Groan: Not Again!

Last week there was Yet Another Political (this time, anti-war) ad, and as expected I got a bunch of complaints and petulant “unsubscribe” demands.

More thoughtful than most was Paul in Florida:

I imagine you’ll get a lot of comments in spite of your disclaimer at the bottom of the issue (‘talk to the advertiser about it, not me.’) I guess the only comment I would make to you is that that is a good policy. However, if you go the advertised website, he doesn’t have the courage or common courtesy to provide an email to reply to the garbage that he spews on his website. That’s unfortunate.

I have often said I expect that my readers are intelligent to make up their own minds about the legitimacy of the messages sent in ads. Paul is very correct: not having any way to contact a site’s owner to ask for (say) substantiation of claims, whether the site is selling products or ideas, does show a lack of courage and courtesy — which you should very much take into account when evaluating what’s for sale.

You’ll note that my address, for instance, is not only in every issue, but also on the Contact page on this site, which is linked from pretty much every other page. I can’t possibly reply to all the letters I get, but I do at least read all of them.

Then There Was the Less Thoughtful

Among the several people that can’t distinguish my editorial commentary from a paid ad were Kristie in North Carolina:

You have no concept of the truth of the war with Iraq. I’m unsubscribing. I pity you. If people like you had your way, we’d all be annihilated now. There is a time for war, and it is here. You have the right to your OPINION, but it is certainly not the TRUTH.

It’s fine to pity me, Kristie, but I find much more pity in someone screaming that any voice — that wasn’t even mine! — which dissents from the party line is promoting “annihilation” rather than thoughtfully gathering information from many sources before making up one’s mind on an important issue.

Several readers sent me this quote, but David in Colorado was first: “To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public.” –U.S. President (and Nobel Peace Prize winner) Theodore Roosevelt.

He made the comment during World War I, when Woodrow Wilson was president.

April 11 Update

Speaking of prolonged sighs resulting from people who don’t bother to think before doing, I’m absolutely flabbergasted (for you Brit heritage types: gobsmacked) by the number of people who wrote to say they “didn’t know” True has paid outside advertising. I mean …hello?

This fallout began, of course, after I ran a controversial paid anti-war ad. While I didn’t personally agree with the position taken by the ad (or in the web site advertised when I made a very brief visit), I consider free discussion of important topics to be a vital part of our freedom and democracy. How are people supposed to make informed decisions on critical issues without differing viewpoints?

As I mentioned, there are many ways to judge the messenger and consider if any particular source is worthy of your attention. But, as expected, I got plenty of petulant rants, hundreds of subscription cancellations, and accusations of my being a “commie pinko radical” (probably by one of the same readers who laughed gleefully at the Is Bill Clinton an Alcoholic? ad headline in February, which also resulted in some subscription cancellations).

It astounds me enough that people don’t grasp the difference between editorial matter (like these sentences you’re reading now) and paid ad inserts. Just because you see an ad for something in True doesn’t mean I personally endorse anything that’s said.

Do you really think that because Newsweek runs an ad for the Chevy Suburban it means they are taking an editorial position against Ford’s new low-emissions, high-mileage hybrid SUV? Of course not (though if you honestly do — yes, I’ll say it — then you’re an idiot.) (Oh, and if you don’t think that, then I didn’t just call you an idiot, did I? Think first, react later.)

But I was floored when I got dozens of notes from long-time readers who didn’t grasp that the clearly marked ads are indeed ads. Several actually thought those were some sort of plugs for my own web sites — two sites a week, times 52 weeks a year, for year upon year upon year? (See what I mean by people not thinking?)

Let alone that I talk about ads from time to time, like when I announced the recent price reduction. Let alone how clear I’ve made it (in the “Welcome” message, on the site, and in occasional thank-you’s to the advertisers) that it’s the ads that allow you to get the newsletter for free in the first place.

So many people suggested that I change the ad border to explicitly say “Yo, Braniac! The following is an ADVERTISEMENT!” that I actually considered doing it. But you know what? I’m simply not going to. I do know that it’s a very tiny minority that just doesn’t get it, so I’ve decided to refuse to pander to their stupidity — and insult the intelligence of everyone else — by stating something that’s so patently obvious.

If you really can’t stand ads, there is a solution for you, and it’s been there for years: it’s called the Premium edition — double the stories, with no outside ads.

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11 Comments on “Groan: Not Again!

  1. When I read the ad I got a queasy feeling in the pit of my stomach as I rather suspect that you did too when you received the ad from your customer. I’m not writing to complain about the ad or the web site or to give them accolades, but rather to compliment you on the fact that you are willing to run the ad and, I expect, recognize the fact that so many people have died worldwide to protect the right of each of us to speak out regardless of how popular our message is.

  2. Every time I get somewhat accustomed with just how stupid/dense/etc that people can be, I always get shocked at the new low reached.

