Free Stuff

Simple Justice is a blog.  Read it if you want. Or not.  It’s here for the reading, should you so desire.  And best of all, it’s free.  If you enjoy it, or find it helpful or interesting, that’s great.  If you don’t, at least it didn’t cost you anything.

Other sources of news and commentary charge for the pleasure of reading.  That’s necessary, as they provide a different service.  Whether news gathering or reliable source of data and information, they need to pay people to do it and charge people to read it so they have money to pay the people who do it.  It’s a perfectly reasonable model.  But the models two are distinct. 

I frequently receive requests to do essays and Op-Eds for publications that charge their readers, and I appreciate receiving those requests.  Most of the time, I’m happy to write the pieces they seek.  But if they charge their readers, then I expect to be paid for my writing.  Most papers pay Op-Ed writers.  Some negligible amounts, and others fairly well, but they have no expectation that they can ask someone to create without compensation the content that they put in their periodicals and sell.

A few, however, do.  They send very sweet emails or letters or call on the phone, and very nicely ask that for the creation of a piece that they would “really, really” like to publish.  They flatter.  They explain that thousand of people will read it and be so very impressed with my thoughts.  They tell me how wonderful it will be for me to receive such recognition, and how very important I will be for having a say in their prestigious publication. 

In response, I ask two questions:  Do you charge for your publication.  If so, what are you offering to pay me for the piece.

Silence.  Well, we don’t pay lawyers for Op-Eds, they explain.  It’s never clear to me if it’s just lawyers, or they don’t pay anybody, but the implication is clear.  They want to make money selling papers, and they believe that lawyers will always be available to provide them with free content, with which they can fill their pages.

Sorry, I reply.  I write Simple Justice for free.  You have to pay. 

People come here all the time and make demands or requests of me.  PR flaks want to hype their latest client.  Anonymous commenters demand that I prove something to them.  Newbie bloggers want a spot on my blogroll, or worse still, a chance to “guest blog” about themselves.  Businesses selling toilet paper want me to put a badge to their website on the sidebar.  Everybody wants something.

Every morning, I crawl out of bed, make coffee and read the news.  If something strikes me, I write about it.  If there’s something on my mind that I feel is worth putting on a computer screen, I write about it.  If there’s a conversation going on around the blawgosphere that interests me, I join in.  But that’s as far as it goes.

Not every post is going to show a glimmer of brilliance.  Some may be fairly awful.  It happens.  Since I’m not here to please anybody, I can live with it.  If someone reads a post and feels that they’ve wasted their time, they don’t get a refund.  Someone once posted a comment to the effect of “that’s five minutes of my life I’ll never get back.”  Screw you.  I banned the jerk.  He violated my “no assholes” rule.

At the moment, there are some desperate people in the blawgosphere.  They are hyping themselves and their “product” unmercifully.  Shamelessly.  It’s glaringly obvious.  It’s painfully sad.  Their friends in the blawgosphere are pushing the hype, like the rule of thumb for an old-time con game: One lies and the other swears to it.  There are many in the blawgosphere who are too young to know how old-time con games operate.  They believe because they don’t know better.  They too are obvious, but they deny it because they don’t realize how they are being taken in by the scam.  Or perhaps they are willing participants because they want to be loved in the blawgosphere.  Collecting support has become the measure of success, even if it has no meaning.

Keeping score in the blawgosphere is very important for some.  Whether it’s winning an award, or being on someone’s “best of” list, or one of the hundred rankings available.  Recognition fills some human need to know that there’s someone out there who cares.  Most of the blawgosphere is totally hung up on recognition, to the exclusion of substance.  It’s just not enough to write a blog for the sake of writing a blog. 

For many, it’s the self-promotion.  Some bloggers tell tall tales about their prowess, their importance, to scam potential clients into believing their great lawyers and great humanitarians.  Some are bald-faced liars.  I don’t like liars.  Yet other bloggers will believe anything written, and I’ve actually had people who will seize upon a lie and argue that it is absolutely true because someone said so.  As I said, there are many young, naive people in the blawgosphere who want so much to be loved that they will accept anything.

My reach extends only as far as this blog.  I write the truth as I believe it to be.  Others will disagree with me, and I’m okay with that.  At my age, I realize that reasonable people differ and my “manhood” isn’t on the line every time someone challenges me.  Believing is seeing, and I may well see things differently than others.  Value judgments color our understanding, and I don’t begrudge others their values, but won’t let others interfere with mine.  That said, I still have little tolerance for jerks, and there are many.

So Simple Justice is what I do in the mornings while drinking my cup(s) of coffee.  It’s received a good measure of recognition, and I appreciate that, even though I think that it’s fairly silly.  I would probably receive far more recognition if I sucked up to others, kissing butt and “supporting” friends even when I disagree or think something is vapid.  I think much of the blawgosphere is banal and insipid.  I think many blogs demonstrate the lack of intellectual depth of their authors.  Some are facially dishonest.  Sometimes I say so.  This is not what Dale Carnegie would do.

