Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Ignorance is Anything but Bliss

Maybe it's me. Maybe my tolerance level is just much lower than usual. Maybe I'm just encountering more...less than intellectually scintillating people than normal as of late. 

I don't think it's me. 

Hard as it may be to grasp, but I think ignorance is on the upswing, and I think that's showing up on every level from personal to professional to global. I'm not saying this because I think I'm some kind of Mensa-qualified intellectual giant. I'm basing this statement entirely on events--some that I have witnessed and some we all have. Today has just been a benchmark day and really drove the situation home for me. 

Let me give you some examples. 

I'm one of those people who can upon occasion type faster than I  think. Not a slow thinker, just a very fast typist. People like me, with the gift/curse of 100 wpm, are the most likely to get involved in online spats. Surprising, actually, how insulting 140 characters or less can be under the right set of fingertips. That particular skill also can make you into a polarizing person. But I'm a writer. I *know* better than to get into flame wars. But sometimes they're just unavoidable. For example, if you want to get me really pissed off, insult my kids. Some *original phrase deleted* older gentleman whose previous attempts at insulting me consisted of "DUMB WOMAN" (that's a quote) saw a picture of me and my youngest daughter and posted on Twitter *spelling uncorrected* "Is she your lesban lovr? thats sick". 

She was 16 in the photo. Did not go over well. Why would he say that, you ask? Well, because I am a woman who loves sports, can discuss football knowledgeably, and calls up the same talk show he does to make actual points. So I called him homophobic and HE blocked ME for it! Reminded me of the time when I called out a blatant racist online, and his response was "I'm not a racist. And you spelled biggot (sp) wrong. It has two g's, like N*****R."


Yeah. Makes my head hurt still. Because I call the Paul Finebaum show, some butthead in Alabama throws out a homophobic slur at me--involving my own kid. 

Today I discovered that all Marines are trained killers. That's all. Just trained killers. Apparently, that is the only thing that defines the Marine Corps. Semper fi, indeed. And I am not capable of debating that because I am just a mother who never served (never mind the long military history of my family) and that I'm unintelligent because I write paranormal stuff (I don't write paranormal stuff) and weirdos like me probably think UFOs landed at Area 51. Always good to know. Did I mention that this particular *original phrase deleted* gentleman who made these statements self-identifies as a Marine?

Yeah. Take a couple of deep breaths. It might help. A Marine told me that all Marines are nothing but trained killers and that I, an American citizen, cannot refute that point because I am a mother and not a Marine. 

Nope. Breaths won't help. Shots might.

It's not just strangers online. A member of my husband's family told me once that the movie Gladiator was historically inaccurate. (Had to explain the concept of fiction to him) A neighbor whose tree fell on our house during a storm tried to claim that he shouldn't have to pay for damage or even remove the tree because it wasn't his fault our house was in the way and was, in fact, our fault because if we hadn't moved the car into the garage it would have broken the tree's fall and prevented the damage to the windows and doors on the front of the house. (Had to go through rudimentary gravity, wind velocity, and basic physics to him) And then there was the doctor who, before he ever examined me or looked at an x-ray of my injured spine, said, "Now if I had a magic pen that I could wave to make everything go away, things might be different. But you aren't hurt--you just want narcotics." even though in the x-ray I'd brought with me there was a blatantly obvious deformity (including a fracture) of my spine.

Don't get me wrong. We ALL say stupid stuff. I am guilty of the compound crime of hot temper/foot in mouth disease myself. And that typing faster than I think thing gets me into trouble if I hit send before I hit the brakes sometimes. Who hasn't sent something out into the world that they really wish wasn't lodged in the permanent memory card of the Internet?

Two word: sex tape. 

But outside of the microcosm of my little, unimportant world is the macrocosm of the world we share--and that's where ignorance snowballs into something ugly and dangerous. These petty examples of ignorance are symptoms, clues that lead us to the terrible realization that we're dealing with a national disease.

