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August 23, 2003

Silflay Hraka: Where Giants Trod

As I've written before, I'm always a bit surprised when some stranger responds to my missives. My default expectation is to be dismissed as a crank, so it's a bit disconcerting when I'm not.

Case in point, my theorizing as to the origins of the Fumento feud with parts of the blogosphere, which attracted the steely eyed gaze of the man himself. I thought his response deserved a wider read than it would otherwise have gotten if it remained in the dusty ghetto that is the Hraka comments section, so I've moved it up above the fold.

And edited it, very slightly, for readability, reasoning that surely a writer as published as Mike would expect nothing less. Those wishing to compare the Hraka polished version against the original may do so here.


This is a comment I made on another blogsite about the "Fumento controversy," but it fits here, too.

The old expression "If the shoe fits wear it" has a corollary; if the shoe doesn't fit," don't wear it. I am on record as saying that 99 percent of blogs get almost no traffic outside of their own little sphere. Other than Hailey's "Shots Across the Bow" I am on record as putting nobody in that 99 percent. I don't go around checking other people's blog logs. In your look at my website hits, you're making exactly the same mistake other bloggers are making. You're treating ME as a blogger. I'm a newspaper and magazine writer and author who happens to post his material on his website and very occasionally publish some comments. The same bloggers in those 99 percent also never publish outside their blogsite, whereas some in the one percent like Reynolds and Sullivan do.

Since I don't even HAVE a blogsite, it hardly seems fair to measure my "blogsite" hits but rather to look at my exposure elsewhere. I am a syndicated columnist. I go out to 400 newspapers a week, of whom a varying percentage pick up my column. But one of those papers alone has over three million readers and many have hundreds of thousands. Assuming only a small portion of those readers actually flip to the op-ed page, I could still have a hundred thousand "hits" per day. That's not counting that over a dozen newspapers sites such as and also automatically carry me. I doubt if there's more than a couple of blogsites in the country that get more hits than they do. So while it's impossible to say how many readers I do get, it is possible to say it utterly swamps that 99 percent.

BUT that pretty much is true for most of the writers with my syndicate (although I find some to be rather boring, so I would hope I get my readers than they do.) There isn't the least doubt that my friend Michelle Malkin, with 100 newspapers, gets more hits than any blogsite in the country. The point is, you can't even begin to compare the readership of a nationally syndicated columnist with that 99 percent of which I spoke. Like Hailey, their shots are into the wind. They're basically writing online diaries and many are damned mad at me for pointing it out. I can handle it; PETA is damned mad at me for having criticized their animal testing position last week

And as of today NOW will be damned mad at me for saying women have a right to choose silicone gel implants.

Have I EVER complained about people keeping diaries? No. It's when they get so self-important like Hailey did and some of his friend bloggers that I made my comments. Trust me, I'd much rather fry such fish as PETA and NOW.

Mike Fumento


Um, that was a remarkably even-handed and low key response. It wasn't what I would have expected, given the history of this particular affaire d'honneur, but it's certainly what I prefer. I'll fight flame wars if I have to, but they give me ulcers and make me stay up too late.

Zod: Says the man typing his life away at twenty after two o'clock on a Saturday morning.

I'll grant the argument that Mike's home site isn't a blog, though I suspect such a division is akin to defining the differences between the Trotskyites and the Stalinists. It's a matter of life and death to those creating the difference, but to a disinterested observer they're all bloody Reds.

I'll grant the argument because it doesn't matter. I've compared blog traffic to non-blog traffic before, I don't consider it an apples vs. oranges situation.

Bloggers are sensitive about traffic for one reason and one reason only. Whatever traffic we have we've had to earn. Hraka's 25,000+ visitors a month may be less than a drop in the Internet ocean, but it's a drop we earned with the sweat of our brow and the toil of our digits.

Whatever your numbers are Mike, they were handed to you on a silver platter. Yes, millions of people may read your column, but millions of people also read Marmaduke. He's in 600 newspapers, by the way. You could be the best American journalist since Twain picked up a pen, but when your estimated readership numbers are by your own measurements less than that of a Grade C comic strip, how do you tell?

You tell by measuring traffic to content that isn't subsidized by a major media outlet. You tell by measuring traffic to your site, traffic that I don't doubt dwarfs 90% of the visitor numbers enjoyed by most blogs.

It's a humbling experience, I should know. By all means, feel free to dis the market value of a fellow using the measurements of his choice, but shouldn't you at least have a concrete idea of what your own relative value is in that market, especially when ascertaining it is so easy?

If you're going to denigrate the size of a man's equipment in public, no matter how much of an ass he may have been, fair play demands that you be willing to expose your own to the gaze of the same crowd.

So whip that sucker out.

Posted by Bigwig at August 23, 2003 02:17 AM | TrackBack
First time visitor to House Hraka? Wondering if everything we produce could possibly be as brilliant/stupid/evil/pedantic/insipid/inspired as the post you just read? Check out the Hraka Essentials, the (mostly) reader-selected guide to Hraka's best posts, and decide for yourself.

I don't like fights over traffic numbers. They detract from the true business of sharing ideas. But if you are going to argue over traffic, the people who get their hits because their readership puts them on their bookmarks and makes an effort to find them daily have a more valuable kind of traffic than those who get links gratis, or their bandwith is handled for them.

Anyway, the point is, you earn your readership.

Posted by: steven at August 23, 2003 10:16 AM

Or you can do what me & Cap'n Holly do to build up hits - find three people, hold 'em at gunpoint all day, and make 'em keep hittin' the "refresh" button like crazed monkeys pushin' for sweet, sweet crack. Works for us.

