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August 9, 2007

Conservatives turn to PODs
Posted by Teresa at 09:15 AM * 180 comments

“Two great tastes that taste great together!” observed the mighty Julia, as she pointed me in the direction of TBogg’s post, You’re nobody until somebody ISBNs you. It’s about Townhall Press, an outfit whose motto is either “On-demand book publishing for conservative authors,” or “A new alternative to liberal NY publishing houses.” Townhall is everything you can imagine in a PODscammer—

Have you written a manuscript and you’re tired of being rejected by the traditional publishing houses? Townhall Press wants to be your book publisher. We can turn your manuscript into a high-quality book and make it available to 25,000 bookstores and on the Internet – all in less than 90 days. Townhall Press is an on-demand book publisher, and a part of Townhall.com – one of the leading self-publishers on the Internet. Send us your manuscript today and within 90 days we’ll promote it on Townhall.com and Amazon.com in high-quality paperback or hardcover editions.
—and then some:
Are you looking for a Conservative book publisher? Have you submitted your manuscript to dozens of publishing companies only to be turned away, time and time again? The problem is, most publishing houses shun conservative authors. Liberal authors get their foot in the door while conservative authors get the door slammed in their faces!

But now there is an alternative….

I’m torn. On the one hand, Townhall.com just cries out for the kind of dispassionately analytical thrashing the gang at Absolute Write’s Bewares Board is so good at administering to deceptive publishing operations. On the other hand, I really like the idea of Wingnuttia entrusting its cherished manuscripts to a print-on-demand publisher that doesn’t take returns and has no brick-and-mortar distribution deal. For years, I’ve watched hapless, naive authors get mired in deals like that, finding out the hard way that no amount of energetic self-promotion will sell a book if the publisher isn’t helping. There’s nothing different about the deal Townhall’s offering its authors, except I won’t feel bad about it.

Another pleasing feature is that the only real difference between Townhall.com and the “wingnut welfare” publishing programs at legitimate houses is that it gets rid of the welfare payments. With a very few exceptions, those right-wing opuses you’ve been seeing in the bookstores have been selling only a few thousand more copies than the average self-published title.

Since I’m a member of the NYC liberal publishing elite, there’s one more thing I’ve got to do before I settle back in to contemplate this happy marriage of right-wingers and PODscammers:

Curses! Townhall.com has seen through our campaign to suppress conservative voices! Now that Townhall is in business, right-wingers will be able to get their books published quickly and effortlessly. We’re doomed!
And you can quote me on that.
Comments on Conservatives turn to PODs:
#1 ::: Seth Gordon ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2007, 12:08 PM:

"Start today for as little as $999."

God bless the free market, eh?

#2 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2007, 12:11 PM:

I love the section where they explain how much money their authors are going to make.

#3 ::: julie ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2007, 12:16 PM:

Have you written a manuscript and you’re tired of being rejected by the traditional publishing houses?

Like PublishAmerica?

#4 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2007, 12:21 PM:

Yet another upside--the possible improvement in slushpiles everywhere.

You do have Scalzi's recipe for schadenfreude pie, right?

#5 ::: Michael Bloom ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2007, 12:21 PM:

Re #3: Heh, indeed, has Travis sent an MS yet?

#6 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2007, 12:23 PM:

Conservatives turn to PODs? Turnabout is fair play.

#7 ::: Steve Buchheit ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2007, 12:45 PM:

I'm with ya there, Teresa, on being torn. Hmm, publishing scam, but they're targeting authors I potentially don't really want to see get ahead. Hmmm.

"The problem is, most publishing houses shun conservative authors. Liberal authors get their foot in the door while conservative authors get the door slammed in their faces!"

Yeah. I mean, just go into your local bookstore and wander into the political commentary section. You can feel the left-wing agenda oozing out of the shelves. Oh, wait, that's from when those liberal books are squished between the onslaught of Coulter, Rush, and Hannity and their ilk pulp-fiction diatribes. Clean-up on aisle six.

#8 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2007, 12:51 PM:

Is Townhall a "vanity" publisher?

No. Vanity publishers will charge you thousands of dollars to print a truckload of books, which they will not help you distribute.

Let's see now... As it happens, I have here an example of a book from a small press that uses Lightning Source to produce its print books. I paid the publisher nothing. I received five author copies, as did my co-author. The book is not just "available to order" but is part of the distribution deal the publisher negotiated with Borders, and books from the publisher are available on the shelf in my local Borders. Cover price is $12.99, which is fairly typical for a trade paperback of that length. Royalties are 7% of cover price.

Or of course, I could publish it through Townhall, and pay a mere $999.99, plus whatever the author discount price is on ten copies. Let's see -- the cover price will be $17.99 (a very reasonable price compared with the $12.99 at my current publisher), so the 40% discount as the author will bring that down to $10.80 per copy, plus shipping. Yes, only a thousand and a bit, so technically not thousands, if you round down. Now, I won't receive any royalties or distribution on the basic service, but I could upgrade to one of the premium packages, where not only will I receive royalties but it will be available through Amazon *and* can be ordered by any bookshop that chooses to do so. Of course, those packages will cost thousands, but they're quite right about not printing the truckload of books...

Dear God, it really is like shooting fish in a barrel.

#9 ::: Dave Lartigue ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2007, 01:04 PM:

I guess I'm just imagining all those books for sale by Ann Coulter, Bill O'Reilly, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, the Swift Boat Veterans, etc.

#10 ::: Electric Landlady ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2007, 01:05 PM:

Oh. Oh, that's just beautiful. *sits back and contemplates the beauty*

Although I have to say the second book TBogg quotes has the potential to be a rip-roaring good read:

For Such a Time As This is a five week Bible study that challenges single Christians to discover and surrender to God’s purpose and plan for them, and truly experience the great, unsearchable riches of Christ while serving and placing Him first in one’s life. Walk through the scorching fires of Nebuchadnezzar’s unmerciful furnace, grace the twinkling, rolling hills of the Augusta National Golf Course, and witness God’s miraculous Hand in a crowded back booth in McDonald’s and a stressful intensive care unit on Christmas Eve.
I might actually pay cash money to read that. Not a lot of cash money, obviously, but still.
#11 ::: janeyolen ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2007, 01:05 PM:

Oh dear, oh dear--the squishy liberal part of me wants to help warn. . .but I have books to write and people to see and grandkids to babysit and breadlines to help on and vigil lines to stand on and letters to editors to send and. . .

Oh dear, oh dear, did I miss my chance?

Jane

#12 ::: Seth Breidbart ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2007, 01:06 PM:

Is it OK for someone to rip off people you don't like?

(Would you be surprised to find out they have another domain name where they do the exact same thing except substitute a few words in the description of the manuscripts that Large Corporate Publishers won't accept?)

#13 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2007, 01:52 PM:

Walk through the scorching fires of Nebuchadnezzar’s unmerciful furnace, grace the twinkling, rolling hills of the Augusta National Golf Course, and witness God’s miraculous Hand in a crowded back booth in McDonald’s and a stressful intensive care unit on Christmas Eve.

Whaat? Where did the golf course thing come from?

I mean, the others I can see. The three Israelites tried in the furnace (Shadrach, Mesach and Abed-nego; yes, I too won a prize for Scripture Knowledge when I was a nipper at prep school), obviously. Intensive care - miraculous recovery. McDonalds - well, there's a long tradition of "however mean the job, God ennobles it".

But Augusta?

Alternative interpretation:
Walk through the scorching fires of Nebuchadnezzar’s unmerciful furnace, grace the twinkling, rolling hills of the Augusta National Golf Course, and witness God’s miraculous Hand in a crowded back booth in McDonald’s and a stressful intensive care unit on Christmas Eve. 14 days. Book your tour places now online. Guests are warned that the tour may be physically strenuous.

#14 ::: Christopher Turkel ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2007, 01:55 PM:

Maybe they'll publish Conservapedia in book form!

#15 ::: Adam Lipkin ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2007, 01:57 PM:

Seth #12: That was my first thought as well, but they (like Townhall.com) appear to be a part of Salem Communications, all of whose holdings are right-wing and/or Christian media outlets.

Judging by the size of Salem and News Corp, it's hard to not scoff every time I hear complaints about how the "New York Liberal Media" (who publish folks like Bill Bennett and Rush Limbaugh, incidentally) are keeping the conservatives down.

#16 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2007, 02:06 PM:

With apologies to Wittgenstein: what one need not speak about, one should pass over in silence.

#17 ::: CosmicDog ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2007, 02:08 PM:

The idea that a publishing house would reject a book because it represents a Conservative (or Liberal or whatever) viewpoint is funny to me. My understanding of the industry is that publishers exist to make money. If they think a book will sell, they buy it, if not, they don't. Since when could publishers/editors afford to buy a book that won't sell simply because they don't agree with the message, or turn away a book that will sell simply because they don't agree with the message. It's a business. The individuals involved all have different perspectives and political ideals, but when it comes to buying books, their job is to make sure that they make money. They can save their political editorials for their own books and blogs.

#18 ::: CosmicDog ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2007, 02:11 PM:

Oops, I meant
"Since when could publishers/editors afford to buy a book that won't sell simply because they agree with the message..." Please ignore that first don't.

#19 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2007, 02:12 PM:

(maniacal laughter)

(wipes tears from face)

ooohhh, man is that funny.

I feel sorry for neocon knuckleheads getting taken by this about as much as I feel sorry for Rush Limbaugh getting caught on prescription shopping and busted coming back from a possible sex tour.

#20 ::: Scott ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2007, 02:12 PM:

Has it occurred to anybody that this is the Liberal conspiracy to keep conservative authors out of traditional publishing houses? I mean, if they're publishing through Townhall, they're not still submitting to actual publishers, are they?

All it takes is 3-4 mean-spirited liberals... wait, haven't I had this discussion before?

#21 ::: Steve Buchheit ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2007, 02:24 PM:

#12 Seth Breidbart, well, it's not okay for *me* to rip them off. But then, I have principles and scruples. Given the blathering on about "the market providing" and "market forces" form the right, I see this more along the lines as a "plague upon both (their) houses."

That said, money flows toward the author. And I'll say that to anybody who asks.

#22 ::: Sarah S ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2007, 02:36 PM:

I guess a lot depends upon whether one's goal is "better books" or "better books that I agree with."

#23 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2007, 02:37 PM:

We could warn them, but we're liberals so obviously any warning from us is part of the liberal conspiracy to keep them out of print.

