Whirled Musings

Across the Universe with Cosmic Connie, aka Connie L. Schmidt...or maybe just through the dung-filled streets and murky swamps of pop culture -- more specifically, the New-Age/New-Wage crowd, pop spirituality & religion, pop psychology, self(ish)-help, business babble, media silliness, & related (or occasionally unrelated) matters of consequence. Hope you're wearing boots. (By the way, the "Cosmic" bit in my moniker is IRONIC.)

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Whirled wars

Warning: This post is a long and winding road, as mine sometimes are. I could have either condensed it greatly or published it in several parts, but I thought, what the heck, just get it over with in one fell swoop. So you know the drill: if you're prone to screen fatigue, print it out and take it into the "reading room." Or just peruse a few segments if you don't feel up to making your way through the whole thing. You won't hurt my feelings a bit. ~CC

Can you believe it's been nearly a month since I've published a real post here? Do not fret, Dear Ones; although the year is coming to an end (and already has, for my friends on the Other Side of the globe), my Whirled is not, as much as some folks might wish that to be the case. I have simply been busy with other matters of consequence. A couple of clients who had put their projects on hold during the Great Recession of '09 have recently taken them off hold, and they now want the projects done yesterday. That's a good thing, and believe me, if Ron and I could travel back in time in order to get the projects completed yesterday, we would. But we're doing the next best thing and putting our noses to the grindstone now. New clients have emerged as well, and in addition, Ron and I have been in talks with a couple of colleagues regarding plans to expand our business and explore new ventures. And then this major holiday came up...well, actually, it's still going on.

All in all, I've been too preoccupied to indulge very much in my hobby of "snarking lividly," as one of my detractors put it not long ago, though I have been participating on a few other forums. (If you're interested, I've mostly been hanging around "The Pyre" and Salty Droid's blog, as well as Duff McDuffee's and Eric Schiller's party, and Cassandra Yorgey's place too. I've also been enjoying Terry Hall's Bizsayer blog. Terry, by the way, is married to Amy, an ex-employee of James Ray International.)

If you've been hanging around these blogs, you know it's been a veritable sh-t storm lately, as my pal at The Pyre noted a while back. The Pyre has done a terrific job of documenting some of these matters, as have the Droid, Duff and Eric, Cassandra, and Terry. The big news of the moment is that Duff has been on the receiving end of intimidation efforts by Secret star and former James Arthur Ray joint-venture partner Bill Harris, of Holosync infamy (and of course I will have more about that later on, but scroll down to "The hustledorks circle the wagons" if you can't wait).

On second thought, in the spirit of the holidaze, scratch that sh-t storm metaphor. It has been one big happy snowball fight here in the blogosphere.

To add to the lively fun, I've recently been pelted with a few snowballs myself, and I truly hope you will pardon me for going on about myself, but I am a narcissist, as you know. In fact, I've been dodging snowballs from both sides in the New-Wage wars. Although I've discussed some of this on other forums, I'm thinking that a recap here is also in order – not merely to rehash some silly and perhaps pointless online battles, but to summarize a few issues these conflicts are bringing to the surface. These are issues that affect all of us, no matter where we are on the belief (or non-belief) spectrum. It goes without saying, but in light of current issues I feel compelled to say it anyway, that this blog post reflects my interpretation of events. Maybe you'll find something of value here for you as well.

Revenge of the snargets
Earlier this month one of my minor snargets (snark targets) wrote a blog post in which he criticized the critics of the self-help industry. Before I go any further let me make one thing clear: I refer to him as a minor snarget not to diminish his importance in the big scheme of things, but merely to indicate that he has not been a frequent subject on this blog.

Minor Snarget has referred to some critics as "haters," and it appears that I am one of those "haters." On a Twitter post he wrote some weeks before the blog post, he had defined those "haters" as "a bunch of losers who got their noses out of joint over The Secret and can't get over it."

Though his blog post was not only about critics, it was clearly a reaction to said critics' increasingly pointed Tweets and blog posts, some of which were about him. Accordingly, he let us have it with both barrels, and mounted a spirited defense of the selfish-help industry in the process. He expressed disdain for the alarmists in the news media, saying they are using the James Ray sweat lodge tragedy to indict the entire industry. He implied that everyone who criticizes James Ray or the self-help industry wants to put an end to the entire industry just because some folks died at one little event.

In a special rant section in his original post, he said he understands the motives of the news media and their need to engage in what was once commonly known as "yellow journalism," because they are, after all, primarily concerned with ratings and money. More puzzling, he wrote, are the "pro-bono" critics, the snarky bloggers such as yours truly – those "haters," in other words. He went to some length to rant about me, though he didn't mention me by name. He called me "a first-rate writer with a second-rate mind," and went on to describe me as incoherent and incapable of logic. He claimed that my blog is full of inaccuracies and that I'm wrong more often than I'm right, though he provided no examples.

He also puzzled over why I – and other critical bloggers – spend so much time snarking and criticizing when most of us aren't making any money from this activity. He said we are all snarking in a vacuum anyway, since it is clear that we have very few readers. He based his judgment about our dearth of readers on what he imagines our collective Twitter following to be, falsely claiming that among all of us we barely have 200 followers on Twitter. He also falsely claimed that all we do is Tweet and blog about how our lives suck. I can only suppose that he deliberately wrote those untruths partly because he was trying to get back at me for what he seems to think are intentional untruths here on my Whirled. (I'll address that point below.)

He added that we pro-bono critics hate people who have money because we don't have any ourselves, that we have no useful tools to make our lives better, and that we don't want anyone else to have those tools either.

Part of the remainder of the post was dedicated to explaining the real value of self-help, which, Minor Snarget noted, is an individual judgment each of us has to make for ourselves. He devoted a bit of time to justifying what many people perceive as exorbitant fees charged by some self-help gurus. He scoffed at the media and critical bloggers who seemed shocked that people paid nearly $10,000 to attend the fatal sweat lodge event. Minor Snarget explained that high fees for events are justified by the experience and expertise of the events' leaders. He reminded his readers that the sweat lodge was but one portion of a five-day event.
He mentioned that billionaires such as Sir Richard Branson would laugh in your face if you tried to offer them so paltry a sum as ten grand for even a few hours of consultation. He added that he would pay ten grand to spend a few days with someone like the Dalai Lama. In other words, when you're in the presence of greatness, ten grand is nothing compared to what you're getting in return. That amount or much more can be a real bargain if you're getting what you need from an event.

He added that his own consulting fee is now a thousand bucks an hour. This, he explained, is due to his years of experience and study, plus his success at helping numerous other people start businesses of their own, plus the fact that he has read a bunch of books over the years. For good measure, he also threw out some somewhat condescending lessons about business, such as the eye-opening fact that "in business, we keep score with dollars." He implied that this is a concept the critics are too dense to get.

Despite the condescension and obvious anger in his post, there were some basic points on which I agreed with him. I disagreed with him on numerous details, of course, but I felt we could have a civil exchange about all of it anyway, so I decided to join in the discussion on his blog. Ron did too. (Here's a link to Ron's blog, by the way.) All of the comments preceding ours had pretty much been favorable to Minor Snarget, with some commenters tsk-tsk'ing over the terrible things the critics were saying about poor James Ray. Ron and I were the first dissenters, apparently, and it was clear from the beginning that our input was not welcome. Although we were civil, Minor Snarget repeatedly shot us down, attacking our personal and professional credibility.
He questioned our qualifications to express an opinion about "his" industry. He challenged us to list all of the great products we've created, the implication being that because we are not actively churning out bestselling self-help products, and don't have a bunch of bestselling books on Amazon, we know nothing about the industry and are therefore not qualified to judge it.

He did not question the qualifications of those who agreed with him, though none of them seemed to be Amazon bestselling authors either. He simply agreed with them and congratulated them for their insightful comments and evolved way of looking at things.

He said any putz can tear stuff down, but he, on the other hand, is working to build things and make the world a better place, and he suggested we do so too.
In the end, he declared victory by virtue of having "proved" that Ron and I are incapable of creating anything of value.

He was similarly dismissive of anyone else who expressed a dissenting opinion about his piece, including one of my regular readers, Dave, an admitted non-fan of self-help. I was moved that Dave, who is currently risking his neck every day in Afghanistan, would take the time to defend my blog. Dave's remark wasn't only about me, though; he also summarized the points that bug him most about self-help gurus, including his opinion that they sell half-truths and shortcuts more often than not. Minor Snarget was having none of it. He lashed out at Dave as well, saying Dave doesn't know him or his work and was apparently basing his own opinion of Minor Snarget on what he'd read on my blog. He added that Dave's comment was yet another example of what the anti-critic rant was all about in the first place.

Admittedly, Minor Snarg was probably letting out years of pent-up anger, not only for my occasional potshots at him but also for my more frequent ones at his buddy and business partner – let's just call him Major Snarget* – who took him under his wing a few years back and saved him from a life of being broke. One would expect such loyalty, especially since Major Snarget probably believes he can't afford to sully his own name by getting down in the trenches with those filthy critics. I speculate that to some degree, Minor Snarg was simply running interference for his bud.

But he also seemed enraged about what I and others have written about him. While I haven't criticized his primary enterprise of coaching online entrepreneurs, and I actually agree with him on many matters (including politics and social trends), and think that he is a talented writer, musician, and photographer, and have even had friendly exchanges with him in the past, it is also true that I've devoted a bit of attention to a couple of his products that I think are quite silly. He markets them as joint-venture deals with Major Snarget, and I am sure they make up a minuscule portion of Major and Minor Snargets' respective and collective income stream. But apparently the stuff I wrote about these products got under Minor Snarg's skin.

That said, Ron and I weren't the only ones who thought he was unnecessarily rude in his comments to us and others who disagreed with his take on critics. That's not the way I treat people who take the time to comment on my blog, even if they've said snarky things to or about me in other forums. I may sometimes be a bit curt or snarky to them, but I generally end up apologizing even for that (though not always). At any rate, I am never abusive or outright rude to them, at least by my standards. But who said everyone has to follow the same rules I've set for myself? Besides, in fairness, Minor Snarget did mention on his blog that he had told his

therapist...I mean, his meditation mentor...that this is not his incarnation for sainthood. Well, then, that excuses it.

Moreover, he thinks I have been unnecessarily snarky for several years and that he has been more than patient. He accused me of writing with "ill will" and indulging in "character assassination" of his bud, Major Snarget. He suggested that I should remember I am writing about real people, and should therefore be more empathetic and "mindful" in my writing. He also claimed that I am "inciting" others to write negative blogs about his buddy and others in the industry.

My first thought upon reading the incitement claim was that in his opinion, nobody reads my blog anyway, except perhaps for those other critics whom no one reads either, so why is he so concerned? At any rate, one of the bloggers whom he claimed I was "inciting" addressed that point by stating that the "incited" blog was inspired by Major Snarget (and to a lesser degree Minor Snarget), not by moi.

In the days that followed publication of his confrontational blog post, as the discussion grew to what seemed to be an unprecedented number of comments for his blog, Minor Snarg also created a counter-blog to my little Whirled, apparently for the sole purpose of humiliating and completely discrediting the critics. I believe his plan was to crush me first, since I'm the easiest target, and then go after the rest. He also created a couple of Twitter accounts to have a little fun with the "haters." While he was at it, he locked out his main Twitter account so critics couldn't get as easy access to his immortal Tweets as before. And he Tweeted about hiring lawyers and private detectives to help him deal with the critics. "I'm rich; I can afford it," he boasted.

A few days later, however, he deleted the part in his blog post that contained his rant about me. He also deleted all of the dissenting comments – not just mine and Ron's – and his own responses to same. His explanation to someone who asked about the disappearing comments was that he had tried an "experiment" on his blog and it didn't work, so it was back to the regularly scheduled programming. My sense is that he either realized on his own, or was reminded by his buddy Major Snarget, that the rancorous discussion made both of them look pretty bad, while giving those pesky critics unnecessary publicity. Besides, there were fine cigars to be smoked, good Scotch to be consumed, and new ventures to be planned.

In the time since then, however, Major Snarget has written several posts on his blog, explaining why all of the critics of the selfish-help/New-Wage industry are wrong. Here is Cosmic Connie's capsule summary of his critique of the critics:
Critics of the self-help and personal growth industry are all under the delusion that money is evil, and are beating up on those who have money because they harbor these false ideas about wealth. But in reality those they criticize are all about love and Spirit and all of that good stuff, which the critics would be able to clearly see if only they weren't so blinded by their own false beliefs. (Fortunately, Major Snarget sells an expensive program to help people "clear" such beliefs. He links to it several times in every one of his blog posts, and there's a link on every page of his new free e-book, which he seems to have created for the sole purpose of marketing the pricey program.) In addition, Jesus, Mother Teresa, Buddha, and a few famous churches would all agree that money and marketing are always good. Money is Spirit; there is no distinction, so there is nothing wrong with making tons of money, especially since the snargets are making the world a better place in the process. Nor is there anything wrong with using some of that spiritual energy known as money to buy expensive cars and houses and such. So in reality, the critics have no basis for their criticism.
I'm oversimplifying, of course, but not by much.

In one post, Major Snarget went on a bit about how history rarely remembers the critics, who are doomed to obscurity, whereas the targets of their criticism will no doubt be remembered forever, because they are doing important things with their lives. (So there, you critics.) He also suggested that engaging in criticism is keeping the critics from their true calling. A couple of points he didn't mention: (1) Not everyone is a fame-whore; though fame is a form of currency these days more than ever, not everyone aspires to be "wealthy" in that way, and many folks, including me, don't give a hoot if history remembers them or not; and (2) As the blogger on The Pyre implied, there's always the possibility that some folks' true calling is parody, satire, or even...gasp...criticism – even if they're not currently getting paid handsomely for their efforts.

It's probably all moot anyway, for it seems to be back to bidness as usual with the snargets and their buddies, who, last time I checked, were indeed still sitting around puffing on pricey cigars, plotting new ways to separate people from their money, and congratulating themselves for being masters of their little corner of the Universe.

That's how it looks to me, anyway. Your perceptions may vary.

And now a few words from the other side...
An anti-New-Wage blogger who had once been sort of an ally, but whose politics as well as his views on the evils of New-Wage culture are a bit too radical even for me, recently published a blog post about what a complete and utter hypocrite I am. One big point of contention is that I live with and deeply love Ron, and my detractor has issues with Ron. Not the least of his issues is that Ron has long been a student of a form of Buddhism, and the blogger despises Buddhism as well as most other flavors of religion and spirituality. Since I've frequently snarked about the McSpirituality factions of the New-Wage industry, my detractor wonders why I continue to tolerate Ron, whom he has called a "faux-Buddhist" (as if he is in any way qualified to know a "real" from a faux-Buddhist). In addition, since Ron and I ghostwrite, edit, and design books, and in the course of our years in business have worked on numerous self-help or spiritual titles, he accused us of knowingly running a scam and helping "scumbags" make money off of others.

I should note that he had previously published a derogatory post about Ron and me, but in this latest one he really went to town. What set him off was that I made the mistake of mentioning his name recently in a post dedicated to another one of my frequent and recent snargets, a notoriously deceptive but very successful marketer who has actually served prison time for fraud. Angry Blogger said I was using that guy's name to discredit him.

Actually, I wasn't. My reason for mentioning him in my post was simply to illustrate that not only politics, but commerce, makes strange bedfellows, as the old saying goes. Angry Blogger pretty much places New-Wagers in the same category as the liberal left, and he hates both, for he feels they are destroying our culture. My point was that the hustler extraordinaire who was the real topic of my offending blog post has somewhat invalidated the belief that New-Wage is inexorably tied to the liberal left. Said hustler
seems on the one hand to pander to the conservative/anti-government paranoia crowd, but he is also catering increasingly to New-Wagers and the Law of Attraction crowd, who are indeed traditionally more likely to be political liberals. His appeal to both factions is that he is trading in "forbidden" information that "they" don't want the rest of us to know about. Naturally, his real agenda is capturing as large a market as he possibly can, so politics and belief systems don't matter nearly as much as having a valid credit or debit card and possessing the ability to sign up, wittingly or unwittingly, for automatic-billing schemes.

Angry Blogger himself is another illustration of "strange bedfellows," though in his case it's more related to politics and belief than to commerce. He's a right-winger who, unlike most right-wingers in the US, also happens to be an atheist. However, he is also anti-New-Wage to the extreme, which has led to what seems to be an uneasy alliance at best with some Christians who agree with his political opinions and/or his anti-New-Wage views. He has acknowledged the oddity of his alliances, explaining to me in the discussion accompanying his blog post that "the enemy of my enemy is my friend."

