February 13, 2004

Joe Trippi, Net Politics, and The Money

I don't want to turn my blog into "bash Joe Trippi" one-notes. But the more I read, the more I distrust what he's doing for net politics. Yes, there are some interesting technical innovations. But there's interesting technical innovations in creating weapons of mass destruction too. The advances here are in new forms of bubble-blowing.

Note in particular the following section of the Joe Trippi Etech talk (my emphasis):

There's a reason George Bush is vulnerable today and it's because of the blogs. It's because of Howard Dean. It's because tools were out there that let hundreds of thousands of Americans get involved and let a debate happen in this country again that wasn't happening.

Once more - RUN AWAY! Just run away. Anyone who can make that statement with a straight face, is either remorselessly manipulative, or so deluded as to be outright dangerous, in the sense of a cult-leader. It's like someone who says "I'm Jesus Christ returned to Earth, so follow me to save your soul, err, democracy.". We can have a debate over whether they're a heartless con-man who preys on the vulnerable, or are "merely" sincerely completely disconnected from reality. But either way, or any mixture, the end result is the same: It is a bad idea to follow them.

Let's consider the money. In some ways, the exaggeration of the amounts Joe Trippi supposedly made, has deflected attention from the deeper problem, the set-up of "heads I win, tails you lose". No, he did not collect $7 million dollars in campaign cash himself. The $7 million is the total ad buy, of which his firm gets a commission (said to be in fact 7%, not 15%), of which he gets a 1/3 split:


2. I recently inquired about the contract and my compensation. It turns out it was a 7% contract. Meaning that if $7 million in TV was bought 93% went to TV stations to buy the time and 7% or $490,000 was paid to the firm in which I was a partner. My firm has 3 partners so my third or share comes to approximately $165,000. I will let the grassroots and donors of the campaign decide if that was too much compensation. $165,000 is a lot of money, but it is not the $7 million the media and those leveling the attacks want you to believe either.

Indeed, $165,000 is not a king's ransom. But it's not bad either. Heck, for the work involved, I'll say it's not even undeserved! But now things get interesting (emphasis mine):

So why are they trying to make $165,000 sound like $7 million?

Because how do you stop a movement? How do you stop people from contributing to change their country? Its easy -- make them think the whole damn thing was a ponzi scheme to enrich a consultant.

3. My partner Steve McMahon had handled Governor Dean's media for over 12 years. And Trippi McMahon & Squier were hired as the media firm long before I volunteered to run the campaign when not many would. This is important -- because this fact means that as a 1/3 partner in my firm -- I would have made the $165,000 in 2003 if I had gone golfing in Fiji for the entire year instead of going sleepless in Burlington.

NO. That $165,000 is the final yield on the $41 million fundraising which he did, from the grassroots. He wouldn't have gotten it if someone hadn't raised it - it's his contribution as a member of the firm in the first place! He's not a partner just to look pretty. And the numbers are exactly the same thing, in terms of inflated figures, as when the media reports "XYZ was involved with $7 million of illegal drugs seized in a raid!". That $7 million is an inflated overall value. It certainly doesn't mean $7 million for any one drug-dealer. The overall sums have to be split with partners, middlemen, low-level dealers, and so on. And someone as familiar with bubbles as Joe Trippi certainly knows this media-hype convention.

What's far more important here, is how the the risks are arranged. No matter what happens, he comes out well. Look at it this way:

1) If he wins, in the best case, he comes out with tremendous power, as well as maybe *$800,000* for the ride (he wanted to raise $200 million, and $41 million = > $165,000, so I assume (200/41)*165 => ~ 800).

2) If he loses, in the worst case, he comes out with fame (or notoriety), has a shot at being a national pundit, can go on the lecture circuit, and gets a low six-figure consolation prize (which ended up at around $165,000).

Not a bad deal at all. And it's made possible by YOU, yes, you, citizen-blogger, taking back democracy from your computer, revolution 2.0 in America! Just send a check, err, a PayPal transfer to this address ...

It's not wrong for a salesman to get a commission. And yes, we have to deal with the money involved in the whole process. But that doesn't make this salesman right, nor this product a good one. In fact, the end results have been downright shoddy, and the number of people taken-in is only a measure of how much of a dream existed to be fleeced.

