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Attention my minions, as I make a brief digression about blogging

Jan 17, 2011, 8:32 AM EDT


This is not about baseball. It’s about blogging. Those of you not interested in the meta-stuff, feel free to stay on break a little while longer. We’ll call you back when we get back to work.

This post from Michael Arrington at TechCrunch is from last September, but it was just brought to my attention this morning. It’s about the way in which it’s quite easy for an experienced and savvy blogger to manipulate reader opinion, play to the crowd and all of that, often without the readers even realizing it.  Arrington goes so far as to posit that “any blogger worth her salt could start, say, an extremely successful militant religious cult.”  I think that’s putting it too strongly, but there’s a  core point: a blogger can — either if he tries or if he’s merely careless — create a community of readers who think in lockstep, agree with whatever the blogger says and shouts down dissenting opinions as heresy. And for as nice as it is to have minions, this point should not be forgotten:

Remember this, though. When you’re reading something here that’s getting you really riled up, stop. It may be that you really should be thinking the exact opposite of what you are. And if you find yourself floating through a post agreeing with all the subtle pandering, wake up! And call us on it immediately.

I don’t know that any blog is immune to this phenomenon, this one included. I mean, I never write anything that isn’t truly my opinion — even at my most Swiftian moments I’m striving to make it clear that my tongue is placed firmly in my cheek — but I’m sure I’m not 100% successful at it. I probably frame issues in subtle ways such that a casual reader can be manipulated, even if it’s only for a moment. I’m sure I also do some lazy things on occasion, knowing on some level that, because I’ve got something of a track record, readers will let me skate from time to time.

But that’s not cool. And even if I’m not 100% successful in avoiding it, I certainly want to. I want the jokes and the tone and the vibe of this blog to build on itself over time, but anything I write should, at its core, stand alone on its own merits, or else it’s not successful.

I think you guys do a pretty good job at calling me out on my baloney, but I think I need to crack the mental whip on myself a bit more, and I can certainly stand you all doing it. Please, do it.

Anyway, just an observation I found interesting this morning.  We now return you to your regular baseball programming.

  1. Adam - Jan 17, 2011 at 8:42 AM

    Thank you for using that picture. Greatest. Minions. Ever.

  2. The Common Man/ - Jan 17, 2011 at 8:44 AM

    Mine eyes, they have been opened. I never realized just how much you suck. Of course, this post, in itself could be a manipulation in which you’re trying to convince us that you’re manipulating us. And when we are grateful for your candor, you’re able to more effectively manipulate us in the future. God, life as a minion is complicated. I’m done thinking. Craig, how should I feel about steroids again?

  3. Panda Claus - Jan 17, 2011 at 9:10 AM

    I consider many of your posts simply as attempts to pander (see what I did there?) to your audience. It’s easy to see the comment totals go up on each Yankee, Red Sox and Phillies-related post, and it makes sense given the numbers of rabid fans those organizations have.

    This winter has also seen a larger than proportional number of posts about Orioles, past and present, and for that I’m thankful. Given the extremely low comment counts on the O’s posts in general (read: crickets chirping), I’m now convinced that Craig is in fact pandering (did it again) directly to me. And I still don’t mind.

    • Craig Calcaterra - Jan 17, 2011 at 9:13 AM

      There’s a more innocuous explanation for the number of Yankees-Sox posts: there is more original reporting out there about those two teams than any other, with each having multiple media outlets providing dedicated coverage. For the most part, blogging is a reactive medium. If there are new stories about something, that’s gonna get blogged.

      • Panda Claus - Jan 17, 2011 at 9:58 AM

        The pandering comment (including the “panda” play on words), was intended to be tongue-in-cheek. I forget which site I went to recently, through a link you had here, that showed the number of blogs related to the three teams I mentioned as astronomical. The Yanks and Sox had around 70 each, the Phils linked about 42 blogs, while the Orioles contrasted with only 14 (still sounds high).

      • Utley's Hair - Jan 17, 2011 at 1:53 PM

        Panda-ring…isn’t there an antibiotic or something for that?