I find the neat recursion of this concept ... shiny.

#24 ::: Dave Kuzminski ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2007, 02:37 PM:

Turned down by a "traditional" publisher? Gasp, I never knew PublishAmerica rejected conservatives.

#25 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2007, 02:41 PM:

Hmm ... what happens if we do a quick reformat from Project Gutenberg and submit Das Kapital to these folks?

#26 ::: julie ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2007, 03:01 PM:

@#20 Scott: Shhh...

#27 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2007, 03:06 PM:

Would they turn down a book for being too liberal?

#28 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2007, 03:12 PM:

Seth (12), that's why I'm torn. No one deserves to be ripped off. On the other hand ...

#29 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2007, 03:13 PM:

#25: Do you want to mock these people who are providing such a service to the conservative movement?

For shame.

#30 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2007, 03:22 PM:

I guess the scammers have realized that the reality-based community isn't a good target market for them. Targeting people who believe that there's a Vast Liberal Conspiracy to Silence Conservative Voices (i.e. Neocon Nutjobs) is a much cleverer scam.

As Charlie pointed out, if Teresa (or anyone in the RBC) told them it was a scam, would they listen? Of course not. She's part of the conspiracy.

This reminds me of the scene where the hero tries to save the villian but can't, and the villain falls into the flames/grinder/devouring maw. The hero goes "Damn! I tried my best!" and the audience goes "YAYYYYYY!"

#31 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2007, 03:23 PM:

Sigh...in that moment between clicking post and posting, I noticed that I spelled 'villain' two different ways. A before I after L. Or something.

#32 ::: Seth Breidbart ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2007, 03:28 PM:

Teresa (28) I think Charlie has it right. Go ahead and warn them. You stay true to your principles, and get to laugh even harder when they don't listen.

#33 ::: C.E. Petit ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2007, 03:32 PM:

Would it be too evil to point out that:
* townhallpress.com is hosted on a server owned by Nippon Telephone and Telegraph?
* To avoid revealing their identities, the people who purchased the domain name used an anonymous domain registration service in the Cocos Islands?

If they're good, upstanding citizens, they have nothing to fear from liberals invading their privacy, do they? Or do they have something to hide? Inquiring minds want to know, especially now that News of the World is no more.

#34 ::: Electric Landlady ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2007, 03:33 PM:

ajay #13: perhaps the Augusta National Golf Course is there to demonstrate that all that camels-through-the-eyes-of-needles bit is just liberal hippie propaganda?

On the whole, though, I think I'll go with your second interpretation.

#35 ::: nerdycellist ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2007, 03:59 PM:

Well, while I am fascinated by the concept of a twinkling golf course, the whole Miraculous Hand of God in a Back Booth At McDonalds sounds a little bit pervy to me. Not that I have anything against erotica or romance novels - I just prefer that my heroes be a little less Alpha/Dom/Masher. I wouldn't rule out borrowing the book from a library though. For research purposes, of course.

#36 ::: Scott H ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2007, 04:13 PM:

I honestly don't see the problem. Any action or that harms conservatives is, more or less by definition, a Good Thing. I'd go so far as to argue that even the scammers themselves are engaging in a morally neutral act; no doubt the virtue inherent in harming republicans cleanses their grimy littls souls of the sin inherent in the theft.

#37 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2007, 04:17 PM:

Did Peter Crossman get a blowjob from these folks before getting Religion?!

#38 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2007, 04:18 PM:

Do not warn them. The best, and only thing to do, is to ignore the matter altogether and move on.

Why?

Because not only will they not believe anything coming from a member of the VLC, but, once they realize that they have been scammed, they're going to find a way to put the blame on said VLC and in particular the ones that are now known to them.

It's like getting in the middle of a troll fight. You're not going to get any rationality here. All one can do is make sure the trolls do their arguing somewhere away from you.

#39 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2007, 04:22 PM:

#25: Hmm ... what happens if we do a quick reformat from Project Gutenberg and submit Das Kapital to these folks?

If you include $999 in the same envelope, I bet they accept it.

Meanwhile...

#8: Is Townhall a "vanity" publisher?

No. Vanity publishers will charge you thousands of dollars to print a truckload of books, which they will not help you distribute.

No, not a vanity publisher! Townhall will charge you thousands of dollars (the $999 is just to get in the door) but they won't print a truckload of books! Rather than paying the money and getting firewood for the winter you pay the money and get nothing.

#40 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2007, 04:31 PM:

Here I was, trying to imagine who in the wide weird world of wonderment could possibly deserve to be victimized by PODscammers more than just about anybody else, and hooray!— Making Light came through with the answer once again.

Thanks Making Light!

#41 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2007, 04:32 PM:

Jon @ #38: "once they realize that they have been scammed, they're going to find a way to put the blame on said VLC"

Ah, you haven't carried it all the way through. If the VLC doesn't tell them, they'll blame the VLC for not offering gratuitous advice they would have ignored.

#42 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2007, 04:32 PM:

I think the straightforward way to look at it this:

For every thousand dollars some neocon nutjob spends on a vanity press putting his consiracy theories into print, that's a thousand dollars that won't go to Bush's third reelection campaign effort.

It sounds like they're appealing to the 27 percenters who'd support Bush even if he grew a tentacle-beard and sprouted bat wings.

I don't think reason will work with these folks. Best to allow them to choose the action that will result in the least amount of damage to the country.

#43 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2007, 04:38 PM:

As Townhall Press says of their lead author, award-winning Doug Giles, "...the little voices in his head still won't go away."

Looks like they've got their market pretty-well figured out.

#44 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2007, 04:39 PM:

Charlie (33): No kidding? They're going to that much trouble to hide their roots? Cool! It's much more fun to shoot at people who know they're doing wrong.

#45 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2007, 04:45 PM:

Lord-a-mercy! I just looked to see which awards Doug Giles has won.

Remember the Communicator Awards? Doug has two of them!

#46 ::: Nathanielperson ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2007, 04:48 PM:

I'd have thought the correct course of action was obvious: rail loud and long against this scam. Make it clear that you're one of those smarty-pants liberals who thinks they know what's best, and that what's best for anyone thinking of using Townhall Press is to keep their money. They'll flock to it out of sheer spite, and you'll get to have your schadenfeude pie and eat it too.

#47 ::: Seth Gordon ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2007, 04:53 PM:

I guess the scammers have realized that the reality-based community isn't a good target market for them.

Nah, they just realized that despite all the stereotypes about champagne-swilling limousine liberals, we don't have a lot of money.

#48 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2007, 05:04 PM:

Das Kapital in the original is NOT in the public domain, the government of Germany owns the copyright and does NOT want it in print in Germany.

Germany and Disney are in collusion regarding, infinite time copyright.

#49 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2007, 05:10 PM:

#45, Macdonald.

Oh, my! I missed that thread those five years ago... I think these folks deserve some Hogus and a Black Hole or two for Professionalism (rather, lack thereof), which have more open and honest voting involved! (Something about peer awards, peer over one another's shoulder and outbid one another for the votes....)

#50 ::: Seth Breidbart ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2007, 05:11 PM:

Scott H (#36): So it's good that anybody who disagrees with you should be hurt? Are you capable of seeing the results if everybody thought similarly?

Paula (#48): In the US, Das Kapital is public domain.

#51 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2007, 05:14 PM:

Paula@48: Are you sure you're not thinking about Mein Kampf?

#52 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2007, 05:18 PM:

Paula, I wonder if you are thinking of Mein Kampf as opposed to Das Kapital.

#53 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2007, 05:18 PM:

Paula@48: Germany and Disney are in collusion regarding, infinite time copyright.

I think England has "Peter Pan" under an infinite copyright term.

Didn't know about "Das Kapital" though.

#54 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2007, 05:19 PM:

Dang, beat to the punch . . .

#55 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2007, 05:35 PM:

You're right, it 's Mein Kampf I was thinking of. Duh...

#56 ::: hamletta ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2007, 05:35 PM:

I think England has "Peter Pan" under an infinite copyright term.

No, it was willed to the Greater Ormond Street Children's Hospital in London. I remember because I used to get pediatric research papers from them.

But we could be saying the same thing, since England has a national health care system, unlike certain other countries I could name.

#57 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2007, 05:53 PM:

Hm, my bad. Maybe someone who understands the Peter Pan situation (obviously not me) could explain it a bit more on the wikipedia article. Peter Pan is currently listed under the perpetual copyright article with a vague mention that it is only sort of a copyright. What exactly is perpetual, if anything, is unclear.


#58 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2007, 06:10 PM:

CosmicDog #17:

This is even funnier, given that there are (as several people have pointed out) a lot of conservative books out there. In fact, this is one of the results of lots of think-tank jobs for conservatives, which often amount to academic jobs without any teaching load, and leave some time for writing books.

Nobody deserves to get ripped off. But I do find it interesting that the scam here plugs into the "The Liberal Establishment won't let some ideas be discussed" meme, which is one that's definitely pushed by conservatives. Now, there are definitely limits on what you can get discussed in the MSM--see the discussion on the Overton window from a few months back. But:

a. Nothing remotely like mainstream conservative thought fails to fall in that window. See Fox News, most talk radio, CBN and other Evangelical Christian television productions, the Wall Street Journal, etc.

b. This seems not to apply so much to books. Charles Murray and Pat Buchannan and Thomas Sowell and David Friedman have all published a bunch of books, despite being spread out across the right end of the political spectrum. (Friedman is libertarian, though, not conservative; the spectrum has too few dimensions.)

I've noticed this before: part of the underlying "story" a lot of conservatives tell themselves about their place in the world involve some kind of persecution by the mainstream media. And maybe this is even historically accurate--certainly, it looks like in the days of three TV networks, the window was a lot narrower, and probably kept all kinds of ideas out of public discourse. But some part of the modern conservative movement seems tied up in a kind of persecution complex--the MSM not letting any conservative views be aired, meddlesome judges at war with Christianity, reporters and Democrats and public intellectuals undermining our troops, etc. And it's weird. I mean, I can see feeling like the MSM won't let your views be heard under some circumstances, but isn't it hard to do that when you're a conservative, and you've got to mute Fox News so your complaint can be heard? Isn't the "people in power are persecuting our kind" line hard to believe when your side's been in power for six years?

#59 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2007, 06:14 PM:

Jim (45), I figuratively fall upon the floor and roll about laughing ...

Two of them! Pray tell, in what categories?

