I’ve been getting a huge uptick in traffic lately. Good thing, right? I thought so, until my brother asked if I had ads on my blog. “You could make money off it”, was his rationalization.
But here’s my problem: I don’t want to do that.
Not that I couldn’t use the cash, of course. Who couldn’t use cash, in this world that eats so goddamned much of it? But here’s the thing: I don’t want to make money off this blog. I do not want this blog to get eaten.
Radical notion? Well, I am a radical, and I don’t see why I should apologize for that. In fact, I’m downright anti-capitalist, and the notion of taking capitalist ad-cash for my dissident musings makes me laugh at the crazy irony of it. It also makes me throw up in my mouth a little.
The idea that the Internet should be a tool of crapitalism in the first place is inimical to me. I’m here to represent the underrepresented side that takes issue with all that. If this is a “marketplace of ideas”, then my idea is that the “market” mentality should be the first thing to go. Ideas should stand or fall on their own merits, not their purported cash value. You want to talk about freedom? Fine–here’s another idea: Your mind is not truly free if your blog is for sale. Discuss!
And speaking of ideas, let’s talk about the psychological reasons for my choice, which underpin the political/ideological ones to a large extent.
We are already inundated with advertising; it’s everywhere we go. You can’t turn on a TV or a radio without being hit with it; you can’t open a newspaper or magazine, either. It pulls your eyes and ears away from what you really wanted to see and hear, in whatever medium it exists. Do we need it all over the Internets, too? Every last little crummy website, it seems, has advertising slapped all over it. It’s a terrible spoiler; it leads to a dumbing down of the blog, and its readers, both. You can’t take away many meaningful messages from the black-and-white text when colorful animated ads are dancing on the sidelines, demanding that you forget what you really came for, and just click through and buy something you really don’t need or want. Is this what’s called “freeing your mind”? Advertisers would love us to think so. To them, the news, like our musings, is just filler for in between the ads, and not vice versa.
I never click through, BTW. I do my damnedest to ignore the ads. On Facebook, I routinely X them out, especially the dating ads (blecch!). I even have ad-blocking software installed on my browser, and whenever some banner or sidebar ad crosses my annoyance threshold, I click the little “block” tab, and presto! One more ad-server thwarted in its purpose. But still, the distractions are there, and they irritate me. They make me feel that I’m being propositioned by a pimp, instead of receiving information or insights from another person.
Also, the whole idea that ideas, insights, information, etc., can be monetized–and often for just a pittance, really, barely enough to keep the stuff hosted on a half-decent server–makes the whole thing pathetic somehow. Do people sweat over the right words to draw lots of eyes to their blogs, just for that? And would anyone who does that cop to it openly?
I’m not here to sell anything on behalf of third parties. I’m here to get you to read me, to take my ideas seriously, to exchange ideas with me too. That’s all. The idea that I’d tailor or slant my writing so some faceless third party can sell you something you don’t want, or worse, promote something or somebody I don’t want to promote, just so that I could make a few crummy cents off your clickage, goes against my grain in every way. I take my readers seriously; how can I ask them to take me seriously when the word-detecting adware on the side is pimping the very things and corporations and people that I rail against here? In the end their eyes will be drawn to the ad-words, not MY words. What self-respecting blogger wants that?
And finally there are the esthetic reasons. Which may appear to be less important than the political and psychological ones, but are not to be dismissed either.
Ads clutter the landscape; they crowd it; they cloud it. They break up a continuous space, and they do so deliberately to call your attention to themselves. This runs counter to the purpose of what you’re doing, and it spoils the experience, too. Do you enjoy driving in the countryside very much if there are billboards all over the roadside, blocking your view of the trees? Because that’s what ads on blogs do. They detract from my enjoyment of what I’m reading. They make me feel like I, and the rest of the world, has come down with a massive case of adult ADD. In fact, we have–our attention spans have been artificially shortened by advertisers who only need 10, 15 or at most 30 seconds to hook you on their junk.
And they do so by cultivating in you a subtle dissatisfaction with your own existence. Life would be so cool (you are meant to think) if only I had this gadget, that gizmo, those shoes, that outfit (that I need to lose X number of pounds to fit into, on the Y diet and Z exercise plan, of course)! And the fact that you don’t have those things and don’t fit into those clothes comes home to you forcefully when you look at yourself again after looking away from the dancing, jingle-jangling, colorful ads. You come away feeling dirtied, diminished, faded, scattered to the winds, and most of all, desperately unhappy.
I don’t want my readers to come away joyless and scatterbrained, diminished or faded. I want them to come away from here feeling nourished, understood, supported, satisfied. (Or, in the case of right-wing nutjob trolls, schooled, stung and butt-hurt. That’s edification, too, albeit probably not the kind they’re looking for.)
Satisfaction is the one commodity our society is desperately short on, and ads are a big part of the reason why. They’re not the whole of the reason–uh, that would be capitalism–but they’re a key part nonetheless. Without artificial distractibility and manufactured discontent (as well as manufactured consent), consumerism can’t function–and by logical extension, neither can capitalism. If people are happy with their old cars that still work fine for all intents and purposes, those trying to sell them spiffy, pricey new ones are out of luck. And so are the bankers and loan sharks who make big bucks financing those sweet car deals. If you are happy with your current life, those trying to sell you the various bits and pieces of a trendy “lifestyle” won’t make their money off you. As long as that pound of flesh stays on you, the vultures starve. If the economy doesn’t grow and the rich don’t get richer off of you, runs the flawed reasoning, catastrophe looms and the whole trickle-down machine will grind to a halt!
Of course, if the machine is forcibly brought to a halt, or if we simply refuse to be cogs in it wherever we can, there is the still, small hope of dismantling it–or at least, shrinking it down to a manageable size. Or building something better, somewhere beyond its reach. That’s not catastrophe; that’s the very opposite of it. We desperately need new ideas for a new society; the existing one is threatening to lay waste our entire Earth. And we are running out of time against it.
I don’t know what the New Society will look like, but I know we will never see it if we don’t work on it diligently. Each of us must contribute, in good Marxian fashion, to the best of our abilities, and according to our needs. And for me, this blog seems like the logical place to start. If I see a cause (like the Seize BP campaign) that I consider worth cluttering up my sidebar for, or if I have something of my own (or my friends’!) to advertise here, I might well change my no-ad stance…a little. But no way in hell will you see me diminishing the quality of this place with anything I don’t believe in. Unless, of course, I’m starving and can’t keep my blog in server space anymore. In which case, I would prefer to set out a tip jar for everyone to chip in to, just to pay for my own funeral.
Let’s hope it never comes to that!