I responded that while this may work for the short term, it doesn't bode well for the future of the "friendship" once the common "enemy" has been properly smitten. He replied that he simply doesn't feel nearly as threatened by the Christian Right agenda as by that of the New-Wagers and the liberal left. He thinks the Christian Right is about preserving America, while the liberal left/New-Wagers are all about tearing it down. I'm the opposite; I feel more threatened by the Christian Right than by the New-Wagers. I would have suggested that we simply agree to disagree on that point, but in previous exchanges he had made it clear that "agreeing to disagree" is for wimps.

Although the point I was trying to make in my discussion with him was that things are not all black-and-white, he declares that they are all black-and-white, at least to those few who can see the world as clearly as he. There is good and there is evil and there is no in-between. He truly seems to believe he is fighting the good fight, and he says it will be a fight to the death. And not only was he angry that I had mentioned his name in conjunction with the notorious marketer, but he said that I, by refusing to acknowledge that all self-help/New-Wage is patently evil, am simply playing dumb. He speculated that this is either to preserve what he imagines to be my source of income, or to protect my relationship with Ron, or both.

This conflict could have gone on indefinitely, but I did a little blog sanitizing of my own, for the sake of restoring some peace. I simply deleted his name from the offending post, as well as two comments about him in the discussion section. After all, my big issue was and is with the actual subject of my blog post, not with him. As wrong as Angry Blogger is about Ron, and as much as I disagree with his politics, I also feel he's right about some, though not all, of his observations about New-Wage culture.** In the end, he made what I feel was a wise decision to remove his entire blog post.

Cognitive dissonance and me
I suppose by now it's pretty clear that I've received criticism from more than one faction in the belief spectrum. This could mean I am doing something very wrong and am indeed an incoherent hypocrite. Or it could signify that I'm just doing my job as a pot-stirrer. Or it could simply be an indication that I have mood swings and feel strongly about something one day, and not so strongly the next, and that I am always weighing my own beliefs and thoughts, and that this blog is an expression of all that stuff.

The one factor that both Minor Snarget and Angry Blogger have in common is that they have, in their own ways, suggested that I must surely be suffering from some form of cognitive dissonance, and that my writing reflects it. Take Minor Snarget, for example, who, as I noted above, has written that he believes the media are using the James Ray sweat lodge tragedy to try to destroy the entire industry. Not only does he feel that is unfair, but he also feels the critics are wasting their time, as neither James Ray nor the victims can hear us. He recommended that instead of playing judge, jury and jailer for James' gang, we devote our time and energy to worrying about and working to change real problems in the world, such as AIDS or genocide.

He even noted that he himself has participated in sweat lodges and wasn't harmed. He said that James Ray has led sweat lodge ceremonies at previous events and nobody died. He added that some of the folks "popped out" of the fatal sweat lodge "feeling just fine."

Increasingly, such declarations seem callous or just plain absurd to those who have really been following this story, particularly as more and more information comes to light about the October 2009 Sedona tragedy and previous James Ray events. This recently released affidavit for a search warrant is just one example of many. Although this document was released a couple of weeks after Minor Snarget wrote his blog post, a great deal of similar information had already been made public. Most people who have been following this story are well aware that there were problems at previous James Ray sweat lodges too.

Despite his ludicrous sweat lodge statements,
however, there were some points on which I agreed with Minor Snarget regarding the media hysteria, and in my first comment to his post, I tried to express those points of agreement as well as the points of disagreement. Here's what I wrote, in part:

As for your larger points about the fear-mongering in the wake of the James Ray debacle, I completely agree with you that the talking heads have jumped on this story because it is sensationalist, and they're out for ratings. After The Secret came out, they were all over it, mostly in a positive way, for the first few months. Then when the waves of criticism hit, they took that and ran with it. Now comes the Death Lodge, and they're on that as well, playing up the tragedy from every angle...

Even so, the James Ray incident *was* a real tragedy. Moreover, I think it is disingenuous to try to dismiss the incident as just one extreme exception in a generally benign industry. There are some real issues and hard questions about the industry that I think need to be openly discussed, and "Sweatgate" brought some of these issues out into the open.

Personally, I don't advocate more laws. My general position is that there is already too much government interference in business and other aspects of our lives, and we don't need more policing. We do need to do a better job of teaching critical-thinking skills, and exercising those skills. We also very much need the free exchange of information, and yes, that includes criticism.

Minor Snarget replied that my comment was well-written but "perfectly incoherent" as usual, adding that my remarks didn't sound as if they came from the same writer who had gone on about "Death Ray" on my own blog. I responded that I do indeed have mixed feelings about certain aspects of this case, adding that I have used my long "Sweatgate" post to provide links to differing opinions on James Ray, and while most of them are anti-Ray, not all of them are. (And by the way, I don't advocate more laws and regulations governing the selfish-help industry. I have been consistent on this point throughout.) But those points of agreement were irrelevant, and the conversation rapidly deteriorated as Minor Snarget turned his focus on attempting to discredit Ron and me. His main point seemed to be that Ron and I are ignorant of our subject matter and therefore have no right to criticize it. End of story.

Though Angry Blogger and Minor Snarget are united in their annoyance with my apparent inconsistency, they couldn't be more different in their respective attitudes towards the self-help industry. While Minor Snarget thinks the industry creates enormous value for its producers as well as its consumers, and that for the most part the critics have their heads up their asses, Angry Blogger thinks the industry is made up of killers – of whom he feels James Ray is one, but far from the only one
as well as liars, thieves, sociopaths, psychopaths, and two-bit con artists.

Even if people don't end up dead, or even if marriages or other relationships don't break up because of the influence of some self-help guru, the industry is still harmful, he believes, because it forces its ludicrous and sometimes destructive ideas on our culture, often in insidious ways, and because, at best, its very survival depends upon persuading people to waste billions of dollars every year.

I realize that in most cases, whether or not folks are "wasting" their money or their time is their call, not yours or mine, and this is another point on which I essentially agree with Minor Snarget. (Of course this does not take into account instances in which people are coerced into purchasing products or participating in self-help activities, e.g., by bosses, teachers, parents, or other authority figures.) At any rate, I am simply explaining Angry Blogger's opinions of self-help. His opinions were formed by some harrowing personal experiences with some New-Wagers, as well as his own observations of New-Wage culture. He believes he is one of the few people who can clearly see what is going on, and he told me that by being even marginally involved in the industry, through having had self-help or spiritual authors as clients, I am participating in evil.

Got a gripe? Get in line.
It will probably come as no surprise that the two bloggers mentioned above are not the only folks who have criticized me. In the time since I first created The Whirled in late July of 2006, I've been lambasted at various times for being too skeptical or snarky, and for not being skeptical enough. Publicly and privately, I've been called stupid, naive, hypocritical, inconsistent, lame, incoherent, incapable of critical thinking, uneducated, unevolved, too willing to criticize things I don't understand, rage-filled, hate-filled.... and on and on and on. And those are just the criticisms I can publish. The others are random obscenities and death threats that, in my opinion, add nothing to the conversation.

Truth is, although I lean towards snarky more often than not, I do occasionally vacillate on some issues. This has been the case for many years, since long before I began writing this blog. And I generally am willing to listen to "the other side," allowing people who disagree vehemently with me have their say here, though I haven't and won't become a mouthpiece for them myself. (Apropos of hearing from the other side, I've recently spent nearly six hours talking on the phone with a self-help "insider" who is or has been very close to some of my major snargets, and I will be posting about those conversations soon.)

Regarding that accusation that my blog is fact-challenged: I never knowingly publish falsehoods, and with rare exceptions, such as this post, I provide links to all of the material I write about, so people can read it in context and make up their own minds. If I get a fact wrong, or if I make a wrong guess or speculation regarding something that is verifiable, anyone who notices it and doesn't like it is always free to inform me, and I'll publish a correction or retraction. I have always been pretty honest about being a lazy researcher at best when it comes to this blog – which is, after all, a hobby, not my livelihood – and I appreciate your help if you want to take the time to offer it.

More often than not, though, I get comments from people who say I'm spot-on in my observations and opinions. "Well, of course, Cosmic Connie; you're preaching to the choir here," you protesters might be saying. Perhaps, but some of those choir members have had some eye-opening personal experiences of their own with some of my snargets, not to mention years of experience in and around the self-help industry. In most cases, that's why they joined the choir in the first place.

Can the snark survive outside the "vacuum?"
Now we're getting to the part that's less about me and more about other folks. One point I hope to make with this rather long and convoluted piece is that critics of the self-help/New-Wage industry are not a tiny little group of broke, envious, uneducated losers, and they cannot be dismissed as easily as the gurus might wish.

First off, contrary to Minor Snarget's above-quoted Tweet, it's not just The Secret that has us "losers" up in arms. I don't think even he believes that, but that's the way he explained it to one of his followers on Twitter. Even I, with my second-rate mind, have been a critic of New-Wage culture since long before The Secret was, as I like to say, a gleam in Rhonda Byrne's third eye. The same is true of many other critical bloggers. The Secret merely brought much of what we've been satirizing and criticizing more into the mainstream.

Secondly, the criticism against self-help is not solely confined to a small group of "haters" on Twitter – again, contrary to Minor Snarg's claims. When Minor Snarg thinks of critical blogs he may be thinking of my Whirled, The Pyre, Salty Droid, Cassandra, and Terry Hall. He probably figures we are pretty easy targets (well, except for The Droid, who has legal expertise on his side, and doesn't hesitate to bite back).

But I wonder if Minor Snarg or his eager followers have ever so much as glanced at SHAMblog, written by Steve Salerno, author of a well-researched 2005 book called SHAM: How The Self-Help Movement Made America Helpless (again, a pre-Secret work). Actually it was my discovery of and participation in SHAMblog that first inspired me to start Whirled Musings back in 2006.

I wonder too if Minor Snarg has taken the time to read the considerable research of tireless reader Chris Locke, who runs the Mystic Bourgeoisie blog. I don't always agree with the way Chris connects the dots, but his research is impressive and he is a wickedly entertaining writer when he really gets going, and I can't wait for the book version of Mystic B, which he assures me he is working on.

Then there's Jody Radzik's Guruphiliac blog. Jody generally deals with the Eastern gurus, but he has done his fair share of criticism of some of the Western/faux-Eastern New-Wage gurus as well.

I've already mentioned Duff McDuffee and Eric Schiller's Beyond Personal Growth blog. But I'm mentioning them again because these guys are about as far from "haters" as anyone I can think of, and their knowledge of the personal-growth industry and its products is both deeper and broader than my own. This is not to say that I am ignorant of the self-help industry, as Minor Snarget claimed – far from it. I'm simply saying that on their blog, Duff and Eric are not casual snarkers as I so often am. Yet you don't see them with their noses up the hustledorks' arses.

And there's Steven Sashen, who has fielded some of the same criticism I have. Some say he's playing both ends against the middle because, they say, he has a finger in the New-Wage pie, and yet he has a critical (and very funny) blog, the Anti-Guru Blog. Some have criticized me for quoting him rather than snarking about him. It doesn't bother me. Steven is clever and funny and he probably knows enough dirty little insider secrets to put a few gurus out of business if he were so inclined. But I suspect that he'd rather just be clever and funny, and here's yet more evidence of that.

And there is Skeptico's blog. I've had my differences with Skeptico (see the link in the PS below), but we've worked them out. I enjoy his blog. He takes no prisoners. (By the way, on his December 29 post he makes it clear that Minor Snarget isn't the only one who's gotten a bit snippy at the critics. Deep-Pockets Chopra has too.)

Last but far from least is Respectful Insolence, a thoughtful and well-researched blog written by an M.D. who goes by the name of Orac.

All of these writers and many more are, in their own way, a part of the growing wave of dissent against New-Wage/selfish-help/McSpirituality.

Most of the bloggers listed above probably aren't nearly as easy to target as I am, so it could be a while before Minor Snarget gets to them. And, interestingly enough, not all of these folks are on Twitter. (By the way, Salty Droid, whom I mentioned a couple of times earlier, says he has been banned from Twitter. Even so, he seems to have a rapidly expanding audience.) Together all of the bloggers mentioned here have a pretty broad readership, and an influence that reaches far beyond that of my little Whirled.***

The hustledorks circle the wagons
It seems clear that many of the hustledorks and New-Wage leaders are now on the defensive. They're not just annoyed; some are scared that their source of income might dry up. The bad publicity surrounding the James Ray incidents is indeed shedding new light on the industry as a whole, and even if this doesn't result in crippling laws and regulations, it is raising more questions and perhaps inspiring more folks to examine the industry with a more critical eye than before.

Threatening critical bloggers with "defamation" seems to be more popular than ever these days. Minor Snarget is certainly not the only one who's been rattling the legal sabers, threatening to go after the Pyre blogger and other critics. As I mentioned above, another of my allies, the aforementioned Duff McDuffee, has been threatened by Bill Harris, star of The Secret and perpetrator of that Holosync gimmick. As I also noted above, Duff is pretty much into personal growth himself, much more so than I, but he's fed up with the New-Wage hustledorks too. (He was one of the participants in Minor Snarget's discussion, and has respectfully participated on Major Snarget's blog as well, but has had his comments summarily dismissed and "blessed" by the Major.)

Bill Harris took umbrage at a post Duff wrote,
"The Hollow Sink of Push-Button Enlightenment," in the wake of the James Ray debacle. As participants in James' Spiritual Warrior event were required to invest in the Holosync system, and as Holosyncing was apparently a big part of the Spiritual Warrior event, this was a very timely article. In addition, Duff has tried Holosync and has discussed it with others who tried it. In his opinion, it's way over-hyped and over-priced. Bill didn't like that opinion one bit, and sent Duff a cease-and-desist, along with threats of further legal action. You can read all about it here, in this piece by Duff's co-blogger, Eric Schiller.

Apparently Bill is worried about his pristine reputation being compromised by Duff's opinion piece. In an email to Duff he summarized the unpleasant ways in which Duff's life would be changed if Bill chose to pursue a lawsuit. Eric pointed out something that perhaps Bill hadn't considered:

What Bill Harris does not realize is that Duff McDuffee (and I for that matter) have zero monetary assets to speak of. Additionally, if Harris does actually bring suit against Duff, we will do everything in our power to make it as public as possible. This publicity would negate the whole point of a defamation lawsuit in the first place, the preservation of the “public image” that Harris’ seemingly holds so near and dear. Finally, Harris will have to prove in the court of law that he does not use manipulative marketing techniques and that his “holosync” program does exactly what he says it does. We are confident that Harris would not be able to prove either of these things in any manner enough to satisfy a federal judge.
If you follow the link above and read the comments to Eric's post, you'll see that Duff has a lot of supporters (as well as a persistent detractor or two). And if you follow this link, you'll see what Salty Droid has to say, in his own inimitable way, about Bill Harris' lame attempt to silence Duff. And do follow that link. Salty Droid is always a fun read, and his Photoshopping is hilarious.

Speaking of someone who has been on the Droid's radar (and mine, too, for nearly three years), Aussie Secret star David Schirmer is a legal saber-rattler too. In March of 2009 David, who has been accused of and is apparently still being investigated for various wrongdoings in Oz, effectively put a chill on some of his critics on Twitter by threatening to sic "a top defamation barrister" on them. They took their critical Tweets down and issued identical apology Tweets: “I unreservedly apologise for posting any tweets directed towards @davidschirmer that have been proved wrong."
Some even canceled their Twitter accounts.

I've heard that other New-Wage gurus have been issuing legal threats as well, though I'm not at liberty to share details right now.

Certainly the gurus have a right to protect their own interests, and if someone is deliberately spreading lies about them they have a right to act. And certainly bloggers have a responsibility to both their readers and their subjects to be as accurate as possible when reporting facts. (Opinion and satire are other matters entirely.) But if you're a New-Wage guru, hollering "Defamation!" whenever a critical blogger calls you a name or criticizes your product doesn't serve anyone except the lawyers, and it makes you look like a doofus.

Yet there has been a concerted effort of late to silence the critics. Well, guys (and gals), it's too late; the word is out. The critics have your number. Silence one, and three more will pop up.

Okay, we're back to talking about me now.
As for me, my Whirled just keeps turning.
It has been a contentious few weeks in my corner of the blogosphere, but ya know what? I'm grateful for all of it, because it has given me yet another opportunity to re-examine my beliefs (or lack thereof), as well as my motives. Yes, really. I'm not so arrogant as to believe that there aren't lessons for me everywhere. Smart people learn more from critics than from the folks who love them, after all. I have actually mulled over the question of whether I do indeed create value, a question we all need to ask ourselves at various times in our lives. However, I was reminded once again, even as I was mulling, that "value" is in many ways a subjective judgment – which, as it happens, was one defense of the self-help industry offered by the very guy who told Ron and me that we are incapable of creating anything of value.

The various discussions have also given me another opportunity to think about whether I really am suffering from cognitive dissonance, something I've pondered at different times for many years, since long before I even knew what a blog was. And yes, sometimes I do feel conflicted about seemingly contradictory things in my life. Most of us do, if we're honest. I've sometimes wondered if I am being a little dishonest by working with self-help or spiritual or inspirational authors, when I snark so much about the culture from which they spring. Yet the truth is that I do enjoy some books in these genres, and most of the clients we have dealt with have been genuinely nice people who seem to want to help others. I make no attempt to hide my hobby blog from anyone, and you could say it serves as a screening device to help weed out the types of clients who would not be a good match for Ron and me. (I should add that Ron and I have turned away many more projects in this genre than we've accepted.)****

For the most part, I'm pretty comfortable with having mixed feelings about lots of things and few pat answers for anything.

Finally, the discussions in which I've been involved have served as a reminder to me that I do not always err on the side of kindness, empathy, or "mindfulness" (which, let's face it, means different things to different people, whether or not they are schooled in mindfulness meditation or whatever). It occurs to me that perhaps some of the people I've snarked about simply got their feelings hurt by my snarking, and maybe that's what their real issue is. That said, I cannot promise at this point to set a new course for kindness and gentleness. I sometimes feel I am being too kind anyway, and that I am wisely erring on the side of restraint if not kindness. And, obviously, when people end up dead, injured or scammed because of some New-Wage guru, kindness and gentleness towards that guru are not the first priority. Everyone deserves compassion, but I guess I'm not enough of an evolved being to have as much sympathy and empathy for James Ray at this point as I do for the families who had to deal with newly empty places at their holiday tables this year.

However, where my own snarks about certain subjects are concerned, I have taken the time to consider the hurt-feelings factor. Let's just say I'm taking it under advisement.

I'm wondering if some of the snargets and "critic watchers," or their followers, have been using these online discussions as opportunities to re-examine their own motives and practices. No doubt several of their recent blog posts were influenced by these conflicts as well as by the growing wave of criticism in the larger world. It's far more likely, however, that the conflicts have only strengthened the snargets' resolve to keep on doing what they're doing, and believing what they're believing. That's what it's looking like to me right now, based upon various Tweets and blog posts I've glanced at recently.

I am sure that to a certain degree all of us who were either involved in or have witnessed these recent conflicts have used the experience to justify our respective choices to think and do whatever it is we're thinking and doing. Some would call it rationalization. Whatever you call it, it seems to be what we human animals do, more often than not, in order to keep ourselves marginally sane in an insane world. I'm not excusing it, just stating an observation. Besides, I often suspect that we're all just fooling ourselves about being even marginally sane.

However it all plays out in the year to come, I hope all of you are having a happy holiday and that your new year is just grand – and that even goes for those of you who don't like me. To my friends on the road, and you know who you are, I wish you a safe trip and a joyful arrival at your destination. To those who like me, thank you for the support. To those who don't like me, thank you for the lessons.

And to all of you... hey, you're welcome.

PS ~The links below might provide a little more insight into the "incoherence" of your hostess. Those of you who have been with me a while have no doubt read all of these posts, but those who are fairly new might want to take a look at some of them. I'm thinking I should incorporate some of the points in the posts into a FAQ page for this blog.
And here are a couple of posts about some of the criticism I've received from different fronts in the war between belief and disbelief. As I mentioned above, I've since worked out my differences with Skeptico, the guy in the "not-so-skepchick" post. However, after a brief email exchange, I never heard back from the "hell hath no fury" correspondent. I either shook up his world or set him more firmly on the path he was already on. Either way, I am confident I provided value for him.

PPS added in 2010: My conversations with self-help insider Peter Wink (alluded to in my post above) also touch on some salient issues.

  • Conversations with Peter Wink, Part 1
  • Conversations with Peter Wink, Part 2
  • Whither Wink Wednesdays (or, Wink Wednesdays withered?)
  • Conversations with Peter Wink, Part 3
  • * Re Minor Snarget and Major Snarget: Again, this is not a value judgment. The monikers are simply an allusion to the fact that I have snarked about one of these gentlemen much more frequently than the other guy.
    ** I should note that Angry Blogger is not representative of skeptics in general (and, by his own admission, has been banned from some skeptical forums). I simply consider him to be an extreme case of anti-New-Wage sentiment.
    *** Some might think that when listing critics I am overlooking Barbara Ehrenreich, whose recent book, Bright-Sided: How The Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America, had a few New-Wage gurus and their followers up in arms. Many dismissed the book as the work of someone who has lots of rage issues, and some even suggested that was why she contracted cancer. I am definitely a fan of Ehrenreich's work and I enjoy her blog, but I didn't list her with the others because she doesn't confine her commentary to New-Wage/selfish-help matters. (Of course it could be argued that Orac doesn't either, but he has discussed some of the New-Wage gurus, such as Deepak Chopra, at length, so I included him on the list.)
    **** I was a writer, editor and author's advocate before I was a snarky blogger, and believe it or not, I even tried to be an author's advocate of sorts for Major Snarget when I noticed a borderline-insulting author's biography on the web site of the publisher of one of his recent books. It was lifted straight from a particularly unflattering incarnation of the man's now-defunct Wikipedia page. Why would a publisher allow such a thing? I wondered. Does this publisher or his webmaster dislike Major Snarg that much? Since Major Snarg had put me on his spam blocker, I couldn't send an email to him, so I sent one to his assistant. There was no response so I sent another one. There was still no response, and the entry stayed on the web site for several more weeks. Finally I sent an email to someone else in Major Snarg's circle of influence, and the entry was corrected not long after.

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    Blogger Duff said...

    Thanks for the kind words, and the loooooong blog getting me up to speed with the snowball fight! Happy New Year to you and Ron.

    Thursday, December 31, 2009 6:45:00 PM  
    Anonymous Cassandra Yorgey said...

    So, um, let me get this straight... You worry about cognitive dissonence because you think some self-help stuff is crap and other stuff is not? I would perhaps describe this as "discernment"...

    Thursday, December 31, 2009 7:52:00 PM  
    Blogger Tim said...

    Your commentaries are worth reading for the quality of writing alone.

    -- Lord Unctious :)

    Friday, January 01, 2010 7:13:00 AM  
    Anonymous Skeptico said...

    Minor Snarget deleted the blog post and dissenting comments? What a wuss. I also note his “critic watch” blog is not exactly a rip roaring success. One post and no comments to date? He obviously isn’t wishing hard enough for it to succeed.

    Thanks for the plug. “Deep-Pockets Chopra” – that really made me laugh.

    Friday, January 01, 2010 12:11:00 PM  
    Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

    Thanks for the New Year's wishes, Duff, and right back at ya. Keep on lobbing those snowballs!

    Friday, January 01, 2010 1:32:00 PM  
    Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

    Cassandra Yorgey said...

    "So, um, let me get this straight... You worry about cognitive dissonence because you think some self-help stuff is crap and other stuff is not? I would perhaps describe this as 'discernment'..."

    Thanks, Cassandra. I suspect you're right. I suppose the dissonance, if any, comes from being a fence-sitter about many issues. And there are times when, believe me, I am tempted to throw the baby out with the bathwater and say ALL self-help (or spirituality) is crap. But I can never bring myself to do this, for some reason. I could probably figure out the reason if I didn't have such a second-rate mind. But you know we feeble, illogical types... ;-)

    Friday, January 01, 2010 1:39:00 PM  
    Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

    Tim said...

    "Your commentaries are worth reading for the quality of writing alone.
    -- Lord Unctious :)"

    Thank you, my Lord. I appreciate your continuing support.

    Friday, January 01, 2010 1:42:00 PM  
    Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

    Hey, Skeptico: I imagine Minor Snarget decided he has more important things to do with his time than go after critics.

    You're welcome for the plug. I can't take credit for "Deep-Pockets Chopra." I'm not sure where I first saw that, but I'm far from the first to use it:


    Friday, January 01, 2010 1:46:00 PM  
    Blogger Karl said...


    I must be suffering from cognitive dissonance too. I’ll misquote you to to reveal the extent of my "pain".

    I sometimes wonder if I am being a little dishonest by studying self-help or spiritual or inspirational authors, and using some of their ideas when I read about people who snark so much about the culture from which they spring.

    But hey, that’s my shadow.

    And in my own case I’m making a stab at trying to sort out the wheat from the chaff. Like you I probably don’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater. But with all the dross and schlock being marketed/pimped nowadays, some of which can not only lighten your wallet, seriously mess with your mind or even kill you, the situation resembles a baby bobbing around in a bathtub of Atlantic ocean proportions

    Friday, January 01, 2010 6:30:00 PM  
    Blogger Karl said...

    I have used Holosync and will probably will continue with it until I work through all the cds (levels) I have purchased. I bought those a couple of years ago when Harris was running a special deal which he does fairly frequently.

    WhileI have found Holosync relaxing and generally beneficial I have been using it along in conjunction with doing other practices so it is difficult to say at what point that Holosync can step in and claim the credit for positive changes.

    I do think that it is over priced and with all the options for BWE and meditation now available using other technology (some of which is free) more than likely I wouldn't be considering purchasing it now.

    I have also taken Harris' three module Life Integration Online course . Generally some good to very good stuff covered in it although some of it is a bit convoluted. So on the whole the courses are like the proverbial curate's egg. Just good in parts.

    Harris is a great marketer and he freely admits to modelling various skills he possesses. Once upon a time Centerpointe sent out snail mail detailing the latest offers but now Harris chooses to post a video of himself making some comment on a topic.

    His marketing more recently has chosen to ride on the coat tails of Oprah flavour-of-the-month topics such as "The Secret" and more recently Eckhart Tolle. Harris offered a free course of interviews with various people related to the topic under discussion and then heavily plugged Holosync. Nothing wrong with that but it underlines the point that Harris is an aggressive marketer.

    More recently he seems to be aligning himself more and more with Ken Wilber, Genpo Roshi and the fringe enlightenment mob. Now he even has a shaven skull like his mates. In fact I am surprised he hasn't started calling himself Rinpoche ("Precious One") Harris. Some of the comments on his more recent blog posts seem less tolerant, more dismissive of questioning than he used to be.

    I think Harris has begun to take on the guru "rude boy" persona that people like Wilber use to defend bad behaviour on the part of teachers (most notably Andrew Cohen). Certainly, these teachers, for people supposedly attached to getting rid of their egos they seem to be very much in their thrall.

    "Rude boy" behaviour, as I see it (and the gurus no doubt wouldn't agree with me) is dysfunctional behaviour on the part of the teacher/guru supposedly to provide the student with some kind of learning or satori showing them the error of their ways.

    Au contraire what it indicates to me is just that the guru is an a*hole, not an enlightened, or even awakened individual. IMHO of course.

    PS I have rambled on a bit. CC you are a bad influence.

    Friday, January 01, 2010 7:25:00 PM  
    Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

    Fascinating points, Karl. Thanks for the additional insights on Harris and other gurus. And hey, you can ramble on here any time you want. :-)

    (And I love the imagery, in your first comment, of the baby in the ocean.)

    Friday, January 01, 2010 8:08:00 PM  
    Blogger Karl said...

    I just had to return to add a follow up to my last post. And to apologise for a few grammatical boo-boos. But after all I am only a human having a spiritual experience.

    Bill Harris has just posted his first post for the year on his "The BlogThat Ate Mind Chatter" blog.

    Straight away he is off on his take-no-prisoners response to insolent or critical blog response posters.

    This is from someone who repeatedly has said "Let whatever happens be ok". I am not sure if those are the exact words but never mind as I have all his notes still and can easily verify the exact phrase. Once again it shows how people vending information in the self help field want to be immune from criticism. And the ones in the spiritual arena who spout off endlessly about being free of ego are full of it. BS (or ego) that is.

    Friday, January 01, 2010 9:44:00 PM  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Hey Connie - This is a general note to thank you for your constant reminders to "be real". As a coach, it is very tempting to veer into the overpromises and hype marketing practiced by (yes) many of the big gurus. In December I was invited to be part of a project, and as the plan evolved I realized that the marketing was going to be patterned on the "New-Wage" guru model. That's when the alarm bells went off and I pulled out. Got a lot of flak for that, but I'm glad I'm not involved. Thanks to you my BS sensor is in great shape!

    Also, one of the links you mentioned here led to a post on how a Guru convinced someone to go into deep debt to attend a program. This also made me aware of another trap, so I'm implementing a "means test" in my intake process to ensure someone doesn't dig themselves a hole because of hype and hope.

    Keep up the great work. You help me to keep me grounded in reality as I build my business (because yes somehow we all gotta eat!)

    So please continue to keeping us in the personal development industry honest in 2010!

    p.s. I've been eyeing your main service and hope someday we can work together on a cool project :)

    Friday, January 01, 2010 9:50:00 PM  
    Blogger savage71 said...

    It appears you are starting this new year off rather introspectively, as are many.

    Let me address on thing you mentioned in your post. You pondered whether you are producing anything of "value" in the world with your Musings (you also brought up the point that "value" is subjective, which it certainly is.

    I would just like to state that yes, your work certainly brings something good into this ol' world. I consider myself living proof of that.

    As I have mentioned to you before, I had been a very avid follower of pretty much anything "new agey", The Secret included. When after seven years, I began to smell something funny with the whole thing (thoughts I had before, but quickly went through my mental gymnastics to stifle them) I needed to hear from the other side, and that's when I found your blog (I believe I came across it by typing "the secret + criticisms" into Google.

    Your writing (not just the snarking, but also the links you post to back up what you are saying) helped me immensely while I was wrestling with some very large question marks in my life. Too much to go into in this forum, but let's just say the Johnny Rotten quote was in my head a lot when thinking about the whole new age movement ant the people involved; "Ever get the feeling you've been cheated?"

    I don't blog, I take pictures. I had started to at one time, but realized that since I'm human, I may not feel the same way about a subject one day as I did the day before. That's not to say I'm wishy-washy, I just like to look at things from different angles.

    Bottom line is, Connie, that I feel very strongly that what you do here is quite important. I know you have helped me, and I would guess others as well.

    As far as your critics and detractors go, look at the bright side; it is nothing compared to the angry mess Trey Parker and Matt Stone probably get every day. Maybe the show should be called South Snark

    Saturday, January 02, 2010 3:13:00 AM  
    Anonymous Yakaru said...

    Huh, we're still alive? I thought when the calendar finishes the entire world goes up in smoke. Oh hang on, wrong calendar.

    Anyway, happy new year, Connie and thanks for your excellent, first class, wonderful, far out blog.

    Thanks also for the coverage of Death Ray, and all the links and discussion. I think it was a wise decision to step back a bit as it all unfolds. The links you provided are all covering it very well, or in Salty Droid's case stunningly brilliantly. (Man, I love that guy!)

    So, Ray instructs his participants to stop taking their medications during the retreat, and he's doing anabolic steroids, human growth hormones, estrogen supressors?????

    And he was so scared that he would be arrested that he p-'d off without even returning to his room to get his passport???

    Yup, sure sounds like he has a clear conscience about having done "everything he could" after the "tragic accident".

    ....Also, I think it's great the way you stay on Vitale's case. I never comment there because my brain just closes down as soon as I read a single word that drongo writes. You have more cerebral fortitude than me, Connie!

    Saturday, January 02, 2010 9:57:00 AM  
    Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

    Karl (9:44 PM), no worries about any grammatical boo-boos. I'm sure my long post and many others I've written contain a few of those glitches as well. I rarely edit my own stuff on this blog with the same care that I do for clients. And I don't normally critique commenters here either.

    I read Bill's blog post, and my first thought was that "negative social mood" might be a euphemism for "Boo-hoo, the critics are out to get me and everyone else in the self-help industry." In the discussion that followed, however, he elaborated a little about what he meant by negative social mood, mentioning "socionomics" and the cause/effect factors in social mood cycles. That was actually in response to his one dissenter, a guy named Michael Roberts, who writes the Being Human Today blog. (Michael later returned to praise Bill's holy name, complete with a smiley icon.)

