Last night after I posted the thing about Sarah Palin and Nikki Haley, I did what I usually do, which is post the headline and link on Twitter. But as I also usually do, I said a little more in the headline than I do here, as a way of drawing readers in and letting them know more about what the post is about. So instead of just “Sarah Palin coming to SC to back Nikki Haley,” I Tweeted:
Sarah Palin coming to back Nikki Haley — as if we really needed to start IMPORTING crazy here in SC… http://bradwarthen.com/?p=5456
Then, an interesting thing happened. Frequently I see my Tweets retweeted by others, and sometimes by a couple of people. This time, five different people (they were PaigeCoop, blogitch, tylermjones, JaneFredArch and sccounsel) retweeted that little come-on.
This sort of viral response, quite naturally, causes the more reptilian parts of my brain to go, “How can I get this kind of response again?” Because that many reTweets means that many more people I would not ordinarily reach are attracted to the blog, which means I get to report even bigger numbers (last month, 132,000 page views) next time I try to sell an ad — not to mention, of course, gaining a richer and more diverse conversation here on the blog, of course, which is what we’re all about here, of course. Ahem.
So it is is that I was rewarded for saying “as if we really needed to start importing crazy here in SC.” Which means my natural response is to describe MORE posts in similar terms, so as to get this same reward.
But the thing is, I wasn’t totally happy with that wording. Basically, I wanted to say that we have enough problems here in SC without bringing in a person who is a flashpoint for all sorts of conflicting emotions out in the national political buzz machine. And we have enough of our own demons here in our beloved state. There’s also the problem that we have every bit of our share of the anti-intellectualism that runs through American politics, a strain of which Mrs. Palin has rightly or wrongly become the symbol. We’ve got enough of it not to need to import the latest, flashiest, most Reality TV-esque version of it. Anyway, I’m not at all sure that “crazy” captured all that, although all that and more was what I was seeking to suggest.
But it certainly grabbed people. I was instantly rewarded for it. Which is maybe not a good thing. I have a certain knack for lurid language, which I generally try to keep in check, but not always successfully. People could often tell when I wrote an editorial at the paper (which I didn’t do all that often in recent years) because of that knack. Here is a sample of it, according to people who point these things out to me.
I really don’t need encouraging on this score.
And it occurs to me that this is the dynamic that has produced the particularly nasty morass of political rhetoric in which people think they are being hip and relevant and pithy when they call people “wingnuts” or otherwise engage in insult and calumny in the course of expressing themselves politically.
All those other blogs out there that serve hyperpartisan causes, that draw and feed anger, that thrive on treating those with whom their readers disagree with contempt bordering on dehumanization… the blogs to which I have always wanted this one to be a civil alternative … probably started down the road that they’re on by getting rewarded for getting a little punchier and a little more extreme with each post. Stimulus and response.
So… how do I grow the blog and resist that trap? Perpetual vigilance, I suppose — on my part and yours.