Right now in Baltimore, the National Guard has been mobilized to stop the ongoing and escalating violence--where ignorance, or maybe entitlement might be a better phrase--hones that ugly edge. For who in the world would think that protesting an obvious and tragic wrong justifies the type of behavior that's happening now? Do not mistake me here. I believe there is a viable and justifiable reason for communities in Baltimore to be outraged. But community outrage should never take the form or rampaging and random violence. Protest, yes. Loot the mall? Burn down businesses and homes? Torch cars? Get broadcast live nationally breaking into a liquor store and stealing the contents while claiming your actions are the responsibility of the authorities? Pretend that criminal behavior is a form of protest? Destroy the community you claim to be wanting to protect? 

What kind of protest involves stealing flat screen TVs and cell phones? Can you imagine what the great reformers of the American people would think of this? Can you imagine Martin Luther King, Jr. or Elizabeth Cody Stanton or David Thoreau's reactions to what is happening right now?

Tonight while Baltimore burns, the real outrage has to be that ignorance has eclipsed what should have happened today. Instead of using protest to initiate a real and necessary dialogue between the community and the authorities regarding the death of Freddie Gray, the relationship between the police and the citizens, and the alarming deterioration of race relations nationwide, the ignorance of people wholly uninvolved in the situation has led to a city overwhelmed by criminals and now about to be locked down by our own military. A tragedy has become a travesty, and the real issues are buried under a quagmire of horror. 

 The people who could affect any real, positive change in Baltimore are either holed up in their homes, or trying desperately to stop the rampage, like the courageous Nation of Islam folks who lined up and formed a non-violent human fence between rioters and police. Their voices will be drowned under the yells of the ignorant who are throwing bricks through windows or setting houses on fire, fueled no doubt by the booze they looted. 

And when, in future days, when the desperately needed dialogue begins, where will those rioters be? Not talking. Not trying to help. And for the most part, not being held responsible for their criminal behavior either. And they certainly will not be trying to find the right way to protest the tragedy that led to today's violence. 

My use of the word 'ignorance' was very deliberate. I realize that some might take that word the wrong way, particularly if they are determined to do so. Cultural ignorance has been claimed before. My French mother, whose Resistance-organizer father was shot dead in front of her as the Nazis fled from the Allied invasion, never forgave Germans--ANY German--for World War II. Any claim of 'but we didn't know' just enraged her. "How could you not know?" she sneered once at a dinner party, while all the rest of us squirmed. (Yes, I come by my temper naturally. I'm mild compared to her) "I was eight years old and living in France, and I knew that all you Nazis were burning Jews. You lived right there. You knew. You just didn't say it out loud. You didn't WANT to know." She was convinced that the German people were willfully and retroactively ignorant, and right or wrong nothing I or anyone else could say would change her mind. For a long time, I thought she was wrong. 

But lately I've started to wonder if such a thing as cultural ignorance was possible.  After Ferguson, I became convinced that it was not only possible, but epidemic. Just like a parent who turns away from their kid who pulls wings off birds and tortures dogs, we get shocked when our darling offspring turns into a serial killer. That's why on this spring day in Baltimore, I think we all see how dangerous ignorance can be if it goes on unchecked. 

The United States can no longer afford cultural, racial, or social ignorance. Ignorance is bankrupting us as a nation, as a people. Our country began with a dream of enlightenment, and sometimes, on days like today, it doesn't seem like we've met our promise. We, as individuals, have to accept our responsibility for contributing to a culture where the delusion is perpetuated that if we ignore a problem it'll somehow just go away. And just like we have to deal with the consequences if we hit send before we really think about what we're doing online, we are paying a heavy price now for all the looking the other way we did over the last few decades. 

If we had learned the lessons set by Watts or Kent State, we would not now be living through Ferguson and Baltimore. 

