But it seems like now is a good time to bring up something that I've been thinking about a lot lately, in light of recent kerfuffles.
What recent kerfuffle could Beta Dad possibly be referring to, you probably do not ask yourself right now; because you assume that if it's a kerfuffle and Beta Dad is interested there's a good chance it's got something to do with Single Dad Laughing. And you assume correctly.
If you're not familiar with the saga of Beta Dad vs. Single Dad Laughing, I would advise you to either abandon this post altogether, or refer to this link as a primer. If you're not interested in blogger drama or online discourse, I won't blame you at all if you come back when the regularly scheduled programming returns.
What I want to do here, as several others have done more effectively than I will be able to, is to use this specific controversy to discuss a couple of very general ideas.
But first, the briefest groundwork I can possibly provide about my perspective on the history of the troubles and how I figure into them:
- 2010: A guy named Andy starts a blog called Beta Dad, interacts in the parent blogging community, writes a lot, comments on other blogs a lot; and after a few months over a hundred people are reading his stuff on the reg. He is SO effing stoked.
- A guy named Dan starts a blog called Single Dad Laughing a few months later. He doesn't really show up much in the dad blogging community. Andy reads a few of Dan's posts and thinks they're okay, but a little corny. Pretty soon tens of thousands of people are reading Single Dad Laughing, according to Dan.
- Andy notices that Dan's most popular posts are very schlocky and trite, and wonders why so many people love them. Andy is very bummed that people love bad writing.
- Andy drinks most of a bottle of wine and writes a blog post expressing the above.
- A lot of people agree with Andy's drunken rant, and they provide many comforting theories about how Dan is lying and cheating, and how not as many people love his schmaltz as he claims. Andy is comforted.
- Dan's blog seems to continue growing more popular. Lots of bloggers get angry and/or make fun of him in emails and on facebook, and even publish critical posts when Dan's shenanigans get especially outrageous; but lots of regular people post links to his stuff with no sense of irony. Andy tries to shut up and go about his business.
- 2012: Andy can no longer shut up and go about his business, and he writes another post, this time mostly while sober, focusing on one of Dan's most popular, and least convincing, deeply moving stories about how one person (Dan) can change entire communities, even ones that are steeped in bigotry.
- More people agree with Andy. Hardly anyone defends Dan or chastises Andy for being a busybody and a jellus hater.
- Dan's blog continues to seem very popular, but not so much with his fellow bloggers. He passes out on a mountain and has to go home in a helicopter. Afterwards, he issues a press release about the event, complete with photos, videos, and much 3rd person fawning over Dan Pearce, Single Dad Laughing. The fawning, of course, has been composed by Dan Pearce, Single Dad Laughing.
- DRAMAZ! Parent bloggers come out of the woodwork to express outrage, disbelief, disapproval, mild amusement, etc. that anyone would pull such a cheesy and self-important stunt.
- Many blog posts are written, and although Andy gets involved in the various conversations, he is proud to say that he resists posting anything about it on his blog.
It's a post about calling bullshit.
When I first called bullshit on Dan in public, I thought other bloggers would scold me or shun me. Calling someone a hack, an embellisher, and possibly a cheat from atop a soapbox is perfectly acceptable in gansta rap and politics, but it's generally frowned upon in polite society, where the preferred forum for that kind of talk is within small groups, in hushed tones.
And yet, I've been surprised to have received very little backlash for being involved in what some might call a public shaming. Maybe people are just being polite.
But I have seen comments popping up on various blogs and facebook exchanges lately that express uneasiness with the scorn being heaped on a character the parent blogging community seems to have agreed is a charlatan. Among these uneasy comments, there are a handful from Dan's readers, who don't like to see people being mean to their guy. But the more interesting ones are from his detractors. Although they agree that Dan is a hack, they think everyone should stop bashing on him.
There are three main arguments for leaving him alone, all of which are based on commonplace assumptions regarding social dynamics, and all of which I find problematic.
The first argument is that paying attention to the attention-seeker only adds fuel to the fire. Like a child who doesn't care if the teacher is yelling at him as long as he is the center of attention; the naughty "public figure" probably gobbles up any publicity, good or bad, like fistfuls of M&Ms. For him, controversy means eyeballs, and that's all he cares about.
My quibble with that argument is that any public figure who is trying to brand himself as a saint obviously doesn't want his character flaws or indiscretions revealed. The idea that "any publicity is good publicity" is only accurate in a few situations. Usually, bad publicity is bad publicity. If not, Anthony Wiener would be at the top of his game right now. And Dan wouldn't have tried to convince me, and others, to expunge their critical posts about him from their blogs.
Another argument against calling bullshit on a bullshitter is the "ignore him and he'll go away" theory. I've heard this expressed in regard to the recent hubbub, and again, I don't quite know why this expression persists after millennia of being proved wrong. Did Hitler just go away when other nations politely pretended they didn't know what he was up to? Did Stalin? Idi Amin? Nickelback? Has this approach ever made anyone go away?
The third argument for leaving Dan alone is that engaging with him is childish. If we don't like his blog, we should just not read it. We're acting like middle-school kids, according to the Huffington Post. Maybe. A little bit. But we're acting like middle-school kids who have our priorities straight. Aside from letting someone know he can't bullshit his way to success without any pushback; bullshit-callers feel like we're defending the credibility of our community, a resource we can hardly afford to squander, especially those of us whose blogs function as resumes.
Of course, this business of calling bullshit could quickly devolve into something like middle-school squabbles or beefs between rappers if it's done indiscriminately whenever there's a disagreement or a difference in taste. But deployed judiciously, calling bullshit can at least raise awareness of a problem, and possibly keep the problem from getting out of control.
I'm really tired of talking about The Dad Blogging Community and Single...I can't even finish. But. A lot of interesting issues about discourse have come up as a result of this train wreck. I would love to hear what your feelings are on calling bullshit on people in general. Is it acceptable? Only in certain situations? Or is it always better to confine our bashing to phone calls, backchannel emails and twitter DMs? Have you ever called someone out and had it backfire on you? Or been called out unfairly? Let's hear it.
Babble's follow-up to the rescue story and commentary on bloggers using press releases
Mom 101's piece on the problem of phony blogging
Rage Against the Minivan's hilarious fake press release about getting sick at Epcot
John Cave Osborne's perspective, as a hiker, on the mountaintop debacle. From Babble.com
Dan's defense of his marketing tactics on Babble
Dan's mea culpa on Babble
Daddy Types' scathing piece on Dan's business history and persistent flim-flammery
Cecily K's call to lay off on the scathing already. From Babble.
A discussion about lying from The Extraordinary Ordinary