Seth (50), Jim Macdonald and I, and many others as well, have spent hundreds of hours working with writers' websites and newbie authors, trying to educate them about publishing scams and how the industry works. One of our greatest frustrations is the unwillingness of many writers to believe that an agency or publisher that's offering them a quick and easy path to literary success may not actually have their best interests at heart.

POD self-publication scams are some of the hardest to address, because they're constructed from an abbreviated set of the same tinkertoys used to build the real publishing industry. For instance, there's the claim they all make that "Your book will be available in thousands of bookstores all over the country." Since newbie writers don't know any better, they assume it means that their books will be physically present on bookstore shelves. They're mistaken. What it actually means is that if a customer already knows about the book and wants to buy a copy, they can go to a bookstore, have them put in a special order, prepay the entire amount, and come back and get the book when it arrives.

Yog's Law states that money should always flow toward the writer. It's a good and useful rule. However, it can be difficult to track where and in what direction the money is flowing. Another way to judge a non-academic publisher is dead simple: do they have a distribution deal, beyond making their books available via online bookstores and special orders? If not, and if the books they publish don't have a built-in audience (say, they're about how to build your own navigational tracking devices for small sailboats, or they're erotic novels tailored to the exacting specifications of a rare variety of fetishist), you can safely say the publisher is either crooked or clueless.

It's a complicated point. Many otherwise intelligent writers refuse to believe it until they've been run through the mill a few times. Some don't believe it even then.

I don't doubt that Townhall.com's authors run true to form. Everything they need to know about this subject is available to them at Making Light, Absolute Write, and other sites. There's no mechanism that keeps right-wingers from doing a spot of research and finding those sites before signing the contract. I've done everything I can; and yet I know that many writers will fail to heed the warnings.

I don't believe that anyone deserves to be robbed. It's just that when I contemplate this bunch, it hurts a lot less than usual.

And by the way? One more odd wayward fact? In general, authors are a left-leaning class. You can always find notable exceptions, but on average they're a left-of-center bunch. I think it may be significant that I know of exactly one writers' forum where loud, unoriginal, standard-variety right-wing sentiments are the norm: the Publish America Message Board.

#60 ::: Vian ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2007, 06:21 PM:

Greg @ 42 It sounds like they're appealing to the 27 percenters who'd support Bush even if he grew a tentacle-beard and sprouted bat wings.

If Shrub grew a tentacle-beard and sprouted bat-wings, I'd be tempted to vote for him. But only if he announced that nice senator Palpatine as his running mate.

#61 ::: Jeffrey Smith ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2007, 06:22 PM:

Greg #57 --

The Peter Pan copyright was willed to the Greater Ormond Street Children's Hospital in London; like other copyright holders, they control the rights and collect royalities. As of January 2008, they will continue to collect royalties, but will no longer control the rights.

That's the surface story. The machinations of how that works . . . I have no idea.

#62 ::: John Mark Ockerbloom ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2007, 06:24 PM:

The legislation on the Great Ormond Street Hospital and _Peter Pan_ can be found at
http://www.opsi.gov.uk/acts/acts1988/Ukpga_19880048_en_28.htm#sdiv6

#63 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2007, 06:32 PM:

Albatross (58), you're right. They adore the idea that they're a persecuted minority, even when they're having to make up their persecution out of whole cloth.

Much-rejected writers also tend to feel they've been unjustly denied the success that's due them. It's a perfect combination.

#64 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2007, 06:38 PM:

I'd love to see a list of "published" titles that result from this.

Then I can keep an eye out for them in the 25 cent book bin at the Goodwill Thrift Center.

#65 ::: Jules ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2007, 06:49 PM:

Greg: Basically, they don't hold a copyright. There is a parliamentary order that anybody reproducing or adapting the story should pay them a fixed royalty. But they don't get (e.g.) the right to deny a licence, or impose any other terms on the use of the work, or to fix that royalty themselves. It would also likely not apply to any works that were not adaptations of the story, but rather derivitives of it in some other form (e.g. a sequel).

#66 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2007, 06:52 PM:

At last, there's a place that will publish those scathing slice-of-life masterpieces about how The Only Reason I Didn't Get that Position Is Because They Had to Hire a Black Woman with Three Times My Credentials, and how ever since America ceased to be a meritocracy where people knew their places and prayed in schools, we've begun to fall like the Roman Empire! 'Cause you can't find stuff like that anywhere else, and we are all the poorer for it.

I absolutely do not believe that anybody deserves to get ripped off. But I do cherish the warm, fuzzy feeling that comes from imagining how many dollars that might otherwise go into right-wing election coffers will be going to a vanity press instead.

#67 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2007, 07:08 PM:

In a just world, Townhall Press would be the only press the Limbaughs, Hannitys and Coulters would be published after Regnery was hit by the comet's fireball.

#68 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2007, 07:09 PM:

Snarl. "place the Limbaughs etc."

#69 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2007, 07:40 PM:

#64 Then I can keep an eye out for them in the 25 cent book bin at the Goodwill Thrift Center.

No, you won't find them there. Why not? Because the books won't physically exist. That's the beauty of vanity POD. You pay for publishing but the books are never printed. Meanwhile the publisher tells you that's a good thing.

#70 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2007, 07:50 PM:

#69: What, you don't think the proud new author won't buy a stack for Christmas presents?

#71 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2007, 08:25 PM:

Liberal authors get their foot in the door while conservative authors get the door slammed in their faces

Yeah, sure, we get our foot in the door, but that's when those mean liberal publishers slam the door. Thus do they in one fell swoop break our toes and our faces.

#72 ::: thanbo ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2007, 08:34 PM:

No longer satisfied with applying artificial grass to blogs, conservatives have hit upon a new scheme - pods. Harking back to the old conservatism that gave rise to "Return of the Body Snatures", new-line conservatives are taking a page from their pink o'enemies, and growing their own voters in pods.

#73 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2007, 08:36 PM:

thanbo 72: That's what I meant above by "turnabout is fair play," but no one got it.

#74 ::: Emily H. ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2007, 08:44 PM:

Okay, it's very hard to feel sorry for the authors who are being ripped off.

Feel sorry for the libraries.

Every so often we get a person who wants a copy of an obscure book: sometimes self-published, sometimes a small publisher that's a step removed from self-publishing, sometimes just a book that's very old. And said person is very, very upset that we don't stock the book. Our failure to stock the book is part of a liberal conspiracy. (Did you know that ALA wants to corrupt children with teh sex and teh communism? Yeah). We must interlibrary-loan the book (at considerable expense).

To be fair, I've gotten this from a liberal once, who proceeded to harangue me for fifteen minutes about the state of the country ("Yes, that's true...") and the state of library funding ("Oh, I absolutely agree..."). But nine times out of ten, it's people who want some conservative Bible prophecy wingnutry.

#75 ::: Emily H. ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2007, 08:46 PM:

And, hah, I forgot my original point, which was:

The last thing we need is more obscure conservative books being hawked on the internet, sending people to the library to demand them.

#76 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2007, 09:30 PM:

Xopher @ 73, I got it, but wasn't able to come up with a witty (or even particularly intelligible) reply. "We are POD people. Join us..."

#77 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2007, 10:06 PM:

On warning them: well, you can try, I suppose.

Recently, I had an email from a wannabe asking, in the usual aggrieved tones, just what the heck he had to do to get published for money, already. All his friends said that his SF was very good, but it kept getting rejected. He was pretty much convinced that the editors were conspiring against him. Should he self-publish? He'd heard that it could be done on-line, practically for free.

I'm sure many here have had the same experience - I'm sure our hosts have.

I replied to the effect that I didn't know about his fiction, but judging on his email, it might help if he made sure his cover letters were correctly spelled and punctuated, and it was always a good idea to spell his intended recipient's name correctly. He answered to the effect that he was sorry about that - he hadn't taken the care he should. This was a hopeful sign, so I said, OK, send me your best story, and I'll look at that and tell you why it's getting rejected, and this might help you fix it.

Perhaps this was hubris on my part. God knows I have enough trouble myself. But I felt I knew more about it than he did, and there was a sense of obligation.

But no story came back. No more correspondence at all. I can feel in my bones that he's talking to a podshop somewhere, and finding, to his joy, that they'll publish him, sure they will, just sign here.

You really can't blame the wolves if the sheep take a ticket and join the queue.

#78 ::: mythago ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2007, 10:08 PM:

And of course, burned authors will sue Townhall Press. Because their lawsuits aren't frivolous.

#79 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2007, 10:23 PM:

Dave you're lucky he didn't glom onto you as the One True Link to Getting Published.

I'm only minorly so (published) but my brother thinks I Have the Secret. I keep trying to impress on him that 1) he needs to find the right publisher, 2) make sure he is getting paid for it and not putting out any money. He writes well. He's trying to sell a novel about Vietnam experiences. But he wants it published so badly that he may go to the dark side. I have cut him off from asking about writing/selling fiction, which is easy because we only see one another at Thanksgiving and Christmas because he lives in Grove, Okla. and I live in Kansas City, MO.

#80 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2007, 10:54 PM:

C.E. Petit #33: There is a difference between News of the World which has been around for about a century and a half, and which is currently owned by the Dirty Digger, and Weekly World News which began publication in 1979.

#81 ::: Rozasharn ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2007, 11:41 PM:

Townhallpress is advertising "We can turn your manuscript into a high-quality book and make it available to 25,000 bookstores".

Notice the weasel-word. Available in bookstores would mean on the shelves, available to readers. Available to bookstores means bookstores can order the book if they somehow divine its existence.

#82 ::: Don Fitch ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2007, 12:35 AM:

Greg London #53 ::

As I understand it, the only book under perpetual copyright in the UK is the translation of the Bible authorized by King James (I & V?). I suppose it's considered Crown Property, and is exercised primarily to ensure accuracy.

#83 ::: Chris ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2007, 12:43 AM:

From their site, too, I rather like
"If your last name begins with the letter A - Z, contact Dominique at extension 1103."
You'd think they'd be wary of turning away potential customers whose last name began with a Zapf dingbat, but otherwise supremely efficient.

#84 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2007, 02:08 AM:

Emily H, #74, my library system charges for ILL, depending on how far they have to go and how much they spend. I want something the neighboring county has? No problem, no charge. But something that doesn't exist until you order it? Lots of money.

Dave Luckett, #77, there's a guy on rasfw right now who asked us to download his brother's 700-page book, read it, and recommend it to publishers. Someone posted the first paragraph and although everybody but Terry Austin was pretty nice, nobody is encouraging.

