Friday, October 19, 2018

Okay, I will announce how to put my "Skin in the Game"

Time to take another strategic checkpoint again.

Recently I had a meeting with another independent news agency about the weakening of support for free speech and the sudden purging of many independent presses on Facebook and (in apparent blackballing sometimes) Twitter. I thought blackballing violated ant-trust laws, but back to getting on topic.

I’ve covered the ongoing fiasco with Facebook over trying to get my post on the power grid(s) boosted, and I haven’t been banned (yet), and I do have different circumstances from the publishers who were targeted – but I am concerned.

My situation is that, in retirement, my blogging platforms are self-funded and I don’t need to beg for money, donations, or other support because they cost very little to maintain.  I could get into legal trouble if I used money in “trust” accounts for this, but there is plenty of cash easily in my own name to cover this.  But, true, the money from ads and from book sales does not cover the costs.  I do it in part because I want to and can afford to.  In the past few months, a couple of providers have actually asked me about this over the phone. You can see an uneasiness coming down the pike. 
I am not “popular” in terms of demonstration follower or comment counts.  But I have plenty of evidence that over the years the content of the blogs and books has been very effective in influencing political debate and even outcomes, such as the repeal of “don’t ask don’t tell” in 2011, and various issues involving “family values” and downstream liability in tech. It’s not about volume or popularity, it’s getting the “right people” to read it and acknowledge it. And they do.

There are people who think this is wrong.  That could particularly be the case with respect to some areas of campaign finance law (actually issue advocacy), even given Citizens United and McCuthceon (the “soft money” case).  Very little has been said publicly about these problems, but a lot of chit chat goes on more privately.

One perception is that if what I do is OK, more people (supporting kids with their writing) will lose their jobs, to put it bluntly. The big L-word – “layoffs” is like any other bad word.  Or perhaps I function as the "I told you so" guy .. but "they" don't need to get their bad news from me. 
Let me take a moment to reiterate what I think all my content “is good for”.  I could say it’s “keeping them honest” (but that’s AC360’s trademarked phase).  It sounds like a reiteration of the title of my book series “do ask, do tell” (and I get plenty of complaints from my publishers that I don’t try hard enough to sell copies, don’t push them on bookstores, don’t travel on tours, etc – with books now several years old – because their employees need the income, and bookstores need the income, even if I don’t).   I would say what I do is “connect the dots” --  a favorite phrase right after 9/11.

I keep putting before “your” eyes all the inconvenient truths you don’t want to talk about (besides Al Gore’s).  Many of these problems involve hidden coercion, or causing possibly sudden sacrifices from people (for the "common good") without their full understanding or consent (the usual libertarian gripe, to be sure).  Case in point:  I’ve talked about filial responsibility laws.  In 2012, I saw my traffic spike while I was in California when suddenly there was a big media story about a case in Pennsylvania on these rare implemented laws which can bite adult children with aging and long-lived parents. (I once had gotten an email asking me not to talk about this because they were afraid states would find my stuff and start enforcing the laws!)

Many controversies, like mandatory paid family leave, for example, would run into the idea that childless people would wind up supporting other people’s children with gratuitous unpaid overtime.  Is this OK?  Nobody wants to talk about it.  But I keep this idea out in circulation.

Or how about the fact that we still expose young men to registering for the draft, while we want to shut down abortion (yup, the Kavanaugh controversy).  Yet some people would say, if you keep bringing it up, we’re more likely to really have a draft some day, when “you” are too old to be affected.

See how combativeness works?  That’s just a tip of it.

The subtitle of my 2014 book, “Being Listened to Is a Privilege” does indeed lead in to Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s “Skin in the Game”, which is certainly affecting ethical thought.  In this day of self-published "asymmetric" journalism, speakers often don’t take the personal risks that the people affected by the issues they write about are exposed to. 

Furthermore, low-volume and low-cash-flow but “deep” political commentary runs the “long tail” risk that Taleb talks about, inherent in today’s digital world.  (Taleb’s actual commentary since on journalists seems mixed – he doesn’t talk about “enemy of the people” -- but he is very much about “doing” instead of “talking” – the “no spectators” idea of Burning Man.  His theory about SIIG certainly sounds like a way to tackle inequality starting at the personal level  -- because inequality often involves a wide spread in personal exposure to risk.)
The bottom line is that platforms right now are much more comfortable supporting real businesses (that actually sell things to consumers with many small transactions – the franchise model) than gratuitous “free speech” that is born in ideology that gets back to personal self-worth as an individual and as a member of a tribe.  And there is indeed a lot of tension right now between “introverts” (often speakers, sometimes slightly schizoid or with some borderline autism, as James Damore talks about it) who are not very tribal, and “extroverts” (doers) who do operate through tribes.

I do get a lot of flak, from Facebook, on why I won’t post other people’s fund raisers on my pages – that seems to be playing ball with them – and I say that’s my picking winners and losers.  I want to give you a link to read and you decide. But others see my reluctance to offer explicit support to the “disadvantaged”, either as individuals or especially as members of “oppressed classes” (where the Left keeps choking on its own ideology) when I speak “gratuitously” to my own choir, as an indirect way of bullying them, which ought to be “banned”.  This is a rapidly evolving viewpoint and scary, especially on the far combative Left. 
Yes, the tactics attacking free distribution of speech could be viewed as a way to compel more solidarity and signing up -- from people who were socially unwelcome in the past. Yet goading someone like me to wear "your" uniform in public and pimp "your" message won't work -- but it could result in permanent silencing -- and that is chilling.  This does get into ideas like "compelled speech" or bargained speech, as well as implicit content.   And it gets into personal values about "people as people" (as my father used to say), especially after (risk-related) adversity, but that leads to other disturbing discussions. But "personal fascism" (when it comes to relationships) can invite the political kind, or be met with outright Marxism. 
And I could have an issue over the multiplicity of my sites, which evolved over time – because that can play into the “multiple admin” or link-farming problem partly behind the recent Purges.
So the best I can do is announce some detailed plans soon as to how I will monetize.  Later on today I expect to do that, on my “doaskdotellnotes” blog which supports book development.

Thanks for your patience!

No comments: