Book Reviews

Trust Me, I’m Lying by Ryan Holiday -Book Notes, Summary, and Review

37. Trust Me, I'm Lying - Ryan Holiday

Get it on Amazon

Rating: 7/10

Date of reading: 6th – 10th of November, 2018

Description: What happens when you start feeding the media monster and it becomes so big that, at a certain moment, it turns against you? The book talks about the ease with which the media report on something just to be first to report about it, with the truth being irrelevant in that whatsoever. And when this monster becomes enormous, innocent and not so innocent people get hurt. 


My notes:




“But that’s a polite veneer to hide the harsh truth. I am, to put it bluntly, a media manipulator—I’m paid to deceive. My job is to lie to the media so they can lie to you. I cheat, bribe, and connive for bestselling authors and billion-dollar brands and abuse my understanding of the Internet to do it.” ( :9)

“It’s why I found myself at 2:00 one morning, at a deserted intersection in Los Angeles, dressed A.M. in all black. In my hand I had tape and some obscene stickers made at Kinko’s earlier in the afternoon. What was I doing here? I was there to deface billboards, specifically billboards I had designed and paid for. Not that I’d expected to do anything like this, but there I was, doing it. My girlfriend, coaxed into being my accomplice, was behind the wheel of the getaway car.” ( :9)

“One blog wrote back: You’re not messing with me, are you? No, I said. Trust me, I’m not lying.” ( :9)

“that my photos received were just a small part of the deliberately provocative campaign I did for the movie I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell.” ( :9)

“In under two weeks, and with no budget, thousands of college students protested the movie on their campuses nationwide, angry citizens vandalized our billboards in multiple neighborhoods, ran a front-page story about the backlash, Page Six of the New York Post made their first of many mentions of Tucker, and the Chicago Transit Authority banned and stripped the movie’s advertisements from their buses. To cap it all off, two different editorials railing against the film ran” ( :9)

“in the Washington Post and Chicago Tribune the week it was released. The outrage about Tucker was great enough that a few years later, it was written into the popular television show Portlandia on IFC. I guess it is safe to admit now that the entire firestorm was, essentially, fake.” ( :10)

“I just Photoshopped ads onto screenshots of websites and got coverage for controversial ads that never actually ran. The loop became final when, for the first time in history, I put out a press release to answer my own manufactured criticism: the headline read. TUCKER MAX RESPONDS TO CTA DECISION: “BLOW ME,” Hello, shitstorm of press. Hello, number one on the New York Times bestseller list.” ( :10)

“Wikipedia page to producing an expensive viral video. However the play starts, the end is the same: The economics of the Internet are exploited to change public perception—and sell product.” ( :10)

“The story of the monster is a lot like my story. Except my story is not about drugs or the yellow press but of a bigger and much more modern monster—my monster is the brave new world of new media—one that I often fed and thought I controlled.” ( :11)

“In 2008, a Gawker blogger published e-mails stolen from my inbox by someone else trying to intimidate a client through the media. It was a humiliating and awful experience. But with some” ( :11)

“distance I now understand that Gawker had little choice about the role they played in the matter. I know that I was as much a part of the problem as they were.” ( :12)

“To borrow from Budd Schulberg’s description of a media manipulator in his classic novel The Harder They Fall, I was “indulging myself in the illusions that we can deal in filth without becoming the thing we touch.” I no longer have those illusions.” ( :12)

“his age that “each one hopes that if he feeds the crocodile enough, the crocodile will eat him last.”” ( :12)




“charity he runs. This friend needed to raise money to cover the costs of a community art project, and chose to do it through Kickstarter, the crowdsourced fund-raising platform. With just a few days’ work, he turned an obscure cause into a popular Internet meme and raised nearly ten thousand dollars to expand the charity internationally. Following my instructions, he made a YouTube video for the Kickstarter page showing off his charity’s work. Not a video of the charity’s best work, or even its most important work, but the work that exaggerated certain elements aimed at helping the video spread. (In this case, two or three examples in exotic locations that actually had the least amount of community benefit.) Next, he wrote a short article for a small local blog in Brooklyn and embedded the video. This site was chosen because its stories were often used or picked up by the New York section of the Huffington Post. As expected, the Huffington Post did bite, and ultimately featured the story as local news in both New York City and Los Angeles. Following my advice, he sent an e-mail from a fake address with these links to a reporter at CBS in Los Angeles, who then did a television piece on it—using mostly clips from my friend’s heavily edited video. In anticipation of all of this he’d been active on a channel of the social news site Reddit (where users vote on stories and topics they like) during the weeks leading up to his campaign launch in order to build up some connections on the site. When the CBS News piece came out and the video was up, he was ready to post it all on Reddit. It made the front page almost immediately. This score on Reddit (now bolstered by other press as well) put the story on the radar of what I call the major “cool stuff” blogs—sites like BoingBoing, Laughing Squid, FFFFOUND!, and others—since they get post ideas from Reddit. From this final burst of coverage, money began pouring in, as did volunteers, recognition, and new ideas. With no advertising budget, no publicist, and no experience, his little video did nearly a half million views, and funded his project for the next two years. It went from nothing to something” ( :20)

evo kako se radi kampanja! (note on p.20)


“Legacy media outlets are critical turning points in building up momentum. The reality is that the bloggers at or the Chicago Tribune do not operate on the same editorial guidelines as their print counterparts. However, their final output can be made to look like they carry the same weight. If you get a blog on to mention your startup, you can smack “‘A revolutionary device’—Wired” on the box of your product just as surely as you could if Wired had put your CEO on the cover of the magazine.” ( :22)

“It’s a simple illusion: Create the perception that the meme already exists and all the reporter (or the music supervisor or celebrity stylist) is doing is popularizing it. They rarely bother to look past the first impressions.” ( :23)

“The key to getting from the second to the third level is the soft sell. I couldn’t very well e-mail a columnist at the Washington Post and say, “Hey, will you denounce our movie so we can benefit from the negative PR?” So I targeted the sites that those kinds of columnists were likely to read. Gawker and Mediabistro are very media-centric, so we tailored stories to them to queue ourselves up for outrage from their audiences—which happen to include reporters at places like the Washington Post.* And when I want to be direct, I would register a handful of fake e-mail addresses on Gmail or Yahoo and send e-mails with a collection of all the links gathered so far and say, “How have you not done a story about this yet?” Reporters rarely get substantial tips or alerts from their readers, so to get two or even three legitimate tips about an issue is a strong signal.” ( :24)

“If only people had known they were promoting the offensive Tucker Max brand for us, just as we’d planned.” ( :24)

“Once you get a story like this started it takes on a life of its own. That’s what happened after I vandalized Tucker’s billboards. Exactly one week later, inspired by my example, sixteen feminists gathered in New York City late at night to vandalize I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell posters all over Manhattan.6 Their campaign got even more coverage than my stunt, including a 650-word, three- picture story on a Village Voice blog with dozens of comments (I posted some comments under fake names to get people riled up, but looking at them now I can’t tell which ones are fake and which are real). From the fake came real action.” ( :24)

“I was wrong. Perhaps you remember Terry Jones, the idiotic pastor whose burning of the Koran in March 2011 led to riots that killed nearly thirty people in Afghanistan. Jones’s bigotry happened to trade up the chain perfectly, and the media unwittingly allowed it.” ( :25)

“This circus was what finally pushed Jones over the edge. In March 2011, he went through with the burning, despite the threatened media blackout. He called their bluff and it worked. The blackout fell apart when a college student named Andrew Ford, freelancing for the wire service Agence France-Presse, took advantage of a story too dirty and dangerous for many journalists to touch in good conscience.* Agence France-Presse, Ford’s publisher, is syndicated on Google and Yahoo! News. They immediately republished his article. The story began to go up the chain, getting bigger and bigger. Roughly thirty larger blogs and online news services had picked up Ford’s piece or linked to it in the first day. It made the story too big for the rest of the media—including the foreign press—to continue to resist. So the news of Jones’s Koran burning, a calculated stunt to extract attention from a system that could not prevent itself from being exploited, became known to the world. And it was a deadly monster of a story.” ( :26)

“”It took just one college student to defeat a media blackout and move a story halfway around the globe within twenty-four hours,” the Poynter Institute wrote in an analysis of the reporting. This was, as Forbes journalist Jeff Bercovici put it, truly an example of “when Journalism 2.0 kills.” ( :26)

“This is a critical difference. Media was once about protecting a name; on the web it is about building one.” ( :32)

“The payment structure of blogging reflects this emphasis on speed over other variables, such as quality, accuracy, or how informative the content might be. Early on blogs tended to pay their writers a rate per post or a flat rate with a minimum number of posts required per day. Engadget, Slashfood, Autoblog, and other sites run by Weblogs, Inc. paid bloggers a reported five hundred dollars a month in 2005 for 125 posts—or four dollars a post, four per day.2 Gawker paid writers twelve dollars a post as late as 2008. And of course these rates don’t include the other duties bloggers are stuck with, such editing, responding to e-mails, and writing comments. Professional blogging is done in the boiler room, and it is brutal.” ( :37)

“I remember working with the very popular multiplatinum rock band Linkin Park and realizing their account, which had done over one hundred million views, would earn them barely six figures—to be split among six guys, a manager, a lawyer, and a record label. These kinds of rates force channels big and small to churn out videos constantly to make money. Every view is only a penny in their pocket.” ( :38)

“Google, Facebook, or Twitter when there is the potential for a lucrative job down the road? They’d prefer to play it safe and build their name through any means but being a reliable journalist. For my part, I’ve lost track of the bloggers whose names I have helped make by giving them big stories (favorable and to my liking) and watched transition into bigger gigs at magazines, newspapers, and editorships at major blogs. In fact, the other day I was driving in Los Angeles and noticed a billboard on La Cienega Boulevard with nothing but a large face on it: the face of a video blogger who I’d started giving free clothes to back when his videos did a few thousand views apiece. Now his videos do millions of views, and he has a show on HBO. If you invest early in a blogger, you can buy your influence very cheaply.” ( :39)

“So for a second I was pleasantly surprised to read pretty much that exact sentiment in a post by Gawker writer Hamilton Nolan titled “New Rules for Media Ethics.” He said it plainly: “Media people—reporter, commentator, or otherwise—shouldn’t have a financial stake in what they’re reporting on.” But then I realized how hypocritical it all was, since Nolan is being paid by how many views his posts do. His financial interest isn’t in what he writes about but in how he writes.” ( :40)

“Or in the immortal words of Henry Kissinger: The reason the knives are so sharp online is because the pie is so small.” ( :40)

“Knowing now that an anonymous tip to Gawker has the power to end the career of a United States congressman took a little of the fun out of it for me. Scratch that—now my personal knowledge of Gawker’s sourcing standards scares me shitless.” ( :44)


“Fight Club: In the world I see, you’re stalking elk through the damp canyon forests around the ruins of Rockefeller Center….You’ll climb the wrist-thick kudzu vines that wrap the Sears Tower. And when you look down, you’ll see tiny figures pounding corn, laying strips of venison on the empty car pool lane of some abandoned superhighway.” ( :51)

“In an article in the New Republic called “The Case Against Economic Disaster Porn,” Noreen Malone points out that one thing stands out about the incredibly viral photographs of Detroit: Not a single one of the popular photos of the ruins of Detroit has a person in it. That was the difference between the Huffington Post slideshows and the Magnum photos—Magnum dared to include human beings in their photos of Detroit. The photos that spread, on the other hand, are deliberately devoid of any sign of life.” ( :52)

“The economics of the web make it impossible to portray the complex situation in Detroit accurately. It turns out that photos of Detroit that spread do so precisely because they are dead. Simple narratives like the haunting ruins of a city spread and live, while complicated ones like a city filled with real people who desperately need help don’t. One city. Two possible portrayals. One is a bummer, one looks cool. Only one makes it into the Huffington Post slideshow. Only one is worth trying to sell the bloggers.” ( :52)