#85 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2007, 02:27 AM:

Chris @ 83

You'd think a lot of their potential customers would be Dingbats.

#86 ::: Greg ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2007, 02:58 AM:

The logical side of my brain is telling me no one deserves to get ripped off, but then I think about how these people are supporting a man who's destroying the Constitution--people who in all likelihood support torture, people who, without being melodramatic, endangered my life & the lives of everyone else in New York City by voting the way they did in 2004, people who think I'm a traitor, and it's hard. I don't know--maybe I'm just very, very angry (possibly suffering from Tom Tomorrow's patented Outrage Overload), but god damnit, if Bush & Cheney & Rove & Gonzales aren't going to prison, it'd be nice to see *somebody* suffer. This is cruel and ugly, I know. But it's how I feel.

#87 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2007, 03:14 AM:

Greg #86: Watch it--pretty soon Bill O'Reilly will be advising his viewers to change the channel before he reads the scathing hate speech you just spewed there.

"This is the kind of thing that goes on on Making Light every day! Hate! Hate! Hate!"

#88 ::: A.J. Luxton ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2007, 04:04 AM:

Oh, I like this! It's beautiful. You're only hypocritical if you don't say anything -- which, of course, you just did; there's hardly any moral obligation to go and tip these folks off on their own turf. First of all, they're not going to listen to liberal bloggers. I mean, have creationists ever shown themselves capable of sense? You've put a warning here. They're perfectly capable of reading it, should they decide to turn around and start reading blogs with sense. They know where you're at. You're just, you know, in the grip of Satan, who doesn't want them published.

I believe this calls for a *sporfle*.

Scott @ 20: my partner, whose morals are different from mine, just said he wishes he'd thought of it.

#89 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2007, 04:58 AM:

Fragano @80: There is a difference between News of the World which has been around for about a century and a half, and which is currently owned by the Dirty Digger, and Weekly World News which began publication in 1979.

Yeah: one's a cheap tabloid that peddles a bizarre mish-mash of fabricated nonsense designed to keep the masses amused and distracted, while the other is ...

What was the question again?

(For the uninitiated, "The News of the World" is the Sunday edition of The Sun. And it truly has to be seen to be believed.)

#90 ::: inge ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2007, 07:22 AM:

Paula @48, Marx died more than 120 years ago, and his works are public domain.

Hitler, however, died only 62 years ago, so his works are still under copyright. His legal heir is the federal state of Bavaria, which choses not to license the works.

#91 ::: Ken MacLeod ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2007, 09:11 AM:

From the TBogg post I clicked through to SOUL BAPTISM, and I'm still laughing. Mind you, at first I thought it was an inter-denominational romance novel ("full fellowship with a tongue-talking Pentecostal"), but it turns out to be theology.

#92 ::: Jakob ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2007, 09:36 AM:

inge #90 : That's interesting. Any idea why it went to the Land rather than the Bundesrepublik?

#93 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2007, 09:57 AM:

My understanding is that the rights were given to Bayern (Bavaria) by the Allied occupying powers as part of their siezure and disposal of Hitler's personal and Nazi Party property. Outisde of Germany, Mein Kampf is generally either in the public domain, somehow restricted or prohibited in distribution, or a combination of both. The sequel, the so-called Zweites Buch

There are apparently distant relatives of Hitler that would have a good chance of suing for return of the rights, which would be worth a great deal of money. Reportedly, they do not have any plans to do so.

According to this article, the US government claimed the postwar rights for domestic publication, and happily collected the royalties until the publisher bought the rights from it.

#94 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2007, 10:00 AM:

Sorry -- brain burp.

The last sentence of the first paragraph should read: "The sequel, the so-called Zweites Buch, appears to be in the public domain."

#95 ::: C.E. Petit ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2007, 10:00 AM:

Jakob (92): At the time of Hitler's death, there was no recognized Bundesrepublik Deutschland — the US and UK had declared the Third Reich an illegitimate government as part of the prelude to Nuremburg (it's a loooooong, complicated journey down the path of implications from de Groot, so don't ask). The occupying forces applied UK law perforce, and found that the land was the only legitimated government to accept an escheat (return of property to the state when no heir can otherwise be identified). I found this out from Patton's adjutant... who happened to teach property law at my law school (Maj John Cribbet).

And it wasn't just Hitler: That happened pretty much throughout occupied Germany until late 1946 for determining escheats; only then was the BRD recognized and allowed to assert any authority over escheats, and not retroactively.

#96 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2007, 10:23 AM:

Fascinating, C.E.

It reminds me of the legal gymnastics around the 1979 Tiede case where you ended up with a US federal judge in a US court on still occupied German territory (Berlin) making decisions according to prewar German law, using US procedures.

#97 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2007, 11:40 AM:

Paula Lieberman (#49): Germany and Disney are in collusion regarding, infinite time copyright.

So *they* have the copyright on infinity? Olaf Stapledon and Andrew ("world enough and time") Marvell would be shocked! And HPL would bear a lasting grudge.

#98 ::: Doug ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2007, 12:15 PM:

Actually, C.E. (95), I don't think you get a Bundesrepublik until after you get a Grundgesetz in 1949. The transitional governments are murky in my memory, but I think until at least 1949 supreme power is held by the Allied Control Council. That council retained some residual powers until at least 1972 with the four-power agreement. Some Allied privileges even remained until after German reunification. (Also until various agreements signed after the fall of the wall, Germany's legal borders were still those of 1938, and western Poland was held to be "under Polish administration," with Kaliningrad (Königsberg) "under Soviet administration." But I digress.)

In general the two trends of early postwar German government are the transition from direct military control and the breakdown of Allied cooperation. Government was rebuilt from the local level upward, with Bavaria, for example, getting its postwar constitution in December 1946. Currency reform and the deutschmark don't come along until 1948, at which time Allied cooperation has deteriorated so badly that the US and UK are working on unifying their zones. Bizonia becomes Trizonia when the French go along, and by then the Allied rupture is deep enough that it enables a couple generations of European politicians to claim they like Germany so much they are glad there are two.

Anyway, having state-level government settling property questions in 47/48 makes total sense.

#99 ::: Andy ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2007, 12:32 PM:

The very best part, in my opinion: "Authors who choose the BASIC program do not receive royalties." (http://199.238.131.113/prices_programs.htm, popup on the 'Royalties' line item.) So it's not enough that you pay them $999; unless you shell out $1499 for the 'Premium' package, you're doubly screwed. Then again, it's not like there's a whole lot of cash to be had in their royalties structure anyway. (http://199.238.131.113/royalties_discounts.htm)

#100 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2007, 01:10 PM:

Charlie Stross #189: One of them has headlines like 'Vicar caught wearing knickers' the other doesn't.... (And the News of the Screws has been around for a hell of a long time -- since 1843 in fact.)

#101 ::: Jen Roth ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2007, 01:18 PM:

I'm baffled by the assertions I've seen here that every thousand dollars a wannabe author blows on this scheme is a thousand dollars they won't be able to use to further their right-wing cause.

The money is going to townhall.com. If anything, this ensures the wannabe's money will go toward furthering right-wing causes, when it might otherwise have been spent on rent or a vacation or an iPod.

#102 ::: Jen Roth ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2007, 01:21 PM:

...sorry, the money is going to the people who run townhall.com. Still.

#103 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2007, 01:22 PM:

Jen Roth #101: You're assuming that townhall.com will use the money they "earn" to further right-wing causes. I assume that they'll use it for rent or a vacation or an iPod.

#104 ::: C.E. Petit ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2007, 01:31 PM:

Doug (98), in name, you're correct. However, in 1946 the Allied Council empowered itself to collect escheats, as it has determined that certain länder had been abusing their authority, as a caretaker for a future republic. I should have been clearer in saying that the länder had exclusive authority, in the eyes of the Allies, from Yalta until late 1946, to accept escheats... except for escheats related to currency, which the Allies grabbed for themselves from the beginning.

Unfortunately, most of the documentation relating to distribution of assets in occupied Germany is not in public files.

#105 ::: Jen Roth ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2007, 01:31 PM:

I don't know. If their other ventures isn't very profitable, they'll probably plow the POD money back into them. If this does represent extra profit for them -- well, they still bankroll the right with their political donations.

I think this is just taking money from relatively ineffectual wingnuts and giving it to wingnuts with more political and media power. It doesn't strike me as a win even on a purely practical level.

#106 ::: Gar Lipow ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2007, 01:31 PM:

OK - I've got a question in translating editorese. I've had a book making the rounds, sending it to every appropriate publisher. (Not that many approprate to this particular book.)

In at least six publishers the book got to the following stage. The submittions editor liked it, presented it to the senior editor, it got as far as a meeting, and it was rejected on the following grounds:

1)It is well written
2) It is well researched
3) The potential market is just too small.


I'm going to take 3 as a consensus by experts. Question: for the sake of my ego, can I take 1 and 2 as expert opinions too? Or, since editors are often decent human beings, are 1 & 2 simply a standard politeness when rejecting an MS to which you have given serious consideration?

#107 ::: Jen Roth ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2007, 01:33 PM:

Er, "if their other ventures aren't very profitable", of course.

Typing + baby = hard.

#108 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2007, 01:44 PM:

#77 Dave Luckett

The right to freedom of speech in the USA does not include a right to an audience, and especially does not include a right to a paying audience!

Translated into language that's more vernacular--your right to free speech does NOT include any right forcing or demanding my or anyone else's attendance. You can say whatever you want, you don't have the right to have other people listening, or reading, or being forced to be present to listen or read, your speech/writing.

To my perspective that applies to billboards--people have a right to say what they choose, they don't have the right to stick it in my face on a billboard overlooking public roads....

#109 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2007, 03:03 PM:

Ken (91), you mean "full fellowship with a tongue-talking Pentecostal" isn't a euphemism? I am so disappointed.

Jen (101), the only satisfactory answer is that we should start a POD operation specializing in right-wing nutcases and hardcases.

#110 ::: Steve Libbey ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2007, 03:04 PM:

I feel no great desire to save the right wing from a predatory enterprise such as this. They are already besieged by so many parasites (the church, madison avenue, et al) that no amount of intercession will save them from themselves.

Also, I believe townhall's biggest market will be cranky business owners who think that they know it all because they've run a business. I have run into those folks before -- they're just itching for some kind of validation of their ideas, and preaching to their employees lasts only so long.

Don't get me wrong: in the general scheme, I support anybody who wants to write a book and share it with the world. Good or bad, the more discourse, the better. Even a lousy, ill-conceived political commentary is better than another citizen who sits in front of a TV and drools.

Heck, in the course of researching their manifesto, they might come across some actual facts and learn something.

#111 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2007, 07:03 PM:

Jen Roth @ 105: You're assuming the owners of Townhall Press actually care about right-wing causes. I don't think they do. I think they've identified a market segment to pitch to in a manner that segment finds appealing ("Your masterpiece isn't being published because you are persecuted for your beliefs"). I don't believe Townhall cares about conservative causes any more than the Christian Literary Agency branch of that hydra that is the Writers Literary Agency cares about Christian causes. It just uses the jargon well.

#112 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2007, 09:05 PM:

Don@82: I think you mean "VI and I". (One of the interesting experiences of my first trip to Scotland was seeing a gallery of Stuart portraits, including one labeled "James VIII and III".)

#113 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2007, 11:27 PM:

Most of the time I love this site. Then I see people railing on a segment of society that they don't agree with (stereotyped as exactly like a selected bunch of obnoxious blowhards) and saying things basically like "let 'em burn."

Geez, people. "Conservatives" aren't a monolithic bunch any more than "liberals" are, and by your comments you would be shocked and surprised to find out that people you thought of as sane were, in fact conservatives... because I have not run across the types you seem to be envisioning.

Normally I don't get into this— I don't like political vitriol of either stripe, and I hate the assumption that I have to be ashamed because I think differently on political issues than the prevailing view of whichever site I'm visiting.*

I am not saying that conservative "wingnuts" don't exist. (Neither am I saying that liberal "moonbats" don't exist— let's spread that vitriol around a bit while we're at it.) I am saying that generalizing the behavior of the majority from a small vocal sample is a mistake I see all the time and I'm sick of.

The people that Townhall is spamming— and yes, they are spamming, I saw a complaint about it just the other day— are people. By saying that you wouldn't piss on them if they were on fire, you're not denying them their humanity, you're lessening your own.

As for me, don't bother to ask me questions, because I'm going to the non-political areas of the site. Which are very, very good, BTW.

*My views will, by the tenor of this post, be judged as conservative, I have no doubt. Whatever you wish— it really shouldn't be as important as commenters are making it out to be, and if it makes you feel better...

#114 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2007, 12:09 AM:

B. Durbin @113, and everyone else...

Everyone- if B. Durbin rewrites his comment to take out the gratuitous insults, then that'd be a better comment to respond to. This one, not so much.

B. Durbin-
OK, I won't ask you a question. I'd like to gently request that you check out R.R. Moore's initial comment number 123 in the "Because one of the People She Was Learning To Hate Was me" thread, and see the responses it got. Your comment reminds me of it. (The thread called Flamer Bingo could also be of interest.)

The points you're trying to make in #113 are somewhat hidden behind the gratuitous insults. If you wanted to rewrite the comment sans insults, that could be worth a conversation.

It seems like you know that your comment is being provocative for the sake of being prickly, in that you're claiming you won't have a conversation about it. But if it is provocative it isn't because of what you said (or at least, what you might have wanted to say) but how porcupinedly you said it.

#115 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2007, 12:39 AM:

Aconite @111: I was thinking along those very lines... "Why would THP donate to right-wing causes? THP don't care about conservatives and their causes; THP only want to fleece conservatives with causes." ...but then I had a second thought:

How is this any different from the way the right-wing conservatives in power fleece their rank and file?

The Bushes and Cheneys and Roves and Buchanans and etc. of the world don't have any cannibalism taboos. They happily prey on the people who identify as their tribe. I could totally see THP doing something similar: cynically preying on the "schmucks" with fervent beliefs and deep naiveté, and taking the profits from that to feed the perpetual power machine.

...or maybe I need to take off my tin foil cap and admit that the simpler explanation is the one you, along with my first thought, proffered: that THP is solely looking out for #1.

#116 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2007, 01:44 AM:

Tinfoil is sharp, but Occam's Razor is even sharper.

Paula # 108: I don't understand how this is a reply to my post. I don't by any means disagree, but would you mind unpacking it a little, so I can see how it follows?

#117 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2007, 08:06 AM:

B. Durbin @ 113: I am not saying that conservative "wingnuts" don't exist.

But in your haste to chastize us, you seem to have missed that those are the conservatives we're talking about: the ones who believe their books aren't being published because of the Great Liberal Conspiracy Against the Real Truth.

Would you care to explain to me why I should not take a moment to enjoy circumstances that result in people who call me a traitor and a deviant, who vote to take away my civil rights, who piss on the Constitution, who believe the poor are responsible for their own poverty, who try to force me to live by their interpretation of their religion, and who believe they don't need to research how publishing works or to perfect their craft (ignoring information to the contrary) getting taken in by someone who plays on those beliefs?

The information the wingnuts need to educate themselves that this is a scam setup is freely available. That they won't take the word of The Great Liberal Conspiracy about publishing is whose fault, exactly?

As I've said above, I don't believe these people deserve to be scammed. Nobody does, even people who call me a traitor, deviant, etc. But hey, I've tried to warn 'em and been spat at for my trouble. I'm not going to pretend it's not delicious to watch the results of their willful ignorance play out after that.

If you didn't mean for your post to rack up as many troll points as it did, I suggest you take a moment or two and read those links Kathryn from Sunnyvale gave you in #114. They can help people who don't mean to sound like trolls avoid sounding like trolls.

#118 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2007, 08:38 AM:

Well, it may be my poor internet connection, but B Durbin's post didn't really look like trollery to me‡. It looked like a reaction I have myself, often, on threads here, when we get a little heated.

If we're only celebrating the ripping off of the ones who believe their books aren't being published because of the Great Liberal Conspiracy Against the Real Truth, that's one thing*. I'm not sure that has been made very clear in all the comments.

But an unpublished author, who can't see the flaws in his or her book, will grasp at any straw to explain why it didn't get published. This site gives them that straw, whether or not their books are actually conservative commentary†.

So unless this press is somehow filtering for a'holes, they're going to be taking money from, and wasting the time and joy of, people who are writing pretty much anything and looking for a reason - any reason - that they are being rejected.

And I haven't gotten to the point that I can celebrate that kind of grinding down. Maybe I'm just too far away from the US right now.

-----
‡ and yes, thank you, I have read the referenced threads.
* I'm not sure I'm mad keen on it either, mind, but that isn't the thrust of this comment.
† For instance, how would an author whose badly written mystery story featured a protagonist who happened to be conservative (not obnoxious) read a rejection letter in the light of this spam? "Maybe they rejected it because my detective is conservative?"

#119 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2007, 08:52 AM:

The chastising of this publisher, purely as a vanity-press POD, has already started in the usual places.

This is apart from the commentary here, which isn't one of the usual places for warnings about publishers.

#120 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2007, 09:17 AM:

My views will, by the tenor of this post, be judged as conservative

Well, no, not really. I have a number of conservatives in my life who have lovely manners. I would tend to base any analysis of your political leanings from facts rather than tenor:

the fact that while you say you've spent time at TownHall, you claim to have never run into a wingnut.

the fact that despite not ever having run into anyone you identified as irrational or extreme in their "conservatism"* in the discourse at TownHall, the meanspirited tone of the conversation here offends you

The coming in with fists flying thing doesn't much help either, although I tend to discount that initially, as (although it is a marker) you may not have learned it at a right-wing site. There are other possible credible explanations.


*I have to agree with you that people who traffic in the type of discourse you don't find offputting don't deserve the label "conservative," but sadly all but a very few traditional conservatives have handed it over to them in return for the chance to win at the polls. Now they're not even doing that. I suppose it got them two deeply reactionary Supreme Court justices, but I wonder how the more thoughtful amongst them sleep sometimes.

#121 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2007, 11:21 AM:

abi @ 118: If we're only celebrating the ripping off of the ones who believe their books aren't being published because of the Great Liberal Conspiracy Against the Real Truth, that's one thing*

First, it's "the ones who believe their books aren't being published because of the Great Liberal Conspiracy Against the Real Truth and who refuse to listen to anyone who says otherwise," at least on my part.

Second, I'm not celebrating it. Nobody deserves to get ripped off. But I'm no saint, either, and watching people who've caused me and mine much damage take a bit of damage themselves despite efforts to help them steer clear, and take that damage precisely because of those attitudes and actions that caused so much misery to others, has a feel of cosmic justice to it that I find appealing. I'd be lying if I said otherwise. To categorize that as "vitriol," as B. Durbin appears to do, seems excessive.

#122 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2007, 11:45 AM:

Maybe we should drop the subject of Durbin's post. Is it really worth the acrimony that this usually generates, no matter what the original post's intent was? I don't think so. But that's just my opinion.

#123 ::: Chris Tucker ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2007, 12:14 PM:

""however mean the job, God ennobles it"."

And through ennobling, it embiggens the smallest man!

#124 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2007, 12:30 PM:

Chris Tucker... 'Embiggen'? I like it, but Mr.Webster must be spinning in his grave.

#125 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2007, 01:33 PM:

Serge @122
I'm mostly concerned that we cry troll and let slip the dogs of bingo far too readily these days. And there's very little that makes for a defensive poster like being called a troll.

I saw poor word choice, yes, and disagreement with the tone of the thread. But neither one of those is in itself the mark of a troll.

A troll whisperer (which is what I wish I were) can probably save a borderline poster from the dreaded fate of a life under a bridge annoying goats. We seem to go the other way, sometimes, and supply them with gift certificates to IKEA* to outfit their subpontial domiciles.

-----
* Well, they're Swedish, and trolls are a Scandinavial thing, yeah?**
** And I've been assembling furniture. Whoever designed that damned bed must live under a bridge somewhere.

#126 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2007, 02:00 PM:

abi @ 125... True, it may be that we cry "Troll!" all too easily. That being said, I enjoy an honest discussion much more than an exchange of invectives if the other person truly is interested in such honest discussions rather than in raising the hackles of others. Such a person is not a troll in my book.

(By the way, I'm not alone in saying that your recrudescent presence at Teresa & Patrick's Café Américain is greatly appreciated even this means your committing the crime of bandwidth theft.)

#127 ::: Jen Roth ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2007, 02:17 PM:

Nicole @115: That was roughly what I had in mind, yes.

The chairman of the board of THP's parent company was listed as one of Time magazine's 25 Most Influential Evangelicals.