    Realizing that my statement here is based only upon reading this one blog post and the ensuing discussion, I have to say that Bill made a couple of valid points when addressing Michael, who had taken Bill to task for writing about negativity at all. At least Bill acknowledged that it's not all sweetness and light in the larger world. In his first comment to Bill's post, Michael said his life is better than ever, so why keep writing about negative things? He said, "We are what we say and do," and implied that Bill has been writing about other depressing and negative events for some time now, and he should just stop.

    Since I haven't been following Bill's blog I don't know if it's true that Bill has been writing a lot of negative stuff on his blog, and frankly, I'm too lazy right now to pursue the matter. But, as I noted, he made a couple of good points in his response to Michael. One point is that if someone's "good times" are so fragile that they are ruined by people talking about bad times, perhaps those good times aren't so good after all. Another issue he brought up was that people's judgments of whether times are "good" or "bad" are influenced by individual factors, even something so mundane as the person's age.

    That said, it seems to me from what I've seen lately (e.g., his threats to Duff McDuffee) that Bill isn't handling the negativity in his own life in a very thoughtful or enlightened manner.

    Saturday, January 02, 2010 10:30:00 AM  
    Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

    Anon 9:50 PM (Coachd), thanks for your comments, and I'm glad you have found my perspective valuable. Perhaps we *will* work on on a project together someday. (One thing is certain: 2010 is going to see me FINALLY updating the bidness web site to reflect more recent projects as well as new directions our business is taking.)

    Regarding your choice to opt out of a New-Wage guru scheme, it sounds to me as if you made a wise choice, given the alarm bells that went off regarding the marketing. We all have to decide for ourselves if projects we are considering are in sync with our principles. There's absolutely nothing wrong with money being a motivating factor, but it seems to me that all too often it becomes the *only* factor. There's nothing intrinsically wrong with clever or aggressive marketing either, but too often, the stuff being marketed consists of cleverly packaged junk products and empty promises.

    Good for you for deciding to implement a "means test." IMO, doing something like this is the only way to be fair to yourself as well as your clients. Ron and I have turned away clients who, though they really wanted to work with us, didn't have money to spare, but vowed they would borrow from relatives, go into their life savings, or do whatever was necessary to come up with the money to pay our fees. Since there's no guarantee that a book is going to make money even if the prospective author does hire professionals to help create it, it simply does not make sense for people to spend $25,000 or more that they don't really have. And we cannot in good conscience encourage anyone to take such a gamble. We just can't bring ourselves to be like the gurus who say, "Do WHATEVER you need to do to get to this event."

    It's encouraging to see people such as yourself, Coachd, who are trying to create more ethical business models.

    Saturday, January 02, 2010 11:10:00 AM  
    Blogger Sheila said...

    I've often said that getting the useful wisdom out of most New Wage stuff is much like getting the toy surprise in the box of sugared cereal--no matter how you go about it, you wind up covered in sticky sweetness and artificial flavors. I've gotten pretty good at sifting through the crunchy bits to get to what's solid and real. (To the point that I can look at the box and think "Oh, I've already got one of those.")

    I don't think it's cognitive dissonance to point out that the sugary bits can be bad for you when consumed nonstop while still admitting that the toy surprise can be kinda nifty. And it's definitely not a bad thing to let people know when the cereal is WAY overpriced.

    Saturday, January 02, 2010 11:17:00 AM  
    Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

    Savage71, I really appreciate your words of encouragement. When I questioned whether I was creating value I was of course referring to this blog, but I was also referring to other areas of my life, because once I start introspectin'...well, darn it all, I just can't stop.

    The cynical answer to whether or not one is providing value is that it doesn't matter on any deep level, since success in our culture is measured by how much money you make -- so what really matters is how thoroughly you can convince others that you're providing value. As long as they think they are getting something for their money, they'll continue to fork over.

    Yet I realize even as I think those things that value is indeed subjective but it transcends issues of money. And even though I'm not making money with this blog (yet), I do think that somehow I'm making a worthy contribution. Maybe I *could* do more, and provide equal or greater value, by putting my energies elsewhere. (You mention the creators of "South Park," who *are* providing value, in the form of entertainment, but I feel compelled to note that they are making tons of money from it. That has to sweeten any of the negative stuff they probably deal with on a daily basis.)

    Anyway, I'm glad I'm providing value for you and for a few others -- those who openly admit it, as well as those for whom this blog remains a guilty pleasure. And I hope you keep on taking pictures, S71, because one picture is worth a thousand blogs. :-)

    Saturday, January 02, 2010 11:31:00 AM  
    Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

    Hey, Yakaru. Yeah, you were jumping the gun a bit. The world isn't scheduled to go up in smoke until December 21, 2012. Or perhaps on midnight January 1, 2000, for those who are time travelers. :-)

    Happy New Year to you too. I share your affection for the Droid. I sometimes feel as if I'm the little snarking dog who runs around the perimeter of the deep dark woods making a lot of noise, but Droid and a few others are the ones who actually venture into the woods with the machetes and axes to pursue the beasts that are hiding in the trees.

    Regarding James Ray's pill popping... wow. I had read something he wrote fairly recently (I think it was on Huffington Post), where he mentioned that he spends a LOT of money on nutritional supplements and other products to support his health. Boy, he wasn't kidding.

    I'm still a little confused about the sequence of events regarding JAR leaving the scene. Of course his defense will probably say that he left all of his stuff behind because he felt he had nothing to hide.

    Anyway, Yak, thanks so much for your comments and continuing support.

    Saturday, January 02, 2010 12:36:00 PM  
    Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

    LOL, Sheila. I love your cereal metaphor. Thanks!

    Saturday, January 02, 2010 12:37:00 PM  
    Blogger savage71 said...

    Something occurred to me recently. In the midst of people being let go in James Ray's business, I wonder if he has hired any new "assistants" recently (aka bodyguards).

    Saturday, January 02, 2010 3:35:00 PM  
    Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

    I wonder if he even goes out in public any more at all, S71.

    Saturday, January 02, 2010 3:59:00 PM  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    "In the end, he declared victory by virtue of having "proved" that Ron and I are incapable of creating anything of value."

    And yet I myself have held in my own hand a copy of one of your books, picked from a shelf in a branch of Waterstones- a shop *without* a sign up front saying "nothing we offer has any value" for, gadzooks, they would not be open long were that the case. Would they now?
    Not only that but said copy disappeared from the shelves quite quickly. I did not buy or steal it. I assume it was purchased, using money, by someone who assigned a measure of value to the aforementioned tome, thereby tacitly agreeing with the unspoken philosophy of one of the UK's major book retailers that you do, in fact, create things of value.
    Why, I may even request that my local librarium purchase a copy so that I and the general public may appreciate first hand the value of your creation.
    Your critic is wrong, the slug.

    Saturday, January 02, 2010 8:40:00 PM  
    Blogger Sheila said...

    Anonymous @ 8:40 -- I think I kind of love you.

    Since I've been unemployed for nearly a year, I've gotten over the idea that my value as a human being is measured in my monetary income. (I can't imagine how depressed I'd be if I still held to that view.) What do you here, Connie, indeed has value and anybody who tries to tell you otherwise has no clue what really matters.

    Sunday, January 03, 2010 10:33:00 AM  
    Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

    Thanks, Anon 8:40 PM. Of course, my critic, Minor Snarget, set up the discussion specifically so he could reach that "conclusion." Actually, he just opened the door and Ron walked right through it. Instead of directly addressing the points Ron made in his comments, Minor Snarg challenged Ron to list some astoundingly successful self-help products he and I have created. He was striving to prove that we know nothing about the self-help or spiritual industry and therefore are not qualified to criticize it.

    Ron took the bait. He summarized his own background in spiritual studies and teaching, which is actually pretty impressive, IMO. Then, without listing titles, he described a few of our book projects, inviting Minor Snarg to go to our web site if he wanted more info. The site hasn't been updated in a VERY long time (due to my negligence, for which I take full responsibility), so the titles Minor Snarg grabbed off of our clients page were of course older ones.

    Minor Snarg zipped on over to Amazon and saw that the titles were way down in the rankings -- which is understandable, since the authors aren't actively promoting them any more, and active promotion more than anything else is what creates a bestseller on Amazon or anywhere else.

    Minor Snarg came back to the discussion with a list of those titles and their Amazon rankings, sneering that we must be very proud of ourselves, since we obviously can’t even create books that could make the top million in rankings. He also made a snide remark about the fact that several of the books were self-published, though he called it "vanity publishing" (overlooking the fact that his bud Major Snarget's latest book is also self-published).

    For the purpose of that discussion, Minor Snarget based his judgment about value, or lack thereof, on an arbitrary list of factors that would automatically exclude Ron and me. At present we do not have multiple streams of income and a collection of expensive consumer products. More to the point of the rancorous discussion, neither we nor any of our clients currently have a bestselling book on Amazon. Again, none of that has anything to do with the merits of our comments on Minor Snarg's blog. I find it interesting that Minor Snarget's own book was briefly on one of the Amazon bestseller lists, but this was a result of massive promotional efforts, aided by his buddy Major Snarget and a host of others who contributed to an incentive package for folks ordering the book from Amazon. I’m not saying his book has no merit; I still haven’t read it so I don’t know. But my point is that it generally takes a lot of work, including cooperative effort from others, to get a book on the bestseller list.

    In fairness, Minor Snarget has also written on more than one occasion that one aspect of creating value is helping others solve their problems. The more problems you can solve for more people, the greater value you are creating and, if you handle it right, the more successful you are. And he has a very good point there. Yet there's a counterpoint to that, which *I* have written about before: success sometimes depends upon convincing others that you are solving their problem, whether you really are or not. (Sometimes it's the same thing, of course; if they feel better about the problem, even for the moment, then it is possible that for all practical purposes the problem *has* been solved -- for the moment, anyway.)

    Minor Snarg has also written that another way of creating value is by entertaining people. That resonates more with me, even though I am not getting paid much for entertaining people, and even though in some cases I am perhaps being unwittingly entertaining. I have certainly provided some free entertainment for Minor Snarg. :-)

    (cont'd on next comment...I'm running into that "character limitation" problem)

    Sunday, January 03, 2010 11:03:00 AM  
    Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

    (continued from previous comment)
    ...The point is that there are different ways of creating value. Some might find value in a computer-generated printout of a blind Russian Wish Dolly. Some might find value in a plastic bracelet that is derivative of the What Would Jesus Do? theme. And some might find value in a snarky blog... or even in a ghostwritten nonfiction book that is several years old.

    Sunday, January 03, 2010 11:04:00 AM  
    Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

    Hi, Sheila... your second comment just came in, but apparently it was in Blogger's system earlier, so it was automatically placed before my long reply to Anon 8:40. I really appreciate your support.

    I think that at one time or another we all struggle with the issue of money as a determinant of our own value. And while Minor Snarg was correct in his assertion that in business, success is measured by profitability above all else, it's easy for individuals to confuse monetary worth with their worth as human beings. In an affluent consumer society such as ours, the person who doesn't occasionally experience this confusion is probably pretty rare.

    Of course, New-Wage gurus actually encourage this tendency when they use their own affluent lifestyles -- or just a vision of affluence in general -- as marketing tools. What's more, they know very well what they are doing.

    When confronted, however, they turn around and deny that they're doing it, choosing instead to lay the blame on critics -- calling us losers who hate money and don't want others to be successful, happy, or evolved.

    In his more thoughtful moments, Minor Snarg speaks of money as merely a means to acquire things we need or want, or to achieve our goals, or to contribute to the betterment of the world, or whatever it is we want to use it for. Money only has meaning because, individually and collectively, we assign it meaning.

    In less thoughtful moments, however, Minor Snarg and many other folks (including Major Snarg) seem to resort to boasting about their accomplishments and their material acquisitions. In some cases they appear to be using these to demonstrate their "superiority" to their critics.

    When they're being neither thoughtful nor thoughtless but are simply in their default marketing mode, most of the New-Wage gurus seem to spend a great deal of time parading their fine visions of McMansions and Bentleys and tropical islands. They are pandering to the envy and longing and greed that reside in all of us.

    And again, they know very well what they're doing. They are definitely providing value -- for themselves, anyway.

    What's kinda sad about this whole Minor Snarget thing is that much of what he writes really makes sense to me. He is absolutely correct when he says there's no such thing as job security any more, as all too many people have found out the hard way. And, as one who was always miserable in the 9-to-5 world, I agree with him about the merits of being your own boss. If he is truly successful in helping others create businesses that allow them to become self-sufficient, I applaud him.

    We obviously have points of disagreement, however, and that's what came to the forefront during this latest Whirled war.

    Sunday, January 03, 2010 1:55:00 PM  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Hello Connie,

    I have followed your blog for about 2 years now. This post finally pulled me out of my lurk.

    Do I agree with every little thing you have written? No, of course not. Do any 2 honest people agree on everything? I think not. However, I will say that I agree with most of your (and Ron's) opinions that you have shared. I also adore your style. You have a wonderful ability to be fair, kind and sharply snarky simultaneously. You a "hater?" Ha! If I blogged about these same folks, they would not need to create lengthy posts to point out my loathing.

    I simply don't understand the mindset that finds valid criticism "hateful." Or those that feel there is no "value" in criticism. A couple of examples from my experience:

    I have worked for 15 years in scientific fields. I have done research at major universities, and done QA/QC work in the pharmaceutical and medical device industries.

    When I worked at a major medical school, I attended a weekly meeting where the Phd's and MDs I worked with would present their current research and then let their colleagues tear into it. This was good for all involved. Problems were solved, new lines of research were initiated and everyone got up to date.

    I once was part of a presentation to the FDA. It was full of fluff, smoke and mirrors that management insisted was "good enough." Not hardly. The FDA panel ripped us a new one - and well done, I say! I was the only happy one there, and when my manager asked me why I was in a good mood I said, "Because now we can dump the BS and get down to reality."

    I attended a 2 day management leadership conference. The main speaker - who had been handsomely compensated for his time - left us with this message. "Go hard or go home." Thankfully there was some useful networking accomplished.

    Just because you have experience and can present yourself in an eloquent manner, does not mean that what you have to say is worth anything. Without criticism we would be adrift in crappola.

    So, you and Ron sure do contribute value. You help us cut through the hype and marketing floss. You help us find the glimmer of reality in the sea of self promotion and inflated claims. And you do so in a fun whimsical way.

    Thank you for that.

    Happy New Year!

    - BigRuta

    P.S.: Yes, I know that Brian Dunning would not approve of me not using my real name, but there it is.

    Sunday, January 03, 2010 2:55:00 PM  
    Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

    Thank you, BigRuta, for taking time to emerge from your lurk and share your thoughts. And I don't care what name you use; you make a lot of sense. :-)

    Sunday, January 03, 2010 4:17:00 PM  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Your commentaries are worth reading for the quality of writing alone.

    -- Lord Unctious :)

    The writing *and* the humor. I laugh and laugh, I get the biggest kick out of your humor! I'm not a blog reader but this one is going to be regularly read because it's so damn good.

    Thank you -

    Sunday, January 03, 2010 8:53:00 PM  
    Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

    And thank YOU, Barbara. :-)

    Monday, January 04, 2010 9:06:00 AM  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Now this is good writing. For so many, many years I have been scouring the rough, and often unfathomably immature landscape of the internet, fighting the urge to give up hope, and believe the web was just a place to prove which blogger had the bigger "E-penis" - a fate too frightening to accept.

    I stumbled upon this site earlier today after someone on my Facebook posted their reaction to your blog on ACCESS (the article detailing Stephen and his woes). I am actually working on getting myself into the motivational speaking arena, and I find your views incredibly refreshing.

    Someone please explain to me where it states: He/She who comes up with the most outlandish, or criminally negligent self-help gimmick, wins.

    James Ray is ridiculous. What possesses someone to come up with that idea? And ACCESS? I haven't read more than a few blog posts and the actual ACCESS site itself, but I felt hosed.

    Let's be honest, what respectable company, partnership, religion, movement, etc. uses its HOT word to describe its HOT word?

    "Consciousness will give you consciousness?" But I digress...

    I do have to tip my hat to them, however. If anyone wants to make a lot of money, look no further than starting your own self-help-sexual-revolution-Scientology-knock-off movement. Well played, Salesman. Well played.

    Self help doesn't have to be crazy. I help people every day by helping them avoid these 'movements'. If you want to join a movement, join the 'Little Engine That Could' Movement and simply chant, "I think I can; I think I can; I think I can."

    I am new to your blog, and will read just about everything in it over the next couple of weeks, but as a shortcut, could you tell me which programs, authors, or avatars in Self Help you do not loathe? I'm trying to scoot into that category.