“According to the story, “the most powerful predictor of virality is how much anger an article evokes” [emphasis mine]. I will say it again: The most powerful predictor of what spreads online is anger.” ( :53)

“Regardless of the topic, the more an article makes someone feel good or bad, the more likely it is to make the Most E-mailed list. No marketer is ever going to push something with the stink of reasonableness, complexity, or mixed emotions. Yet information is rarely clearly good or bad. It tends to have elements of both, or none of either. It just is.” ( :53)

“Things must be negative but not too negative. Hopelessness, despair—these drive us to do nothing. Pity, empathy—those drive us to do something, like get up from our computers to act. But anger, fear, excitement, or laughter—these drive us to spread.” ( :53)

“I once ran a series of completely nude (not safe for work, or NSFW) advertisements featuring the porn star Sasha Grey on two blogs. They were very small websites, and the total cost of the ads was only twelve hundred dollars. A naked woman with visible pubic hair + a major U.S. retailer + blogs = a massive online story.” ( :54)

“Some blogs wrote about it in anger, some wrote about it in disgust, and others loved it and wanted more. The important part was that they wrote about it at all. It ended up being seen millions of times, and almost none of those views was on the original sites where we paid for the ads to run.” ( :54)

“As Chris Hedges, the philosopher and journalist, wrote, “In an age of images and entertainment, in an age of instant emotional gratification, we neither seek nor want honesty or reality. Reality is complicated. Reality is boring. We are incapable or unwilling to handle its confusion.”” ( :55)

“What thrives online is not the writing that reflects anything close to the reality in which you and I live.” ( :56)

“What thrives online is not the writing that reflects anything close to the reality in which you and I live. Nor does it allow for the kind of change that will create the world we wish to live in. It does, however, make it possible for me to do what I do. And people like me will keep doing it as long as that is true.” ( :56)

“Brian Moylan, a Gawker writer, once bragged, the key is to “get the whole story into the headline but leave out just enough that people will want to click.”” ( :59)

“When examining a claim, even a dubious claim, don’t dismiss with a skeptical headline before getting to your main argument. Because nobody will get to your main argument. You might as well not bother…. You set up a mystery—and explain it after the link. Some analysis shows a good question brings twice the response of an emphatic exclamation point.” ( :59)

“After the reader clicks, they soon discover that the answer to the “question” in their headline is obviously, “No, of course not.” But since it was posed as a question, the blogger wasn’t wrong—they were only asking. “Did Glenn Beck Rape and Murder a Young Girl in 1990?” Sure, I don’t know, whatever gets clicks.” ( :59)

“This arrangement is great for the traffic-hungry bloggers, for me, and for my attention-seeking clients. Readers might be better served by posts that inform them about things that really matter. But, as you saw in the last chapter, stories with useful information are less likely to be shared virally than other types of content.” ( :59)

“Benjamin Day launched the New York Sun in 1833. It was not so much his paper that changed everything but his way of selling it: on the street, one copy at a time. He hired the unemployed to hawk his papers and immediately solved a major problem that had” ( :64)

“plagued the party presses: unpaid subscriptions. Day’s “cash and carry” method offered no credit. You bought and walked. The Sun, with this simple innovation in distribution, invented the news and the newspaper. A thousand imitators followed.” ( :65)

“A friend put it more bluntly: “Each generation of media has a different cock in its mouth.”” ( :67)

“I got all sorts of great inspiration (and ideas) for the job by reading old books like The Harder They Fall and All the King’s Men, which are about press agents and media fixers for powerful politicians and criminals of many years ago.” ( :68)

“That’s where I come in. I make up the news; blogs make up the headline. Although it seems easy, headline writing is an incredibly difficult task. The editor has to reduce an entire story down to just a few units of text—turning a few hundredor thousand-word piece into just a few words, period. In the process it must express the article’s central ideas in an exciting way.” ( :72)

“Nake d Lady Gaga Talks Drugs and Celibacy Hugh Hefner: I Am Not a Sex Slave Rapist in a Palace of Poop The Top Nine Videos of Babies Farting and/or Laughing with Kittens” ( :72)

“How Justin Bieber Caught a Contagious Syphilis Rumor WATCH: Heartbroken Diddy Offers to Expose Himself to Chelsea Handler Little Girl Slaps Mom with Piece of Pizza, Saves Life Penguin Shits on Senate Floor” ( :73)


“1898 to 1903:” ( :73)

“magician Ricky Jay once put it, “People respond to and are deceived by the same things they were a hundred years ago.”” ( :73)

“Outside of the subscription model, headlines are not intended to represent the contents of articles but to sell them—to win the fight for attention against an infinite number of other blogs or papers.” ( :74)

“specifically asks himself before writing a headline, “How can we make our item stick out from all the other ones?” And from this bold approach to editorial ethics comes proud headlines such as: “Hillary Clinton Shot a Duck Once” and “McCain Comes Out Against Deadly Nuclear Weapons, Obama Does Too.” I’m not cherry-picking: That’s what he chose to brag about in a book of advice to aspiring bloggers.” ( :74)

“You figured out the best way to do this when you were twelve years old and wanted something from your parents: Come up with the idea and let them think they were the ones who came up with it. Basically, write the headline—or hint at the options—in your e-mail or press release or whatever you give to the blogger and let them steal it.” ( :75)


“AOL platform they must ask themselves: How many pageviews will this content generate? Is this story SEO-winning for in-demand terms? How can we modify it to include more terms? Can we bring in contributors with their own followers? What CPM will this content earn? How much will this content cost to produce? How long will it take to produce? 1 And other such stupid questions.” ( :79)

“I’m fond of a line by Nicolas Chamfort, a French writer, who believed that popular public opinion was the absolute worst kind of opinion. “One can be certain,” he said, “that every generally held idea, every received notion, will be idiocy because it has been able to appeal to the majority.” To a marketer, it’s just as well, because idiocy is easier to create than anything else.” ( :79)

bam bam bam ideja! (note on p.79)


