When People Who Don’t Get It Attack

This fellow thinks I gave a “lukewarm” review to Glenn Reynold’s An Army of Davids for fear of displeasing his Instapunditness, who might then stop giving my books his all-encompassing love. He also calls me a hack. After I stopped giggling at both these things, I posted a long comment on his site, which I will now repost here.

“Scalzi’s bio screams HACK WRITER…”

Yup, I suck. However, I don’t talk straight out of my ass, which is what you’re doing here. Whatever you think you know about the relationship between Glenn Reynolds and my writing career is based on heaping amounts of ignorance, so it’s not entirely surprising you’re basically entirely wrong. Allow me to explain the many reasons this is so.

As to whether I fear to cross Glenn for fear of losing the creamy goodness of his InstaLove: Not really. His liking my novels has had a significant and direct effect on my sales, sure, because his readers trust him to make good recommendations, and he has a lot of readers. On the other hand, my current book has gotten good to excellent reviews in Entertainment Weekly, the San Diego Union-Tribune, the Philadelphia Inquirer, Publishers Weekly, Booklist, Library Journal and a number of other places — all reviewed by people who don’t know me, I would add — so I think I would do just fine without him or his personal relationship with his readers. Indeed, my two biggest-selling books to date (Book of the Dumb and Book of the Dumb 2) were scarcely mentioned by him (which is to say one of them got one bland sentence, and the second wasn’t noted by him at all). It’s not at all likely he had any significant influence on those sales.

Likewise, my astronomy book The Rough Guide to the Universe has had the majority of its sales in the UK (which makes sense as the publisher is based in London). It’s gone through several printings and I’m about to update it for a second edition (it was rather well-reviewed by people don’t know me, too). You could make an argument that Instapundit has a vasty readership in the UK, too, but then, he’s never mentioned that book, either.

Did Glenn help sell my books? Absolutely. Am I grateful? You bet; it’s why I put him in the acknowledgments of The Ghost Brigades. He’s been important. My book sales don’t live or die on his whim, and I have rather more concrete evidence of that fact than you do to the contrary.

Now, as a practical matter, I cross Glenn all the time; his end-result politics and mine don’t exactly mesh, and there’s been several times over the course of the time we’ve had blogs where we’ve gone around on various subjects. Here’s one of the earliest: http://instapundit.com/archives/000480.php. If you think I’m scared to speak my mind because I don’t want to lose Glenn’s patronage, you’re an idiot (or, more likely, ignorant, to return to an earlier theme).

The reason I noted “Army of Davids” was because I liked the book — not in a lukewarm way you suggest, either. It’s genuinely interesting. If I hadn’t have liked it, I wouldn’t have mentioned it. The book is selling well enough that Glenn doesn’t need me to push it, and if you think he’s sitting there keeping tabs on who is recommending his book in order to punish or praise them later, well, we’re back to the “idiot/ignorant” thing again.

What you apparently have a hard time wrapping your head around is that personal blogs aren’t newspapers — they’re personal blogs. I haven’t the slightest hesitation in writing up a review on my own site of Glenn’s book or the book of any other people of my acquaintance because it’s a personal site, and it’s pretty transparent to my readers that I know the people I’m writing about. In the particular piece you’re all lathered about, I note in the entry that I am actually in the book. That would be your first tip-off that I am not a disinterested observer.

Would I write a review of An Army of Davids for a newspaper or magazine? Clearly not, because to repeat, I’m in the book, and even if I weren’t there’s been enough of an interaction between the two of us that I couldn’t be disinterested. On the off chance that I did review something for a paper/magazine in which I had some personal interest, even a small one (such as when I recently did a DVD review for Proof, which was written by a college classmate of mine whom I had not seen in 15 years), I’d note it up front. Because that’s the responsible and ethical thing to do. And as it happens I do the same thing on my personal site as well.

Complaining that people are not writing in a disinterested fashion on their personal blogs is like complaining that water is wet; likewise complaining that people champion the efforts of their friends and acquaintances on their personal sites is pretty damn stupid. People write whatever the hell they want on their blogs; most blog readers, I suspect, are smart enough to understand they are reading a personal site and grasp what that entails. The vast majority of my readers do, in any event. The fact you don’t is interesting.