On the other hand, I'd take Mr. Fumento with a grain of salt. Sure, he is an eminence grise in all his columny goodness. But sometimes, I think he's full of shizzle.

His work debunking the Atkins Diet, for example, showing it's a myth, it doesn't work, it's hopeless, a fraud -- well, I can put the article in the same circular file my old clothes from 40 pounds ago went. It's been off, it's stayed off, and oh by the way, the cholesterol is down, the blood sugar is better regulated than before, and the resting heart rate is 64. I should like the man because of ideological affinity, I agree with his politics frequently... but I have to call "bulls***" on what he says in his articles pretty frequently. Often, he strikes me as so intent on debunking anything that he doesn't agree with, that the debunking comes out as a one sided hitjob. Slam Atkins? Fine, no problem. Just tell me why it is it worked for me, and why my doctor (and many diabestes & endocrine specialists) are recommending it.

For what it's worth, I find that a scientific piece debunking a theoryt is more effective if it seriously addresses legitimate arguments that support the targeted theory.

Oh, and one other thing. I went to a chiropractor a while ago for a screwed up back problem. Hurt it lifting weights. The chiro did a little spinal manipulation, worked my arm around (suspected trapped nerve in the shoulder) and all of a sudden, I was good as new. I went there because my orthopedist, as far as I can tell a sane and reputable man with an Ivy League med school degree, sent me there... I couldn't lift my arm one day, I was back lifting weights the next, and perfectly mobile after a little snap, crackle, pop. Even amidst the ducks, apparently, quacking can be good for something.

There, that should draw a comment.

Posted by: Blackavar at August 23, 2003 04:58 PM

"Or you can do what me & Cap'n Holly do to build up hits - find three people, hold 'em at gunpoint all day, and make 'em keep hittin' the "refresh" button like crazed monkeys pushin' for sweet, sweet crack..."

Hmmm...Drudge Report uses a meta refresh tag for the same effect...

Posted by: Misanthropyst at August 24, 2003 11:03 AM

Hmmmm... a meta refresh button, you say?

Sound's like it would be cheaper than defending the kidnapping charges me & Cap'n Holly now face.

That might be worth a try...

Posted by: Blackavar at August 24, 2003 04:21 PM

I don't even know who Mr. Fumento is. Never heard of him. But I read Hraka every day. Not sure what that says, but I thought I'd add my two cents...

Posted by: Fran at August 24, 2003 04:50 PM

"If you're going to denigrate the size of a man's equipment in public, no matter how much of an ass he may have been, fair play demands that you be willing to expose your own to the gaze of the same crowd."

Was I an ass? I don't think so. Far from defending the Atkins Plan, I simply pointed out errors in Fumento's argument, errors of logic and errors of fact that nobody who'd actually read the book could have made, unless they were attempting to distort the truth. I pointed this out to Mr. Fumento, and challenged him to correct the record. What I got back was a blast of venom and personal attack, which, I have to admit, accomplished his purpose. The discussion moved from his deliberate distortions about the Atkins Diet to his behavior, and from there to an argument about readership. When you're losing a debate, it's always a good tactical move to change the focus of the debate, and that's what he did, both in his email to me, and in entries on his site. Both site traffic and his insults are irrelevant to the discussion we were having, but that's all anybody will remember.

My view on this is simple, and documentable; the guy is fundamentally dishonest. Just a few examples from Advise section:

First, he introduces errors into a quote from my page, then attributes those errors to me.

Second, he copies a picture, changing the aspect ratio to make it look worse than it is. When called on this by Glenn Reynolds, he fixes the aspect ratio, yet later claims in response to another reader that he didn't doctor the image.

Third, he uses another picture from an Atkins site to "prove" that all Atkins supporters are fat. He changes the filename, and provides no link to the picture, making it difficult to verify his claim. I took the time, and found the following. The picture is indeed an "After" shot from Betzi, who claims to have lost 102 lbs, down from 435 to 333 lbs over a year long period. She's lost a quarter of her body weight, and this pompous ass has the gall to use her to make a point!

Here's the link providing the extra info I use above. Scroll down to Betzi.

My earlier posts document more distortions and errors in a piece on his website concerning Atkins.

I can and will defend the Atkins diet as it has worked for me, although Fumento will not accept my story as it is anecdotal evidence. In brief, I went from 305 to 227 over a period of 6 months. At that point, I arrogantly quit the program, assuming I would never let myself go that far again. Over the next year, I regained 55 pounds. Note carefully, that I gained the weight when I stopped following the diet, not while I was on it. 3 weeks ago, I went back on the Atkins plan and I've lost 20 lbs.

I'm betting that as more long term studies are done, the low carb approach will be vindicated as safe and effective. But as I've said on my site, no diet is a magic bullet. To maintain weight loss requires a permanent change in eating habits, which is difficult regardless of which diet you follow.

Posted by: rich hailey at August 25, 2003 04:50 PM

180 years ago or so this would have been settled properly... with pistols at 20 paces.

At least the good folks at Princeton haven't given up on the fine art of dueling:

Posted by: Andrew at August 26, 2003 01:24 PM

I hate to be the “me too” idiot at this party, but until I saw his name here, I’d never heard of Mr. Fumento. Since I’m fairly well read* I suspect that his opinions are rather less important than he imagines.

* In any event, I’ve read Shardak, Maia, and Watership Down

Posted by: Daniel Morris at August 28, 2003 05:48 AM
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