“To understand bloggers, rephrase the saying as: “Simplistic measurements matter.” Like, did a shitload of people see it? Must be good. Was there a raging comments section going? Awesome! Did the story get picked up on Gawker? It made the Drudge Report? Yes! In practice, this is all blogs really have time to look for, and it’s easy to give it to them.” ( :80)

“This dilemma was actually predicted by Orson Scott Card in the 1985 book Ender’s Game. Peter Wiggin creates the online persona of a demagogue named Locke and began to test the waters by posting deliberately inflammatory comments. Why write this way? his sister asked. Peter replied: “We can’t hear how our style of writing is working unless we get responses—and if we’re bland, no one will answer.”” ( :81)

“Professional bloggers understand this dilemma far better than the casual or amateur one, according to an analysis done by Nate Silver of unpaid versus paid articles on the Huffington Post. Over a three-day period, 143 political posts by amateurs received 6,084 comments, or an average of just 43 comments per article (meaning that many got zero). Over that same period, Huffington Post published 161 paid political articles (bought from other sites, written by staff writers, or other copyrighted content) that accumulated more than 133,000 comments combined. That amounts to more than 800 per article, or twenty times what the unpaid bloggers were able to accomplish. 5” ( :82)

“Huffington Post’s pageview strategy, the paid articles are indisputably better, because they generated more comments and traffic (like a 2009 article about the Iranian protests that got 96,281 comments). In a sane system, a political article that generated thousands of comments would be an indicator that something went wrong. It means the conversation descended into an unproductive debate about abortion or immigration, or devolved into mere complaining. But in the broken world of the web, it is the mark of a professional.” ( :82)

“Samuel Axon, formerly an editor at Mashable and Engadget, complained that the rules by which blogs get “traffic, high impressions, and strong ad revenues betray” ( :82)

“journalists and the people who need them at every turn.” This is only partially true. They betray the ethical journalists and earnest readers. As far as bloggers and publishers looking to get rich or manipulators eager to influence the news are concerned, the system is just fine.” ( :83)

“Pageview journalism treats people by what they appear to want—from data that is unrepresentative to say the least—and gives them this and only this until they have forgotten that there could be anything else” ( :83)

“Pageview journalism treats people by what they appear to want—from data that is unrepresentative to say the least—and gives them this and only this until they have forgotten that there could be anything else. It takes the audience at their worst and makes them worse. And then, when criticized, publishers throw up their hands as if to say, “We wish people liked better stuff too,” as if they had nothing to do with it. Well, they do.” ( :83)

“The Huffington Post Complete Guide to Blogging has a simple rule of thumb: Unless readers can see the end of your post coming around eight hundred words in, they’re going to stop. Scrolling is a pain, as is feeling like an article will never end. This gives writers around eight hundred words to make their point—a rather tight window.” ( :87)

“In a retrospective of his last ten years of blogging, publisher Om Malik of GigaOM bragged that he’d written over eleven thousand posts and 2 million words in the last decade. Which, while translating into three posts a day, means the average post was just 215 words long. But that’s nothing compared to the ideal Gawker item. Nick Denton told a potential hire in 2008 that it was “one hundred words long. Two hundred, max. Any good idea,” he said, “can be expressed at that length.” 2″ ( :87)

“Jack Fuller, a former editor and publisher of the Chicago Tribune, once admonished a group of newspaper editors by saying, “I don’t know about your world, but the one I live in does not shape itself so conveniently to anybody’s platform.”5 For bloggers it would be nice if life was all exciting headlines and a clean eight hundred words, and happened to self-organize all its juicy bits down the left-hand column. The world is far too messy, too nuanced and complicated, and frankly far less exciting for that to be the case. Only a fool addicted to his laptop would fail to see that the material demanded by the constraints of their medium and the one reality gives them rarely match. On the other hand, I quite like these fools.” ( :89)

“One chapter—the same chapter people enjoyed fully in book form—had to be split up into eight separate posts. To get attention we had to cut it up into itty-bitty bites and spoon-feed it to readers and bloggers like babies.” ( :89)

“I’ll meet them on their terms, but their story will be filled with my terms. They won’t take the time or show the interest to check with anyone else.” ( :89)

“THE WORLD IS BORING, BUT THE NEWS IS EXCITING. IT’S a paradox of modern life. Journalists and bloggers are not magicians, but if you consider the material they’ve got to work with and the final product they crank out day in and day out, you must give them some credit. Shit becomes sugar.” ( :92)

“so, in Edwards’s case, American Apparel was forced to deal with a constant stream of controversy borne of one man’s uncanny ability to create an angle where there wasn’t one. (He was rewarded soon after with a new gig at…Business Insider!)” ( :94)




“I felt this was a great—and ethical—response. But it was too late. Carmon copied and pasted my statement to the bottom of the article and left the headline exactly as it was, adding only “Updated” to the end of it. Even though the statement disproved the premise of her article, Carmon’s implication was that she was mostly right and was just adding a few new details. She wasn’t—she’d been totally wrong, but it didn’t matter, because the opportunity to change the readers’ minds had passed. The facts had been established. To make matters worse, Carmon replied to my last e-mail with a question about another trumpedup story she planned to write about the company. She ended again with: By the way, just FYI—I’d love to be able to include your responses in my initial post, but unfortunately I won’t be able to wait for them, so if this is something you can immediately react to, that would be great.” ( :100)

“Did you know that The Daily Show with Jon Stewart hates women? And that they have a long history of discriminating against and firing women? Sure, one of its cocreators is female, and one of its bestknown and longest-running correspondents is a woman, and there really isn’t any evidence to prove what I just claimed, but I assure you, I’d never lie.” ( :101)

“The cluster of stories that followed were read more than five hundred thousand times. The story was picked up by ABC News, the Huffington Post, the Wall Street Journal, E!, Salon, and others.” ( :101)

“Jon Stewart was even forced to respond to the story on air. The New York Times rewarded Carmon and the website with a glowing profile: “A Web Site That’s Not Afraid to Pick a Fight.” 2″ ( :101)