  4. woodenulykteneau - Jan 17, 2011 at 9:12 AM

    This is hardly news to those of us who have an advanced academic background in Journalism*, but it’s worth noting because so many folks that do not have the belief (or the chutzpah) that because they have a [blog/radio show/column/Twitter account], they are journalists nevertheless. Think Rush Limbaugh and his self-aggrandizing “King of Media” (or Larry King, for that matter) moniker.

    In fact, Limbaugh is a perfect example of what Arrington is talking about. Here, the medium is not the message, but it may well be the massage (look it up before you comment with a correction) that he’s referring to. Thankfully, Limbaugh’s primary motivation is to create a very profitable echo chamber, but others have had far more sinister intentions. Arrington is not overblowing this when you consider how much more reach the Internet has versus a radio broadcast (how quickly we’ve forgotten Father Coughlin).

    * That and $2 gets me a cup of coffee

  5. Jonny 5 - Jan 17, 2011 at 9:14 AM

    I totally disagree!!! This is an outrage!

    How’s that Mr. Dark Overlord sir?

    I have one thing to add. Craig, you’re a seemingly smart man, because you are.. You also know baseball inside and out obviously. So I think most of time people will tend to agree with you on that topic. So don’t let this guy make you wonder if people actually agree with you because you have some crazy media like control on their thoughts and opinions, when it’s actually because you make sense. Craig, you have swayed me on one matter, and it relates to the HOF. At one time I thought it was a good thing to bar some players for steroid use. And if they’ll keep out Rose and Joe Jackson, then the PED users should be excluded as well. I thought it was an admirable thing to do, to keep the HOF clean of the cheaters. But when it’s all said and done. The HOF is more than likely a heap of cheaters, that happened to be the best ball players ever. And barring some of the best players ever for any reason seems to be self defeating in the terms of the HOF is a history of just that, the best. Cheaters, beaters, drinkers, gamblers, and druggies are already there. Why start being morality police now? I’m not easily swayed. And I never trusted the media. I am no minion. As evidenced by my calling out of you on silly matters where your pinkish side shows. Kiss cams, and the use of scrappiness, and grittiness “issues” primarily. But when it comes to baseball, people agree because you make sense. You’re pretty fly for a white guy Craig.

    • Utley's Hair - Jan 17, 2011 at 11:25 AM

      He’s pretty pasty for a white guy, too.

      But he hasn’t won me over on PEDs and the HOF—though he did try awfully hard with those 75,000 posts over the last few weeks. I can see his side, but I have not been swayed just based on his opinion.

      He does get me riled with his passive aggressive—and sometimes just outright aggressive—anti-Phightins stance though.

      • Jonny 5 - Jan 17, 2011 at 11:30 AM

        LOL!! Well good. You shouldn’t change your opinion if you don’t think it’s warranted. Ever.

        Yeah, I noticed that he must hate on Phillies fans at least bi-monthly… I personally love it. As a Philly fan, I know nothing else anyway.. We are the scourge of the sports world and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

      • Panda Claus - Jan 17, 2011 at 11:37 AM

        Dead on with the HOF and PED discussions, though 75K may be a slight understatement on your part.

        Watching a Braves fan lash out as his arch-enemy (Phils) as Craig does is sort of endearing in a way. Right now it reminds me of one of those little dogs that thinks he’s the biggest dog on the block just because he can bark. I don’t mean disrepectfully, only looking at it that way because the rest of the NL East looks like also-rans at the moment. But then we all know that’s why the play the games.

        As far as the Phillies being the scourge of the sport, I view them only as the NL flavor of the “scourge of the sport”. Now maybe if we had to hear about 27 trophies or something to that effect I’d feel differently.

      • Jonny 5 - Jan 17, 2011 at 12:05 PM

        Well Panda, I guess that’s why the whole 4 aces and catchers reporting to spring training thing bugged poor Craig. Although I love the fact that it’s true, it must really bother the guys who need to face these guys. Since it’s a better predictor of things to come than dredging up WS wins of the past and all. I smell fear. Or was it? Wait, sorry. It was my turkey sandwich I smelled. mmm..

