His publicist calls to ask if we want to set up an interview. Normally this paper passes on such calculated PR overtures by demonstrable figures>"/>
His publicist calls to ask if we want to set up an interview. Normally this paper passes on such calculated PR overtures by demonstrable figures of evil like Mariah Carey, Pauly Shore, and Pikachu. But this time it was different. This time we sensed a scoop. The editorial boards of the Times and P-I had never consented to meet with Satan (apart from their JOA negotiations). Given that the price of such access to Lucifer only entailed losing the immortal soul of one untalented, disposable staff writer, the one-on-one session was swiftly arranged, the transcript of which follows.
Seattle Weekly: First off, how do you prefer to be addressed? Satan? Mr. Satan? Beelzebub? Is there a regal title one should use? Are you in fact a Prince of Darkness?
Prince of Darkness: Technically, yes, but jeez, that sounds so stiff! I mean, lighten up! I'm on a first-name basis with all my employees—that's been one of the great benefits to our corporate retreats, the team-building exercises, the river rafting, and so forth. Just call me Mephisto, pal.
SW: Fine. Why have you chosen this particular moment to speak out? Does it have something to do with the millennium? Have we entered the final period before the Day of Judgment described in the Book of Revelations?
POD: Relax! Why would I bother announcing that? Apocalypse? Now? Forget about it! Not with so many exciting things happening in the world. Besides, I just got season tickets to the Sonics and paid my health club dues for the next year. Plus we recently signed a long-term lease for some really cool Pioneer Square office space, very loftlike, with hardwood floors, exposed brick, real beams—and T1 lines! I've got big plans for the future.
SW: Such as?
POD: Well, I suddenly woke up to the fact that my reputation hasn't been that well maintained. Certain people had usurped my image, appropriated my likeness, used my celebrity to peddle cheap goods and services. You know—music, movies, vacuum cleaners, even canned luncheon meat. It's horrible! But it was my fault. I just wasn't paying attention. I was out of the game. So I consulted with my research and intellectual property people, and they told me I needed to defend my brand, to redefine it, if you will. We did a lot of polling and focus groups, and it turned out there were all these negatives attached to my name. I had no idea!
SW: Can you cite specific examples?
POD: Sure. Wicca, for instance, which has always irritated me. And those heavy metal kids, who are sending exactly the wrong sort of message about what I represent. Black magic, listening to records backwards, slaughtering cats—what nonsense! It's primitive and disgusting. Plus that Judas Priest trial, Columbine, Goth rock . . . and that Marilyn Manson gives me the creeps!
SW: You sound personally offended.
POD: Yes, it's true, my feelings were hurt. I even considered libel action, but my attorneys said I was a public figure and litigation could take years.
SW: So what new steps did you decide to take?
POD: Other than the PSAs during the Super Bowl, you mean? Well, my MBAs told me it was time to reinvent myself, to develop a new paradigm for the 21st century. It's a kind of corporate restructuring, in a sense, to catch up with all the changes in the world.
SW: Were you caught sleeping by the high-tech boom and new information economy?
POD: Tell me about it! I couldn't even program my VCR!
SW: Is that why you've come here to the Northwest?
POD: Absolutely. I wanted to be closer to the new silicon, software, and telecommunications industries. They fascinate me! Plus, all that business about fire and brimstone has been greatly overstated. The truth is that I dislike warm climates; I only keep a pied-୴erre down below. Plus, the coffee's terrible!
SW: What opportunities do you see in the local high-tech sector?
POD: To reach people—that's obviously got to remain the foremost goal, no matter what the medium. You know that saying—the Web changes everything? It's true. Although, lamentably, when it comes to surfing the Net, I'm still a hunt and peck typist myself.
SW: But do busy high-tech professionals have time for Satan anymore? How do you draw them back into the fold?
POD: I think by first emphasizing our success-compatible philosophy. There's none of that "eye of the needle" stuff. Our beliefs are fundamentally affirmative and forward-looking. The best times lie ahead; I truly believe that. We offer a way out of the guilt and constant drumbeat of negativism, the don't-do-thises and don't-do-thats of the past. My message is basically one of optimism, achievement, and empowerment. For me, the glass is always half full. Forget about 666, our new watchword in the wired world is 24/7!