“The women of The Daily Show published an open letter on the show’s website a few days after the story hit.3 Women accounted for some 40 percent of the staff, the letter read, from writers and producers to correspondents and interns, and had over a hundred years’ experience on the show among them. The letter was remarkable in its clarity and understanding of what the blogger was doing. They addressed it, “Dear People Who Don’t Work Here” and called Carmon’s piece an “inadequately researched blog post” that clung “to a predetermined narrative about sexism at The Daily Show.”” ( :101)

“How many Jezebel readers do you think threw out their original impression for a new one? Or even saw the update? The post making the accusation did 333,000 views. Her post showing the Daily Show women’s response did 10,000 views—3 percent of the impressions of the first shot.” ( :102)

“Notoriety from events of 2010 and 2011 worked very nicely for Carmon—in the form of a staff position at and a spot on the Forbes “30 Under 30″ list.” ( :103)

“This video caused a national shitstorm. Within hours it had gone from one blog to dozens of blogs to cable news websites, and then to the newspapers and back again.* Sherrod was forced to resign shortly after. The man who posted that video was the late Andrew Brietbart.” ( :107)

“Breitbart was the first employee of the Drudge Report and a founding employee of the Huffington Post. He helped build the dominant conservative and liberal blogs. He’s wasn’t an ideologue; he was an expert on what spreads—a provocateur.” ( :107)

“The post was titled “Video Proof: The NAACP Awards Racism,” and he spent most of his thirteen hundred words fighting the imaginary foil of efforts to suppress the Tea Party, instead of explaining where the video came from.” ( :108)

“More important, the legacy of Brietbart lives on in James O’Keefe. The young O’Keefe, mentored and funded by Breitbart, also knows what spreads, and he uses that knowledge for evil ends. O’Keefe is responsible for stories nearly as big as the Sherrod piece” ( :108)

“Not when the clip was deliberately made more attractive by subliminally embedded images guaranteed to catch your attention. Not when the length of the video was calibrated to be precisely as long as average viewers are statistically most likely to watch.” ( :112)

“But as James Fennimore Cooper presciently observed in the nineteenth century, “If newspapers are useful in overthrowing tyrants, it is only to establish a tyranny of their own.”” ( :112)

“In May 2011, the Cheezburger Network—now also the powerhouse purveyor of fail photos, funny infographics, and daily links, with nearly a half-billion pageviews a month—hired a prominent data scientist. His job: to build a team to monitor every pageview and metric the sites get in order to shape the content around that information. That is, in his words, to engineer “more smiles for people per day.” A media empire paid by the smile can’t afford anything less.” ( :113)

“I remember seeing Jeff Jarvis, the blogger best known for his condescending (and unsolicited) advice to the newspaper industry, at a tech conference once. He sat down next to me, ostensibly to watch and listen to the talk. Not once did he look up from his laptop. He tapped away the entire time, first on Twitter, then on Facebook, then moderating comments on his blog, and on and on, completely oblivious to the world. It struck me then that whatever I decided to do with the rest of my life, I did not want to end up like him. Because at the end of the talk, Jarvis got up and spoke during the panel’s Q&A, addressing the speakers as well as the audience. In the world of the web, why should not paying attention preclude you from getting your say?” ( :114)

“In 1948, long before the louder, faster, and busier world of Twitter and social media, Paul Lazarsfeld and Robert Merton wrote: The interested and informed citizen can congratulate himself on his lofty state of interest and information and neglect to see that he has abstained from decision and action. In short, he takes his secondary contact with the world of political reality, his reading and listening and thinking, as a vicarious performance…. He is concerned. He is informed. And he has all sorts of ideas as to what should be done. But, after he has gotten through his dinner and after he has listened to his favored radio programs and after he has read his second newspaper of the day, it is really time for bed. 5” ( :114)

“”Talkativeness is afraid of the silence which reveals its emptiness,” Kierkegaard once said.” ( :114)

samo konzumiraj i onda kada je vrijeme za kreiranje, vrijeme ti je za spavanje (note on p.114)



“To: CNN From: Ryan Holiday Hopefully you can tell from our statement that the Gawker report is probably misconstrued at best, possibly inaccurate in other areas. It’s important to point out that the verification and anonymous sourcing politics for blogs and the one that you surely have at CNN are very different and can’t be conflated. It’s unfair and inaccurate to hold this up as being something the company engaged in primarily based on the fact that another less rigorous outlet mentioned it first. What we attempted to say in the statement was that as a company who has always challenged beauty and diversity norms in the fashion industry—not quietly but as the central part of our creativity—accusations like that are not only unfounded but are contrary to what we’re committed to. What I was attempting to convey in my original emails is that in the past outlets have used the vehicle of “reporting on what _____ is reporting” to include information they likely wouldn’t have included through their own editorial standards. Hopefully CNN does not do that. After a long pause, the reply: To: Ryan Holiday From: CNN Subject: CNN no longer doing Gawker story segment After a lot of consideration we decided to no longer do the segment.” ( :119)

“A dubious accusation on a gossip blog nearly became a frighteningly nongossip story from the “most trusted name in news.” There had been no overt manipulation, yet something completely untrue had spread from one site to another as though some invisible hand had guided it along. Thankfully, it did not make it to air on CNN, but it could have had I not stepped in.” ( :119)

“These were the old rules: 1. If the outlet is legitimate, the stories it breaks are. 2. If the story is legitimate, the facts inside it are. 3. It can be assumed that if the subject of the story is legitimate, then what people are saying about it probably is too.” ( :120)

“The phrase “link economy” was popularized by Jeff Jarvis, who you met here earlier. His credentials as a blogger, journalism professor at the City University of New York’s Graduate School of Journalism, and author of books such as What Would Google Do? have made him incredibly influential. Unfortunately, he’s also an idiot, and the link economy he advocates is a breeding ground for manipulation.” ( :120)

