Selling out?

中国日报网 2015-11-24 11:28



Selling out?

Reader question:

If a politician says in an election campaign “I’m not selling out”, what does it mean?

My comments:

To sell is to give something up in exchange for money. To sell out something is to sell all of it. You go to a box office to buy a ticket to watch a movie, for instance, but the ticket clerk may tell you the tickets are sold out, “out” implying that it’s all gone. You’ve come too late.

When a politician says in an election campaign “I’m not selling out”, on the other hand, he’s talking about something immaterial. He’s talking about principles, ideas of wrong and right. He is promising his voters that he’s not going to betray them, their party’s doctrines for personal gain.

I’m guessing, of course. I’m not even sure. I mean, I’m not even sure you can trust a politician these days, whatever he says.

He or she, I may add, for the undependable politician can be male as well as female.

Anyways, the word “sell” suggests a trade, an exchange. People can sell some goods or sell a friend (betraying his trust). When they’re not addressing anything specific, they’re then talking about things that are spiritual. They’re using the term metaphorically. People accuse others of selling their soul to the devil, for instance, meaning to say they’ll do anything, anything, however wrong and dirty it is, to achieve their goals.

To sum up, when a politician promises that he’s not selling out, he means to say he’ll remain principled and scrupulous. He won’t betray you.

In other words, you can trust him.

Trust him at your own peril, though, him being the politician. I mean, politicians talk so fine and large that you’ve got to treat anything they say with a large grain of salt.

A large grain of salt?

That’s an expression we may discuss on another day. Here, let’s read a few media examples of politicians and other people selling out or not selling out, reneging on principles or not doing it:

1. Call it Round 2 in the battle between Arnold and Rush, although this time the jabs were a little more gentle -- and were thrown head to head, on Limbaugh’s radio show.

The feud was launched Tuesday when California Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger called the conservative radio talk show host “irrelevant” on NBC’s “Today” show. The comment was in response to Limbaugh’s characterization of Schwarzenegger as a “closet liberal.”

“I’m not his servant,” Schwarzenegger said Tuesday. “I’m the people’s servant of California.”

Wednesday, in a telephone interview on Limbaugh’s radio show, Schwarzenegger was asked if he didn’t “get a little flustered whenever they throw my name at you.” Schwarzenegger sounded anything but flustered.

“I pay very little attention if someone criticizes me or calls me, that I’m turning left, that I’m selling out or whatever,” he said. “I have to stay focused on results.”

So, Limbaugh asked, “Why are you selling out instead of being the true conservative you are?

I’m not selling out,” the governor replied. “It’s just doing work for the people. ... I can understand where you’re coming from ideologically, but when I became governor, I became the people’s governor.”

- Schwarzenegger to Limbaugh: I’m not selling out,, March 21, 2007.

2. Johnny Depp spent the early part of his career making eclectic, unconventional and critically acclaimed films that rarely made a dent at the box office. The past decade or so, he's made eclectic, unconventional and (usually) critically acclaimed films that have banked billions. One would think that the financial boom is a good thing, but when it comes down to judgments of street cred and artistic integrity, things don’t always quite make sense.

The man who played Hunter S. Thompson, Edward Scissorhands and Gilbert Grape is, all of a sudden, accused of selling out. And he’s not happy about it.

“‘Pirates’ was a film I did just like any other one, I made that choice the same way I made every other choice,” Depp tells the Guardian in a new interview. As it turns out, with the ensuing franchise’s multi-billion dollar box office take, the film launched Depp into the world of huge money movie stars, but he doesn't see how that impacts his authenticity as an artist.

“I wouldn’t change anything, no. Because I think I went into it innocently, and it became what it became,” he says. “And now they want to tear me down. Instantly, as soon as I did ‘Pirates II,’ they say: ‘Oh, he’s selling out.’ What the f*ck does that mean, selling out? What if I did ‘Ed Wood II,’ is that selling out? I mean, it’s not like I was ever looking to become franchise boy, I was never looking to become anything like that. I just latched on to a character I loved.”

- Johnny Depp On Success And Selling Out,, January 8, 2012.

3. The iconic London Eye – a massive Ferris wheel on the bank of the Thames – has fallen prey to a giant American corporation and been renamed the Coca-Cola London Eye.

The tourist attraction, which has become a symbol of the London skyline, now glows red at night rather than blue to mark the landmark’s sponsorship deal with the fizzy drinks firm.

The deal was signed last September and the wheel began turning again over the weekend, following its annual closure for maintenance earlier this month, reports.

Visitors were shocked to see that every pod of the Eye is now branded with its own Coca-Cola logo. Staff have been kitted out in red Coca-Cola uniforms, including Coca-Cola beanie hats for security workers, and the ticket office has been plastered with Coca-Cola posters.

The move left plenty of people seeing red, with the Eye’s owners accused of selling out, and health campaigners criticizing the decision to promote such a sugary drink.

- The Coca- Cola London Eye, RusTourismNews, January 20, 2015.


About the author:

Zhang Xin is Trainer at He has been with China Daily since 1988, when he graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University. Write him at:, or raise a question for potential use in a future column.

(作者:张欣 编辑:丹妮)

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