I’m tiring of the exertions in some parts of the blawgosphere.  I’m growing increasingly uncomfortable with my surroundings, the hyping and lying and intellectual wasteland that the blawgosphere has become.  I’m disturbed that lawyers are too willing to use the blawgosphere as a street corner, where they stand in hot pants hoping to attract the next comer. 

I have no doubt that those lawyers who see the blawgosphere as the lure for their next meal ticket would be happy to write Op-Eds for publications that charge their readers for the pleasure.  But then, the publications don’t ask you to write for them, do they?  That’s the irony.  Think about it.  I hope you don’t sprain anything.

Simple Justice is free.  If you like it and read it, great.  If it’s not your cup of tea. that’s fine too.  But this is all I’m offering for free, folks, and if it’s not good enough for you, then there’s a big blawgosphere out there, filled with lawyers who will show you far more love than you will find here.  Go for it.

Epilogue:  It’s early on a Saturday morning as I write.  The place if quiet.  I tend to think indulgent thoughts on weekend mornings, and often end up putting them in writing.  Some will see themselves in this post, while those who should probably won’t.  There is a substantial group of bloggers who take issue with what an even larger group of bloggers do and say.  They tend to dislike my indulgent posts because they feel guilty about using
the blawgosphere for hype and lies.  Not badly enough to stop doing so. 

My indulgent posts remind them that some of us know what they are doing, even if they can pull their scam off on others.  No one likes the fact that others know about the scam.  They want to pretend that they have concealed it well, that they’ve gotten away with it.  They haven’t, and I write these posts to make sure they know.

If all of this sounds like gibberish to you, then you aren’t sufficiently engaged in the blawgosphere to appreciate why this post is written.  I would tell you to go read something less involved with the internal workings of the blawgosphere, but you’ve made it this far and it’s too late.  Have a great weekend.

20 thoughts on “Free Stuff

  1. David Giacalone

    Of liars and outliers: Maybe you can write interesting content early on a Saturday morning, but I’m stuck recalling things I said years ago. Your post today reminds me of one that I wrote on Feb. 2, 2004, responding to Ernie Svenson’s post about Howard Bashman starting his own firm. It said:

    Howard and Ernie have had exceptional success with their weblogs, which are perfect examples of what it takes to create a really good weblog – a combination of special skill and valuable information, presented with a personal voice. But, they are both statistical outliers, and their success tells us very little about the ability of weblogs in general to create reputation, generate clients or facilitate starting your own firm.

    I also quote from a Comment by Carolyn Elefant, which starts “I don’t believe that blogs serve as a marketing tool anymore than printing business cards.”

    You’re right: some folks don’t have memories that go back far enough (and want to believe the hype) and others don’t care about the facts, ’cause they is sellin’ somethin’.

  2. CharonQC

    It needed to be said. Good stuff…. I’m with you… I blog and do podcasts for fun and intellectual pleasure, amusement etc.

    I am always appreciative when lawyers and others (as you did) give up a bit of their time to share their knowledge / experience in a podcast. This is why I always try to provide something in the podcasts for students who are at the beginning of their law career!

    Also, it has to be said it gets very tiring interviewing myself in podcasts. I only do that in my Charon After Dark series when I am ‘half in the bag’ as J Dan Hull would have it!

    [Edit:  Please note that “half in the bag” is British legal slang for deeply involved in serious legal research, and does not carry any of the implications of drunkeness as would the American version of the same phrase.]

  3. CharonQC

    I am grateful for this *clarification*. It would be most unfortunate, indeed, if your readers thought I was DUI / DWI while in charge of a blog.

    Mille Gracie

  4. SHG

    What is amazing, yet not surprising, is how little has really changed since February 2, 2004.  Your post is every bit as relevant today, though Ernie, Bashman and Carolyn are the well-known, well-regarded Old Guard of the Blawgosphere today.  The faces change but the issues remain the same.  Apparently, we need people like you to be the institutional memory of the blawgosphere and remind all us newbies that we’ve invented nothing, and simply walk the same path that you cleared for us years before.

  5. Geeklawyer

    No-one but no-one imagines I blog for anything other than fun and self-entertainment, least of all self-promotion. For we two that gives our respective audiences what they want; integrity.

    Despite that, I don’t entirely recognize what you have seen in the blawgosphere, though I imagine I do not read US blawgs as widely. A well written, albeit cynically motivated, blog on a topic will draw punters because only experienced blawgers will know bullshit when it is offered.
    Carolyn Elefant, as quoted by David Giacalone in the above comment, is 100% wrong. I don’t believe you are quite saying that though, are you?

    While I like it that people like my blog equally I don’t give a flying fuck if they don’t: it’s my thing.

    re asshole: ‘”that’s five minutes of my life I’ll never get back.” – Sir, I’ve seen your life; that’ll be $500 for the valuable service of sparing you those 5 minutes.’

