Whither Wink Wednesdays (or, Wink Wednesdays withered)?
Conversations with Peter Wink, Part 2 1/2
So far, the reviews have been mixed regarding my little experiment in examining issues about the self-help industry from "the other side," via conversations with industry insider Peter Wink. Formerly Joe "Mr. Fire" Vitale's VP of Sales and Marketing, Peter is now working for another one of my fave snargets, Kevin Trudeau. My main intentions in presenting this series about my conversations with Peter have been to broaden the conversation and to stir the pot a bit. Peter has said his intention is to help my readers see aspects of the industry they may not have considered. As far as I'm concerned, if that ultimately results in more readers (and, in the best-case scenario, more donations to this Whirled), it's icing on the cake.
Judging from what has happened so far, we were off to a rollicking good start with a flood of comments to Part 1, and then it slowed to a trickle in Part 2. But that’s much like life itself. The final chapter has yet to be written.
From my perspective, I'm just getting started on the series, and the real point of the conversations – the larger issues regarding the self-help industry and its place in our culture – are to come in Part 3 (and a possible Part 4), though we've gotten a bit of a head start in some of the discussions following the existing posts. But I confess, Dear Ones, that over the past week and a half or so I've been so busy again with work and family stuff that I haven't devoted as much attention as I'd wanted to getting Part 3 completed to my satisfaction. I'm hoping to get it up next Wednesday.
So I hope that those of you who haven't left in boredom or disappointment will stick around; I predict it will get more interesting around here again. To paraphrase some New-Wage gurus: What if it does?
Meanwhile, I think that the conversations that have sprung up around the posts I've published so far are worthy of an interim post.
To begin with, let's take a look at that Part 2 letdown. I believe several factors are at work in the relatively lackluster response to Part 2, apart from all the usual things that dictate the rise and fall of conversations on blogs (including, perhaps, the "lame-sequel" syndrome). I have no doubt that because of the way I wrote the first post, some people were expecting some real dirt – or perhaps some genuine insights – in Part 2, and were a little disappointed. I take responsibility for this. Some might say that the expectations of the readers (particularly the dirt-seekers) were to blame as much as anything else, but, as is the case with self-help industry leaders and their clients, it is the marketers who reinforce – and in some cases create – those expectations. In this case, I was the marketer. So...mea culpa, y'all.
Quite without intending it – and a blog, particularly a rather freewheeling one like Whirled Musings, is nothing if not an experiment in unintended consequences – I may have been doing one of the very things I've found so annoying when New-Wage marketers do it. I may have made a huge deal of the sizzle, and then followed it up with a flavorless and ultimately disappointing steak. Several people have told me privately that Part 2 just kind of seemed to fall flat. Some said it read like a fluff piece to promote Peter, and some even speculated that I am indeed being “played,” per my semi-facetious narrative of my reservations that I shared in my first post. More than one person thought I am being too deferential and complicit in the rosy picture they think that Peter is trying to paint. And, just to keep the intrigue going, there was even some speculation that I was somehow setting Peter up, in keeping with the (again, semi-facetious) notation on my Twitter page: "I won't be mean to you, but sometimes I play with my food before I eat it."
I'm sorry to disappoint, but there's no set-up intended.
While some readers acknowledged that I balanced the relatively rosy picture somewhat by referencing my past writings and explaining my temporary suspension of snark, they said that in their eyes there still seemed to be something missing. "We're used to snark and hard-hitting criticism," wrote one of my pals, "and this didn't fit into the expected genre in the expected way."
Another told me, "The one thing people have come to expect from you is that you hold the New-Wage gurus' feet to the fire – generally in a humorous or cute way. You're not the no-holds-barred muckraker or the trivial gossip-monger; you're the happy medium between the two. But in this post, it reads like you just rolled over and played nice. It kinda looks like ya sold out, CC."
Well, yes, but the purpose of these particular posts was, after all, to present "the other side." But even that mission has received mixed reviews thus far. Several people have shared their opinion that Peter has not exactly presented a credible case for that "other side," due in part to the way he reacted to criticism and challenges in some of the discussions. A few also thought that some of Peter's remarks didn't sound believable. Some thought he sounded pat or dismissive when supposedly attempting to put issues in perspective. I have no doubt that some of the exchanges even reinforced the negative images some people have about self-help industry members. If I were a markedly different sort of blogger, I would simply dismiss these opinions as the flawed perspectives of people who are just out looking for the negative or searching for a reason to argue. There are plenty of bloggers who would do this – indeed, some have been favored snargets of mine – but count me out of the critic-dissing. Truth is, I think there's validity to all of the criticism, not only about the way I wrote the posts but also about Peter's remarks.
As for Peter, despite some of his responses on the discussions, he still claims to hold to the opinion that criticism is a good thing. And I have to agree.
In any event, I ask you to keep in mind that what I've presented so far is just the tip of the iceberg. (And for those who adore dirt, I would gladly have shared more, but I am simply not at liberty to do so. I hope you understand.)
I will say this, in hopes that you will pardon what might seem like a momentary digression: the public exchanges, particularly in response to Part 1, brought up many issues relevant not only to the self-help industry but also to blogging, criticism, and online discourse. At this writing, there are 90 comments in response to Part 1, and fully one-third of those are exchanges between an anonymous commenter who is relentless in her attacks on snarky or critical bloggers (especially yours truly), and the responses to her comments. She addressed very few of the points in my blog posts, but seemed more intent on continuing a longstanding campaign of ragging on me for "character assassination," gossip, name-calling, and the like. Although I continued to publish her remarks long past the point where most of my colleagues would have banned her (and a few have banned her from their blogs), I ultimately decided to put a moratorium on her comments because she just kept making the same points over and over and over. For those of you who got bored and disgusted by that bickerfest, please accept my apologies.
Interestingly (well, it's interesting to me, anyway), this Anonymous seems to have backed me into one of those “damned-if-I-do-and-damned-if-I-don’t” corners I wrote about in my first post. She even wrote in one of her comments that she thinks I’m just publishing the Wink posts to make myself look like a good person who is only trying to look at things from the other side. In her eyes, this doesn’t make up for all of the “character assassination” and low-life “gossip” I’ve committed over the years on Whirled Musings. I’ve learned to live with these accusations but can only answer them so many times before I start boring myself. And since I'm not easily bored, that's really an accomplishment. Though I hate to squelch open conversation, and though it seems inconsistent with my previous declarations that I welcome all participation on this forum, I’ve become quite proficient with that “Reject comment” button.
I do think it noteworthy that some people think I'm being too soft on these posts, while others, most notably my favorite Anonymouse, seem to think I'm harsh and unfair no matter what I write. Maybe in the end it all comes back to that line from the late Ricky Nelson's hit song, "Garden Party," "But it's all right now, I learned my lesson well./ You see, ya can't please everyone, so ya got to please yourself."
Anyway, I will be back next week with more "Conversations With Peter Wink." Meanwhile, if you have any questions you'd like to ask Peter, send them to me either by private email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or via the "Comments" on this blog. Let's keep the conversations going.