“Like the time when Crain’s New York e-mailed me to ask if American Apparel would be closing any of its stores in Manhattan because of the financial crisis. No, I replied emphatically. No. So they found a real estate agent who didn’t work for American Apparel to say we might. Headline: “American Apparel likely to shed some NY stores” (even though my quote in the article said we wouldn’t). The Crain’s story was linked to and used as a source by Jezebel, and then by New York magazine’s The Cut blog, then by Racked NY. AOL’s Daily Finance blog turned it into a slideshow: “10 Leading Businesses Shuttering Stores Because of Downturn.” None of those sites needed to ask me any questions, since Crain’s had asked and answered for them—they could just link.* A week later, for unknown reasons, Crain’s republished the article under a new headline (“Unraveling American Apparel Could Put NYC Stores on the Block”), which, after showing up on Google Finance, started the same chain over again. 2 More than a year later every one of those stores is still open. The links still point to the same bad story.” ( :121)

“”I am 100 percent convinced that if I hadn’t come forward, that quote would have gone down in history as something Maurice Jarre said, instead of something I made up,” he said. “It would have become another example where, once anything is printed enough times in the media without challenge, it becomes fact.” 3″ ( :121)

“May becomes is becomes has, I tell my clients.” ( :122)

“One of my favorite books is Kathryn Schulz’s Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error.” ( :123)

“When Jarvis and others breathlessly advocate for new concepts they do not understand, it is both comical and dangerous. The web gurus try to tell us that this distributed, crowd-sourced version of fact-checking and research is more accurate, because it involves more people. But I side with Descartes and have more faith in a scientific approach, in which every man is responsible for his own work—in which everyone is questioning the work of everyone else, and this motivates them to be extra careful and honest.” ( :123)

“Consider what happened to the French yogurt giant Danone, which was approached by Fernando Motolese, a video producer in Brazil, with two hypothetical videos. One, he said, was a fun spoof of their yogurt, which was designed to improve digestive health and, um, other bodily functions. The other, he said, was a disgusting version of the first video, with all the indelible scatological images implied by such a spoof. He might be more inclined to release the first version, he said, if Danone was willing to pay him a fee each time it was seen. “It felt sort of like blackmail,” said Renato Fischer, the Danone representative who fielded the inquiry, to MIT’s Technology Review.1 Well, that’s because it was blackmail. It was extortion via viral video.” ( :127)

“I would ask the same question of him that I once posed to a blogger who kept getting a story about American Apparel wrong. “When you find a mistake,” he’d said, “e-mail me and point it out.” I had to ask: Hey man, why is my job to do your job?” ( :128)

“Yet, as events transpired, Twitter users went berserk and reported that the plane had tragically crashed. In reality, the plane had not only landed safely, but the pilot acted like a gentleman from another generation, offering the passengers his personal telephone number if they had more questions or wanted someone to talk to. He exuded humble and quiet heroism that should have been recognized.” ( :128)

“seen hundreds of millions of dollars of market cap evaporate on the news of some bogus blog post. When the blog Engadget posted a fake e-mail announcing a supposed delay in the release of a new iPhone and Apple operating system, it knocked more than $4 billion off Apple’s stock price.” ( :130)

“I ran into the friend recently and learned the outcome of the tactic: They paid him five hundred thousand dollars to go away. I think about this often. They may have stolen from my friend, but I still shook someone down.” ( :130)

“I ran into the friend recently and learned the outcome of the tactic: They paid him five hundred thousand dollars to go away. I think about this often. They may have stolen from my friend, but I still shook someone down. What strikes me is not that it was some elaborate, orchestrated con—I don’t feel like I discovered some criminal instinct inside myself either—it’s that the tools were so accessible and easy to use, it was almost difficult not to do so. In fact, it came so effortlessly that I didn’t even remember doing it until he reminded me.” ( :130)

“Iterative journalism, process journalism, beta journalism—whatever name you use, it’s stupid and dangerous. It calls for bloggers to publish first and then verify what they wrote after they’ve posted it. Publishers actually believe that their writers need to do every part of the newsmaking process, from discovery to fact-checking to writing and editing in real time. It should be obvious to anyone who thinks about it for two seconds why that is a bad thing—but they buy the lie that iterative journalism improves the news.” ( :134)

“”Getting it right is expensive, getting it first is cheap.” And by extension, since it doesn’t cost him anything to be wrong, he presumably doesn’t bother trying to avoid it. It’s not just less costly; it makes more money, because every time a blog has to correct itself, it gets another post out of it—more pageviews.*” ( :135)

“The pressure to “get something up” is inherently at odds with the desire to “get things right.”” ( :135)

“Another way to look at it, though, is that the greatest success of iterative journalism gave us a story twenty minutes earlier than it would have come otherwise. Bravo. A whole twenty fucking minutes. The world is forever in your debt.” ( :137)

“themselves asking the same question that wrongly disgraced former United States secretary of labor Ray Donovan asked the court when he was acquitted of false charges that ruined his career: “Which office do I go to to get my reputation back?”” ( :138)

“What Google says when they release a product in beta is that the fundamentals are strong but the superficialities are a work in progress—aesthetics, feature additions, nagging issues. The iterative journalism reporting model suggests the opposite—the structure, the headline, the links, and the picture slideshows are there, but the facts are suspect. What kind of process is that?” ( :139)

“Hesiod once wrote that rumor and gossip are a “light weight to lift up, but heavy to carry and hard to put down.”” ( :139)

“Iterative journalism makes the news cheap to produce but expensive to read.” ( :139)

“Sometimes it has to get even more serious than that. One of my favorite all-time blogger corrections stories involves Matt Drudge, the political blogger sainted in the history of blogging for breaking the Monica Lewinsky story. But few people remember the big political “scandal” Drudge broke before that one. Based on an unnamed source, Drudge accused prominent journalist and Clinton adviser Sidney Blumenthal of a shocking history of spousal abuse—and one covered up by the White House, no less. Except none of it was true. Turns out there was no evidence that Blumenthal had ever struck his wife, nor was there a White House cover-up. The story quickly fell apart after it became clear an anonymous Republican source had whispered into Drudge’s ear to settle a political score against Blumenthal. Drudge eventually admitted it to the Washington Post: “[S]omeone was using me to try to go after [him]…. I think I’ve been had.” Yet Drudge’s posted correction on the story said only, “I am issuing a retraction of my information” ( :141)