And we cannot address the ignorance of our society until we can acknowledge our own ignorance--and take personal responsibility for our actions that ensued. 

Bigot really only has one g. So does ignorance. Or ego. 

And guilt.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Spring Means...Kittens

Spring means different things to different people. For some people, it's about flowers and the days warming up. For others, it's baseball. In this house, it's football spring practice--and kittens. 

Yes, another spring, more kittens. Don't get me wrong--OUR cats are spayed \neutered. Well, except for Diablo, my polydactyl black cat. He's special. I rescued him three years ago as a wormy, flea-infested runt with six toes on each of his front paws. I will breed him at least a couple more times--polydactyl cats are lucky for us writers. So the spring influx of kittens isn't the result of negligence or lack of care in this house. No, We rescue abandoned litters and pregnant cats, and for the past couple of years people have been dumping their mistakes on our front porch. 

Last year, we had six momma cats and their litters left on our hands. This year, we had four momma cats. One was dead when I opened the box, curled around her litter of seven newborns like she'd tried to keep them warm to the very end. Two of those kittens died, but the other five I bottle fed and are now thriving. 

Usually, we've found homes for the kittens and kept the momma cats, getting them spayed and healthy. So we have lots of foster mommas for the abandoned litters, and that makes rescuing kittens a lot easier. All that being said, I have a hard time imagining that finding good homes will be easy this year. For one thing, we don't just 'give free to good home'. So many kittens end up as meals for snakes or bait in a dog fighting ring. We give these poor little things a lot of human interaction and care, and are emotionally invested in each baby we raise. So what we do is either charge $25 per kitten or defer that charge if we confirm that the new kitten's parents have made a vet appointment for their fuzzy baby. 

Funny how $25, which is substantially less than what we probably invest in each kitten, will deter animal cruelty. People who think nothing of spending hundreds of dollars on a reptile won't spend a dime on that snake's food. Last year some guy showed up in response to our 'free kittens' ad and wanted to take all of them. Since I know from a firsthand basis that no one wants an instant addition of 11 kittens to their home, I had no compunction in turning him away. 

How could anyone feed a snake a kitten? 


I have no idea, But they troll the want ads for those 'free to a good home' kittens.

So, we require people to prove they have a good home. That's all.  Personally, I think the only good snake is a pair of shoes. Maybe a purse or a belt. But not a final destination for a kitten I've nurtured from birth onward.

At any rate, this year I've decided to do things a little differently. For one thing, Shannon and I have been discussing building a catio for our feline family. We're already in the process of making a kitty wonderland in the basement, and a catio would benefit our geriatric cats in particular. We have six cats over the age of ten--Satan turned 15 last month--and those warm summer days would ease those old bones. Which, of course, means that we'll have to re-landscape out back to accommodate an access tunnel from the basement window, the deck, the pool, and my garden. Sounds like a lot of work. Good thing Shannon hates doing yard work or else this wouldn't be any fun at all. The first litter of kittens will be old enough to find forever homes in four weeks, so we'll need to knock that out fairly quickly. Fortunately, all those years of set building in theater will come in handy. I have an idea for a catio that can easily be expanded or moved but still provide security for the cats inside it. 

Even started a planter full of catnip they can roll around in. Maybe with a shrubbery--or two, to make a path (a path! a path!)--we can avoid the ignominy of a HERRING!

*The management would like to apologize for the Monty Python backslide. We now return you to your regularly scheduled blog post*

And I think this year, I'm going to create a website that will come up in internet searches for folks in the area looking for a kitten. I'll post pictures of the kittens and some character traits and as each kitten gets a new home, I'll take that picture down. 