      • yankeesfanlen - Jan 17, 2011 at 12:06 PM

        You talkin’ to me? You talkin’ to ME?

  6. Glenn - Jan 17, 2011 at 9:31 AM

    – just patiently waiting for Old Gator to do something with this curve ball hanging over the plate … and don’t worry, Craig, I don’t think we’ll be marching on Cooperstown on your behalf anytime soon – blindly waving fungo bats and muttering about PEDs. HardballTalk has an audience because of quality, not manipulation.

  7. proudlycanadian - Jan 17, 2011 at 10:24 AM

    I am still not sure what a minion is. By the way, the Toronto Star is reporting that Manny Ramirez is likely to sign with the Angels. I have no idea if their source is correct. There was certainly no real push in Toronto to sign Manny. Toronto’s new manager knows Manny very well.

    • Jonny 5 - Jan 17, 2011 at 11:06 AM

      How close are you to Nova Scotia?

      • Utley's Hair - Jan 17, 2011 at 11:28 AM

        New Scotch is overrated. You gotta go with the old, aged stuff.

  8. aaronmoreno - Jan 17, 2011 at 10:36 AM

    It’s rhetoric and demagoguery, same as it’s always been. Just a different format now.

  9. yankeesfanlen - Jan 17, 2011 at 10:54 AM

    Craig, please don’t flatter yourself that you’re manipulating me. What happens when you snarkly declare that the Universe is not the pinnicle of baseball supremacy? Just sends me into a minion revolt.
    This place is just a replacement for your favorite baseball bar with the same cronies waiting for you to set ’em up.

  10. Utley's Hair - Jan 17, 2011 at 11:11 AM

    Sorry, Craig…what were you saying? I became rabid at the sound of your keystrokes. You said we should vanquish Florio over at that other blog, right?

  11. Jack Marshall - Jan 17, 2011 at 11:27 AM

    There is less to this than meets the eye. If someone consistently has well-reasoned opinions that people respect, he gains credibility and some level of authority. That increases his ability to persuade, and makes its probable that he will have the benefit of the doubt when an opinion seems counter to what the admiring reader previously thought. This is how leaders lead and experts convince. Those with weak or unformed opinions or who don’t think about the issues very carefully are likely to be more accepting by reflex, out of laziness or just being adverse to confrontation.

    Is there anything sinister about this social process? No. Can it be abused? Sure; parents abuse it; college professors, scientists, columnists, talk-show hosts, bloggers…you name it. So with credibility and a following comes responsibility. Credibility can also vanish as quickly as it arrived: ask John Edwards. You know all this, Craig. I think you’re letting that “minions” remark get to to you.

    • Utley's Hair - Jan 17, 2011 at 12:17 PM

      How dare you speak to Lord Calcaterra of Minionsota in such a manner!!!!! Fifty lashes with a wet blog for you!

  12. apbaguy - Jan 17, 2011 at 12:34 PM

    Thank goodness that as Craig has evolved from Shyster ball to THT to this NBC incarnation he hasn’t lost his zing, unlike say Perez Hilton, who is no longer recognizable in blog form (“I’ve become what I once mocked”).

    But when Craig takes that front office job with MLB, it will be time to turn on him en masse.

    Until then, required morning reading.

  13. Charles Gates - Jan 17, 2011 at 12:43 PM

    Honesty: When this, or any other blog, preaches I won’t read it anymore. I come here to be challenged by well thoughout arguments about baseball topics whether I agree with them or not, as well as breaking news/analysis.
    Feedback: In your quest to churn material, don’t stop inserting wit and/or obscure references. It may take a little time to get a quote exactly right, but it’s time appreciated by me, who just nominated himself to speak for all readers/minions.

    • Jonny 5 - Jan 17, 2011 at 1:01 PM

      What he said.

      • Utley's Hair - Jan 17, 2011 at 1:25 PM

        Well-constructed argument there, Jonny.

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