“regarding Sidney Blumenthal that appeared in the Drudge Report on August 11, 1997.” He refused to apologize for the pain caused by his recklessness, even in the face of a $30 million libel suit. And four years later, when the ordeal finally ended, Drudge still defended iterative journalism: “The great thing about this medium I’m working in is that you can fix things fast.” 1 There’s only one word for someone like that: dickhead.” ( :142)

“How does one begin to correct that? Where would you even start? We’re not dealing with the same reality. If I had even known how to communicate to that idiot that Drew Carey was, in fact, the actual host of The Price Is Right, and that the video the blogger watched was a clip from an actual episode and not a commercial, I still would have to convince the writer to retract the entire thing, because an update couldn’t have fixed how wrong it was. Since I no longer foolishly hope for miracles, I didn’t even try to correct it, even as other blogs repeated the claims. I just had to sit there and watch as people believed something so stupid was true; the writer was wrong to the point of it actually working to their advantage.” ( :142)

“My experience is not uncommon. A friend, a car blogger earnestly passionate about his job, once emailed the writer of a less than reputable car site after they published a rumor that turned out to be false. Him: Why keep the headline up, since we now know it’s not true? Blogger: You guys are so funny.” ( :142)

“The real golden age for journalists is the one when a guy like Blodget not only gets traffic by posting jaw-dropping rumors, but then also gets traffic the next day by shooting down the same rumors he created. And then he has the balls to start the cycle all over again with his very next breath. That he was wrong doesn’t even begin to cover it: The man has an aversion to the truth and not the slightest bit of guilt about it.” ( :143)

“During the Q&A I got up and asked, “This is all well and good, but what about mistakes of a less black-and-white variety? You know, something a little more complex than whether someone is actually dead or not. What about subtle untruths or slight mischaracterizations? How does one go about getting those corrected?” She laughed: “I love your idea that there can be nuance on the Internet.”” ( :143)

“The reality is that while the Internet allows content to be written iteratively, the audience does not read or consume it iteratively. Each member usually sees what he or she sees a single time—a snapshot of the process—and makes his or her conclusions from that.” ( :144)

“Once published and its significance recognized, what was news becomes history.” Journalism can never truly be iterative, because as soon as it is read it becomes fact—in this case, poor and often inaccurate fact.” ( :144)

“The science shows that we are not only bad at remaining skeptical, we’re bad at correcting our beliefs when they’re proven wrong. In a University of Michigan study called “When Corrections Fail,” political scholars Brendan Nyhan and Jason Reifler coined a phrase for it: the “backfire effect.”3 After showing subjects a fake news article, half of the participants were provided with a correction at the bottom discrediting a central claim in the article—just like one you might see at the bottom of a blog post. All of the subjects were then asked to rate their beliefs about the claims in the article. Those who saw the correction were, in fact, more likely to believe the initial claim than those who did not. And they held this belief more confidently than their peers. In other words, corrections not only don’t fix the error—they backfire and make misperception worse.” ( :144)

“The ceaseless, instant world of iterative journalism is antithetical to how the human brain works. Studies have shown that the brain experiences reading and listening in profoundly different ways; they activate different hemispheres for the exact same content. We place an inordinate amount of trust in things that have been written down. This comes from centuries of knowing that writing was expensive —that it was safe to assume that someone would rarely waste the resources to commit to paper something untrue. The written word and the use of it conjures up deep associations with authority and credence that are thousands of years old.” ( :145)

“Finally I interrupted. “None of you know what you’re talking about,” I said. “None of you have been in a PR crisis. You’ve never seen how quickly they get out of hand. None of you have come to terms with the fact that sites like yours, the Huffington Post, pass along rumors as fact and rehash posts from other blogs without checking them. It’s impossible to fight back against that. The Internet is the problem here, not the solution.”” ( :148)

“thanked for my thoughts, but I knew I’d never be invited back, despite spending more than six figures with them that year.” ( :148)

“As journalist Ed Wallace wrote for BusinessWeek in an apology to Toyota, “[A]ll the reasons why the public doesn’t trust the media crystallized in the Toyota fiasco.”” ( :149)

“I’m proud of what I said in that room, and was ultimately proven right, if I had a chance to do it again I would probably say something different. I would say: “What the fuck are you guys talking about this for?” Are we seriously discussing how Toyota—a multibillion-dollar corporation, that like all others sells us things we can’t afford and don’t need—should have done a better job marketing to us? Toyota is either making faulty cars or it’s not; the response is meaningless public relations bullshit. Are we actually putting our heads together to come up with advice on how to bait the hook so we’re more likely to bite? Why are we cheering on our own deception?” ( :149)

“If I call you a douche, how would you defend yourself without making it worse? You couldn’t. Yet a snark victim’s first instinct is to appeal to reason—to tell the crowd, Hey, that’s not true! They’re making this up! Or appeal to the humanity of the writer by contacting them personally to ask, Why are you doing this to me? I try to stop these clients. I tell them, I know this must hurt, but there’s nothing you can do. It’s like jujitsu: The energy you’d exert in your defense will be used against you to make the embarrassment worse.” ( :156)

“Then, in 2011 Adams published a series of posts on his blogs about supposedly unfair restrictions society puts on men regarding sex and gender roles. Although his post was poorly thought out, it was” ( :156)

“by no means a new topic. Many people—from evolutionary biologists to feminists to comedians— have attributed social problems like infidelity and violence to repressed male emotions and genetics. But the blog cycle lined up so that Adams was wrong for touching the subject. He had set himself up to be snarked. By that I mean he became a victim of relentless, vitriolic attacks. According to Jezebel, Adams’s post could best be paraphrased as: “Now I am going to reveal my deeply-held douchebag beliefs.”” ( :157)