He opposes giving the FCC the power to regulate content on the grounds that the radical liberals will use that power to squelch conservative views*:

Sure right now an FCC dominated by reasonable people wouldn't do anything drastic. But let us suppose that with this bill on the books the nation has elected Hillary Rodham Clinton as President. And let us suppose - and it is no stretch of the imagination to believe this - that President Hillary appoints radical liberals to the FCC. With the precedent established that the FCC can revoke licenses over obscene content, these Commissioners determine that conservative views constitute hate speech - and hate speech is obscene. For example, we are strongly supporting a Constitutional amendment and would declare that marriage is between one man and one woman. Let us suppose that these Commissioners declare that such a position is against national policy and constitutes discriminatory hate speech.

Of course the homosexual lobby would organize itself to insure that there were hundreds, perhaps thousands, of complaints against the stations that took this point of view. Armed with that sort of ammunition, the FCC would have no problem finding the excuse for shutting down those voices that broadcast what they would call homophobic views.

But the examples need not be confined to moral and religious questions.

We are also opponents of the Kyoto treaty, which if ratified by the Senate, would drastically affect our standard of living in this country. It is a terrible treaty. But the radical environmentalists militantly support it. So let us suppose they organized to protest the views of our stations and talk show hosts. If the FCC reacted to these complaints, it might also shut down stations that went against the Administration as a public service. After all, having set the precedent on the moral issues, it would be easy to move against economic issues.

The Black elites could organize to shut down stations opposing affirmative action. The so-called Hispanic leadership could organize to shut down stations supporting immigration reform.

I'm thinking he's a committed right-winger.

* I'd be against that happening too, but somehow I don't think that's the likeliest scenario.

#128 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2007, 03:21 PM:

Jen #127:

Geez, if he's making these arguments, he sounds like someone on the right side of some important issues. It's kind-of refreshing to see a self-proclaimed conservative notice that unlimited government power might just be used for some bad stuff. And IMO, give people on the left enough power, and they'd probably do all those things. Very few people could have the power to silence offensive opposing views without using that power from time to time.

I wonder what this guy thinks of Jose Padilla and the decision to allow massive warrantless wiretapping.

#129 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2007, 03:38 PM:

abi #125:

I was thinking this, too. One effect of labeling many new posters as trolls or drivebys is to discourage those people from sticking around, even if they have something to add. This amounts to filtering newcomers for agreement with the dominant set of political ideas here, which strikes me as pretty unhealthy.

I think a lot of breakdowns in net.communications happen when the discussion stops being about the ideas, and starts being about why you would espouse such obviously evil or wrong ideas. Calling someone a troll is one way of doing this.

#130 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2007, 04:32 PM:

I will admit to finding some schadenfreude in the thought that some of the people this is likely to fleece have almost certainly been arguing that folks stuck in subprime mortgage situations "should have known better" or "should take responsibility for their own actions".

Sauce for the goose, and all that.

#131 ::: kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2007, 05:54 PM:

Albatross @129 re Abi @125,

I should chime in, in that I think there can be a simple first response to odd comments that can not-so-harshly separate out the trolls from the merely irritated-while-posting.

My response in #114 was not one of them.

My new usual reply to a odd comment is to ask "if I have a question about your comment, will you be back?" #113 skipped that step themselves, and I let that guide my response wrongly.

The balance of where we can call out troll-like behavior isn't where I put it, but there is one, and I'd like to discover where it is. I think B. Durbin could have said what he said without the extra pokes, and it's those extra jabs that can push a good argument into a bad one.

At the point where a person makes pointed statements* followed by a "and I won't stick around to take questions," I think that the effects of the comment aren't going to promote a good discussion.

It'd be good to work towards a useful response to potential trolls that divides out the trolls from the non-trolls, yet stops other people from responding to the troll-like-statement as such. Something like "Could you rephrase the core of your question, but without...[polite and gentle way of hinting that something is wrong with the original phrasing], because as it is, people might react to how you phrased it, rather than to the question itself."

------------
* "Whatever you wish— it really shouldn't be as important as commenters are making it out to be, and if it makes you feel better."

"By saying that you wouldn't piss on them if they were on fire, you're not denying them their humanity, you're lessening your own."

"I hate the assumption that I have to be ashamed because I think differently on political issues"

"I see people railing on a segment of society that they don't agree with... saying things basically like "let 'em burn."

#132 ::: Dr Paisley ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2007, 10:39 PM:

witness God’s miraculous Hand in a crowded back booth in McDonald’s

Absent the word "god," I would assume that the hand belongs to Mayor McCheese, and he's offering $20 and a blowjob, like any good (for unusual values of "good") Republican.

#133 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2007, 09:15 AM:

Re: 124: Embiggens? It’s a perfectly cromulent word.

#134 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2007, 09:18 AM:

Rob Rusick @ 133... I stand corrected.

Next, Steven Colbert's Truthiness, which I recently saw used - correctly too - in one of my employer's newsletters.

#135 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2007, 10:15 AM:

Jen@127: I wonder if this type has even considered railing against the decision to pull licenses for alleged obscenity? (It's a poor workman who blames the abused tool for turning in his hand.) Or would that require him to admit that liberals tend to believe in the First Amendment?

#136 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2007, 03:53 PM:

Kathryn @131:

I think there is a danger in starting any conversation with too close a focus on the phrasing rather than the content, for a few reasons.

First, there's an unavoidably pantonising aspect to any request to rephrase a comment. It feels like being in high school again. In these sorts of threads, we are all equals - everyone gets the same comment box, the same typeface on display. So it's easy for an already defensive commenter to see the request for a rewrite as an attempt to assume unjustified authority. You don't have to be a troll to hate that.

Secondly, the commenter may not see what he* says as insults. What we read so often stings more than what we write, particularly when we are talking across political divides. So the request to rephrase becomes a hoop-jumping exercise, with the commenter unable to find the hoops. That's frustrating.

Thirdly, and relatedly, we can be pretty sharp-tongued around here. I've seen plenty of comments that, transplanted to even a mildly right-leaning blog, would be trollish in the extreme. If a newby comes by and reads one of them, what is he going to think the appropriate tone is at Making Light?

I'd almost wonder if it might be a place for an informal "rule of threes" - three comments containing, for instance, gratuitous personal insults† before we start getting meta. That would give everyone some time to get a good look at a newcomer's content.

I am not sure how to create an ambience where we can do this, however. Perhaps a reply like, "I find some of the statements in your comment offensive/harsh/whatver, but to address the meat of your argument, yadda yadda..."

New commenters are like hedgehogs. Poke at them, and they curl up; then all you get are spines and fleas. Be nice, feed them a few slugs‡ and you never know what you'll get.

-----
* For he read she, him read her, his read hers. The singular is intended to include the plural and vice versa, except in the case of fish and sheep, when only the former and not the latter applies. Void where prohibited. Objects in mirror may be closer than they appear. Please don't feed the mongoose.

† I am still not convinced that his tone was any worse than some of the comments he's reacting to upthread. (eg 19, or 36)

‡ Or slug equivalents, though if the slugs are of single malt I'm game.

#137 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2007, 03:59 PM:

Going even more off-topic, it's so nice to have you back here, abi.

#138 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2007, 04:01 PM:

Clifton @137:
I'm not really back till I've got my internet connection at home sorted out. Thus the infrequent comments. (I save threads to read offline, then compose replies offline. Quaint.)

But thank you.

I'll be really back soon.

#139 ::: Jakob ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2007, 09:07 AM:

abi: I don't think that #113 was necessarily a troll - they have a posting history, and have stuck around on the site. I do think that posting a single post on this thread berating all the wicked wicked people that are mean and nasty and then flouncing out is... counterproductive. What tickled me about this story was more the, as Charlie put it, 'shiny recursion' of it than anything else. I won't pretend that Schadenfreude didn't enter into it, but I'd have thought it funny if this had been aimed at another political stripe. Townhall Press are, of course, scamming swine.

I take your point about not discouraging newbies. I don't know what a solution is, but I find that just being told to play nicer raises my hackles just a bit.

This said, it's good to have you back.

#140 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2007, 09:17 AM:

abi @ 136... New commenters are like hedgehogs.

"Dinsdale!"

#141 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2007, 09:57 AM:

As you may know, Karl Rove is resigning from his White House job.

"Rove is expected to write a book after he leaves."

Potential Townhallpress.com customer?

#142 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2007, 10:04 AM:

Bill Higgins @ 141... "Rove is expected to write a book after he leaves."

"The book To Serve Man... It's a cook book!"

#144 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2007, 10:44 AM:

Bruce Cohen @ 143... (must not... laugh... MUST... resist... must... oh what the heck...)

HAHAHAHAH!!!

#145 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2007, 11:21 AM:

Jakob @139:
Actually, I never thought he was being a troll with that comment. It's the sort of thing I might do - drop one comment in to see if anyone in the thread sees what's making me uncomfortable, but not stay to be piled on.*

I'd phrase it differently, but I just don't see the trollish intent in the way he put it. But I'm not always in synch with other people's perceptions.

I find that just being told to play nicer raises my hackles just a bit.

Indeed. So would a newby who is being asked to rephrase to take out insults he may not even be able to see.

More seriously: As a member of this community, I'm expressing my opinion that we may be driving interesting people away. I care about people‡. I'd rather not be part of a community that's unnecessarily unkind to them.

I also find threads that turn into dissections of a commenter's posting style less fun to read than ones that discuss actual content.

Kathryn's comment made me think of ways that we can achieve these things. I don't think it's about "playing nice", just about waiting to see if someone really is a troll before calling them one†. Not everyone writes English in the same way, Troll Bingo notwithstanding.

-----
* I just wouldn't announce that I was going to. I'm a coward like that.

‡ I was going to say I like them, but we've just had the IT'S A COOKBOOK meme, and you might take that the wrong way.

† Note that if the content, as opposed to the form, of their posting indicates that they live under bridges and bother goats, then call them trolls all you like.

#146 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2007, 11:27 AM:

Spiny Norman, Serge, Spiny Norman. Dinsdale was the bloke who used to see him. When he was not nailing people's heads to the floor.

#147 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2007, 11:29 AM:

abi @ 145... I was going to say I like them, but we've just had the IT'S A COOKBOOK meme, and you might take that the wrong way.

Coming soon to a theater near you... Predator vs Nightmare Abi.

"It does taste like chicken."

#148 ::: Jakob ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2007, 11:37 AM:

abi #145: I think the problem here was that the content was borderline trollish. I thought there was a passive-aggressive vibe coming off of it, and I can fully understand why it might set people off - only looking back later with charitable intent makes me see it as ill-advised.