[Personal note: I've put in a lot of net-freedom work myself. I finally was driven-out because, far from a golden-parachute, I was spending hundred of dollars in expenses out of my own pocket while unemployed, and not a big-time pundit, but being attacked every single day. This does affect my perspective in the above!]

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in cyberblather , politics | on February 13, 2004 09:54 AM (Infothought permalink) | Followups
Seth Finkelstein's Infothought blog (Wikipedia, Google, censorware, and an inside view of net-politics) - Syndicate site (subscribe, RSS)

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"Once more - RUN AWAY!", hyperbole?

Repetitive expounding on power law dynamics is one thing, but polemics is another. What exactly in this statement is false:

"hundreds of thousands of Americans get involved and let a debate happen in this country again that wasn't happening"

Are you claiming that there are not hundreds of thousands of people reading talkingpointsmemo, dailykos, calpundit and such?

Are you claiming that there is not a significant number of readers who participate in comments/postings?

You've claimed before that blogs have been hyped as a platform for advocacy and lay journalism, and there is plenty of evidence for that, but are you now claiming that blogs have had no influence on our culture?

Sorry, but you seem out of touch. Many people do not read newspapers anymore, but do read McClellan disgracing himself with charges of "gutter politics" on blogs. Lots of people split their reading between newspapers and Slate (or whatever).

What happened to the cat idea? Getting back to something real, if you put up a tip jar, your readers would surely pony up to buy you a small kennel and digital camera!

Name your first darling _snarky_, just a thought.

Posted by: sean broderick at February 13, 2004 10:59 PM

Sean, look at it this way: Do you really think that his statement is meant as:

"There's a reason George Bush is vulnerable today and it's because of [a very small number of blog A-list press and quasi-press pundits who publish their material on the Internet]"

Do you see the problem there would be in this statement? The ludicrous absurdity of it?

I'm claiming it's pure political pandering, demagoguery at its worst.

What do you mean by "influence on our culture"? Sure, I think there's plenty of shifting around in our culture, in the sense of 'zines becoming net journals, more online diaries, chat-boards, etc. But I sure don't think that's any reason Bush is vulnerable, in the sense that the Wall Street Journal and Rush Limbaugh talk-radio made Clinton vulnerable. And again, let's distinguish between the few A-listers with some power, and the masses who get contribute to the debate by saying "Ditto!" (or echo).

As to the cat idea, seriously, I don't think I want the responsibility of taking care of one these days. I know some bookstores-with-cats think it more that pays for itself in terms of drawing customers. But honestly, here, how many readers can cat-pictures be worth? Though I do have in mind an "algorithmic" post about cats I should get around to writing.

"Name your first darling _snarky_, just a thought." - Like "Triumph the Insult Comic Dog"? ("Snarky, The Pundit Blog Cat") :-)

Hey, snarky as an attitude works for a lot of people. But, on "Getting back to something real" from a different angle, I think I'm not much of a success as a pundit. I should get back to Google-watching and similar, that's somewhat sustainable, and even profitable.

Posted by: Seth Finkelstein at February 14, 2004 02:23 PM

"Do you really think...": In stark terms, it seems like more hype, doesn't it?

But the fact remains that people have been turning to The Daily Show and Slate and Talking Points Memo for news because it's clear that traditional outlets have not been providing critical coverage of our government.

The Wall Street Journal is a joke, outside of business coverage, why would anyone waste time with it. Rush Limbaugh? His schtick should have a bozo, whirlie-whirl track with laugh punctuation--and yet, traitor Robert Novak has stolen his femi-nazi line.

I think blogs have been a populist reaction to right-wing talk radio (ever-so-close to _hate_ radio).

Again, it's lay journalism and punditry, and as a _collective_ force, counter-acts reactionary oppression of dissent, e.g. if you protest the Patriot Act, you're aiding terrorists.

As for cats, I really enjoy the pictures on Calpundit, but I am not sure if there is some magic involved or if Kevin Drum just has a knack for feline photography.

Bookstore cats, sounds like fun, not very Barnes & Noble though... The only bookshop pet I recall is The Grolier Poetry Book Shop's pooch.

Posted by: sean broderick at February 16, 2004 02:06 PM


Posted by: politics at February 19, 2004 03:13 AM