have started to believe they are creative, interesting and funny. Personality has become the new materialism, and quirkiness the new bottom line. You remember those sad cartoon ties that losers used to wear with their business suits? That had Daffy Duck, or Homer Simpson, or in extreme cases Jessica Rabbit, emblazoned on them? Businesspeople now think they are the tie, the living embodiment of zany originality.

Damn you, Richard Quest, with your nasal trippiness and bouncy graphics, and attack-puppy dog eagerness.
Businesspeople now imagine they are thinkers, and sexy, and artistic. I don't want artists running our banks! I want boring accountant types. It's the artistry bit that gave us the last banking crisis, and the last recession.

Richard Quest is the Beep Beep the Roadrunner of television presenters, and he's trying to turn business news into something fun. Why is he doing this? Clearly (at least to a lunatic living in a bunker in Colorado), it's a propaganda push, clandestinely funded stealth marketing designed to make us believe that businesspeople are not in fact the scumsucking parasites on society that the more anarchic couch potatoes might believe. No, they're cool knights of commerce, superheroes battling the evil of unproductive public holidays and saggy bottom lines, firmly on the side of The Market, that quasi-religious martyr to the demands of humanity.

It makes me vaguely seasick, watching Richard Quest's sparky advert for his show. It's not about numbers, apparently, it's about the story behind the numbers. It's about the "What, where, who, when, and why", or alliteration to that effect. Am I the only one who thinks he's left out the most important W of all, the one that coincidentally rhymes with bank?

It's not just Richard Quest's fault, though. The dastardly internet is also a culprit. We now have online entrepreneurs who think they're cool, and hipsterish, and "complicated". The more successful ones have taken to laughingly calling themselves double-entrepreneurs, because they're so good they screw you twice. You're not cool! You're businesspeople! My worst is the ones who actually, seriously, call themselves rockstars. Dude, you're so far from a rockstar ... so damn far. You might, conceivably, be a popstar: ersatz, manufactured and loathed by people who actually are artists. The sad truth, if you're forcing us to use a music industry analogy, is that you're way more Justin Bieber than Bruce Springsteen. 

Then we have the "rockstar coders". No, no, no. You might be amazingly good at your job, a real creative star in your field, but you're still not going to have thousands of boys and girls throwing their underwear at you. You are not a tortured creative individual bringing beautiful art to the world, you're a bright type who works on making it easy for people to buy insurance online. You too are a child of Quest, I fear.

"Quest means business". Does it really, Richard Quest? Does it? Or does it mean "a search for joy in a discipline precisely founded on the commodification and betrayal of joy"? Okay, now I'm starting to sound crazy. Deep breath. It's just that Richard Quest's cheery style has infected other television presenters. Even the Sky and BBC news anchors have started making little quips here and there, snide remarks about each other's taste in clothes, or spontaneous avuncular homilies about whatever crazy tabloid story they're pretending to dissect for the benefit of their viewers.

It's a sad attempt to mirror what's happening organically online, where news is now all about the personalities that convey and analyse it. But those personalities include the readers and users themselves, it's not a top-down thing anymore. When you try and do it on television, you come across as forced and fake, and your "common sense" take on things just reveals how restricted television news often is.

Please, make it stop. I'm not saying businesspeople can't be interesting and cool in their personal lives. It's just their official personae I'm talking about. You pay people to do stuff that you then sell to other people for a profit. That's it. Nobody is ever going to buy a T-shirt with your face on it. I'd buy a Richard Quest one, of course, but then he's a little bit special. Because Richard Quest is the devil.

Chris is the editor of the Mail & Guardian Online. Follow him on Twitter @chrisroper

Chris Roper

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