The experience of a while back (vide the genesis of the flamer bingo thread) has certainly left me less tolerant of unknown posters barging in - sometimes I just can't be bothered to expend the mental energy on putting the most charitable spin on everything that is said.

I think the atmosphere here is almost back to normal, but I am still a little wary. Then again, I am long overdue a holiday (just two more weeks!), so I am probably needlessly misanthropic.

#149 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2007, 11:48 AM:

Now that people have said what needs to be said about possible trolls, can we drop the subject? I love this place too much not to make that request.

#150 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2007, 12:16 PM:

Sorry, Serge, but I think this is a path to a fix rather than a grinding in of the problem. Given the choice, I'd rather see it through if it will lead to a less tense ambience.

I could be wrong, of course. I often am.

#151 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2007, 12:24 PM:

abi @ 150... Actually, what you had suggested seemed to me like the last word on the subject, without any need to further elaborate. That's all. My apologies if my earlier request was misunderstood.

#152 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2007, 12:42 PM:

#135 ::: CHip
Jen@127: I wonder if this type has even considered railing against the decision to pull licenses for alleged obscenity? (It's a poor workman who blames the abused tool for turning in his hand.) Or would that require him to admit that liberals tend to believe in the First Amendment?

"or a poor workman who blames the abused troll for turning in his hand" ?

abi 145:

More seriously: As a member of this community, I'm expressing my opinion that we may be driving interesting people away. I care about people‡. I'd rather not be part of a community that's unnecessarily unkind to them.

There are people in this forum who've known me from before I was 18 (CHip is one of them, Seth another, Seth too was under 18 at the time (turns out, I'm a few hours older than he is). I first met Patrick and Teresa when they were a whole lot younger than they are now (and I was a whole lot younger than I am, also....)

The reality of forums, is that not everyone is created equal in them--Seth and CHip could remember things about me involving LOTS of Really Stupid Late Teen Gnerd College Student Tricks--and the same of me for them, however. Others here who know me from more recent times, and on-line, don't have that same background of experience that goes back to things like working on art shows assembling d***** [obscence six letter work, those who were around setting up artshows with the stuff know what the obscene word is, those who don't, be grateful!].

The same thing is true of the rest of the participants here--different levels of common experience and crossreferencings and such.. The same, also, is true for reading literature--I howled at the mention of "Lady Tersa" on of Brust
novels. Most people wouldn't get that reference, but most of the people in here likely did, if they had known Teresa in person and/or on-line before reading the book, and at least that Teresa and Steve knew one another....

It's simple fact that there there are different levels of associations and different interlockings of the participants who are in this forum. Some "know" one another only from this forum, others have wide-ranging longstanding other associations among participants. A newbie may or may not have crosslinkings to people other than through "first visit to Making Light." It is, again, a simple fact that there are people in here who have known one another for literally several decades; people showing up in a forum who are new, might have neither the advantages nor the disadvantages of longterm acquaintanceship with various of the participants, to have awareness of how serious/joking/typical/atypical someone's particular post or posts may be.

That is, there are injokes and ingroup references, many of them -automatic- and not necessarily even conscious. There are "community standards," or rather sets of them. Seth and I think CHip and I were all MITSFS keyholders while living in Cambridge. References to that what we wouldn't have to add much or any detail to to communicate with one another, might require a lot of explanation to make sense to someone lacking that background from the era that we were MITSFS keyholders in...

I attended IguanaCon only by remote audio, the personal experience of having been there physically, I don't have--unlike Teresa, Patrick, Seth, CHip, and various other people. But my "attendance" was more than a lot of other people in here have as touchstone... and IguanaCon is something that was a major event in Teresa's and Patrick's life history.

Bottom line, there's a complex network of experiences, interests, backgrounds, attitudes, etc., behind what the words posted on Making Light are, and that infuse the community. Someone new showing up, doesn't tend to have access to the backend complexity.

#153 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2007, 02:43 PM:

Teresa, I googled them (of course) and this thread comes up at about #9 in the rankings, so I think that takes care of any duty you have to warn them.

What's interesting to me is that their site comes up first and second in a google search but without a domain name showing--it shows the IP address instead. I don't know if that's significant, but it's odd.

Also, google thinks that Town Hall is two words, not one, and would like me not to spell it Townhall. I'm inclined to agree.

#154 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2007, 03:45 PM:

Paula @152
If you're trying to tell me that I am a peripheral member of the greater community centering around Patrick and Teresa, I am vividly aware of this already. I have never knowingly been in the same room as either of them. I have been in the same building as Patrick, but that was the SECC in Glasgow. It's a big building.

If you're trying to tell me I'm not a member of this community, that's OK too. I haven't been around this site much, in the long term sense. Just a few years. Maybe I don't have much of a say in how we do things here. Thanks for highlighting this, lest I get too comfortable.

I still say that we - or if I'm not legitimately part of this community, you - should be less quick to label people trolls. You'll miss out on a lot of interesting people who don't come off well on first posting.

Just my opinion. Buggering off now.

#155 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2007, 04:05 PM:

Paula @ 152...

I read your post twice and still couldn't figure out what its point was. It is true that I'm not very smart, but if Abi didn't get it, and she's way smarter than I am, then I feel only a little embarassment asking what the post's point was.

#156 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2007, 04:19 PM:

Paula @152, Abi @154,

'Bottom line, there's a complex network of experiences, interests, backgrounds, attitudes, etc., behind what the words posted on Making Light are, and that infuse the community. Someone new showing up, doesn't tend to have access to the backend complexity' is true.

But I think it's orthogonal to 'we should be less quick to label people trolls', which is also true.

As an apprentice troll-whisperer I appreciate learning from Abi, because she's good at it*.

And part of her mad skillz is her ability to tell a troll from a trolled-person from a posting-while-emotional person. There's been plenty of conversations that could've gotten emotionally derailed, but Abi got them back on track. Yay Abi!

In a while, after Abi has unpacked (moving is one of the top 5 stresses of life), and gotten regular internet access back, and everyone is up for it, I think it'd be nifty to have a full conversation on the tuning of trollometers. But that can't (or oughtn't?) be now in this thread.

What Serge says.

----------------
* If my trollometer is tuned too finely, then I want to learn how to use it better. Especially but not limited to here at ML, because a working trollometer is useful for any discussion I'm in, online and offline.

#157 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2007, 04:22 PM:

I think Paula was saying "Every reader filters the words posted here through their own experiences." Or words to that effect.

#158 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2007, 04:47 PM:

To summarize what I will be wanting to say...

There are real-true trolls that show up here, and it's a good thing to not respond to them, or to get meta-trolled by trying to figure out their motivations.

But because 'not responding' is hard, it's also a good thing to be reminded not to respond to rttrolls. Examples- the troll that just showed up on Occasional Works 11, or the time Xopher called 'troll' on the troll in Seatbelts.

And while trolls can work by pressing emotional buttons, that a comment elicits emotions is rarely the sign of a troll. (Necessary vs. sufficient conditions and all that.)

Even if a comment starts heated emotions, a Sergian or Abian style reply that reminds people to take a deep breath can be enough, without the step of labeling the original comment as a troll. Which I'm going to learn not to do.

Because that should be reserved for the rttrolls.

#159 ::: Seth Breidbart ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2007, 05:01 PM:

Christopher (130): Do you mean (1) The people who lied to get "no-documentation" mortgages, (2) the people who just didn't have good enough income/credit ratings to get the best mortgage terms, or (3) the people who invested (perhaps indirectly) in those mortgages and are getting killed? There are also the completely fraudulent cases, where they manipulated prices up, took out a big mortgage, and walked. (Don't mind my tone, some of my puts are up 1450% right now, so I'm enjoying watching.)

Charlie (89): Yeah: one's a cheap tabloid that peddles a bizarre mish-mash of fabricated nonsense designed to keep the masses amused and distracted, while the other is ...

slightly more expensive.

#160 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2007, 05:21 PM:

There were several things in the post, probably meshed together in ways that look opaque....

One point is that the community in here -sprawls-.

There's something called a "Langdon chart" which shows contacts among people, in some ways is a six degrees of separation thing, it does not, however, have time as one of its dimensions.

Making Light, there are several things common to the people who post in here, that include reading and responding. "trolls" tend to be identified as people who show up to post on one topic and derail the conversation to their own particular agenda, and don't participate with the give and take as someone who seems to be a continuing community member.

There are some other types of trolls [yes, YOU, Seth...] who are members of the community who like to stir up trouble for the sake of "I wonder what happens if..." or "I think that there's something being overlooked, now what's the most INTERESTING way I can arrange for the subject to get noticed?" [And there's some of that in more people than Seth, though Seth is a leading representative of the type... there's some of that in me, too, for example...]

The difference, though, is that Seth isn't stopping in as a driveby poster, he's a known quantity and contributor, who even will help set up artshows using d*****....

Meanwhile, yet again I have meandered.

My points are, trying for simplicity,
1.Making Light is a community
2. Some of the members of the community have known one another for a long time, and filter what other people post, based on past history
3. Length of acquaintanceship is NOT a measure of worth--it can be a factor however in how long/how much shrift someone might get:
a) Jonathan vos Post getting the boot was the result of what on the 'net is wont to be called
Excessively Annoying Behavior, having exceeding the owners of the forum's patience. Despite repeated warnings, he persisted in the Excessively Annoying Behavior, rather like Little Rabbit Foo-Foo, and the result was goon/gone, for someone who's a long-time member of the SF community. I mention the situation, because it's one that long acquaintanceship, did NOT bring tolerance of Excessively Annoying Behavior.
b) Someone new sometimes can as a potential member of a community receive comments about the community and community standards, regarding what might not be intuitively obvious to the casual observer. Some folks are friendlier/more reaching other than others in such things. There is a potential with someone new, for new insights, new friendships, etc. etc. etc., and being Unfriendly to someone who's new, when the person doesn't come in like an astroturfer, a troll, or other such party, one can be spiting oneself with, cutting off that potential from the start.
4. People have finite attention spans and time.... a long time ago, I realized that I could get to talk to each person at a Worldcon for One Minute of my awake-and-about time at the convention... which doesn't make for much in the way of satisfying conversations and interactions one on one. So, people do filtering, on the basis of interests, common values, how they react to other people, and if the person seems like someone they want to spend time communicating with or attempting to communicate with.

And I've gone off on yet more tangents....