One of these days, if we win the lottery, I'd love to buy a huge plot of land in the country and create a permanent no-kill shelter and adoption center. That would be a wonderful addition to one's life story. But until then, as long as irresponsible people get cats and don't give them veterinary care, or keep them from situation where kittens could be created, I have a feeling that those cretins will continue to dump their problems on my front porch. So every spring, most likely, we'll have kittens to hand rear. When you help a kitten into the world, when you clean it up and give it to its mother, when you bottle feed it when it's so tiny it can fit in the palm of your hand, you're creating a human bond with that little life. Hand-reared cats trust humans. They like to be held, to play, to cuddle. They are well-behaved and reciprocate the affection they are shown. Anyone who's been to our house knows that when the front door opens, the cats big and small all run to the door to greet whoever comes in. And these kittens will do the same, because all they've ever known is human kindness--despite the fact that they were abandoned by humans when the snow was deep and the temperature low. 

So in the Summers household, spring means...kittens. That's all for now--those litter boxes won't change themselves, and there's an itty bitty kitten looking up at me from the nest with her siblings to let me know that it's time for her bottle.

Friday, April 03, 2015

Revelations and Revisionism, Mythology and History

One of the great things about being an author is the ability to choose any story you want to tell, whether you're fictionalizing a great event in history or creating the most fanciful fantasy or developing a love story that resounds with everyone that reads it. I'm working on a project right now called Revisionist--I'll tell a bit about it in a minute. First, though, I want to share a few revelations I've had in the past week about revisionism and Revisionist and the people who revise things. 

I love the SyFy channel. I'm an unabashed fan of several of their shows--Dominion and Defiance are great, Ghost Hunters I've been watching for years, and Face Off is a tie to the theater life I loved and now miss. But when SyFy makes a goof, they really make a big one. Their new show Olympus is an example of what I'm talking about. 

I know more about Greco-Roman mythology than just about anyone in the universe. In fact, I was a state and national champion in Mythology at Junior Classical League conventions when I was in high school, and my first fantasy series The Asphodel Cycle was a blend of traditional Greco-Roman mythology with standard epic fantasy elements. One thing I've learned as a writer with a strong classical background is that you can't "improve" the original. Clash of the Titans is a good example of this. Perseus didn't ride Pegasus the flying horse--Bellerophon did. In fact, Pegasus was born after Perseus cut off Medusa's head--for when her blood met the waters of the ocean (ie Poseidon), the god's spirit impregnated Medusa's essence and *poof!* Winged horse. 

And there's no such thing as a mechanical owl named Bubo perched upon Athena's shoulder. 

So--Olympus. I was excited that SyFy was doing a show based upon mythology, but last night when the premiere came on I was horrified within the first couple of minutes. Why? Because the Cyclops had one eye--which is mythologically accurate--but that eye was in his MOUTH. Why the change? Because a giant immortal with a single eye isn't scary enough? And think about the logistics of it. If the Cyclops's eye in in his mouth, then can he not see unless he's shouting? And what about eating? Is it really a good idea for a creature's only eye to be right there with his teeth? Not to mention the ewwwwwwwwww factor. It's just nasty. 

I could go on and on about the other "improvements" that wrecked Olympus, but that would be my longest post ever. I won't do that to you. Suffice it to say that about the only similarity between Olympus and Greco-Roman mythology are some character names and a few of the costumes. And that got me thinking: why the need for the changes in the first place? Mythology is full of amazing and relatively unknown creative elements that supersede almost anything since. 

I know what you're thinking. And I quote: My first fantasy series The Asphodel Cycle was a blend of traditional Greco-Roman mythology with standard epic fantasy elements. 

Yep. But I didn't change the basic elements of mythology. Instead, I built upon them as a foundation--made mythology into history. Asphodel has Amazons and centaurs and minotaurs and harpies and tons of other mythological creatures, but I didn't try to "improve" them. Instead, I kept their mythological roots intact. How do you figure you can make a harpy more terrifying than it actually is? A harpy is basically a bird of prey with a woman's face, what Homer called "swift robbers". They were sent by the gods to snatch things away from the earth, and were blamed for any sudden, mysterious disappearances, and anything they touched they befouled. So when a mortal named Phineus revealed some of the secrets of the gods, Zeus sent the harpies to punish him. Anytime he tried to eat, they would snatch food from his hands and befouled--yes, harpy poop and other various bodily fluids--everything else on the table. 