“The response utterly disoriented and overwhelmed Adams. First he tried to delete his post, but that just brought more attention to it. Then he repeatedly tried to defend himself and clarify what he’d really meant. As I tell my clients, that’s the equivalent of a squeaky cry of, “Why is everyone making fun of me?!” on the playground. Whether it happens in front of snarky blogs or a real-life bully, the result is the same: Everyone makes fun of you even more.” ( :157)

“Tucker told them to go fuck themselves, which made me” ( :158)

“palace windows but to coherently and ceaselessly articulate the problems with the dominant institutions. To stand for and not simply against. But bloggers of this generation, of my generation, are not those types of people. They are not leaders. They lack the strength and energy to do anything about “the age of doublespeak and idiocy.” All that is left is derision.” ( :158)

they are pussies, not leaders (note on p.158)


“There is a reason that the weak are drawn to snark while the strong simply say what they mean.” ( :158)

“Yet even Ebert couldn’t resist the temptation to snark over the tragic death of Jackass star Ryan Dunn.” ( :160)

“There is nothing that you could say that would hurt the cast of Jersey Shore. They need you to talk about them, to insult them, and to make fun of them is to do that. They have no reputation to ruin, only notoriety to gain.” ( :160)

“They have no reputation to ruin, only notoriety to gain. So the people who thrive under snark are exactly those who we wish would go away, and the people we value most as cultural contributors lurk in the back of the room, hoping not to get noticed and hurt. Everything in-between may as well not exist. Snark encourages the fakeness and stupidity it is supposedly trying to rail against. I once saw snark as an opportunity” ( :160)

“Oscar Wilde said it better: “In the old days men had the rack. Now they have the Press.”” ( :163)

“I understood from Wilde and Cromer, served the hidden function of dispensing public punishments. Think of the Salem witch trials: They weren’t court proceedings but ceremonies. In that light, the events three hundred years ago suddenly feel very real and current: Oh, they were doing with trumped-up evidence and the gallows what we do with speculation and sensationalism. Ours is just a more civilized way to tear someone to pieces.” ( :163)

“as “degradation ceremonies.” Their purpose is to allow the public to single out and denounce one of its members. To lower their status or expel them from the group. To collectively take out our anger at them by stripping them of their dignity. It is a we-versus-you scenario with deep biological roots. By the end of it the disgraced person’s status is cemented as “not one of us.” Everything about them is torn down and rewritten.” ( :163)

“Ask controversial WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange what it feels like to be the sacrificial victim. In less than a year he went from intriguing web hero to ominous pariah, from a revolutionary to a fool. Assange did not suddenly become an awful, evil, and flawed person overnight. He had not changed. But tempers had. Times had. So when a set of very suspect allegations of sexual misconduct came to light, it was the perfect opportunity for a little of that ol’ time ritualized destruction.” ( :164)

“At the risk of sounding like a public service announcement: This can happen to you too. After building Assange up, blogs destroyed him, not because he did anything wrong (although he very well may have; let me stress again that this has nothing to do with his guilt or innocence), but because his ascendancy made them feel angry and small, and now they had ammunition to act on those feelings.” ( :164)

“Alain de Botton once pointed out that Greek tragedies, though popular entertainment in their day, had a purpose. Despite being gossipy, sometimes salacious, and often violent, they taught the audience to think about how easily an unfortunate situation could befall them, and to be humbled by the flaws of another person. Tragedies could be learned from.” ( :166)

“To make us feel better by hurting others. To stress that the people we’re reading about are freaks, while we are normal.” ( :166)


“From here we get the defining feature of our world today: a blurred line between what is real and what is fake; what actually happens and what is staged; and, finally, between the important and the trivial.” ( :170)

“When blogs can openly proclaim that getting it first is better than getting it right; when a deliberately edited (fake) video can reach, and within hours require action by, the president of the United States; when the perception of a major city can be shaped by what photographs spread best in an online slideshow; and when someone like me can generate actual outrage over advertisements that” ( :170)

problem sa današnjim medijima i sranjima sa kojima nas filuju – ova knjiga je upravo to objasnila!! (note on p.170)


“don’t actually exist—the unreal becomes impossible to separate from the real.” ( :171)


“When you hear a friend say in conversation “I was reading that …” know that today the sad fact is that they probably just glanced at something on a blog.” ( :175)

“Blogs, to paraphrase Kierkegaard, left everything standing but cunningly emptied them of significance.” ( :175)

“It is now almost cliché for people to say, “if the news is important, it will find me.” This belief itself relies on abandoned shells. It depends on the assumption that the important news will break through the noise while the trivial will be lost.” ( :176)

“Our facts aren’t fact, they are opinions dressed up like facts. Our opinions aren’t opinions; they are emotions that feel like opinions. Our information isn’t information; it’s just hastily assembled symbols.” ( :176)




“OK. Hell, I wish I’d said it. Fake news. I don’t mean fake news in the Fox News sense. I mean the fake news that clogs up most newspapers and most news websites, for that matter. The new initiative will go nowhere. The new policy isn’t new at all…. The product isn’t revolutionary. And journalists pretend that these official statements and company press releases actually constitute news…. Fake news, manufactured, hyped, rehashed, retracted—until at the end of the week you know no more than at the beginning. You really might as well wait for a weekly like the Economist to tell you what the net position is at the end of the week. 1 I was hoping to be able to go out on a hopeful note. But I’m not able do that. Because the person who said it is Nick Denton, one of the biggest topics of this book” ( :178)

“When intelligent people read, they ask themselves a simple question: What do I plan to do with this information? Most readers have abandoned even pretending to consider this. I imagine it’s because they’re afraid of the answer: There isn’t a thing we can do with it. There is no practical purpose in our lives for most of what blogs produce other than distraction. When readers decide to start demanding quality over quantity, the economics of Internet content will change. Manipulation and marketing will immediately become more difficult.” ( :180)

“To those of you who I have burned in this book, who I have hurt or taken aim at or criticized or made fun of, I’m sorry. Trust me, I’m lying when I say that. It’s just that you deserve better. And the second you stop and walk away, the monster will start to wither, and you will be happy again. I confess all I have confessed in order to make that an option.” ( :181)

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