Quote of the day—Ryan Holiday

The most powerful predictor of virality is how much anger an article provokes. I will say it again, the most powerful predictor of what spreads online is anger.

Ryan Holiday
Trust Me, I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator
[This is an excellent book. Jaime, my oldest daughter, got this for herself and we just started listening to it this week. Last night was our first chance to talk about it.

In some regards it is depressing and disgusting. It explains why so much of what we see online is click bait with little or no regard for the truth or completeness. On the other hand it explains in detail how much power blogs, even those with relatively small followings, have if they know what they are doing. Holiday explains in detail how he and many others manipulate the blogs and from there the major media. Everyone, except perhaps the end user, along the way gets what they want.

The online world has returned to the day of yellow journalism like it was 100 years ago. The most sensational headlines of those days sold the most papers on the street. It wasn’t until the transition of the subscription model that newspapers became somewhat trusted news sources. The subscription model of blogs and online news have been, at best, struggling and the quality is corresponding poor. Because sensationalism gets page views and page views mean advertising money, sensationalism wins over thoughtful analysis and thorough, accurate presentation of facts.

Getting back to anger. You see this in the gun rights battle. Both sides use anger to motivate their followers and raise money.

Any blogger who is even quasi-serious or anyone who is concerned about principles and truth in the news should read this book. It will not only open your eyes but it also enables those who care more about the ends than the means to better reach their desired ends.—Joe]


11 thoughts on “Quote of the day—Ryan Holiday

  1. I think journalism has always been yellow. 200 years ago, newspaper owners made no bones about this: they gladly agreed their partiality. The pretense of neutrality is newer, but it has always been a false front.

    • The author goes over the history some and makes a plausible case that there was a time when some newspapers made a reasonable effort to accurately report things. In the big scheme of things it was a small blip.

      Generating anger sells to all sides of a conflict. To the side lied about they get angry and want to see what lies are being told so they can dispute them. The side lied to they get angry because they want something done about whatever outrage (school shootings by the NRA, Republicans want old people thrown out of their homes, whatever) was created by the liars.

  2. Online for ‘clickbait’, or on paper, the reason’s the same: “circulation”, which drives advertising rates, which is where the money is.

  3. If only the media were controlled by an impartial party that would make sure the right facts were carefully investigated and reported. Of course, this would be a great role for government to step in and assume. Pravda and Baghdad Bob come to mind!

    • If only we were more interested in truth than in having our emotions aroused. Point being that we get exactly what we want. The media feed us shit because we eat it up. Shit is therefore profitable.

      As has been said about the recreational drug trade; take away the demand and the whole thing collapses.

      We look for excitement or other distraction from reality via drugs, or we look for the same thing via shit media. Same thing. Same consequences.

      Media writers are pushers, and we’re addicts.

  4. “I don’t care what you say about me as long as you spell my name right.”

    It would certainly explain the success of such things as TTAG.

  5. (Quote)
    it while (sic) also enable those who care more about the ends than the means to better reach their desired ends.-Joe

    Um, are those people anyone we want to assist…

    • Fixed. Thanks.

      I have mixed feelings about means and ends. Killing the leader of a country who is not in active combat is considered foul play. After one of the assassination attempts on Hitler the New York Times condemned the act. But would have really been a bad thing to do? It just doesn’t seem that clear to me in the extreme cases. Then you start finding a lot of gray areas. I tend to just not talk about such things because I’m just not sure of any of the answers.

      • The answer to that is obvious. To kill a snake, cut off its head. Of course it is valid to kill the leader of the enemy. I can’t imagine why that would be a “gray area”.
        One way to examine this question is to ask what barbarian leaders would decide. Did they shy away from attacking the leaders of their enemies? Of course not. Hitler bombed the House of Parliament. So killing people like that first is not only good policy and smart warfare, but elementary self defense.

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