Blogs and money
Burning money literally: $680,000 in cash in flames
John Aravois wrote this and I have some comments to add.
The left's fear of money
by John in DC - 6/1/2005 10:13:00 AM
I've noticed over the years a decided fear of money, hatred of money, or at least discomfort of money by some people on the left.
Whether it's concern over the heads of liberal non-profits or big corporations making too much money, or snarky comments I get whenever I try to raise money off the site or, God forbid, actually take a vacation, there's a certain disdain amongst a certain segment of the left for having or spending money in any way beyond bare subsistence, and I'm trying to figure out why.
The issue came up for me, again, last night when I posted a simple photo of the beautiful sunset over Northern Virginia. The photo was taken from the sedan that CNN graciously paid for to drive me home from the airport after attending their conference. Someone made a nasty comment on the blog about how I must be doing well from all those donations to be taking sedans home from the airport. And when I explained that CNN paid for it, and that actually I didn't even get a speaker's fee for appearing at their conference (a fee that is quite common, mind you), I got even snarkier comments about how dare I expect a fee (I didn't "expect" a fee, but simply noted this wasn't a money-making trip for me).
Now, I'm happy to attribute those comments to trolls. And I'm not writing this specifically about THOSE comments. But rather, this is part of a larger trend, a larger feeling, I've noted for years amongst some segments of the left. The concept of doing well by doing good, of making a good living by being an advocate for good, is somehow anathema to large swaths of the left. And I think that's troubling.
Heck, I've even gotten nasty comments just for asking for donations - things like "all you do is write, why should we pay for that?"
Now, I'm not asking for tons of comments reassuring me that I do provide a valuable service. Rather, I'm curious what this vein of thought is amongst some on the left, how strong it is, why it exists at all, and what people think of it. I, for one, worry that it's something that holds us back. A fear of success, a fear of money, a fear of living well, a fear of becoming too much like the people we're fighting (those evil Republicans and evil corporations WITH MONEY - almost in the way that some people hate ALL religion because SOME religious people hate us). That somehow by wanting to make money ourselves, we've debased ourselves and our cause and become "like them."
And the thing is, I like money.
I was raised a good capitalist boy in a good immigrant home in Chicago, my family worked hard to put us in a nice suburban home with nice suburban schools, and the occasional family vacation out east or out west, and you know, I liked it. I liked it when I got to do my junior year abroad. I liked it when I saved up enough money to visit Europe on my own. And when I did well enough in school to get summer jobs in Paris and Buenos Aires, both in the same summer, I liked that too. This isn't stuff I'm ashamed of, it's stuff I've earned and I'm proud of accomplishing. And it's all stuff that money helped me do. But I can imagine some people on the left thinking that if you don't live like Ralph Nader, on a cot in your dingy old office, but instead enjoy the occasional trip to Paris, you're not a REAL lefty and you've somehow sold out the cause.
So, I ask your thoughts. Am I right about this? Does this current of thought exist? Why does it exist? And what are the ramifications of it? Is it a good thing? Or is it, as I fear, something that holds us back? Something that, in fact, may even be a knee-jerk reaction against our own success - the old Groucho Marx (I believe) "I'd never join a club that would have me as a member." I.e., do we have such a poor self-image that we simply expect ourselves to never be compensated for our work because, per se, our work is without value? Or do we simply think wealth - any wealth - corrupts absolutely? Or is this simply a minority view amongst the left that is, well, just a minority?
First, here's a question: should Jonah Goldberg make more money than John?
I certainly don't think so.
CATO and NRO actually had the balls to have fundraisers.
These housepets of millionaires had the nerve to ask for money from people.
When the right wants something, they pay for it. They don't debate the value of the service provided.
I've never met a poor person who had problems with money. Only the upper middle class worries about such things. Give a poor person cash, and they will buy rims and PS2's to put in their cars. Poor people love money.
Only people who've never missed a meal can debate whether money is dirty or clean. They have that luxury. When you grow up eating Spam and pork and beans, and having parents who worked hard, you grow to like money just fine.
If someone had the balls to write to me "all you do is write, why should we pay for that?", my reply would be simple: you pay for your newspaper, right? You expect new content every day, right? You expect some effort to be put in the site, right? So who the hell can do that for free? You get what you pay for, which in John's case, one of the best sites online. I've given John money because I think his work is valuable. All of the sites you like are done on a daily basis by people who don't do anything else. And if Atrios wants to spend a month in Spain, he's sure as shit earned it. Unless I'm confused, he works on that site seven days a week.
And John deserves all the limo rides he wants. He certainly has worked hard for them.
I call it the Michael Moore effect. Some people on the left are offended that he makes money. They are surprised that he's rich. You know, no one in Flint is upset at him. They like the fact that he made it. Only the people with money can afford to judge others. The people he grew up with and who know his family are not sitting around wondering if money changed him, they want the chance to have money change them as well.
For the clueless, let me explain: money makes things go. The more money around, the better John's blog and this blog can be. The less I have to worry about money. When I can buy groceries and hop in a cab and know I don't have to scrimp, that's more energy to have for working on the site. I can spend my hours worried about fonts and colors and design and not paying bills. When I need a router, I can buy it from New Egg without worrying if I can afford it. When I need design books, I can just buy them and take them home and not hunt for used copies. Money creates flexibility and options.
I think that with every successful fundraising drive I've had, I think the site has gotten better. Not because of the money, but because knowing I could devote time to the blog makes it easier to work on it. Knowing that when I want lunch, I can get lunch and not scrape up change to get a meat patty ($2). That I can get about my business and not watch every dime and trust me, that makes life a LOT easier.
It's nice to know that when I want to go for drinks with Jen, unlike in the past, we don't have to scrimp and worry about the $20 we spend, and there was a time when that wasn't the case.
Now, some people want to tell you how to spend every dime, and know where the money goes. My bet is those people are looking for an excuse to not give. People who give do so as a means of support. I don't care how people I've given money to spend it, on beer or computer parts. Because it's a vote of confidence. And if you ever want to be surprised, give $20 to a small site. The gratitude is immense.
I think people should be confident that when you give money to bloggers, they are using it well. They are using it to keep going. Because unlike the right, there are no book contracts and think tank jobs waiting for them. The support they have comes from the readers. People who worry about wealth usually have never gone without. So what if they take limos or travel? All you should care about is if the site is readable.
People need to realize money exists to make things happen. If you have a problem with the people you read making a living from their work, read something else.
The simple, simple fact is that you get the media you pay for. You like the Times, keep paying for it. However, if you want to keep reading people like John, it isn't going to be free, unless he wins the lottery.
posted by Steve @ 2:08:00 PM