Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Want to sell your media? Have good karma first

Last night, I saw the Swedish film “The Last Sentence”, about a Swedish newspaper editor who tried to influence opinions in his country against Hitler (reviewed on the movies blog today).  Yes, I had a reason to think again about my whole entry into self-publishing, and continuing it through now, in the 1990s, motivated most of all by the issue of “gays in the military” and the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.
I didn’t try to make much money from the publishing, or to make it “pay for itself”.  The value of what I did was that it was always there and easy to find, and loaded quickly.  I kept the technology down to simple HTML.  In the early days, my kind of setup worked well with the search engines, better that the material of large companies that used databases and complicated scripts.  When I started my first sites (“hppub.com” and the mirror on “Hometown AOL”) I didn’t even have subdirectories.
What gained some traction was the nature of the arguments I made.  Rather than just talking about equality, discrimination and immutability in a more conventional, politically correct way, I brought in my own experience, back in 1961, of being thrown out of a civilian college (William and Mary) for reasons similar to those advanced in 1993 to oppose allowing (open) gays in the military.   It’s a little layered: in time, the “unit cohesion” concept became more important or relevant than had just “privacy”.  But I conflated my argument with that of civic obligation and sharing risks, of answering those knocks on the door.  I took the argument back to the days of the Vietnam era draft with the moral issue of the day:  student deferments and the idea that the “privileged” got out of shouldering some of the risk (which multi-faceted, including the kind of personal life wounded veterans and their families can face).  My “reputation” besmirched by the expulsion, I actually took the draft physical 3 times to get rid of the 4-F, and then “served without serving”.  (The only other case I know of where someone did this was J.D. Salinger.)

I did indeed color the argument with older ideas about personal responsibility as having a collective and unavoidable or compulsory component, lest some people depend on the unseen sacrifices of others.  That was a common moral belief in the 50s and early 60s, which might seem hard to explain today when one considers the historical resistance of many people to the Civil Rights movement.  That sort of idea, that some portions of life are unpredictable and not always “fair” immediately, often got cloaked in religious terms, and indeed seems to relate to the deeper teachings in the Gospels. 

At first, I expanded my commentary into other adjacent areas that seemed amendable to ideas about personal responsibility and libertarianism, Cato-style.  That carried interest for a while.  The military ban, for one thing, implied that the government would invade the “personal” and “private” lives of soldiers (although sometimes it has to, by the very nature of military service).  After 9/11, the collective “we’re all in the same boat” ideas became stronger, and the use of the draft argument (with the help of some public statements by Charles Moskos) kept people interested in my site (not so much the book by then).  Likewise, my increased concerns with COPA and censorship issues. 

I worked on fiction and movie ideas, while home with mother and doing odd jobs (including sub teaching).  In 2006, after a breakdown of the teaching, I gradually switched over to Blogger.  The media reviews (Movies and Books) did the best.  There was an uptick in interest during the 2008 financial crisis, as well as when I reported on some arcane and neglected areas (like filial responsibility laws).  But generally, over time, the interest in coverage of gay issues dwindled somewhat, as my arguments lost currency.  People started getting their news from Facebook and Twitter, which I found effective to use myself.

As I noted Sunday, I get pressured, for reasons of “karma”, to take up something else, even in retirement.  A lot of things would require me to give up being a public pundit and riding in the same lifeboat as everyone else (the opera “The Raft of the Medusa” by Henze), and take orders from a position of social inferiority.   That’s how I perceive it. (I’ve covered the way “conflict of interest” over my involvement with the military played out in the 1990s before, but there were a couple of odd and disturbing twists in the story.)   Some of the most recent ideas look better, like high school teaching combined with junior college. 

There are some media players that I think I could work with and be more effective.  And there are other projects somewhat similar to mine, which I am nearly finished outlining on the Wordpress blogs.  There are projects developed by some parties who do not know each other and where only I am familiar with both.  That can present some opportunity. This includes my music. There’s something disturbing about some of the fiction.  Yes, I can “play god” with my own characters on paper, and some of them don’t “make it”, at least in an Ayn Rand-values world. The problem is that the “masses” don’t seem to get their fair chance.  And religion is no longer their opiate.

But, then, there is karma, and “payback”, which can be a “b” (at least in the soap opera world). My own arguments, very useful to overcome DADT, put me in a potential penalty box.  But I may have to deal with that to sell anything.    

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