    These are the same kind of people who I sometimes have to deal with where I send them an email with information and they reply to that email requesting info that is in the message they’re replying to. Part of the problem is that people are often willing to get offended at even expecting them to make the effort to figure something out without being hand-held.

    It makes me very glad that I am now mostly out of Customer Service as it is often very difficult to deal with someone who wants you to apologize for their failing to understand something that is either their fault completely, partially their fault, not even a problem that they’re misinterpreting to think is a problem or a misunderstanding based on their complete lack of basic common sense.

  3. In the 60’s and 70’s it was flag burning. I was infuriated until I read one persons comment that we were “putting more value on an inanimate piece of cloth than the living document it represented.” It really is true that if you deny a freedom to a single citizen, you’ve killed it for the whole country.

    “The average person is an idiot, and by definition half the people are dumber than that.”

  4. We’ve been seeing such idiocy for years. No, decades. Remember how morning cartoon shows had to specifically state when commercials began, so that the “kiddies” wouldn’t be confused between their favorite cartoons and ads that had nothing to do with the cartoons? But not just limited to kiddie shows; even television shows have PLASTERED across every intro that any interviews or commentary do NOT represent the producer’s point of view or endorsement.

    I’d LIKE to think that it’s “only” because people are so stupid, but it’s worse. People have such a poor sense of self-validation that they just can’t wait to feel slighted.

  5. I have had years of dealing with people who got upset at me because they didn’t understand something, didn’t read something completely, misinterpreted something that was clear to many others, and/or must have completely stopped thinking and reacted in an emotional fashion.

    Some I know were either projecting motivations, values and fears they themselves possessed, or attributing these based on faulty judgements derived from poorly understood or executed research or evidence.

    One learns to smile and nod. Later, in retirement, one can practice avoidance and escape behaviours at will.
    I enjoy the ads, and reactions. It is all humour. It mostly confirms that humans are not necessarily the brightest product of either god, or chance, or however we came to be whatever we are.

  6. “If you really can’t stand ads, there is a solution for you, and it’s been there for years: it’s called the Premium edition — double the stories, with no outside ads.”

    Pfff… and miss out on the fun these ads bring, never!

    It has been awhile since one really blew up. -rc

  7. Heck, the premium subscription is not only ad-free, we get twice as many stories! Sounds like a win-win to me! Of course, the people who can’t grasp what an ad is probably don’t get the value of a premium subscription either. I do, though, so I guess that means I’m not average either. To paraphrase a certain politician (who shall remain nameless), don’t quit Randy, until everybody is above average!

    Actually, Premum is typically three times the stories these days (a minimum of 10). -rc

  8. I am curious what the people who unsubscribe in a huff over this sort of thing do for a living. I cannot think of a practical way to find out. I am an engineer, and must be a critical thinker, at least on the job. Every good engineer I know have thought about their opinions, even to the point of concurrently holding completely opposite opinions on a variety of topics (weird, I know, but it works).

    The engineer in me wants to know if there is any correlation, thus indicating if there are some jobs out there that don’t require critical thinking. Leaving aside, of course the usual: politician (or anything related), marketing, sales, english majors (and *who* is going to give you a job?), etc. (I know I insulted english majors; politicians and sales/marketing are incapable of being insulted.)

    Ah, well. One of life’s mysteries. Like why anybody poor would be Republican these days. (Oops, there I go again.)

    My guess is that it has more to do with general intelligence than profession. -rc

  9. I’ll have to say that I’m so glad I was taught to think as opposed to just read. I’ll never forget my daughter coming home from her senior year in high school and telling me that a classmate didn’t realize that Germany was a country. What exactly are kids learning in school these days?

    It really makes you have to wonder what happened to society that people no longer have critical thinking skills. Just reading warning labels will tell you that. How many idiots had to stop a chainsaw with their genitals? Why can’t we just let them so it helps chlorinate the gene pool?

    Don’t be discouraged about people unsubscribing from This Is True because they failed critical thinking and reading comprehension. You have the rest of us to keep you company.

    This is True’s mission is to encourage more thought in the world. Winnowing the readership down to only those who already do doesn’t help improve the world as much as reading a wider audience. It is not futile to help those who are willing to learn. -rc

  10. My guess is that it has more to do with general intelligence than profession. -rc

    But perhaps there is a correlation between intelligence and/or tendency to be easily offended, and the profession they seek.

    To “Sabra in AZ”… I’d like to think that we’re teaching our kids critical thinking skills. I know that they like to make comments about some of the “aimed at the non-thinking” things they see on TV commercials. (Sorry, I can’t think of any of them at the moment.)

    P.S. I kept the free subscription, even after upgrading to the premium edition, and I do look at the ads and occasionally click through to the advertised site. (And I’ve even clicked a few that were more out of morbid curiosity than interest in what they were selling.)

  11. IMHO, run whatever ad you want that will earn you the most money. Good for you. I generally just ignore them anyway. I read your stuff for your content and not some ad…besides, my wife doesn’t perms spend money… 😉


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