31 Comments on “When People Who Don’t Get It Attack”

  1. That guy’s not an idiot. He uses big words like “Epistemology” and “Education.”

    Not to mention “Observation.”


    Oh, and he rubbed elbows with Stanely the Fish. What pseudo-literary bourgeois posturing.

    It’s like driving a big truck because you have a little…well…you know.

    We’ll it’s good to see that he’s playing gatekeeper for the transhumanist sector. I was really worried that someone would let the ball drop there.

    Rather unsurprising, really.

  2. Man, I wanna be a hack.

    Apparently you hacks get all the money, all the publishy goodness, all the chicks (well, I’m a chick, so I suppose I’ll take all the guys, but still…) and all the whole wide blo’sphere’s love.

    And readers! Holy mother of Cthulu, the readership you hacks attract. Looking into your blog comments section is like…my God, it’s full of stars!

    Dude. I am sooooo sulking off into the corner until somebody lets me play in the hack sandbox. *sniff*

  3. i love it, john, when you lash back at these people who think they know the world just because they read our blogs. I said it once, the problem with my readers is many of them think that they’re my best friends, and they have no qualms, unfortunately, in saying what they think. even if their thoughts come straight out of their asses. this was really stylish.

  4. “…and they have no qualms, unfortunately, in saying what they think.”

    Lucky for us, this should put a stop to all those inconvenient unsanctioned opinions out there. Tbe nerve!

    Now all we have to do is get the Supreme Court to make overturn the Oscars and make Brokeback Mountain Best Picture.

  5. “Lucky for us, this should put a stop to all those inconvenient unsanctioned opinions out there. Tbe nerve!”

    You appear to be under the mistaken impression that everyone’s opinion is equally valid. That you are just being snarky. If the former I direct your attention to things like ID and reality TV. If the later then well played sir.

  6. He seems to have an axe to grind with Glenn for some reason (perhaps he’s jealous over not getting any InstaLove, or something). What I don’t understand is why he’s ranting at the lack of bad reviews – if he thinks the book is bad, why not just give it a bad review instead of moaning about how other people have treated it?

    But then, that would fly in the face of the point he’s trying to make – that bloggers are all afraid to piss Glenn off for fear of losing his patronage. Which of course is bullshit.

    What’s even funnier is he used your post as the closest approximation of a bad review. Funny, because you actually state that you’re enjoying the book (as unsurprisingly unsurprising as it may be to you) and intend to pass it on to your father-in-law. And if that’s your idea of a back-handed compliment you really must be a hack!

  7. “You appear to be under the mistaken impression that everyone’s opinion is equally valid”

    And you may be under the mistaken impression that an opinion can be valid. Only arguments are valid or invalid, based on the rules of logic. Opinions are just that, and can only be judged subjectively. To supress opinions that you don’t like is only ever based on personal subjective reasons.

    And yes, I am being snarky, because it is personally annoying to me when people can’t understand how someone else might not agree with their aesthetic values, then tries to characterize their aesthetics as being based on anything other than subjective reaction.

    Thank you for the compliment on my snarkiness. It has been aged to (in my opinion) perfection.

    Speaking of snarky how about, from the same post:
    “…people who think they know the world just because they read our blogs..” What arrogance to presume that people read your blog in a futile attempt to reach your own exhalted level.

    This whole argument is just another battle of Titanic Egos, with the “little people” cheering on their personal champion. A fact would die of loneliness on this thread.

  8. Take a deep breath, Stephen. You’re getting shrieky.

    Opinions are indeed subjective, although they can be based on false premises and bad assumptions. If it’s my opinion that the moon is fated to be devoured by space mice because it is made of green cheese, that opinion is not particularly useful in relationship to reality. The entry above was a response to opinions based on bad assumptions, and an explanation as to why those assumptions are bad. I don’t think they’ll change the mind of Mr. Bruce, who seems a bit of a twit, but they’re worth noting in a general sense.

  9. I got your back, Scalzone.

    I can make this guy POOF for a little bit of the long green. For a bit more, I can make it more painful.