  6. John Kindley

    I, for one (and there are obviously many others), greatly appreciate what you offer for free here on Simple Justice. I am less aware than you of the crappy side of the blawgosphere out there, because I never visit it. I guess I’m kind of surprised that it seems to oppress you, because I have to assume that you don’t visit it either. There seems to be so many good ones out there, that even if the crappy ones outnumber the substantial ones 10 to 1 (too optimistic?) it doesn’t nullify the quality blawgosphere that exists.

    BTW, I’ve been a regular commenter on Althouse for a number of years. Recently she asked commenters for suggestions for blogs we read regularly that are “bright” and “snappy” and that she might want to check out. I commented that Simple Justice seemed to be a glaring omission from her blogroll, and sure enough the next day she added it (along with my other recommendation — whoisioz.blogspot.com). I’m sure that one thing I said though especially caught her interest — I said, in words pretty close to a direct quote of myself, “a word of caution though — the proprietor, Scott Greenfield, can be a real dick.” In fact, I think this is one thing that makes you such a good read, because although in my opinion you’re sometimes a dick and sometimes wrong, more often than not you’re right, and are passionate and intelligent about what you say.

  7. SHG

    Oh my God.  You have made an absolutely serious comment.  Has the mead run dry?

    Seriously, I agree, and it’s one of the reason I “wish” I was you.  I suspect that some of my broader reading interests, the ones that have led me to my anti-marketing position, are blawgs that you would avoid like the plague.  Some days I ask myself why I subject myself to reading this tripe, but I know that I can’t stand avoiding information that impacts me.  Like it or not, this is part of the atmosphere (at least in the US blawgosphere) and ignoring it won’t make it go away.

    I think Carolyn’s quote may seem quaint and naive today, but in 2004 the blawgosphere was still nascient, and I doubt anyone would have anticipated that it would meld into a forum for lawyers to play their infomercials.  Back then, it was too unseemly to think possible, but lawyers always manage to find a way to rationalize conduct that benefits them and circumvent propriety.  It’s possibly the most pervasive of all lawyer skills.

    I can’t help who decides to stop by here.  I have an image in my head of who I would like it to be, but it’s outside my control.  Chasing the miscreants away have made me “cranky”, “prickly”, “Mr. Wilson”, “mean” and to some, an asshole.  I’ve called that more than a few times.  So be it.

  8. Windypundit

    I, on the other hand, sometimes feel a moral obligation to warn my readers they’re about to lose five minutes of their life they’ll never get back.

  9. SHG

    And besides, Carolyn is far too kind to state things the way either of us would (though I, of course, do so under my true name, ahem).

  10. SHG

    Having read your blog, your warning is indeed a mitzvah. 

    Sorry, it was just too easy and I couldn’t control myself.  I love WindyPundit (except for the photography posts).

  11. David Giacalone

    You are either being far too nice or far too sarcastic, SG. You never saw a path you didn’t either broaden or stray away from, adding your own unique perspective.

    As you know, some of the faces are the same in the blawg-marketing biz as they were 5 years. What seems important now is that, despite the years of experience, there seems to be so much more hype and so many more blawgs — but, a much smaller percentage of them actually add value. Too many just seem to exist to take up space in search engine results. They add very little to the dialogue among lawyers and surely are not educating consumers.

  12. SHG

    Not sarcastic at all, though I’ve never knowingly been too kind before.  I’ll keep an eye on that so it doesn’t happen again.

    I think it’s different now, though.  Blawgs that before were merely mildly deceptive and self-promotional have taken a quantum leap toward the worse, likely because of too much competition in the mildly deceptive category.  And some of these are well-known denizens of the blawgosphere, while others desperately want to be well-known and will do anything to raise their profile. 

  13. Packratt

    You know, I went to a “blawger meetup” that I was invited to recently and the subject of monetizing my blog came up for some insane reason.

    I replied that I felt it would hurt my effort to convince people that police misconduct happens, that people are mistreated in jails and shouldn’t be, and that it’s an issue everyone should care about since anyone could find themselves in that position, innocent or not.

    I felt embarrassed about it, came off like a foolish idealist I think… not that this wouldn’t be an appropriate description of me, but it is intimidating when a bunch of lawyers tsk-tsk you for it.

    We all put words to paper, or pixels, to sell something. Whether it’s oneself, one’s thoughts, or one’s beliefs… and we all ask something in return, whether it’s money, respect, or the chance to convince others to change their own ideas.

    I guess it’s a matter of what one values, some value money or respect more than their own ideas or selves, and others value ideas more than money… but we’re all trying to sell something just the same.

    But, it’s also true that to survive we all have to make money, so I didn’t judge any of them too harshly, even though I felt judged myself.

  14. Shawn McManus

    I like and appreciate your site and usually read most of your posts. I hardly ever agree with anything you have to write – I’m not a lawyer and I am a pretty staunch Texas Conservative – but still appreciate it.

    I wouldn’t pay for it though.

    Thanks for writing and not for charging.

  15. SHG

    Believe it or not Shawn, I appreciate that you’re straight up enough to say that. If I were in your shoes, I would probably say the same thing.  Thanks for reading, and it’s my pleasure to not charge you.

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