    Blake (Chicago)

    Monday, January 04, 2010 6:24:00 PM  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Hi Blake,

    FWIW, Jim Rohn promotes a success philosophy that's devoid of the woo stuff with a focus on mental disciple. Basically: to have more we must become more, and to become more we must do what we can and do the best we can.

    As to the woo side of things, Thomas Troward posited the philosophical foundation for what we call mental science. However, I'd advise going to the source because those professing to expound on Troward's philosophy (from Napoleon Hill through Joe Vitale, Bob Proctor and Rhonda Byrne) grossly distort or completely invert the principles found in his writings.


    Monday, January 04, 2010 11:39:00 PM  
    Blogger Burned by Fire said...

    Thanks for the kind words. Honestly, it's not hard to do a critical analysis of Major Snarget's work. He makes it amazingly simple. And as for Minor Snarg, I think by the end of his temper tantrum it was apparent he's a fairly well restrained pit bull.

    I love your analysis in this post, both with your introspection and analysis of the larger situation of the new wagers. Just the fact that you CAN self analyze and look at your own thought processes critically proves that the positions you do hold firmly are well investigated and worthy of your commitment. Few things in this world warrant that.

    The party is definitely over for the new wagers ... they've had free reign over their hype-no-tized masses for too long, and the masses are waking up to the scam.

    Of course, the money hungry snargets will find new ways of extracting money from their marks. My favorite snarg has proclaimed this to be the year of his achieving trillionaire status. I can't WAIT to see how he attempts that.

    Tuesday, January 05, 2010 1:29:00 PM  
    Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

    Thank you, Blake in Chicago, for your comments and compliments. I'm not a big fan of self-help or McSpirituality, but neither do I loathe all of it. In fact, "loathe" is probably too strong a term for most of the people and movements I snark about. As for my own preferences, frankly, I prefer stand-up comedians to motivational speakers. But hey, speakers are okay too. If you can be funny and a little snarky, you've got my attention. If you can avoid mentioning quantum physics (unless you really are a professional quantum physicist or an extraordinarily well-informed amateur), you get extra points. :-)

    On a more serious note, I -- and, I'm guessing, many other people as well -- would love to hear more from motivational speakers and writers who, even if they don't use humor, aren't so focused on upselling that they forget their basic message. Give us more speakers and writers who have the ability to remind people of what a beautiful and mysterious gift life is -- and who can do so without resorting to wild claims and empty promises, pseudo-scientific gobbledygook, or shameless self-aggrandizement.

    Good luck, Blake, and I hope you will keep in touch.

    Tuesday, January 05, 2010 4:01:00 PM  
    Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

    Thanks for your input, John. In a recent conversation I had with a self-help industry "insider," he mentioned that the recently departed Jim Rohn has long been one of his favorites too. Rohn was one of those old-fashioned motivators who seemed less interested in parading an affluent lifestyle than in actually motivating people. I think that's one reason so many people like him.

    As for Troward, it seems he inspired many folks. He was even given credit for inspiring The Secret movie, though it seems Wallace Wattles' "The Science of Getting Rich" was Rhonda's initial inspiration. At least, that's how Rhonda has told it on many occasions. For those who are interested in the history of the New Thought movement, however, it's always beneficial to review the works of some of the originators of the movement, such as Troward. Thanks for mentioning him.

    Tuesday, January 05, 2010 4:44:00 PM  
    Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

    Hi, Burned By Fire, it's great to hear from you. I imagine your restrained-pit-bull metaphor is pretty accurate, but in truth I think of Minor Snarg as more than that. I think he actually does have something worthwhile to say. But as long as he has those ties to Major Snarg... well, that's where his first loyalty lies, and his dealings with the "critics" will reflect that.

    Is the party really over for the New-Wagers? Maybe not, but it's definitely not going to be as much fun for some of them. And yes, people are waking up...but then again, we should never forget that the public has a brief attention span.

    As for Major Snarg's monetary goal, I remember that he wrote in "The Attractor Factor" that he wanted to be the world's first trillionaire. Since he's not even a billionaire yet, it seems he might have a way to go. Maybe he doesn't realize just how many zeroes there are in one trillion. He never was very good with numbers. On the other hand, he can always claim he's achieved trillionaire status, and I'm sure that at least some of his followers will believe him. Maybe he can use the same accounting/appraisal system he used to manifest that "multi-million dollar estate" he now lives on.

    Tuesday, January 05, 2010 5:22:00 PM  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    HAHAHAHAHA, CC, to that last paragraph, just above, in the comments section, HAHAHAHAHAHA.
    I get the biggest kick out of how you say things! Too funny.


    Tuesday, January 05, 2010 6:21:00 PM  
    Blogger Pat O'Bryan said...

    Know Your Snarget-

    I feel like a cartoon character reading these comments. Or a rumor.

    I will say in Connie's favor that she actually has a clue about who I am and what I do.

    For the rest of you- if there must be snarking, let it be informed snarking.

    My main web page is http://patobryan.com

    My blog is at

    My music is at

    there are a lot of videos of me playing guitar, but one of my faves is http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cuLwLVQFhMQ

    My "about me" page is at

    My most recent book is on Amazon.com
    here: http://bit.ly/5sBHs4

    One of my paintings is online at: http://digitalconsciousness.com/artists/PatOBryan/

    I exist in (at least) three dimensions. ;)

    I'm actually interested in informed critiques of my products. "Informed," in this case, means that you're actually familiar with either internet marketing or self-help products, have used some, and basically have a basis for your opinion.

    If you have a question about one of my products, my email address is pat@patobryan.com

    Tuesday, January 05, 2010 10:21:00 PM  
    Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

    Thank you for the links, Pat. We're all cartoon characters in this story, I guess...especially me.

    I like the horse painting.

    Tuesday, January 05, 2010 10:29:00 PM  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Smoking is bad.

    Friday, January 08, 2010 3:23:00 PM  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    I been watching Ken Robinson on education. "Find your element", he says, "what you are good at and what you enjoy". It strikes me that you are in your element CC with your writing and all, which may be a lesson to those who want something from self help. What about that?

    Friday, January 08, 2010 3:35:00 PM  
    Blogger Mesila 333 said...

    I'm delighted to have found your blog as a result of some seriously random link-clicking. There's a special flavour of annoyance I feel when I encounter a site that promises all sorts of mind expansion and suchlike - so long as you happen to be sitting on a huge mountain of money. Ever heard of "Higher Balance Institute"? You ought to have a gander at that one, it's a real lolly - talk about a "New Wage" scam!

    I hardly ever bookmark anything anymore, but I'm definitely going to grab your link and store it so I can keep up on your critiques. Hell, I believe that criticism can be an art form of its own if it's done well enough.

    Saturday, January 09, 2010 11:15:00 PM  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Higher Balance Institute?
    I found this ace 'how to' on YT.

    Sunday, January 10, 2010 5:24:00 PM  
    Anonymous mojo said...

    Late to the party as usual but just to throw some more Cosmic Luv your way. (Not that you need it, but Mojo does like to butt in on occasion.)

    Snark and satire have a fine history in their own right, from Aristophanes (earliest person I can think of offhand who savagely lampooned his contemporaries, like Socrates and Euripides) and continuing on through such notables as Swift, Pope, Voltaire, etc. I'm a big fan of Gilbert and Sullivan, who achieved their greatest success poking horrible fun at others.

    One observation that applies equally to both sides of whatever fence one wishes to construct is this: Certain things survive the test of time, while other things--that might be all the rage and seemingly eternal--are forgotten. While we all passionately defend our respective intellectual babies, it's probably good to remember that most of these historical works I cite above cannot be understood today without copious FOOTNOTES explaining what's so darned funny. The fickle public has long since forgotten what was once so AWFULLY important.

    Many an Athenian politician Aristophanes mocks is only now remembered as one of his victims. Ditto half the people mentioned in a G&S patter song.

    I will also note that most any attempt to control what others say is a waste of energy at best, and catastrophic at worst; aka the "Streisand Effect". Another snarky critical blog I occasionally frequent is the (very popular--imagine that!) Comics Curmudgeon, and most of the "Mudges" have a special soft spot for the comic strip artists who are wise enough to take their criticism in stride. "Archie" might be a dull comic strip for anyone over the age of eight, but its creators are smart enough to add occasional sly references to the "AJGLU-3000", which are friendly shout-outs to the site. (Recently the creator of the "Jumble" complained that Curmudgeon readers were ignoring the Jumble and not making ENOUGH fun of it.)

    And while I'm not a raving fan of the show, someone gave me the DVD of Family Guy making fun of Star Wars. (I like Star Wars--total geek since I first saw it back in '77.) I was pleasantly surprised in the Special Features to find that, instead of threatening lawsuits, George Lucas offered them the full support of his entire company. In their interview one of the first things Seth MacFarlane asks Lucas is, "Why did you agree to this?" and Lucas' response was pretty much a shrug and the observation, "Well, we don't HAVE to be mean."

    I watched Lucas and I said to myself, now, if you feel so danged compelled to "handle" something, THAT's the way to handle it! Lucas looks like a terrific sport, and the Family Guy people end up just RAVING about how great his company was to work with. Totally win-win.

    Polarization and demonizing the opposition is rarely a good way to go. One person's "cognitive dissonance" is another's attempt to play fair and not blindly plunge into either side's Koolaid. That's what I like best about your Whirled--so there! Makes ya think, and perhaps re-evaluate what are sometimes fairly entrenched ideas. It's nearly impossible to get this from sources where comments from "the other side" are routinely deleted.

    I find that's true of just about ANY topic. I like looking up my favorite, favorite books on Amazon just to read the negative reviews, and ponder why people came to such a radically different conclusion. They're not evil people out to rip out the very throat of creativity. They just think different than me (the delusional fools!). And until Mojo rules the world (not this week: my plans for World Domination have been pushed back a bit due to Christmas shopping) I just have to learn to accept that....

    Monday, January 11, 2010 3:56:00 PM  
    Blogger Pat O'Bryan said...

    Interesting- From the wikipedia analysis of the apology of socrates:

    "Socrates says that he has to refute two sets of accusations: the old, longstanding charges that he is a busybody, and a curious person who makes inquiries into the earth and sky, and the recent legal charges that he is guilty of corrupting the young, and of worshipping supernatural things of his own invention instead of the gods recognized by the State (18b-c)...

    Socrates begins by telling the judges that their minds were poisoned by his enemies when they were young and impressionable. He says his reputation for sophistry comes from his enemies, all of whom are envious of him, and malicious. He says they must remain nameless, except for Aristophanes, the comic poet."

    Aristophanes comic criticism was the proximate cause of Socrates hemlock toddy.

    Not immediately.

    He wrote his satire, and the less educated learned about Socrates' character and teachings over time from the satirical writing. The actual teachings of Socrates were good- but they provided an easy target for the critics, because they were outside the mainstream.

    Therefore, by the time of his trial, Socrates was put in a position of defending himself against things he never said and interpretations of his teachings that he never intended.

    Aristophanes wins that round, I guess... but, he hardly comes across as a heroic figure historically.

    The anonymous critics come off even less well.

    I doubt if Aristophanes intended to kill Socrates. However, it's a pretty good lesson about unintended consequences and the power of the careless snark.

    Monday, January 11, 2010 10:50:00 PM  
    Anonymous Craig said...

    interesting blog post and discussion. i followed some of the original discussions that inspired this and i have to say connie that you are being a lot nicer to your critics than they were to you. at least you publish their comments and arent rude to them.

    Tuesday, January 12, 2010 1:07:00 PM  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    "Socrates was put in a position of defending himself against things he never said and interpretations of his teachings that he never intended."


    Consider two titles:

    1) How I made millions.

    2) How to make millions.

    Sometimes we put ourselves in a defensive position, not for the things we say, but for the things we imply. Sure, we can plead misinterpretation, but we can also prevent what we don't intend by changing a couple of words.

    - John

    Tuesday, January 12, 2010 1:10:00 PM  
    Blogger Pat O'Bryan said...

    John said:


    Consider two titles:

    1) How I made millions.

    2) How to make millions.

    Sometimes we put ourselves in a defensive position, not for the things we say, but for the things we imply. Sure, we can plead misinterpretation, but we can also prevent what we don't intend by changing a couple of words."

    I've never said either.

    However, I publish- online and offline- hundreds of thousands of words a year. I'm certain that some percentage of those words can be micro-misconstrued. If that's what you want to do.

    And- I do want to thank Connie for being a good host here. Since I was a subject of the blog post, I took a flyer by responding. When she was a subject of my blog post, I didn't respond nearly so graciously.

    Let's see how it goes... (takes deep breath).

    The Aristophanes story feels like a fit to me. Consider the "Russian Wish Dolly."

    It takes a certain amount of effort and background to understand what I was going for with that one. My regular readers got it immediately, because it's part of our world-view.

    I read (and teach) a lot of Napoleon Hill's work, and in his "Conversations with Andrew Carnegie," Carnegie goes on at great length about the importance of writing down your intentions and posting them where you can see them.

    The "Wish Dolly" is just a shortcut to do that. It comes with an interesting story: Bhodidharma, the first tea plant, etc. It's fun to watch how the story changed in its journey to Siberia, where it is a folk tale.

    By adding it to a Clearing Audio, and not increasing the price, my intention was to give the customer a visual reminder in addition to the 3 audios. We've never gotten any blow-back for the clearing audios.

    However, 3 clearing audios plus free visual intention reminder = massive blowback.

    It's a seductive frame: "Russian Wish Dolly."

    Easy to digest. Gives a feeling of superiority and indignation that feels kinda good. I understand.

    It's much more work to actually read Napoleon Hill's books, Andrew Carnegies's interviews, and the history of the use of intentions. I didn't get any blow-back at all from my regular readers- they knew the references.

    That promotion was a great learning lesson for me- I'll be much more careful in controlling the frame in the future.

    Back to Aristophanes- the world would be a much dryer and less interesting if Socrates had decided to give in to the critics early in his career. There's a lot of literature- and a lot of literature from his followers- that wouldn't exist. But, he would have been much better off.

    Maybe that's the lesson?

    Tuesday, January 12, 2010 3:29:00 PM  
    Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

    Hi, everyone: Thanks for continuing the discussion in my absence. I’m tied up with a couple of deadlines right now but just wanted to pop in and say I appreciate all of the comments. As Mojo and Pat have demonstrated, historical perspective has its uses, though I have to say that to compare most contemporary satirists or snarky bloggers to Aristophanes, or any of their snargets to Socrates, is probably placing way too much importance on all of us. :-) Nevertheless the conversation is intriguing, so carry on, and I will be back soon.

    Tuesday, January 12, 2010 5:04:00 PM  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    "I've never said either."

    I didn't imply that you did, Pat. Just asked you to consider the implications, or what one may be reasonably expected to infer from the aforementioned titles.

    "However, I publish- online and offline- hundreds of thousands of words a year. I'm certain that some percentage of those words can be micro-misconstrued. If that's what you want to do."

    I'm a publisher, so I know all about publishing millions a words a year, but this isn't about the micro-misconstruing of words; it's about ethics. There's an ethical reason for not titling a book, "How to Write a Best-Seller in 90 Days." Can you guess what that reason might be?

    - John

    Tuesday, January 12, 2010 10:54:00 PM  
    Anonymous mojo said...

    Oh, dear. Don't get me started, Pat. Pathetic classics weenie, here. :-)

    While obviously a brilliant mind far ahead of his time, like most people Socrates was a complex and enigmatic person. Indeed, many classic scholars suspect Aristophanes' view of him, while a broad caricature, might be somewhat closer to the truth than Plato's blind idolatrous teacher-worship. (Socrates himself never wrote a word. We only know of him from what others have said about him.) And even Plato himself, in his Symposium, has both Socrates and Aristophanes present and gabbing together in a friendly fashion at the dinner table, years after "The Clouds" was produced, leading some scholars to suspect they were actually quite friendly.

    Socrates himself would probably take extreme issue with your description of the matter. Socrates delighted in styling himself as a gadfly of Athenian authority. He purposely annoyed people, especially those who ultimately brought him to trial. For most of the proceedings he did not bother with a serious defense but instead seemed to amuse himself skipping logical rings around his accusers. He thumbed his nose at the entire establishment and behaved rather defiantly throughout. When asked, after his conviction, what he thought his punishment should be, he said the city should pay him a salary and give him free dinner every night. (Funny guy!)

    It is perhaps helpful to remember that the term "Apology" as used here does not mean Socrates is weeping and pleading for his life. Socrates' apology is actually an "apologia", which is a different word--a spirited defense of his position, sort of a final "Get bent, morons" to his critics. You might also consider viewing Socrates accusing his accusers of being led astray by Aristophanes in a somewhat different light, given Aristophanes' seriously penchant for lowbrow buffoonery, fart jokes and other bodily functions. Aristophanes wrote his plays for what were essentially drunken, rowdy festivals, and as such they pandered shamelessly to the groundlings. Saying someone was unduly influenced by Aristophanes is kind of like saying someone today is unduly influenced by reruns of "Jackass". Which could very well be a valid point, but it's not going to win you too many friends on the jury.

    I agree it's a good lesson about the power of careless snark, but most if it in this case came from Socrates himself. He didn't have to die; there were many ways around it throughout the trial and his students begged him to save himself, but he insisted on making a point. His jury was very large--several hundred people. A slim majority voted for his conviction, but then there were more speeches and defenses before a separate vote for his punishment. After the "free dinners" crack, the number of jurists who voted for his execution compared to those who initially voted for his conviction jumped substantially. Way ta go!

    As for none of us ever achieving that sort of greatness, well, Connie, speak for yerself, toots! It is my girlish dream that my deathless prose will outlive me! Yes! My current theory is that it will get so great it will eventually achieve its own sentience, somehow escape the limiting electron bonds that currently hold it, overcome the puny internet, realize its own vast superiority over all other life forms, and consequently strangle me in my sleep.

    Wednesday, January 13, 2010 6:15:00 AM  
    Blogger Pat O'Bryan said...


    "How to Write a Best-Seller in 90 Days?"


    Let's remember that ethics is, fundamentally, a function of programming, conditioning and social norms. In other words, an opinion.

    I can probably guess your argument. Is it: "not everybody who reads the book will be able to write a best-seller in 90 days, therefore the title is misleading?"

    My buddy, Cindy Cashman, wrote a best-seller in one minute. "Everything Men Know About Women." It is, of course, a blank book. She made her first million dollars from that.

    Seriously, I've had LONG conversations with other marketers about that problem- and, people of good intent can disagree.

    One of my best friends quit the business over this one.

    After much introspection, I've decided that it's the responsibility of the consumer to actually consume the product if he/she wished to get the advertised result.

    For example, given an average amount of talent on the part of the writer and a reasonable work ethic, i believe that a system can be devised for writing a best-seller in 90 days that would work consistently- if you used it.

    If you buy the book and put it on the shelf, or read it like a novel, it does about as much good as the diet books i've been meaning to read. none.

    However, the title of the book is still valid, IMHO. It won't work for everybody. It just works for the people who use it.

    Wednesday, January 13, 2010 11:07:00 AM  
    Blogger Pat O'Bryan said...

    Mojo- my Lit teacher was of the opinion that Socrates chose the hemlock to get away from his wife.

    Obstructively cynical, in my opinion, but it is a theory.

    Wednesday, January 13, 2010 11:09:00 AM  
    Blogger RevRon's Rants said...

    "It just works for the people who use it."

    It is from statements like this that the question of ethics - or more accurately, the lack of ethics - arises. If one states that anyone who uses a process - any process - will achieve success, they are either woefully ignorant of the myriad factors which can affect the outcome, or they are being consciously and intentionally misleading.

    The statistical probability of a given book's becoming a bestseller is infinitesimally small (barring it being authored or promoted by a well-known source), as anyone who has even the slightest awareness of the publishing industry knows. And for someone who has been involved in publishing - even marginally - to imply that following a simplistic formula is all that is required to overcome that statistical probability... well, the "ignorance" excuse is pretty well eliminated.

    Wednesday, January 13, 2010 3:16:00 PM  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Socrates was a real philosopher, new wagers aren't.
    Socrates may not have corrupted the young, new wagers do.

    Wednesday, January 13, 2010 7:25:00 PM  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    "Let's remember that ethics is, fundamentally, a function of programming, conditioning and social norms. In other words, an opinion."

    *Sharp intake of breath*, did he really just write that?

    Wednesday, January 13, 2010 7:32:00 PM  
    Blogger Pat O'Bryan said...

    Ron- You do want to spar, don't you?

    No, thanks.

    Wednesday, January 13, 2010 9:43:00 PM  
    Blogger Pat O'Bryan said...


    Yep. I wrote that.

    Consider the Spartans.

    Do you know the role that young boys played in the army of Sparta?

    In our culture, that would be considered child abuse and would be a felony.

    In their culture, it was ethical, patriotic, and led to one of the fiercest and most loyal fighting forces on the planet.

    Christians used to burn heretics "for their own good." Was highest ethics of the time.

    Druids married trees, fer gosh sakes. And... ever read "lives of the martyrs?"

    Your ethics are a result of your conditioning and the social norms you're accustomed to.

    Wednesday, January 13, 2010 9:48:00 PM  
    Blogger RevRon's Rants said...

    Pat, contrary to what you might think, this is a discussion forum, not a dojo or a dick war. As such, when someone makes a statement that is patently absurd - whether it be the supposed infallibility of a how-to process or the omnipotence of the tooth fairy - it is inevitable that the statement will be challenged.

    The best - and the only appropriate - way to address such a challenge would be by refuting either the logic or the facts upon which that challenge is based. As we've seen all too often (in the exchange that occurred on your own blog, and which you ultimately sanitized of dissent, for example), when one is not capable of addressing the topic by appropriate means, what began as an intellectual discussion soon deteriorates into personal attacks and even threats. The most inept (or frightened) will insist upon remaining absolutely nameless in their attacks, while those whose egos demand "victory" will merely continue to escalate those attacks.

    I have no interest in that kind of game. My preference is to address what appear to be lapses in logic or ethics directly, supported by facts, as well as my own perspective on ethical matters. If you're willing to continue the discussion on that level, I'm more than willing. But if you choose to take it down to the level evidenced by your remarks on the aforementioned blog, I have infinitely better things to do with my time, as does anyone else who might be re4ading this exchange.

    Over the course of many years, I learned that even in the dojo, the impetus should be upon performing well, rather than striving to make one's opponent appear to be performing poorly. Just a thought...

    Thursday, January 14, 2010 9:00:00 AM  
    Blogger RevRon's Rants said...

    "Your ethics are a result of your conditioning and the social norms you're accustomed to."

    I strongly disagree. Following such logic, female genital mutilation would be ethical in some African nations, as would "honor killings" of Muslim daughters who become too westernized in their thinking. The Holocaust would also have to be deemed ethical, since it was borne of widely held social norms.

    True ethics are based upon universal, fundamental principles of right and wrong, not upon some inorganic implementation of a culture's fetishes or fears. To claim that ethics are based purely upon current cultural conditions is essentially to claim that humankind is comprised of nothing but sociopaths, a position that I - and history - summarily reject.

    Thursday, January 14, 2010 9:13:00 AM  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    So your statement doesn't mean new wagers can pick and choose ethics that suit their greed?

    Thursday, January 14, 2010 9:39:00 AM  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    "Let's remember that ethics is, fundamentally, a function of programming, conditioning and social norms. In other words, an opinion."


    I haven't seen it put quite that way, but okay. Anyway, here's the FTC's 'opinion' on the matter:

    The FTC is charged with protecting consumers from "unfair methods of competition" and "unfair or deceptive acts or practices" in the marketplace. Although the Commission seeks to foster a national advertising environment that is both competitive and creative, at the same time, it requires that all claims be nondeceptive and substantiated.

    The title is essentially making one claim: the consequent of following the advice is a best-selling book. Can that claim be substantiated?

    - John

    Thursday, January 14, 2010 12:06:00 PM  
    Blogger Pat O'Bryan said...

    Ok. I'll play.

    Ron Says, "The statistical probability of a given book's becoming a bestseller is infinitesimally small... and for someone who has been involved in publishing - even marginally - to imply that following a simplistic formula is all that is required to overcome that statistical probability... well, the "ignorance" excuse is pretty well eliminated."

    Let's define "best-seller" as a book that makes the top 20 on Amazon.com's main page. Some define it as #1 on one of the subcategories, but that's too easy- and doesn't really do you as much good as cracking the main page.

    From my "marginal" knowledge of publishing, I know that when my publisher saw my book there, they went into action- suddenly my book was in every book store on the planet. Interview requests came in. There are many good things that happen when your book hits Amazon's main page.

    You can also manipulate the NY Times Best-Seller list, but it's expensive and complicated.

    Anyway, I can teach you exactly how to get on Amazon's front page. In less than 90 days. With a very high, possibly 100% success rate- if you follow my instructions.

    Now, remember that we're talking about "best-selling." The book business is just like the music business- quality is irrelevant.

    Every now and then somebody writes a good book. I can't teach you how to do that. It depends on talent, dedication, bandwidth, and so on.

    But, I can teach you how to use adwords to pick your title, for example, which is a handy-dandy trick for pre-testing titles.

    Anyway- bottom line, the book could be written, and- if the buyer used the information- would get the results advertised.

    However, I know from conversations with Nightingale-Conant and other large publishers, that most consumers don't read the books they buy or listen to the CDs/DVDs. In one famous case, a multi-CD set was shipped with all but the first 3 (I think) blank.

    No complaints. No returns. Nobody listened that far.

    Not much I can do for those people.

    That seems to be where the ethical disagreement starts. The percentage of people who buy our imaginary book and get the desired results will be fairly small.

    The percentage of people who buy our imaginary book and DO WHAT IT SAYS and get the desired results will approach 100%.

    I don't take a lot (or any, really) of responsibility for the ones that don't read the books and do what the book recommends.

    Thursday, January 14, 2010 3:34:00 PM  
    Blogger Pat O'Bryan said...


    From dictionary.com


    1. a system of moral principles: the ethics of a culture.
    2. the rules of conduct recognized in respect to a particular class of human actions or a particular group, culture, etc.: medical ethics; Christian ethics.

    Notice in both of those definitions, reference is made to "a culture."

    By that definition, female mutilation, no matter how repugnant we find it, is exactly ethical in the cultures where it is practiced. The fact that it is the norm and practiced in that culture makes it, by definition, ethical.

    The point I'm trying to make is that it's easy to get trapped in a very narrow view of the world-

    Time, space and different cultures- if you explore them- will show you people doing stuff that is bizarre to you- and perfectly normal to them. The assumption that your way is the correct way is pretty silly. Your way is the way you were conditioned.

    In case you were too lazy to look up the Spartan example- they used the young boys as love-slaves. Until the boys got big enough to hae love-slaves of their own.

    I grew up in the south. I went to a segregated school until the 7th grade. It was highly ethical at the time for me to go to the "white" restroom and my friend to go to the "colored."

    If my friends' parents had tried to buy a house in the neighborhood where i lived, the real estate agent would have been very unethical to allow them to even make a bid. Today, the exact opposite holds.

    On tour in Germany, I declined to join my band-mates in a feast of raw, ground pork. I'm not sure thats about ethics, but it's sure about cultural differences.

    Finally, I have a buddy who does malaria eradication work in Kenya and Sudan. He says that the worst damage is done by Christians and NGOs who come into the jungle and try to impose their blue-print of "right and wrong" on cultures that won't support that framework.

    Especially the consumer culture and work ethic belief system. Works just hunky-dory in the U.S. Works not at all in the Jungles of Kenya.

    You end up with some very real tragedies involving slavery, sex, starvation and torture... for a f*ckin' cell phone.

    Having a narrow world view and exporting it- imposing your ethics on others- is dangerous.

    Because: Your ethics are just a function of your conditioning and accidental geographic location on the planet.

    Thursday, January 14, 2010 3:49:00 PM  
    Blogger RevRon's Rants said...

    "I don't take a lot (or any, really) of responsibility for the ones that don't read the books and do what the book recommends."

    Frankly, this "disclaimer" is remarkably similar to that used by many newage hucksters to explain why their "foolproof" techniques don't work, even when the customer follows directions implicitly. I recall one individual even stating after the San Diego wildfires that those who practiced the law of attraction were somehow spared the loss of their homes, while others were destroyed. The implication in his message was clear, and its arrogance sufficiently offensive that he ended up removing the discussion from his blog, rather than allow the many objections and challenges to remain.

    Now, I'm not saying you're hustling anyone, and will readily admit to the efficacy of your claims if you are able to provide some evidence to substantiate those claims. If there is, indeed, such a foolproof formula for overcoming the statistics and virtually guaranteeing that if followed, a book will be a bestseller, it will no doubt set the entire publishing industry on its ear.

    Thursday, January 14, 2010 5:23:00 PM  
    Blogger RevRon's Rants said...

    On ethics - You seem to have mistakenly assumed that the words "ethical" and "typical" are synonymous. While there are certainly customs in other cultures that we in this country would find distasteful, one needn't be well-versed in every culture to be capable of recognizing unethical behavior. The core values of human decency are pretty well universal, applicable across cultures. Thankfully, many countries are beginning to realize this, and have begun prosecuting previously overlooked transgressions rather than finding themselves marginalized in the global community.

    The old argument that "it's OK because everyone else is doing it" lacked validity even when offered up by preadolescent children, and is certainly no more applicable when used in an attempt to rationalize abhorrent behavior in adults. Convenient, perhaps, but empty nonetheless.

    I'm well aware of the Spartans' fondness for buggery... learned about that somewhere back in grade school. However, in our current time, the vast majority of people who would claim that such behavior is ethical are likely those who hope to rationalize/excuse such behavior for themselves, or at best, wish to be freed of the ethical constraints adhered to by civilized society, and allowed to function as they will, with little or no regard for the dictates of human decency. And again, this is not a direct accusation of anyone as much as an observation of well-documented profiles of human behavior.

    Thursday, January 14, 2010 5:35:00 PM  
    Blogger Pat O'Bryan said...


    1. The entire publishing industry already knows it. It's how the publishing industry works.

    2. You're not going to get my point about ethics because you assume that your ethics are universal. They're not.

    3. And, grasshopper, your tea-cup is full. It's impossible to have an exchange of viewpoints with you because you are so sure of your viewpoints. Absolutely no room for more tea.

    So, I bow in your general direction, and hope you enjoy your tea.

    Thursday, January 14, 2010 7:23:00 PM  
    Blogger RevRon's Rants said...


    1) As I'd said before, if you can provide any evidence to substantiate your claim, I'll gladly concede that you do indeed have a foolproof technique for teaching anybody how to create a bestseller. Barring such substantiation, we both know you're just blowing smoke.

    2) We weren't discussing "my" ethics, but the core element of human decency. Whether it be incest, murder, or merely taking advantage of others' gullibility, the aversion to many behaviors *is* universal... at least among the non-sociopathic element of any given culture. If by contending that I'm not going to "get your point," you mean that I'll accept that there's no such thing as that common element of decency, you're right. And neither would any other person who lives by anything remotely resembling an ethical code.

    3) You may be assured that no amount of ill-founded arrogance, rationalization, or attempted trivialization of a core belief system will convince me that there's no such thing as right versus wrong. If you can't see that such distinctions exist, there is no common ground upon which to base the discussion. I, for one, have no need to rationalize antisocial behaviors.

    BTW - The "grasshopper" bit was good for a chuckle. Reinforces my initial statement about the nature of appropriate dialog. Consider it another "successful experiment." :-)

    Thursday, January 14, 2010 9:53:00 PM  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...


    Amazon's sales rankings aren't really sales, they're trending calculations. So through some sort of marketing efforts concentrated over a short period of time you can push a title up in the rankings, but it's short-lived and virtually meaningless.

    Take Pat's 'best-seller' as an example. I'll take him at his word that his book made it onto amazon's top 20 list, yet today it's ranked "#146,985 in Books." Furthermore, his book is still in hardcover, which tells me his publisher hasn't sold-out their initial print run, i.e. they're upside down on the book.

    But to the uniformed and/or gullible, I suppose his pitch is convincing.

    Funny thing is I publish a few books in the self-help genre and was of the mind that this blog's host was a little harsh in her criticism. I now have a better understanding of where her criticism is coming from and where, in my newly formed opinion, it is rightfully directed.

    - John

    Thursday, January 14, 2010 11:13:00 PM  
    Blogger Pat O'Bryan said...


    John- that book was printed in August, '07 and peaked at #12 on the main page. It was #1 on the business chart for days. 2.5 years later it's still in the top 40 in the direct marketing chart and in the top 200,000 over-all.

    Considering the number of books printed in the last 2.5 years, I'm ok with that.

    It's in hard-cover because it's in its (at least) second printing. Bookstores are re-ordering it.

    And... your logic makes me curious... in what way would NOT being on the front page of Amazon.com be better than being on the front page? Why would you have to be "uninformed and gullible" to want that for your book?

    Friday, January 15, 2010 9:19:00 AM  
    Blogger RevRon's Rants said...

    "...to the uniformed and/or gullible, I suppose his pitch is convincing."

    John, this is, as I see it, the crux of the debate. I am aware of the fact that it is possible to game the Amazon system in such a way as to have one's book spend a fleeting moment on its "bestsellers" list. The disagreement lies in how the average author would define "bestseller."

    Authors typically want their books to sell in sufficient quantities to generate significant income, rather than merely achieve some fleeting status that provides little more than bragging rights by which to impress those who are uninformed as to the structure of the business. While the formulaic approach Pat is touting might be moderately (but not universally, as claimed) successful at achieving that transitory status, it simply doesn't translate into a guarantee of the significant sales numbers for which authors and publishers aspire.

    To apply one of my frequently-offered analogies, consider the pre-penicillin treatment of syphilis: cauterization of chancres. The process did, indeed, make the overt symptoms go away, but had no impact whatsoever upon the disease. Similarly, gaming Amazon's system might well allow the individual author to claim that the book was a success, while the bottom line sales figures remain dismal. No "cure" is effected for the book's failure to soar to the author's dreamt-of heights. And in my opinion, the promise of such a "cure" is every bit as disingenuous as would be the assertion that cauterization provides a cure for syphilis. And once again, we fall back upon the question of ethics when making such claims.

    Friday, January 15, 2010 9:21:00 AM  
    Blogger RevRon's Rants said...

    John -

    I can certainly understand how one might think that Connie tends to be overly critical of self-help, given that her snarks and criticisms are so focused upon the genre. If one looks more closely, as you have done, it becomes apparent that her disdain is not for self-help or spirituality, but rather for the cynical commercialization and intentional misrepresentation of spiritual principles that have degraded the search for spiritual truth into a form of faux McSpirituality, and effectively denigrated the quest for personal growth.

    Connie and I come from entirely different belief systems, yet she is supremely respectful of the genuine quest for improvement, and recognizes the importance of faith and beliefs in people's efforts to improve their lives, as well as the lives of others. However, she takes issue with those within the self-help movement whose obvious primary objective is self-aggrandization and who promote ideas and products whose efficacy is at best highly questionable, and in too many cases, counterproductive to individual growth. On that level, she and I are in perfect agreement.

    I might be more spiritually-focused than she, but if anything, she is more tolerant of the abuses than I am, and often gives the "practitioners" the benefit of the doubt, where I am less forgiving.

    Friday, January 15, 2010 9:42:00 AM  
    Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

    I guess I should pop in with a few comments at this point, and then I’ll get back to my cave. I have a couple hundred pages of proofreading (of a spiritual/inspirational book, if you must know) to complete.

    As I noted earlier, I appreciate everyone’s viewpoint here. This is one of the more interesting discussions we’ve had in a while.

    I want to make it clear that I have no problem with Pat’s “Portable Empire” brand (or his book), and his mission to help people become online entrepreneurs. I believe Pat when he says his book has staying power. If an author can get a lot of mileage out of one book, more power to him or her. (In my view, it’s a lot better to milk one book as long as possible than to just keep churning out numerous books of dubious quality.)

    But I imagine the big factor here is that Pat works very hard at promoting his book and his brand, holding periodic “UnSeminars” and regular coaching sessions, for example. He may have fun doing it and it may not seem like work to him, but nevertheless he does work hard and constantly. So does Joe Vitale. So do all of the people who are successful in self-help or virtually any other business. That’s the big key. (This is not a comment on the merits, or lack thereof, of the products in question, just a statement that consistent work seems to be the key to success.)

    Having a book that is high on the Amazon rankings in a specific genre for a couple of years running is no small achievement, though having one that makes the top 10 or 20 for a brief moment isn't that big a deal, as John pointed out. I suppose a high Amazon ranking can be used as part of an overall marketing strategy, but it’s really NBD in the big scheme of things. (And if anyone, even the proverbial Aunt Martha, can get a book to be an Amazon "bestseller" by applying the right formula, doesn't it sort of ruin the specialness of "bestsellerdom" anyway?)

    Regarding Pat’s point that you have to use something in order for it to be effective, I am sure it is true that for some people, advice or formulas or techniques “don’t work” because these people don’t use them properly, or at all. I’ve heard that Nightingale-Conant story too from the horse’s mouth, as it were, and I believe it. Some folks might be a bit lazy or just not that ambitious. Perhaps that is even true of the majority of people.

    On the other hand this is also true, and has been one point of snark for me for a very, very long time: Self-help marketers continually and aggressively pander to the laziness (and greed, and narcissism) in all of us, promising miraculous results for very little effort. And many do it in such a sincere and outwardly credible manner that even the smartest people are sometimes sucked into it. It’s good marketing, for sure. Is it “ethical?” Well, that’s the big question, isn’t it?

    I realize that most marketers pander to our laziness and greed and narcissism, not just self-help marketers. But there’s a world of difference between trying to sell someone a beer or a sports car and trying to sell something that one claims is the way to total happiness and fulfillment, or wealth beyond belief, or whatever.

    And it also seems to be true that there are many folks who work diligently, use the formulas, do all the “right” things, and still don’t get seem to get anywhere. Of course, there will always be a marketer to step up and offer to sell them the “missing secret” that will finally make them successful. But it seems to me that there are so many variables that even the best formula – whether for getting your book on a “bestseller” list or finding success in other areas of life – can fail.

    I’m going to have to conclude this in the next comment because I’ve exceeded my “character limit.” Friggin’ Blogger. :-)

    Friday, January 15, 2010 10:44:00 AM  
    Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

    Okay, here’s the conclusion:

    I think Pat, John, Ron, and I will all agree that the publishing industry is in business to make money (duh) and that there are many ways that publishers -- particularly big ones -- work to “game” the system. What about big publishers paying a quarter mil and more for optimum display space in book stores? It’s no secret. We all know about it. Yet no matter how much money you have or how clever your promotional efforts are, there is NO utterly foolproof formula for creating a bestseller, whether a momentary bestseller or a long-lasting one. If there is, none of the publishers -– large, small, or totally indie (i.e., self-publishers) -- seem to have discovered it yet.

    John, I’m glad you’re here. It’s always good to hear from publishers. And while I have sometimes seemed harsh and sweeping in my criticism of the self-help industry I think there are a lot of good folks (and some good books and other products) in the industry. Ron and I have helped people create self-help and/or spiritual books on numerous occasions. We’re working on one now. The ones currently listed on our web site are older titles and therefore not “trending.” (And Ron, thank you for the kind words about moi. :-))

    As for ethics, it seems to me that the main reason Pat and Ron can’t come to agreement is that they’re defining “ethics” differently. I sometimes think that maybe all of our teacups are full. I have no problem with that as long as we don’t start slinging the tea at each other. (Well, maybe if someone can find a really good brand of blackcurrant tea that truly tastes like blackcurrant, you can sling some my way. :-))

    In any case, I realize that at its crux this discussion is about ethics, and I have a few more half-baked thoughts on marketing and ethics, but that will have to wait for another comment. For now, I have to get back to my proofreading. Carry on!

    Friday, January 15, 2010 10:47:00 AM  
    Blogger RevRon's Rants said...

    "As for ethics, it seems to me that the main reason Pat and Ron can’t come to agreement is that they’re defining “ethics” differently."

    I agree. For my part, I do not think of ethics as some sliding-scale measure, to be changed according to personal or cultural whim, but a pretty clear benchmark based upon fundamental principles of human decency. And from that "myopic" perspective, applying such random definitions to a code of ethics is... well, unethical.

    Friday, January 15, 2010 1:37:00 PM  
    Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

    Ron, as you and I have discussed but I haven't yet taken the time to expound upon here, I share your view about ethics in this context being about basic human decency. I fully realize that is neither a scientific nor an objective definition, and one can argue all one wants about what is and isn't 'decent,' but I think most people reading this know what I'm talking about. I guess it all comes back down to the Golden Rule (which of course is not a universally accepted bit of wisdom, nor is it universally practiced).

    All considerations of cultural relativity aside, and notwithstanding the numerous dictionary definitions of "ethics" (and the resulting disagreements over semantics), the self-help industry about which I have snarked so long and lovingly is by and large a product of contemporary Western culture. Oh, yeah, there are just enough multicultural and historical elements thrown in to make the products of the industry appealing to today's sophisticated consumer. But self-help products are, by and large, marketed to contemporary Westerners. And most of us, I think, are in general agreement with each other about what is and isn't ethical. Most of us would agree, at least in theory, that it is not ethical to lie to people or deliberately misrepresent oneself or one's product in order to get people's money. And it is certainly not ethical to deliberately or even negligently act in such a way as to endanger people's health or their lives.

    However, whether self-help gurus or companies violate these basic principles is often a matter of opinion, and it is there that reasonable and honorable people can and do disagree.

    But what do *I* think? you may well ask. Well, without naming names, I personally think that most of the people I have snarked about have, at the very least, engaged in what I consider to be deceptive marketing. Understand that I am not claiming that Pat is or is not one of these people. All I am saying is that in my opinion many I've written about do fall into this category. In some cases their deception has caused real harm, IMO. In some cases their deception has even cost lives.

    And despite what the folks in Kenya or Patagonia may say, that kind of stuff is *not* ethical.

    Friday, January 15, 2010 2:27:00 PM  
    Blogger Pat O'Bryan said...

    Connie said: "(1) And most of us, I think, are in general agreement with each other about what is and isn't ethical.

    (2) Most of us would agree, at least in theory, that it is not ethical to lie to people or deliberately misrepresent oneself or one's product in order to get people's money.

    (3) And it is certainly not ethical to deliberately or even negligently act in such a way as to endanger people's health or their lives."

    If #1 was true, this would indeed be a peaceful world. In fact, there is a great deal of disagreement.

    As for the rest- well, we're back in the land of opinion.

    My ethics would require the death penalty for oil lobbyists, for example. Or producers of fast food or aspartame products.

    Or Tylenol. http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=629

    My opinion is that these things are quantifiably deadly, and kill thousands of people a year.

    The marketing and production of these things is, to me, unethical.

    Chunking up, using your definition of "ethical" marketing leaves me curious. I can't think of a single product advertised in the mass media that- if you look closely enough- actually qualifies as ethical marketing.

    Coke, McDonalds,Miller Lite Beer, Ford, Weight Watchers, Rosetta Stone...

    Coke won't make you "more alive." It will, in fact, kill you. McDonalds will make you fat and stupid. Eventually, it will kill you, too.

    Miller Lite won't make you more popular and attractive. I swear the commercial says it will.

    Weight Watchers? What are their numbers?

    And- how many people use the Rosetta Stone language course and actually become fluent in a language?

    Again, I'm coming from a place of curiosity. Aren't you pretty much just indicting American culture? I can join right in with you on that...

    Friday, January 15, 2010 3:23:00 PM  
    Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

    Pat, the point I was trying to make was that I think most people in our culture agree, at least in theory, on GENERAL points about ethical behavior, e.g., deliberately lying or misrepresenting isn't ethical. I do realize that in many cases, whether someone *is* lying or deliberately misrepresenting is in the eye of the beholder.

    And of course, ethics questions aside, when someone is trying to sell us something it's absurd to think they really have OUR best interests at heart -- whether they're trying to sell us hamburgers or harmonic wealth.

    I share your disdain for much of American culture but on this blog I have focused only on certain aspects of the culture that, for numerous reasons, I find particularly snarkworthy.

    Others have pointed out to me that I could or perhaps should be focusing my ire on big corporations that foist potentially deadly, harmful or at the very least useless products upon the public. But there are scads of other blogs, and gen-yoo-ine journalists, to do that.

    As for the makers of aspartame...wow, the death penalty seems a bit harsh. I'm waiting for the food manufacturers to finally discover stevia, now that it's apparently legal to use as a sweetener in food and beverages. Oil lobbyists? Maybe not the death penalty, but perhaps they should all be sentenced to min-wage fast-food jobs for the rest of their friggin' lives.

    Friday, January 15, 2010 4:22:00 PM  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Have a coke and a coffi-i-i-in!

    Friday, January 15, 2010 8:49:00 PM  
    Blogger RevRon's Rants said...

    "I think most people in our culture agree, at least in theory, on GENERAL points about ethical behavior, e.g., deliberately lying or misrepresenting isn't ethical."

    Perhaps the point of contention is based in a somewhat vague definition of "most of us." Perhaps it would be more clear to qualify that phrase as representing the non-sociopathic subset of the overall population. By so doing, the description becomes infinitely more all-encompassing, sans the semantic limitations imposed by some individual cultures or the attempted rationalization of unethical behavior. Just a thought...

    Saturday, January 16, 2010 8:29:00 AM  
    Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

    LOL, Ron.

    The only thing I want to add to my previous comment is that just because fast-food companies, soft-drink manufacturers, Big Pharma, or any other entity might engage in what many folks would say is deceptive marketing or other unethical behavior, that, IMO, doesn't neutralize the deception and ethical challenges in the self-help industry.

    BTW, speaking of ethics (or lack thereof), Salty Droid, the thorn in the paw of the lyin', has produced an amusing marked-up PDF of the James Ray Whitewash Papers.


    Saturday, January 16, 2010 9:11:00 AM  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    "And... your logic makes me curious... in what way would NOT being on the front page of Amazon.com be better than being on the front page?"

    Pat, of course it would be better than not, but that's not the point.

    A short-lived trending peak on amazon is not what the word 'best-seller' implies and promoting a book is not synonymous with writing a book. You haven't validated or substantiated the claims of the title at all; you've attempted to claim particular words (writing and best-seller) mean something they do not.

    The ethical issue in play is simple honesty. If you mean a short peak on amazon (nothing wrong with that), then just state what you mean. If you mean how to market a book, then state it as such. Stating and/or implying something is which it is not is the definition of being dishonest or deceptive. And being dishonest or the practice of deception is wrong, simple as that.


    Saturday, January 16, 2010 11:34:00 AM  
    Blogger Pat O'Bryan said...

    Anonymous- we're talking about a hypothetical book I have no intention of writing.


    I did move the discussion to a definition of the title that I could actually write and defend.

    I don't think anybody knows how to teach "how to write a best-seller," by your definition.

    Saturday, January 16, 2010 5:16:00 PM  
    Blogger Pat O'Bryan said...

    Ron- my comments about ethics, which, apparently, I have failed to make clear, are about provincialism and exceptionalism.

    I've had the good fortune to be able to travel to many countries. They do things differently in, for example, East Germany than they do here.

    For example, there- and in most of Europe- full-frontal nudity is common in commercials. Here it's against the law.

    Same deal goes for what you're calling "universal" ethics. There is no such thing. I have clients in Germany, England, Holland, Brazil, China, Japan, Thailand... and I've discovered that business ethics in each of those countries is unique to that country.

    You can't market in former Eastern Block countries like we do here. Even our most ethical marketing is considered propaganda there and is ineffective. Our most ethical behavior is unethical there. Their marketing would be completely useless here.

    As I mentioned above, a great deal of damage has been done by Americans, specifically, trying to transport their ethics and morals to other cultures.

    I tend to refer back to Lao Tsu and Chuang Tsu when it comes to right and wrong. Every right contains the kernal of a wrong. Every wrong contains some right. A "black and white" view of the world is a world view that's going to miss a lot of reality.

    Saturday, January 16, 2010 5:25:00 PM  
    Blogger Pat O'Bryan said...

    Connie- I understand your point.

    And, I think you understand mine.

    You have a lot of fun with your blog, and bring a smile to some people.

    However, as a snarget I'd like to point out that the self-help industry is just like any other. It's got its norms and practices that are common to that industry.

    Those of us who are familiar with the vocab and practices of the industry are pretty comfortable with them.

    It's kinda like the music biz. You can indict any record company or producer as unethical if you're not familiar with how the biz works. The norms in that biz are, to the uninitiated, pretty bizarre and one sided. So is the book publishing world.

    So is the drug industry, the food industry, the insurance industry...

    I can't name an industry that would stand up to the sort of scrutiny that you- and other critical bloggers- bring to the self-help industry.

    Perhaps you could institute guidelines of ethical snarking? Any industry has heroes and villains and all points in between. Indicting an entire industry is not really as effective as discriminating, right?

    Saturday, January 16, 2010 5:42:00 PM  
    Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

    Pat, I do think we see each other's points. But when you say, "Those of us who are familiar with the vocab and practices of the [self-help] industry are pretty comfortable with them," that seems to imply that anyone who is not comfortable with said vocab and practices is *not* familiar with the industry. I think many critics ARE pretty familiar with the industry and find some or perhaps much of its vocab and practices objectionable. Maybe you meant that those who are *successful* in the self-help industry are comfortable, etc.?