    Have your people get in touch with my people.

  10. Smurf’s gonna make this guy a POOF?

    “Yeah, baddabing baddabang, da guy’s an interior decorator. No prolem.”

  11. Hm. It wasn’t until John’s “Take a deep breath, Stephen” above that I really took notice of the commenter’s name.

    For the record: I’m this Stephen. That’s the other Stephen. Time to put a more unique identifier on my name.

  12. “Take a deep breath, Stephen. You’re getting shrieky.”

    And if I may say so, without being shrieky, you’re getting a little condescendy.

    Emphatic != Shrieky

    I am not a colicky child. I just learned the difference between a logical argument with premises, transformationsm, and conclusions, and ad hoc opinions early on and have ever since disliked the tendency to blur the distinction.

  13. Other Stephen:

    “And if I may say so, without being shrieky, you’re getting a little condescendy.”

    Hmmmm. Actually, you haven’t managed not to be shrieky in that last comment. Indeed, I’d say you directly hit “shrieky” on the nose. You might want to try again.

    Also, if you wish not to be condescended to, try not acting in a fashion which invites condescension. Your unnecessary and quicky-ramped snit fit responses earlier in the thread certainly suggested to me you need a good hosing down. Your vaunted ability to distinguish between argument and opinion doesn’t matter much if you come across as an ass, which you have since your first comment in the thread.

    “I am not a colicky child.”

    It’s difficult not to imagine this comment without the implied stampy foot action.

    Don’t bother responding, Stephen. I’m in a bad mood today due to sickness and you’re not going to make it any better with another response. Unless you can actually manage to write one that doesn’t suggest you’re near apoplexy because no one’s taking you as seriously as you think you should be taken.

  14. Looking through his recent archives, it seems that he’s REALLY got a bee in his bonnet about Glenn Reynolds. Wow. I’m not a fan of Reynolds’s blogging, but I’ve hit on the unique solution of…not reading Reynolds very often. Sure beats writing long posts about how much I don’t like him!

    (And now I remember where I read this guy before — he once poked Terry Teachout with a stick, too. I think this person like to poke heavier-trafficked blogs with sticks every now and then.)

  15. John,

    Go ahead and keep trying to inject emotions into my writing that simply aren’t there. I do however enjoy your creative interpretations that allow your rants to be well-reasoned arguments and my most neutral statement to be transformed into an emotional outburst. Maybe you should re-read my posts (without bias if possible).

    I am morbidly curious what constitutes a “quicky-ramped snit fit “in your world. My suspicion is that your post was written hastily using proven rhetorical tactics to spin what I said rather than being based on an open-minded reading of what I actually said.

    When you start using loaded phrases like “snit fit” and resort to name calling, all I see is “null, null, null, non sequiter, null null”. You will notice that I have not used such tactics, and that even my “snarky” comments were presented clearly as hyperbole.

    I am bored now, so I will stop typing.

  16. Other Stephen, shorter:


    Please be a twit somewhere other than my site, Stephen. I prefer a higher level of twit quality than you appear capable of providing. Run along, now.

  17. Jaquandor:

    “I think this person like to poke heavier-trafficked blogs with sticks every now and then.”

    Well, how else is he going to get traffic? He’s probably fun at parties, too.

  18. Speaking of rhetorical tactics, I like how you went back and edited your posts to make my responses look less applicable, not to mention adding that you were sick and not up to the argument, AFTER I had posted my reply.

    In the spirit of the Scalzi concept of reasoned argument: “HACK!”

  19. Actually, I went back and edited them after I originally posted but before I saw your posts, with the “I’m sick” amendment posted specifically to let you be aware I’m testier than usual today. So you’re half right.

    Sorry for the confusion; I don’t want you to feel I’m trying to make myself look better at your expense — I was trying to explain why I’m pissier today than usual. I can see how it would look like the former rather than the latter, however, and I apologize for that.

    I also deleted a post of mine after your “Touche” comment because I thought on second thought I wanted you to have the last word, but now you’ve gone and ruined that. But by all means, have it now.

