“We must be relentless in our pursuit for advancement.” -Me
In the future will people be saying, “You better not post that on the internet, a possible employer might see it.” Or, when the workforce is (completely) ran by millennials, will the interest lie in one’s ability to create content that followers interact with? As the reality that augmented reality is undeniable in the future of media, it seems in the best interest to address the issue: The internet is where you can be whatever you can sell yourself as. Want to be a fashionista? Post nothing but pictures of yourself in trendy outfits on social media. Want to be a rapper? Get money, talk about evading the police, and keep that image up. This idea of perceived celebrity is nothing new. Since there have been idols we have worshiped them. We see them in our favorite movies and shows, and think we know them personally from the characters they play on screen.
In my 20’s I lived all over the US. This lack of belonging anywhere, allowed me to explore the idea that without physical accountability you can be whoever on the internet. When you don’t run into people who say, “You aren’t really the such-and-such you are acting like on the internet.” You can really build some momentum. Only your imagination is the limit of what you can become. Obviously. But it wasn’t until I settled into Portland, OR and attended parties where people I’d never met would call me only by my Twitter handle, saying they knew how outgoing I was. That experience gave me a very real taste of the lesson our moms taught us- don’t believe everything you read.
Enter stage right-Martin Shkreli (pronounced Sk-rel-ee). Young New York, pharmaceutical CEO that hiked the price of an AIDS drug by 5,000%, bought a Wu Tang album, and most recently got kicked off Twitter for allegedly “trolling.” In June, he is about to embark on a Federal court case for securities fraud. Now, you think you have a pretty clear idea of who Martin is, right? “America’s Most Hated” as he’s known…. Ironically, anti-bulling feels like the hottest trend in philanthropy these days, yet for many using the Greedy-Wall-Street-Republican typecast feels as comfortable as a favorite pair of sweatpants.
What’s the difference between Mark Zuckerberg and Martin Shkreli? Both the same age, notoriously casually dressed millionaire CEO’s… One has a better publicist? Just a friendly reminder, Zuckerberg got started in the not-so-friendly way of starting a Hot or Not type page that rated students on their looks, and squeezed out his partners in the pursuit of relentless advancement. These days he’s more commonly thought of as a philanthropist, CNN posting stories of his new baby and dog. Meanwhile, Martin posted a video of himself flanked by masked men calling out a notorious gangster and saying he’s going to send his “goon squad” after them. That being said, how many people know about the personal mission Shkreli made to make sure the drug increase he pioneered did not affect people personally, only the insurance companies (see e-mail example below).
If Martin was a rapper he’d be idolized, but since he’s been stuffed into this corporate bad boy image, he’s wearing it. He’s made some aggressive moves in the pursuit of advancement, with his notorious drug price hike, but justifies those actions stating profit made from the increase would be invested back into R&D. In no means am I a pharmaceutical expert, but it is important to have perspective on the reality of things. For example, one major pharma company Mylan Pharmaceuticals makes the EpiPen. A decade ago it was only $47, now it averages around $304 a pen while the epinephrine in an EpiPen costs less than a nickel wholesale. Shkreli’s made some aggressive corporate moves, but haven’t most CEO’s? Just with a subtler tone.
In a world of ever evolving media and the fast approaching world of artificial intelligence, the questions of who we’re really talking to on the internet will become more convoluted. With any luck, our mother’s lessons that we shouldn’t believe everything we read, and to not judge a book by its cover will ease our transition into the next digital era. Ultimately, Martin Shkreli comes from immigrant parents who were janitors, is a high school dropout from Brooklyn that doesn’t cave to critics, got into the industry of selling drugs, and aggregated to an undeniably successful business man and philanthropist. Some might call that a CEO, others might call it a gangster.
Regardless of how Martin Shkreli is interpreted, he IS the American Dream.