I'm pretty sick, but I can't think of a way to make THAT any worse. 

All that being said, as writers it's important for us to make the stories we tell our own. So I'm not saying that any story based upon Greco-Roman mythology has to be a regurgitated version of the original myths. For example--the Percy Jackson & The Olympians YA series. Author Rick Riordan brings Greco-Roman mythology into the modern age, creating a protagonist, Percy, who is the demigod son of Poseidon and a modern, mortal woman. The way Riordan drew Percy and his world up, it's very much in the line of classic Greek or Roman heroic tales. Percy's powers and abilities would work easily with those original tales. He's credible; as a son of Poseidon, for example, it's believable that he would be able to breathe underwater or talk with sea creatures. But what really makes the world and character work is the seamless integration of classical mythology and modern fantasy. Riordan doesn't "improve" mythology. He embraces it in such a way as to enhance not only those stories but the world he's created.

Something I wish the writers of Olympus had done, instead of serving us such a confused, ass-backwards mishmash of crap and loosely labeling it as mythology--and it's a lesson for me, one I learned as I work on my newest project, Revisionist.

We've all heard of revisionist history--when a people or a state change what really happened into something that bolsters their current agenda, like when Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad claimed that the holocaust never happened, calling it an American fabrication of a "myth of the massacre of Jews." My Revisionist concept is a bit more specific. I focus on the story that might have happened if one single historical event had been changed. For example, what if JFK hadn't been assassinated? Or what if Issac Newton had decided not to sit under a tree? Or if Benjamin Franklin had been electrocuted when he flew a kite in a thunderstorm? What would change? What would stay the same? What different routes would history have taken from that pivotal moment?

Sir John Squire collected a series of alternate history essays in 1931 entitled If It Had Happened Otherwise. That volume included an essay by Winston Churchill that envisioned a world in which General Robert E. Lee had won the battle of Gettysburg, and that in turn influenced Ward Moore's Bring The Jubilee, a novel in which the Confederacy had won the Civil War in 1953. So alternate history has been around for a while, and my idea is neither new nor groundbreaking.

And alternate history is hard to write. You can't effectively change history without having a thorough knowledge of what really happened. For example, if JFK hadn't been shot and killed, what would have been affected? Well the 1964 presidential election for starters, and the Civil Rights Act of 1964--would it have been pushed through as vigorously as Lyndon Johnson did, or would the JFK administration have gotten it passed earlier? Or later? Or at all? Would Robert Kennedy have been assassinated? Or would he have been elected president in 1968, or would he have pushed back his run for the White House until 1972 or '76? One of the main reasons he cited for running was to continue his older brother's work. So if his older brother had lived to get his agenda completed or if he'd been unable to do so, when would Bobby Kennedy have felt the need to run? And how many subsequent presidents would have actually held office if that one fateful day in Dallas had never happened?

If a butterfly flaps its wings in Ohio, can that cause a typhoon in the south Pacific?

So Revisionist begins with that butterfly, and tracks the currents of history from there. The concept is intriguing to me, and because I'm studying the historical events on my particular timeline so thoroughly I am discovering all sorts of things I never knew before which is always good. I'm having to trace out my storyline adjacent the historical one, determine what events would have happened regardless and what might have been changed, and then tracing out the effects of the events that were changed and so forth. It can get very involved. I have long strips of butcher paper up on the walls of my study, where I'm plotting everything out. But it's also fascinating because I have to make sure that any changes I make to history occur in such a way that they can be seamlessly integrated with what really happened in that time period and after.