  20. Smurf, dude, you gotta remember to take your meds. You’re starting to enjoy your, ahem, side jobs a little too well. Someone’s going to notice if all of a sudden everyone just…POOFS.

    I’m just saying…

  21. I’m a long time reader of John Bruce and I’ve enjoyed most of his posts and stories. Maybe he is deliberately targeting Instapundit and related blogs to lure in pageviews, bandage his feelings of inferiority, or some other base motive. I don’t know. But I like his style.

    For example, most of the time when a blog choses an adversary, it’s generally an easy target. The Instapundit, with its stature and aspirations to be a replacement for the mainstream media, is a worthy adversary.

    Second, there is a long term problem here. Namely, that many blogs commit ethical lapses like not disclosing conflicts of interest. For example, Mr. Scalzi, in your review of Glenn Reynold’s book, you should include some summary of your history of interactions with him in a short disclosure. Similarly, Mr. Reynold should disclose whenever he links to an Amazon product from which he gets a kickback. Even if long time readers know the ways of Mr. Reynold, new people won’t have this understanding.

    The point here is that you have some amount of valuable credibility (that is, it appears to me that you get actual economic benefit just because people believe what you say). Disclosures of conflicts of interest are one of the prices you pay to maintain that credibility. Just my opinion, but I think it’s a good idea to follow even if you just have a personal blog.

  22. Karl Hallowell:

    “For example, Mr. Scalzi, in your review of Glenn Reynold’s book, you should include some summary of your history of interactions with him in a short disclosure.”

    Well, as I’ve written before, I think noting in the entry that I am actually in the book is sufficient. I don’t see how a reasonable person can read that I am in the book and continue to think I am trying to be an objective observer of the book. Likewise, when I am pimping a book of a friend of mine I generally note that he or she is my friend, as I did yesterday when I pimped Justine Larbalestier’s books. Laying out an itemized list of my interactions with these folks is neither necessary nor a reasonable request; it’s none of your business how or to what extent I know Glenn or Justine or anyone. That exists in the realm of my private life, which is not in your purview.

    “It appears to me that you get actual economic benefit just because people believe what you say.”

    I don’t see why it appears that way to you. Aside from sales of my own writing, I don’t get a cut of anything I promote or write here; I don’t get paid to review things on the Whatever nor when I provide links do I participate a referral program; I don’t take ads for the site. I review things I like or otherwise find interesting and that’s it. Additionally, I’ve been very open about my criteria for reviewing here at the Whatever; I even have publicist guidelines which are unambiguous. The fact there is no economic benefit to the Whatever is indeed intentional, because it’s nice to have a place where I don’t have to worry about the economic impact of what I write.

    However, it should be noted that all of this is my own choice, based on my personal decisions on what is appropriate behavior. Arguments of the appropriate ethics of personal blogs are null, because they are personal blogs, not newspapers or magazines or whatever. I choose to disclose when I have a relationship with someone whose work I mention, but I’m certainly not required to do it, nor for that matter is anyone other blogger. I’m not going to get into discussions about what Glenn should or should not do on his blog because it’s his blog, not mine, and I don’t particularly care how he chooses to run things. Likewise, anyone can have opinions about what I should do on this site, but it’s my site and I will do what I damn well please.

    The issue here may be that there’s belief that people who run blogs see bloggers as supplanting more established media, and thereby they have to play by the same rules as that media. This may or may not be the case with other blogs, but I have no ambitions for the Whatever to be the next New York Times. It’s simply a place where I blather online. Its ethical guidelines are the US Consitution and my own personal moral sense; any other ethical frameworks are immaterial.

    As for Mr. Bruce, he’s either young or simply immature. He reminds me of a guy I knew back in college who used to get in arguments and take positions that would enrage people, and when they were sufficiently wound up he’d say something like “jeez, relax. I’m just joking,” with a smug little smile on his face. He kept doing that until someone punched him square in the head, after which point he became a good deal more tolerable to be around. Mr. Bruce, I suspect, is a few head punches short of ideal civility. Fortunately for him, I don’t see it as my job to assault him into rectitude; I just plan to ignore him.

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