I’ve been talking for about six months now with Ryan Holiday, author of “Trust Me, I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator“. I’m really excited about his book because everything I talked about concerning “The Page View Based Economy” got cut from “Social Media Is Bullshit”.
Thankfully, Ryan’s book does a great job of talking about that stuff, so between “Social Media Is Bullshit” and “Trust Me, I’m Lying” you’re pretty well covered in terms of how bad information spreads on the Internet, and how bad information is taken and repackaged by bad people to further their own financial interests.
That brings us to Peter Shankman.
Peter isn’t a bad person. I like him.
Neither is his service, Help A Reporter Out. A service that I actually endorsed in 2010 back when I was writing Soap Box Included (the previous title for “Social Media Is Bullshit”.)
In fact, since HARO debuted, I’ve been using it to get myself quoted in all sorts of national outlets. This includes Newsweek, where I was quoted in a story about a potential baby boom following the election of President Obama.
My wife and I have since divorced so … sorry Newsweek. I wasn’t able to deliver on that one. Trust me, I shouldn’t reproduced anyway, so it’s for the best.
One of the things Ryan exposes in his book are the flaws in the Help A Reporter Out service, which lead to a fun little dustup that occured between Peter and Ryan, wherein Peter allegedly threatend to punch Ryan in the face on Facebook (Peter told me this wasn’t the case, but did indicate bodily harm was on the table should they ever meet), and then Peter utilized a tactic I spend an entire chapter talking about in “Social Media Is Bullshit”, called “Attack & Distract”.
This is my biggest pet peeve of the Internet. Nobody can have an adult conversation about anything, especially when you’re being called out. The resulting exchange immediately boils down to “I’ll fucking kill you you motherfucker” and “That fucking fuck is a liar and I’ll fuck him and all his friends if they ever fucking show their face around this fuck … I mean, town. Town!”
Basically, Peter proceeds to call Ryan a liar, an idiot, that he called out HARO as part of a publicity stunt for his book, and my personal favorite, that Ryan worked for Tucker Max!
All Peter had to say was what he said in the last part of his blog post about Ryan’s HARO comments. That’s all he had to do.
Instead, if you read the whole post, Peter sounds like one of those kids who gets called to the principal’s office and then doesn’t take the blame for anything. “I don’t know how that kid wound up with a concussion. Maybe he slipped on the ice? Don’t blame me. Blame nature. Nature did it. I also think I heard nature say something anti-semitic too. Can I go now?”
(I’m not kidding either. In replying to Ryan Holiday in the comments section of the post, Peter said, “If the reporter was Googling sources, and you’d created a page for them to find and they used you and your lies, would you blame Google?”
Actually? Yeah. It’s a well known problem that Google is easily gamed. See: Mashable.com if you have any questions.)
Let’s give Peter some credit for pointing out that Ryan is a liar. The book is called “Trust me, I’m Lying”, so that’s fine. It’s a little cheap, but it’s fine because that’s what Ryan is using as part of the pitch for his book, so it’s fair game.
Calling him an idiot was childish, and saying “He worked for Tucker Max” was, by far, the dumbest thing I’ve heard or seen anyone do this Summer, and I’m including everything my little brother does, and he’s legitamtely retarded.
I know. I know. Tucker Max is an Internet boogeyman that people usually only talk about these days to generate pageviews …
But. Tucker Max also happens to be one of the few, legitamate Internet success stories that doesn’t involve any of the bullshit manipulation that I talked about in “Social Media Is Bullshit”.
Some of that has to do with the fact that he was featured on MTV. Some of it has to do with the fact that Maddox’s book came out the same time Tucker’s book came out, and the two had a mutually beneficial reward given to them by Amazon’s algoritihm after the two were paired up, but you have to remember that Tucker Max is a New York Times Best Selling Author too.
And not only is he a New York Times Best Selling Author, he was on the list for an extraordinary amount of time (2006 to 2011).
Go ahead and name another book that came from an Internet personality with that much staying power?
No. Seriously. It’s not like this post is going anywhere.
You can’t, can you?
You know why? Because Ryan was able to make sure Tucker Max got as much mileage as humanely possible out of his media moment. You can’t just dismiss that because you don’t like what Tucker Max says or does.
I don’t like anything on E! but that doesn’t mean those shows aren’t successful and profitable, you know?
So, does saying that Ryan worked for Tucker Max really the road you want to take? “Look at that guy! He managed publicity for someone who was really successful! He must not be good at his job!”
But that’s Attack & Distract in action. Nobody wants to say, “Hey. I fucked up / the thing I run has some flaws. Here’s how I’m going to fix it”.
Instead everyone gets the blame, nobody takes responsibility, and we sound like children.
Ryan was right in pointing out the flaws in HARO. They are very legitimate concerns about something that impacts a lot of people. If you see something that harms other people, except at a comedy club, you should say something.
Peter was right in doing a post to address those flaws. I understand Peter was mad (I literally got a call from him sixty seconds after this post went live), and I totally get him being mad.
My feelings get hurt when someone calls me a fag on Twitter, and that happens almost every night. You’d think I’d be used to it by now, having been on Twitter since 2007, but no. I haven’t. It sucks every time.
But. When you’re operating a business, and someone points out a legitimate concern about that business and the effect it’s having on the information people consume every day, it’s no longer about you. It’s about fixing the problem and serving your customers. That’s where this should have ended.
“You know what? You’re right. People really can abuse this thing and we’re going to fix it so that doesn’t happen.” That’s it. Done. The end.
Instead, we got Peter saying this to Ryan: “PS: You’re not in PR. You’re in the business of lying to try and sell things. Not only is that NOT PR, but that’s offensive to those who work their asses off every day in the PR industry”
Actually … being in the business of lying and selling things is exactly PR. You know how I know? Because the father of modern public relations, Edward Bernays, only changed what he called what he did from propoganda to PR because of the Nazis.
And what’s propaganda? You guessed it. It’s lying!
(Just go ahead and check out Bernays’s work with Lucky Strike some time if you’re not convinced.)
It’s also worth pointing out that this kind of feud benefits both parties. That’s why Attack & Distract is so stupid in the first place. You think you’re doing something by attacking the thing you don’t like, but you’re really only benefitting them by acknowledging them. That’s why, again, unless it’s something that causes harm to other people, you’re better off not acknowledging the stupidity of others.
Peter’s post gets Ryan’s book more publicity, and Ryan’s posts generates more interest in HARO. So even if it looks like there is a loser here, there really isn’t. Both these guys win.
I know nothing I say or do can’t stop Attack & Distract from happening, but I just want to point the behavior out to you because when it comes to my book, you’re going to see it a lot, and we might as well all prepare for it now.
Thanks to Peter, I was just lucky enough to get you an early example.
Unfortunately, I said way worse things about a lot of people so … maybe I need a group of “Tucker Max-like friends” (Peter’s words) because you might not like those guys, but they’ll watch your back.
That’s more than I can say about most people in the PR and marketing industry …