SW: Could you describe some of your plans for the future?
POD: I'd prefer not to disclose actual numerical targets and financial goals, but in general terms, the revamped operation will have global reach while still retaining a very centralized management structure.
POD: I'll continue to act as president and CEO, but will be constantly available to my minions via phone, fax, cell, e-mail, teleconferencing, and various messaging technologies. We launched our first satellite last fall, with plans for an entire network in the works. Diversification will remain a key component of our strategy, of course, even as we shed old manufacturing operations—the underground foundry, forge, and mining divisions, which turned out to be awfully energy intensive. Although our labor costs were nil.
SW: How do you define your core asset then?
POD: In a word: content. Whether on the Net, cable, broadcast, print, or broadband. We're determined to become a major new media player, but there still has to be a message. We're an information provider, helping people make choices—and offering a little entertainment as well. Naturally we have our own Hollywood studio—with an indie film division. It just kills me that The Blair Witch Project wasn't brought to us first. I would've given that the green light in a second!
SW: Your plans sound awfully ambitious.
POD: Well, so am I. That's what I'm all about. There's nothing to be ashamed of in setting lofty goals. That's why it's helpful to draft a mission statement.
SW: What is it then?
POD: Well, I know it sounds a little silly, but I've devised a little mnemonic acronym to help keep focused on our fundamental values. It goes like this: Excellence. Vision. Income. Luxury.
SW: Very catchy.
POD: Thanks. Our graphic designers are still working on the logo—but nothing like our old P&G crescent moon design! We want something with global appeal, a brand that's recognizable on every continent, in every culture, in every home. Then of course there'll be the spin- offs: toys, action figures, PlayStation and Nintendo games, etc.
SW: You're a multinational. . . .
POD: Based here, with a holding company in the Cayman Islands for tax reasons. But, yes, I truly believe that e-commerce transcends national boundaries. Globalization is inevitable, and barriers to trade can't stop that process. It's a natural evolution for governments to decline in importance and cede power to the private sector. The Cold War's over, and capitalism won. Read Fukuyama. Read Wired. Free markets are really the last great remaining arena of competition left to us. And I think we're poised to become the dominant force in the international marketplace.
SW: But all this talk about growing your organization on such a large scale inevitably raises the subject of an IPO.
POD: Sure, but I'm not looking for short-term get-rich-quick schemes. I'm more of a long-term strategic thinker. If you ask me, the market is tremendously overvalued right now. There has to be a correction. There will be a correction. Trust me, I've got some of my best people working on it right now. So, to answer your question, we won't be filing with the SEC in the near future.
SW: Does that mean you're a conservative investor yourself?
POD: Tech stocks only comprise a small portion of my portfolio. I prefer to fund our expansion with more fungible, recession-proof assets; most of my holdings are in gold, plus some collectible baseball cards.
SW: But, in general, isn't the media shelf already crowded with competitors? Disney, AOL-TimeWarner, and NewsCorp, for instance?
POD: Yes, they got there ahead of us, but we have our advantages—a very, very loyal staff, for instance.
SW: That means you'd never consider a merger?
POD: No, I'm an entrepreneur! I've grown too accustomed to being my own boss. I'll never work for someone else again.
SW: So how do you intend to compete with the other big media players?
POD: Well, in many cases we're not only breaking the news, but anticipating it—which also gives us a lead in forecasting weather, pestilence, famine, draught, and so forth.
SW: And on the entertainment side?
POD: We have many close personal relationships with Hollywood performers who are very grateful for their careers.
SW: Haven't there also been reports of your participating in various nonmedia deals?
POD: Yes, our investment bankers have been very busy back in New York.
SW: What sort of ventures have been most successful?
POD: Oh, that's easy: public-private partnerships. In particular we've had very good results with sports stadiums.
SW: Wasn't it hard to gain public support?
POD: No. It's just a matter of suggestion—and civic pride.
Read Brian Miller's The devil we know?