Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

September 28, 2006

The dubious distinction of high-traffic

Filed under: Uncategorized — louisproyect @ 6:59 pm

Lately I’ve been getting over a thousand hits a day because the ad for the Al Franken documentary links to my review. This ad is on all the high-profile liberal websites, plus the rightwinger Hugh Hewitt’s for some reason. Here’s today’s stats so far for the 10 top-ranking “linked from” list:

crooksandliars.com 145

dailykos.com 94

juancole.com 41

hughhewitt.townhall.com 36

democraticunderground.com 23

atrios.blogspot.com 23

crooksandliars.com/2006/09/25/olberma… 16

smirkingchimp.com 15

americablog.blogspot.com 12

crooksandliars.com/2006/09/27/olberma… 10

At first I was pleased with the increased traffic, but now I am getting a bit annoyed. I am much more interested in finding out if people are linking from Lenin’s Tomb or Stan Goff rather than from crooksandliars.com. It sort of reminds me of the difference in commitment between the liberal and radical movements. I am trying to reach people who have decided that the capitalist system is worthless while democraticunderground.com is trying to reach people who want to elect somebody like Ned Lamont. The chance that an atrios regular will ever visit my blog again is pretty remote.

This has some connection to a bit of a brouhaha between the atrocious Marc Cooper and Dennis Perrin. Cooper’s blog gets a huge amount of traffic for the same reason that Harry’s Place does. Rightwing or liberal provocateurs like these rivet one’s attention like a car wreck on the highway. But who needs it?

Here’s Perrin’s take on the situation:


Far from going tit-for-tat over a relatively minor point, I’d like to thank Marc Cooper for raising a blogging issue that doesn’t get enough attention, namely, how many readers does an “effective” blog make? See, Marc was miffed with a few of my comments from Friday, and told someone who posted my remarks at his site that it didn’t matter what I said about anything since the Son probably, at best, has 50 readers. A cheap dismissal based on nothing serious, but a dismissal I’ve seen dispensed regularly on the Web, meant to shame or embarrass anyone speaking out, since only those with robust readerships have anything important to say.

Marc’s not the first to suggest that I’m ranting in the mirror. I’ve received similar putdowns since I kickstarted this thing, and even before, when followers of James Lileks, upset with my take on their idol, deluged me with mail, bluntly informing me that I could never reach Lileks’s heights, that my critique was purest envy of my betters, I was a loser, etc. etc. Tying all this together was the predictable, “Who cares what you think!”, which of course, if taken seriously, would mean those people wouldn’t bother writing to or about me in the first place. I would be ignored, and there’s nothing a writer hates more, right?

I bring this up not in defense of my humble tappings or of those who like what I do, but simply to say that it doesn’t matter how many people read you. Any audience is a good audience. Indeed, expressing yourself to a small, interested group of people is far more worthwhile than shouting party-line clichés and platitudes to an anonymous mass. Sites like Daily Kos and Firedoglake have, on first glance, an impressive number of comments, suggesting that their correspondents are reaching The People. But when you actually read thru some of those threads, the majority are single-sentence Dem dittoheads who occasionally burst into flame should anyone show up to disagree with their host’s sentiments, or worse, diss the Holy Clintons. These sites, and others like them across the spectrum, serve as echo chambers for those who need daily ideological reinforcement and related comforts of the hive mind. And this makes those sites absolute bores to read, since each post’s conclusion is known before the opening sentence is finished. If that’s what it takes to attract more than 50 readers, then come forward and fill up the front rows, ’cause I ain’t gonna shout to the cheap seats.

Since bringing the Son to life, I’ve received many requests from smaller sites (yes, there are smaller sites than mine) and bloggers who are just getting started to exchange links, and this I’ve done on occasion. But for the most part I tell them to keep writing and try to build their own, personal audience. There’s no point in linking if you have yet to find your voice or blog angle. Like the early days of stand-up, new bloggers need a place to fail, to bomb, to experiment and crash without a lot of readers watching. If you go back and look at the first few months of the Son, you’ll see me trying to find the right balance and tone, while posting some pretty awful stuff in the process. I don’t know how many readers I had back then, probably less than 50, but that’s okay since there was little for them to chew on. It took me about a year to work most of the kinks out, and it’s only been in the past 6-8 months that I feel like I’ve found my groove. Now my posts are linked to sites large and small, and I’m comfortable with that since I’m comfortable, more or less, with what I produce.

Bottom line — write for yourself first, because if you can’t stand what you do, then there’s no point in pushing it on others (unless you’re a sadist, in which case I respect your lifestyle choice). Some of the best work is done in the margins, and don’t let those obsessed with numbers tell you otherwise. Kick open your door and rant, scream, stomp, cry, sing, persuade, criticize, analyze, throw rocks and blow kisses. Take full advantage of this opening while it lasts, and fuck those who say you’ve nothing to add.

For those curious, my weekly numbers, which double whenever I appear at Counterpunch or This Modern World (and nearly tripled during Israel’s assault on Lebanon), are roughly the same as Partisan Review’s monthly circulation circa 1938, when the likes of James Agee, Dwight MacDonald, Mary McCarthy, Paul Goodman and Clement Greenberg published there. That’s a readership I can definitely live with.

(PS, one visit to Perrin’s blog will be more rewarding than an entire year of gazing in on Cooper’s latrine.)


  1. A cheap dismissal based on nothing serious, but a dismissal I’ve seen dispensed regularly on the Web, meant to shame or embarrass anyone speaking out, since only those with robust readerships have anything important to say.

    Now that is funny. How many times have you put down an opposing view, Proyect, by referring to a low position in the book sales list maintained by Amazon?

    Comment by Montag — September 30, 2006 @ 8:06 pm

  2. How many times have I put down an opposing view by referring to low amazon.com sales? I don’t know. Maybe 4 or 5 times or so. Mostly it has been directed at the redbaiting academics on Cliopatria in the context of their attacks on Ward Churchill. I love rubbing their noses in the fact that his books are rated something like #1000 while theirs are usually something like #378923. I would have used some other insult like “You have an idiotic hairdo” but this seems to rankle them more. On number of hits, I pray to god that they would phase out that ad that links to my reiew. I could care less that 65 people from atrios came to my blog. I am far more interested in finding out that 2 people came from Historical Materialism. Frankly, I was content with the 300 or so hits per day I got from places like that since they were the kind of people I was trying to reach in the first place. Ps, Montag, the difference between me and you is that I have the guts to sign my own name and email address when I am being rude. The only time I don’t do this is when I am banned from blogs like Harry’s Place.

    Comment by louisproyect — September 30, 2006 @ 8:14 pm

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