    I hardly think I'm qualified to define what's ethical and not in snarking, but, believe it or not, I do have my own set of standards, which is why, for example, I tend to keep mum on some of the more compromising information I sometimes receive. And I've never tried to indict the entire industry, although I understand how it might seem that way at times.

    Now that we have we've gotten that straightened out, I still need someone to recommend some really good blackcurrant tea.

    Saturday, January 16, 2010 6:52:00 PM  
    Blogger Pat O'Bryan said...

    Connie said, "Maybe you meant that those who are *successful* in the self-help industry are comfortable, etc.?"


    We've pretty much been wasting our time then, haven't we?

    Enjoy your tea.

    Saturday, January 16, 2010 7:12:00 PM  
    Blogger RevRon's Rants said...

    Pat, your highly touted worldliness aside, what you describe are rationalizations of preferred practices, rather than ethics. No matter where one does business, deceiving customers by claiming that a product, process, or action is effective when you know it is not is unethical, whether it is an "accepted" practice or not. You can claim otherwise until you're blue in the face, and you can ascribe others' failure to accept your rationalizations to being borne of their naiveté if it makes you feel better. Still doesn't make your assertions any more valid.

    While business practices and social interaction are admittedly different among different cultures, there does exist a core of ethics that transcends those cultural dictates. As to your example of nudity on public airwaves... merely a difference in cultural mores. I'll try to simplify the differentiation for you. While it is socially acceptable in Europe - but not the US - to broadcast nudity, it is not permissible in either country to broadcast such images without the consent of the model. Doing so would be unethical. Neither is it ethical in either country to broadcast images of preadolescent children engaged in sexual acts... despite the claims by pedophiles that such acts are acceptable.

    I find it humorous that you would use Lao Tzu for support of your claims, especially given that you take a single statement completely out of context to his greater teachings, thus subverting the essence of his philosophies. A lot of pure BS has been put forth as supposedly consistent with his philosophy, using the same method. Same has happened with the teachings of the Buddha, especially of late, as Buddhism has become popular with New Age "seekers" who are too sloppy or lazy to actually do their own research, and swallow the garbage that some "teachers" wrongfully attribute to the Buddha.

    If you feel it is ethical to deceive others and to promote something whose efficacy even you know to be lacking, that is, of course, your choice. But you'll need to narrow your efforts to a gullible target audience if you want to find agreement.

    Thankfully, many people are beginning to demand that even self-help and "prosperity" marketers substantiate their claims - especially the more outrageous claims that "guarantee" results. Speaking of substantiating claims, my earlier offer to acknowledge the efficacy of your formula once proof is offered still stands.

    And just for the record, Connie doesn't indict an entire industry - just its smarmiest element.

    Saturday, January 16, 2010 8:16:00 PM  
    Blogger RevRon's Rants said...

    "We've pretty much been wasting our time then, haven't we?"

    If you're looking for someone to be intimidated by arrogance, or to praise the wisdom and integrity of snake-oil salesmen, the answer is probably yes. :-)

    Saturday, January 16, 2010 8:20:00 PM  
    Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

    Pat, did you mean that we are "wasting our time" (and, presumably, that my metaphorical teacup is full) because I don't agree with every word you wrote? Or did I simply misinterpret that one sentence of yours with which I took issue? I guess you can blame my "second-rate mind."

    Saturday, January 16, 2010 8:22:00 PM  
    Blogger Burned by Fire said...

    I know I'm late to the game, but I can't stop thinking about some of these comments.

    Oh, dear. Is Pat really comparing himself to Socrates and insinuating that if the pesky critics don't stuff a sock in it, he's going to start downing hemlock cocktails in order to prove a point? Is that point that he's more like Socrates and we're more like Aristophanes, and he's going to go down in history as the bigger name... or is he being like one of the tormented teenagers in the movie Heathers?

    Here, Pat, I've got a big red bow for you.

    It's bad enough when Pattyboy waxes poetic on his deluded comparison to John Galt and fancies a retreat into his secret gulch as protest over those who don't understand him. But Socrates?

    Seriously, this man apparently has delusions of grandeur on a regular basis.

    It's interesting that Connie allows Pat to have his say on her blog, keeping comments intact and published, while Pat had a blog sanitation party after his hissy fit last month. Who is more interested in truthful, honest discourse and discussion, I wonder.

    But we know. We understand, you pat, more than you think. We know you HAVE to sanitize your blog lest someone see Connie's and Ron's comments and investigate further only to find that there is a dark and dirty underbelly to the world of hoshun's psychic demand.

    It's interesting that your secretrussianwishmaker.com page is devoid of your honest discussion here about the usefulness of a hoshun. No, on the sales page, you talk about the Hoshun as if it was a magic doll that is forced by some supernatural pact to make people's wishes come true. It's infuesed with the power of a diety! And of course, what if it works?

    That is where the problem lies, buddy.

    Do I want him or Joe Vitale to stop doing ALL that they do and go into hiding? Not at all. After all, where would the world be without the John Galts of the world! Oh heavens! Objectivism rules! A strike of such magnitude would really show those pesky critics what's what, wouldn't it!

    Seriously, though, my only beef with O'Bryan, Vitale, and other internet marketers and secret-pushers is that I - and others - want them to be HONEST in their marketing and stop deceiving people with magical secrets. For example, the wish dolly site has many statements I feel are deceptive. Hoshun is magical. Really! Is it? Any proof of that?

    Joe says that he lives on a multi-million dollar estate in his marketing. A look at the assessor's web site says that it is worth $317,000. But he uses his supposed wealth to get people to pay a monthly fee for his attract miracles membership program so people can be just like him!

    Pat: Say inaccurate things, sell ridiculous products, and someone is going to say something. Big duh.

    In terms of his issues with anonymous critics... the only reason Pat's panties are in a bunch about me being anonymous is that he cannot attack me PERSONALLY. It's his m.o., it's the only defense he seems to know. But he's pissed, as his @criticwatch account told the Droid. But he needs to go after someone. So he goes after Connie and Ron personally. It's the only way he and Fireboy know how to defend themselves. They can't communicate on the issues that the critics bring up about being truthful in their marketing because they know they can't defend lies.

    There I said it. Do we even need to talk about ethics anymore? It's not about what ethics are or aren't. It's about telling the truth and not extracting money from people's bank accounts based on untruths, half truths.

    Monday, January 18, 2010 3:07:00 PM  
    Blogger Burned by Fire said...

    But I'm game... let's talk about ethics.

    Are ethics simply personal opinions? Well, we have societal mores and we have subsets of personal ethics. Some ethics are cultural, others are basic human decency. If we really want to divert the discussion into what ethics are or aren't, we're still going to win the argument, Pat. That is, unless, you want to start going into the world of taboos and still somehow claim those are opinions, too, and if so, I'll look for some cannibals to introduce you to.

    Since we're talking about opinions, here's an interesting opinion of my own: I think someone who says that female genital mutilation is an African custom we just don't understand, but thinks that oil executives, fast food producers, and aspartame marketers should receive the death penalty is the king of cognitive dissonance and self flaggelation. Maybe the oil executives, fast food producers, and aspartame marketers are just working within the constructs of ethics in our country. It's happening, isn't it? The entire country isn't outraged at this blatant disrespect of our societal mores, are they? I know some people who LOVE diet coke. Why does Pat O'Bryan accept what happens in other countries without judgment but applies the harshest punishment in our culture to his own pious judgments within our own?

    Oh, but it's okay for oil executives to do what they do, fast food and aspartame marketers do what they do, but Joe Vitale is a saintly man doing good for this world every time he takes someone for $5,000 in his apparently rented Rolls Royce on his master-mind rides. It's perfectly ethical for someone to go into debt and forego buying a car to attend a $10,000+ "Awakened Millionaire" weekend with Joe-the-guru. Why do other marketers get the death penalty from Pat's ethical mindset, but Joe Vitale gets a pass?

    Pat says that the decision to purchase something is the responsibility of the consumer; that it is apparently their responsibility to determine whether the marketers are telling them the truth and whether they will receive reasonable value from the product or service. Well why kill of aspartame marketers, then. Is it not Pat's responsibility to determine whether or not he should down a bottle of Diet Coke? Is it not his responsibility to stay away from McDonald's and Wendy's?

    You can't have it both ways, Pat. By your ethical standards, you're doing the same thing they are. But you pass judgment on them while continuing on selling the wish doll and psychic demand in the methods you sell them, and you continue to excluse Joe Vitale's behavior.

    Scruples ain't just a board game.

    Monday, January 18, 2010 3:09:00 PM  
    Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

    "The road goes on forever, and the party never ends," as the great Mr. Keen has said. So there's no "late" to it, Burned By Fire; the party is still going on. Pour yourself a drink or grab a brownie.

    The points you made in your comments stand on their own, and anyone is free to address them as they wish, but your comments did remind me of a few matters I meant to address myself earlier in this conversation. (What can I say; I got sidetracked, as I so often do.)

    Point number 1: Pat gave a good explanation of the rationale behind the "Wish Dolly," and while I understand the traditions behind the product (both the Napoleon Hill/Dale Carnegie angle *and* the cross-cultural folk angle), the fact is that the ad copy for the Hochun/Hoshun figure relied heavily upon the "magical-mystical" element. At first I honestly thought it was a joke. But as I read it I was less convinced. The copy drew so heavily on the magical-mystical that it really didn't seem to me like the nod-and-a-wink, tongue-in-cheek kind of thing that, say, Barnum might have tried to pull off. It was as if whoever wrote the copy -- and I am guessing it was Joe -- was really trying to pull people in with the "magic." The magic became the main selling point.

    Hence the "blowback" -- and not just from the usual round of suspects (you, me & the other "haters"). There was also severe criticism from at least one person who has always been a very public defender and promoter of both Joe and Pat. That guy just came right out and called the Wish Dolly b.s. My understanding is that he got a lot of blowback himself for being so vocal. But he did gain a few new followers on Twitter, including me.

    In his discussion here, Pat seems to be saying that in retrospect he would have marketed the audio product that accompanied the doll differently, and I can understand why. The audio product may indeed be very helpful; I'm not qualified to say one way or another because I haven't tried it. But the whole Wish Dolly thing made it into a joke, because of the hokey marketing. I’m no marketing expert but even I figured that out.

    As for Pyschic Demand, which I've snarked about more than once, I have trouble believing that either Joe or Pat actually think it is anything except a novelty/gimmick. I honestly think they just put that thing out there as a laugh, to see how many folks would fall for it. But hey, it’s only nineteen bucks.

    Now, whether all of the above is "ethical" or not seems to be a matter of opinion (and, obviously, there are differing opinions :-)). Many self-help products and services cost way more than nineteen bucks, which seems to make the “ethics” question more compelling. In any case, that leads us to...

    Point number 2: I hadn't really addressed this here, but there are several key factors that, IMO, differentiate the self-help industry from, say, soft-drink manufacturers or any other marketers. Instead of going over it all again here, I'll just link to this November 2009 blog post.


    (The name I used for my "informant" on that blog post was purely coincidental.)

    One of the main points I tried to make in that post is one that you too have made in several of your own blog posts, BBF: the self-help marketers use their own lives and possessions (or at least their *representations* of their lives and possessions) as marketing tools, creating a cult of personality, as it were. So it should come as no surprise to them when they become "snargets."

    And, getting back to one of the points brought up in this conversation, to call the self-help gurus on their "stuff" is not to deny that Coke can be bad for one's health if drunk in excess or that Big Pharma has us all by the 'nads. But all the red herrings in the world aren't going to make the self-help industry as completely benign as its most ardent defenders are painting it to be.

    Tuesday, January 19, 2010 11:58:00 AM  
    Anonymous mojo said...

    In Pat's defense, I never personally interpreted his elaboration on Aristophanes and Socrates as anything more than a metaphor--a metaphor I then tried to prove was not applicable--and was never meant to be him SERIOUSLY comparing his work to either of theirs.

    As I see it, I'm the one who brought Aristophanes up in the first place, in a brief history of snark. Pat chose to use my mention of Aristophanes to claim that A's mockery of Socrates led to his execution decades later. I maintained, in a very verbose and roundabout way, that Socrates himself--his behavior and actions--were the primary cause of his execution, and NOT Aristophanes' crude masturbation jokes. The metaphor was then dropped, although I cannot say if it was due to my marvelous debating skills or merely due to "Geez, won't she EVER shut up?" (Answer: probably not. Unless there's chocolate.)

    I will say it probably is a very apt metaphor, just not in the manner I believe Pat intended. That of personal responsibility for one's actions, and not immediately placing blame on an obviously silly drive-by the instant things go south. If Socrates was blameless of breaking the law (no matter how frivolous or silly we deem such laws nowadays) then no amount of Aristophanes' mocking could possibly bring him to trial.

    There's been a trifecta of sorts in the guru/IM fields in the past few months which seems to have really rattled the cage. First of course was JAR's horrific fiasco, which drew some unwanted attention to THAT whole profession. Next, the FTC cracked down on the use of fraudulent testimonials, hidden affiliate links and other deceptive practices. This seems to have sent a number of "big" names in the IM community scrambling to announce their sudden "retirement". And third--according to both Salty and Mike Young--a very recent crackdown by credit card companies on such practices as deceptive "free" trial offers, hidden continuity, upsells and other "brand damaging" practices (meaning damaging to the credit card company--yeah, 'cuz they're so freakin' saintlike) has also sent them into a new tizzy.

    Amusingly, it looks to me that the rise of social media--the very thing many marketers seem to have been trying to exploit for the past year or so--is ultimately what will probably bring down the truly bad guys. Social media offers a marketer testimonials galore, but NOT the sort of testimonials they can control by deleting the bad ones. Social media is democracy at is best--and its ugliest--since it is nearly impossible to control or censor.

    Even the best, most blameless things get the occasional critic or insane crank. I think most intelligent people are able to recognize this fairly quickly and take this into account as they perform due diligence while researching the myriad opportunities and experiences that are out there. I admit, for better or ill, I *PARTIALLY* judge how cool I think any organization or person might be by their response to criticism. I call it the Queen Gertrude test: those that protest too much aren't summarily dismissed, but it does raise a few flags that, in my book, require further research.

    Other mileages may vary, but that's what makes the world go 'round. The ethics debate has been interesting. I will only add that in my limited experience there is sometimes a very wide chasm between what I would consider moral or ethical and what is *technically legal*. But again, that's just me. In the end run we all gotta live with ourselves.

    I appreciate Pat's coming here and participating, at any rate. I don't see how any discussion of ideas can be considered a waste of time, even if I might disagree with some of the positions advocated. Discussing the latest crap drama on some reality television show, or the latest non-drama of the comic strip Mary Worth--now THAT's a waste of time.... :-)

    Tuesday, January 19, 2010 3:29:00 PM  
    Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

    Thanks as always for your perspective, Mojo. Whatever your intention was in bringing up Aristophanes and Socrates, it did send the conversation in interesting new directions. And I appreciate Pat's participation too, because a little disagreement just makes it all more interesting, IMO. I don't think the conversation was a waste of time, at least not any more so than these things usually are. :-)

    I'm glad you brought up the factors that are shaking up the self-help and IM industries (there's a lot of overlap between the two, of course). The JAR debacle and new FTC regulations are the two obvious factors but I hadn't considered the third factor -- the crackdown on credit cards -- when thinking about these matters. I've been trying to cobble together some thoughts about some of these latest developments as they relate to the issue of "Should the self-help biz be regulated?", but I've been so busy with proofreading and other home-stretch tasks as Ron and I complete a book project that I haven't completed the post yet. I might throw some silly snippets up just for kicks in the interim.

    Anyway, I want to say thank you again to everyone -- and that means you too, Pat -- for participating in the discussion. (And Pat, I hope you're over your flu.)

    Tuesday, January 19, 2010 4:28:00 PM  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    your minor snarget target sounds for all the world like David Schirmer. Anyone who knows the guy can smell his comments from afar.

    Sunday, January 24, 2010 4:16:00 PM  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    David Schirmer is one slippery customer. I've also learnt that most his siblings are also which is a worry.

    Monday, February 08, 2010 4:25:00 PM  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Hey your blog is like dinosaur bones- God put it here to test our faith.
    I am hooked though, intrigued by a hint of hope. Could there be more to all this than a superbly maintained logic could fathom?

    Thursday, April 08, 2010 7:56:00 AM  

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