OK, I need to talk about my online presence and “anti-tribalism”

Voya, formerly ING-ReliaStar, where I worked in Minneapolis 1997-2001, 2018 picture by me

OK, I want to talk frankly, maybe lay down the law a bit, on what is happening as I restructure my sites, as I have been discussing recently. 

Until the end of 2021, I had 20 active blogs (16 of them dating back to early 2006) with one massive flat site “do ask do tell” containing the purchase links and texts for the books, with a great deal of supplementary material.   It is important to note that access to all of this material was free, without logons or paywalls.  I did not pester users with email lists or promotions or popups – I did use Google Adsense on many of the blogs and also Amazon associate ads of books, music and movies, the format of which Amazon changed radically early in 2022.

Now, there is one personal site in my legal name, this one, where I express views (and try to back them up with reputable references) mostly on matters that pertain to personal agency, my own and that of others.  Much of this material does consist of reviews of other books and many films, often from less known creators. 

There is also the doaskdotell site, which has been pared down to essentials, and an experimental doaskdotell.info site, on web.com, in a format that is more conventionally commercial, for selling the three DADT books.  Right now, there are some technical problems with completing the new doaskdotell site, which I’ll set aside now for this discussion.

Why did I do this?  Actually, I had concerns about the sustainability of my setup in early 2018, and I actually announced in late February 2019 that I would pare down the presence at the end of 2021 (about 32 months after the announcement).  This was almost a year before the pandemic was having serious consequences.   Some of the concerns are rather mundane and common.  I am getting older (79 now), it I would not be able to turn the operation over easily if something happens to me.  There was the expense, more than expected (especially in security products), to sustain every year.  In late 2018 the CASE Act was first introduced (admittedly after I had these concerns) raising the possibility of eventually attracting copyright trolls (remember “Righthaven” through about 2011?)  There was increasing talk of ditching Section 230 (which was seriously compromised by the FOSTA law passed in the spring of 2018).   More significantly, the crackdown on “hate speech”, while understandable, rapidly escalated after Charlottesville, even affecting hosting companies and domain registrars. In understandable backlash after the aggressiveness of the “alt right” (amplified by social media algorithms manipulated by foreign adversaries) which started to become apparent in the 2016 presidential race, the notion of what “hate speech” is enlarged and became unstable.  The general public seemed to become more tribal and more polarized, outside the intellectual areas of the Internet. 

But the problem that got my attention really seemed to be the idea of gratuitous “political” (or issue-oriented) speech like mine, when it did not pay for itself, did not require running a legitimate business, and seemed enabled only by wealth from other sources, whether earned from a career or from other investments with capitalism, or particularly if supported by inherited wealth in retirement, when the speaker did not  have any direct accountability to take care of others.  In a sense this is a variation of Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s “Skin in the Game” problem (and 2018 book, legacy review).

I had originally published my first DADT book in 1997, and switched to POD in 2000 (after my printing ran out).  Although actual sales were reasonable during the first 18 months or so, they dropped off.  For years I went along with this low level “problem” (especially the years home with mother after my own “retirement” until she passed in 2010). In early 2012 I started getting calls from the POS publisher about slow sales, fifteen years after my first book appeared and nine years after the second.

Consider again the subject matter.  I got into writing the books and blogs first with the “gays in the military” issue, which led me into the free speech issues by being a co-litigant in the COPA (Child Online Protection Act of 1998) litigation through 2007.  The original issue is unusual in that it bears on the problem of forced intimacy (in the military) which sometimes, in the past at least, has been connected to conscription (male-only).  The issue tends to point to many other (civilian) policy problems that deal with individual “privacy” and autonomy or “agency”.  Over the years I followed that trail. 

In fact, I could point out that the books (especially #3) focus on the idea that the “unconventional” (or “creative”) individual bears the moral responsibility for performing well enough in society, by overcoming problems and having what amounts (personally) to good social credit (in today’s terminology, copying China!)  This goes against the grain of recent identarianism, where people in marginalized groups individually develop identities by solidarity with other persons in the (intersectionalized) groups.  Indeed, some on the Left might interpret my approach as strengthening oppression against those individually not competent to overcome their problems, hinting of future fascism, so they could interpret the approach as “hateful” in today’s woke world, but would not have seen things this way before Trumpism had taken over. 

The books, I can say with some irony, also address the issues of fundamental rights derived from “substantive due process” and, in the last chapter of the first book, proposes that it would be safer to enumerate the rights than depend on an expanded interpretation of the 14th Amendment (particularly).  These might be specified by constitutional amendment, as discussed on Chapter 3 of the second book, as a kind of “Bill of Rights II”, a slogan that had some traction in the late 1990s.