But to get back to Macdonald's comment--it's not just an individual reader filter, there are group filters in effect, too, and Community Values. The Community here has history--and that history INCLUDES Serge, abi, and everyone who posts, and everyone who reads, but particularly, it's the gestalt.... and when someone shows up who doesn't seem to have been reading in light of the prevailing memes, warning signs, and comments which in effect probe for the values and attitudes and posting-reasons and "is this person a potential tribe member? [recalling Teresa having given talks at conventions about SF fandom as tribal society...]" or an Outsider putting us down?"

#161 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2007, 05:33 PM:

(2) the people who just didn't have good enough income/credit ratings to get the best mortgage terms

But then there's the Catch-22 of people who would have no problems with their credit rating if their credit card interest rate stayed at 10%, rather than leaping into a usurious 30% at the moment of a single late payment to anyone, anywhere.

And similarly, seems like many of the people in the news wouldn't fall behind if their mortgage interest rate stayed at 7%, instead of going to 14%.

Might be their own fault that they fell into a Catch-22, but I generally am more suspicious towards the creators of a Catch-22 that I am to the 22ee's.

[Then again, I'm seeing Paula's #160... will I still post a response even recognizing that I've been trolled? This one, yes. {and what a lesson, that even if you're thinking about how not to get trolled, you can still be trolled. Oy.}]

#162 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2007, 05:49 PM:

What I thought when I saw the title of this thread:

You may be familiar with a service offered by moving companies: They deliver a portable, light-duty storage container -- sort of a shipping palette covered by a plastic-sheeted shroud -- to your driveway. You load it up at your liesure and then call the moving company to pick it up for storage or transport.

The things are called, in my area, PODs.

Since they tend to be used by people about to leave the neighborhood, I took news that Conservatives were turning to PODs as a good thing.

#163 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2007, 06:08 PM:

Paula, Serge, Kathryn, Jim,

I realise that I was doing, in an introverted way, exactly what I am trying to suggest we don't do in an extroverted way: overinterpreting comments. Seeing hostility where it wasn't there. Lashing out back.

I apologise. I spent too much time today trying to follow the thread of conversations in Dutch, a language that I don't speak with any fluency at all. It's a very isolating experience.

Kathryn, I would very much like to have a discussion like you propose when things settle down. Not that I have anything of great value to add to it, but perhaps something of interest may come up in the gestalt.

Do you think we could find some form of bribe that would get Teresa to chair it? I could toss in a hand bound blank book...

I'm off to bed now; it's gone midnight my time, my internet connection is patchy, and tomorrow is another day.

#164 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2007, 06:31 PM:

abi @ 163... Do you think we could find some form of bribe that would get Teresa to chair it?

Knitting Kneedles?

#165 ::: Jen Roth ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2007, 07:38 PM:

albatross, CHip: I will admit, I admire Epperson's apparent consistency in not wanting either liberals or conservatives to be able to censor content on the airwaves. At least on this issue, he doesn't appear to be afflicted with IOKIYAR Syndrome.

#166 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2007, 07:41 PM:

Oh, dear.

As one of the people who responded in what seems to have been an upsetting way, my only (I don't know if it's a defense - explanation?) is to say that the formulation "you people are responding out of reflexive bigotry, which is why you think that [the most negative possible interpretation of the conversation]" puts my back up really, really badly.

It's a technique I've been dismissed by quite a bit in the past. It irks me.

Which doesn't necessarily make my response appropriate, but (in fairness) what I was responding to wasn't either.

fwiw.

#167 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2007, 09:45 PM:

abi@136: (re footnote) if you ever get to Boston, I'll see you get a night's supply of single malt; the book for the Mike auction and the calm tone while working through a minefield are worth at least that much.

#168 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 01:46 AM:

abi @ 163

When get back here, I'd like you to consider not being quite so modest. You've taught me a lot by example, just in the last few months. I don't always agree with you, but I do admire your style, most especially when we're talking about taking care to maintain as open and welcoming a community as possible.

#169 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 02:05 PM:

For you, Bruce, I will attempt to be immodest.

#170 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 02:23 PM:

abi @ 169... I second Bruce's motion.

#171 ::: Francis ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 03:21 PM:

In re discussions of comment 113.

As a self confessed wingnut - at least by the standards that appear to apply here - I've found this comment thread to be, umm, edifying and educational.

Lest I too am perceived a troll I'm not going to argue about specifics. However I will just say that if you want to have a thread that wingnuts can quote to convince themselves and any undecideds in the middle that the leftosphere are a bunch of elitist snobs then this thread is a good one whereas if you want to have inclusive dialog and discussion then this thread is rather less effective as an example.

In re the original post. I note that Gooogle lists this post, my post and other related stuff as most of the top ranked search tools so um the word is out. At my blog post on the subject I tried to make the point in a more sympathetic tone (Theresa I agree with your comment there I quoted the section I did to make a point) but I fear that those who wish to be published won't let rational analysis stop them blowing money on these sorts of scam.

#172 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 10:08 PM:

Partly in response to #113 and #171, but also in a wider context, I'd like to point out that there's often a certain amount of "culture shock" when people from mainstream American culture first encounter an unabashedly liberal forum. This has a lot to do with percentages and perceptions.

There is a fairly well-known study from the 1970s (which, sadly, my Google-fu is not strong enough to find a citation for) that looked at classroom discussions among college-age men and women. Among other things, it found that when women contributed more than 15% of the comments in the discussion, they were perceived as "dominating the conversation". Something similar has been going on in mainstream American culture for about the last 20 years; liberal voices have been markedly subdued in casual conversational venues.* Now imagine the reaction when someone who's used to that ratio of liberal to conservative discussion shows up here.

I used to see the same thing happen repeatedly on a Usenet forum where I hung out. This group had (again by comparison to mainstream American culture) a lot of pagans -- perhaps as many as 30% of people who self-identified that way. And it wasn't at all unusual to get questions from new people to the effect of, "Is everyone here pagan?" or even "Why aren't there any Christians in this group?" -- despite the fact that there were at least as many regular posters who were openly (though not aggressively) Christian and made no effort to hide it. For many of the new people, this was the first group they'd ever been involved with in which there were any out-of-the-closet pagans... and that translated to a severe over-estimation of their actual numbers.

When you're used to environments in which liberals are relatively few and easily intimidated, coming into a forum like ML is going to be a helluva jolt, and the perception of anti-conservative hostility is likely to be similarly over-estimated.

* By which I mean, the sort of conversations one gets into in the line at the post office, or with the other parents in your child's classroom on PTA night, or at a hobby-club meeting... not to mention with other people at the office. Effectively, in any venue which does not self-select for a liberal-leaning population, liberals (or perhaps more accurately, people who were willing to express liberal views) have been few and far between for a long time.

#173 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 10:28 PM:

Lee @172: while your general point is a good one, if you look at the blog linked to by Francis @171, it is subtitled "being the maunderings of an Englishman on the Côte d'Azur". A quick skim suggests that he is a Thatcherite Tory (or possibly considers Thatcher to have been too liberal for his tastes). I specify Thatcherite Tory, because the sort of views espoused by One Nation Toryism seem to be somewhere to the left of the Labour Party nowadays.

#174 ::: Raphael ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 01:24 AM:

So people who subtitle their blogs "the maunderings of an Englishman on the Côte d'Azur" complain about other people being snobbish and elitist now?

Anyway, Francis, when you're routinely described as a traitor, a communist, the lowest form of scum imagineable, completely devoid of morals, the reason for the sorry state of the world, and various other things, by people who often seem to have little knowledge of what they're talking about, getting a bit hostile towards these people is neither snobbish nor elitist. It is simply human.

#175 ::: Francis ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 04:37 AM:

Re 173:

Julia mostly nails it. Thatcherite is not a bad first approximation for my political outlook although phrases like "to the right of ghengis khan" may also apply, as may minarchist, anarchist or libertarian.

174:

The bile on all sides of politics is one thing that I find distasteful (although I guess I add to it from time to time so I'm guilty too. I try to attack the message not the messenger but sometimes I fail). It seems to me that people of all political persuasions regularly fail to notice the hurtfulness of the insults they dish out while taking offence at the insults they receive.

172:
I understand completely that perceptions can differ from reality. The problem is that the reaction to post 115 on this thread makes it look like the liberal commenters here are just as intolerant of dissenting views.

If you look at my blogroll you will discover a number of feminist blogs and other places where I'm exposed to "liberal" or "progressive" views. The problem is not that the viewpoints here (or there) are ones I disagree with it is the tone of the disagreement. I also think that overblown rhetoric tends to discredit the underlying message.

E.g. a throwaway line about "Bush's third reelection campaign" (comment 42) is irrelevant and exactly the sort of thing that tends to make less ideologically motivated people dismiss the entire subject as the ravings of the deranged. In 2009 the US will have a new president, probably either a Senator from New York or a former mayor of NYC and in either case the Cheney/Rove neocon axis is not going to be in power so when you write something like the above it causes the underlying message to be tarred with the same brush.

#176 ::: Keir ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 05:44 AM:

There is something intensely amusing about a Thatcherite complaining about elitism, incivility and so-on.

And, to be perfectly honest, Thatcherites deserve all the bile they get.

Thatcher was willing to align herself with the scum of the earth; I see no reason to refrain from calling out Thatcher for supporting murdering fascists, and no reason to refrain from pointing out to her supporters that Thatcher was very nasty.

No, it isn't a nice thing to hear. Thatcher wasn't a nice woman. Her supporters don't get a pass on that.

There is a time and place for calling the other lot filth. When they make friends with fascists is normally a good one.

#177 ::: Francis ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 04:13 PM:

I've had it pointed out to me that someone else is using my name. (I don't blame the other Francis - I assume it's his name as well). But I'd prefer it if people tried to keep us separate especially as our political views are somewhat divergant (I'm certainly no species of Libertarian or Thatcherite). To pick me out, my link is (and has always been) http:// neonchameleon. livejournal. com and my listed e-mail adddress is throwaway @ despammed.com. [Note: Also posting this to most recent thread]

#178 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2007, 03:15 AM:

Francis, add something to your name to keep it separate. Otherwise we might add it for you.

#179 ::: janetl sees spam ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2014, 04:32 PM:

@ 179

#180 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2014, 07:02 PM:

Just in case anyone else is curious... the link to Townhall Press in the OP is dead, and a Google search on that name didn't bring up anything either. So either they've changed their name or they took the money and ran after a year or two of scalping the marks. My money is on the latter.

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