And me—what about my work made me an ideal candidate to be a cultural informant? Was this how the FBI sucked in Black Panther Richard Aoki? Granted, the Dubai publication where I worked at the time did do its best to identify, glossily photograph, and repackage the best of the Middle Eastern underground for a global audience; to connect consumers to capital through brand ambassadorships and sponsored advertorial features. But it ostensibly did so in the name of redressing stereotypes and opening up a space for post-orientalist (albeit ethnicized) representation. While operating in a similar fashion, this new job offer denuded these illusions and laid the transaction bare.
Did I really want to become some kind of mercenary data-marketing informant, thinly guised as a freelance consultant? Were the Gibsonian parallels really seductive enough to mitigate the gig’s creepier side? Did I want to essentially become a coolhunter for big capital?