And consider also that in the early days of Web 1.0, merely being found by search engines was a productive way to become known, or at least have your ideas known – without actual aggressive marketing more commonly expected in conventional business.

Even without use of algorithms later prominent with social media (starting in the late 2000’s) it was possible for one person to influence political or social opinions and have effect with very little conventional business activity or participation in conventional activism.

So you can see where there could be objection to this developing, especially from the more tribal portions of the Left.  It would be seen as lowballing those making a living from writing (especially legitimate or mainstream media) and seriously undermining the ability of oppressed groups to achieve the mass they need through using protesting, even causing disruption or getting arrested, for issues that seem critical enough.

A good illustration of this is shown in a June 11, 2022 speech by David Hogg who personalizes what “I need you to do” in following his script for political activism.  The crowd responds like foot soldiers.  But the gravity of the gun violence problem seems to compel this collective action (and some personal sacrifice of what seems like a legitimate individual right, self-defense and “standing your ground”).  It’s important to note that this problem really is not one of identarianism within an oppressed group, as anyone can become a victim or target of random gun violence (although David’s main focus is “young people”). The same observation could be made about collective activism regarding climate change (which often is quite disruptive to the public and often involves protesters being willing to make the sacrifice of getting arrested and depending on crowd sourcing of bail money and the like).

David Hogg speech June 11, 2022 in DC

Along these lines, we have seen calls for “compulsory” activism from the Left in other areas, as with “silence is violence” mantras and the characterization of anti-racism as mandatory for good citizenship.

So it is not hard to imagine in the future that, if you want a place online, you could have to show support for collective efforts deemed critical enough, a kind of compelled speech problem.  Not everyone sees “writers” as allowed to assume the luxury of expressing only their own views or work, without being pliable enough to work for the needs of others.

I made a video as early as April 1, 2018 expressing this concern, called “A Dangerous Thought Experiment”.   As a counter argument, imagine a world where everybody has to try to sell things on Ebay.  It couldn’t work collectively (any more than multi-level marketing). 

“A Dangerous Thought Experiment”

You could also more reasonably expect to see evidence that the speaker has responsibility for others, or is willing to elevate others who are otherwise disabled in some public fashion, in order to discourage ideas that defend individual “freedom” in terms of “survival of the fittest”, a trend that if acceptable could encourage fascism.

So I have a problem with some of this.  I need to have a public area of my own speech that is entirely independent of “tribal” pressures so that is how I am still setting up my permanent, though “simplified” presence.  It is not OK to give money to Marxist publications that can speak for me if I were no longer allowed to speak publicly for myself (as with a workplace “conflict of interest’, an issue from the past). (The McCain-Feingold law in 2002 had the capability of causing these problems for speakers, as explained in this legacy 2014 post.)   Generally, since I do manage inherited resources, it is not OK for me to be the one asking for money for anything, for any cause, outside of very small fundraisers as on Facebook.  Likewise it is not OK for me to ask for donations for my own writing (as with Patreon).  It might be OK to charge actual subscription, but I am not in a position to do that yet, 

Of course, there is more I should try to do to be of direct service to others, starting with, for example, food banks. 

And there are organizations where there is encouragement of open discussions of issues outside of tribal loyalties, like Braver Angels, which might be good to support.  I have been to a few of their forums (including online). 

I do plan to work as an election judge for the fall election Nov. 8, 2022 (it is a 16 hour day). But even that would seem to imply to me that I should not make political contributions to any candidates or PACs or issue groups.  In fact, I don’t think I ever have.  I did do ballot access petitioning for Libertarian party candidates in Minnesota in 1998, my first full year there, after publishing the first book in the summer of 1997 and then moving to Minneapolis with a corporate transfer that avoided a possible “conflict of interest” at work.  I discuss this in DADT Book III, pages 86-87, Chapter 3.

Later, I will provide more details on the nuances of my web formats and activity, as some of it is quite instructive, when compared to the activities of more modern content creation like YouTube channels.  

But the implications of a person’s having set the self up to be unable to join in a necessary fight against a threatened tryannical enemy (even if domestic) and being unable to resist are potentially quite grave, if something really does “happen” (think Jan. 6, had the coup really “worked”). It’s a kind of ultimate death penalty.

In order to mention an applicable film, I’ll cite “The 100 Mile Rule” (around 2002) by Brent Huff, where traveling salesmen (from Detroit to Los Angeles) believe it is OK to cheat on their spouses if more than 100 miles from home.  But there was a lot of Amway-style rah-rah “Always Be Closing’. 

“100 Mile Rule” trailer

(Posted: Wednesday, August 3, 2022 at 7:30 PM EDT by John W. Boushka)