But the lesson I learned from Olympus was extremely valuable. I don't need to "improve" history. I don't need to make such wholesale changes to what we know as historical fact in order to tell a great story. I don't need to make JFK a Republican, or Issac Newton a spelunker, or the Civil War decided at Gettysburg with the swift defeat of damn Yankees to tell the stories I might want to tell in an alternate history novel. As long as I make the integration between history and fiction as smooth and credible as possible, I don't have to "improve" anything.

And man, do I wish the creators of Olympus and the SyFy channel had been able to learn that lesson before they ever put Olympus on the air.

What's that? What is the tiny change I make in the first Revisionist novel?  *evil grin* I'm not going to tell you.

But the working title of the novel is The Mother's War. 

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Following a Well-Worn Formula For Success: Manufacturing Snake Oil With A Poison Pen

I've been watching the uproar that has ensued following Clay Travis's outrageous post on his sports website/blog Outkick The Coverage in which he claims that the Kentucky-West Virginia Sweet Sixteen basketball game tonight will pit the "two dumbest fan bases" in college sports. I'd post the link, but he's already made enough money off of clicks on that stupid 'article'. Let's not help him increase his bank account if we can help it. Do me a favor and don't run off to his site to look. Let me give you a sample:

It's an upside down world when it comes to Kentucky and West Virginia -- fans in single wides cheering for coaches in mansions, basketball fans without teeth cheering for basketball players with teeth, fans who have no hope of being admitted to academic powerhouse universities like Kentucky and West Virginia living or dying to the beat of a basketball's dribble. Like canaries in a coal mine without oxygen, these two states are where intelligence goes to die.   
They should give out a trophy to whoever wins this game.
It should be a gold basketball with a chin strap beard on it.
And this inscription: "Your number one!"  

Aside from the use of egregious generalizations for shock value, a time-honored tactic of zealots and bigots, as a sports fan I have to ask myself: what's Travis's angle here?  

Travis isn't really all that original. He's agitating with purpose. He has an agenda. His purpose is singular: he's manipulating the vast pool of sports fans in order to drive hits to his website by using the lowest common denominator he can envision--in this case, an absurdly arbitrary list of the "stupidest" and the "smartest" fan bases in college sports that he wrote about a year ago. So he uses that list as a reference and restirs the pot. In the process, he riles up the fans, who all immediately rush off to click on the darn website to read his bile for themselves, makes some appearances on sports talk shows--I heard him on the Paul Finebaum show this afternoon--which riles up more fans who click on the website and make him more money, then goes onto social media to talk about how awesome he was in insulting the fans of these two respected institutions, which, of course, makes him even more money. Rinse and repeat. Millions and millions of hits at a per-click payment rate, and every infuriated Kentucky or West Virginia fan is ringing Travis's cha-ching bill today. 

I know what Clay Travis is. I know where the Clay Travises of the world are coming from. Especially, when they come from Tennessee. 

Clay Travis is a pseudo-intellectual who feeds his voracious ego by belittling others. He makes himself feel smarter by stepping on others.  Although it's hard to believe that anyone who'd go on a 'pudding strike' to try and force Direct TV to add the Sunday Ticket to the US Virgin Islands available channel package is any sort of intellectual, bear with me for a moment and think about this. 

We have some things in common. Clay Travis, like me, grew up in the state of Tennessee. Clay Travis, like me, knows the sports world, and especially the fervor that fans of the Southeastern Conference have for their teams. Clay Travis, like me, understands the power of the written word. 

But here's where things start to get different. 

I am a product of the public school system in Clarksville, Tennessee--a town that Travis insulted specifically when the wife of a retired US veteran who lives there called the Finebaum show this afternoon. That education enables me to insult the Clay Travises of the world in three languages, including Latin. Caligas mater tua in legis gerit. (That's Latin for "Yo' mama wears combat boots in bed" in case you wondered.) I attended a small liberal arts college in Tennessee, where I paid for my education thanks to scholarships from the university forensics team. (Forensics meaning public speaking and debate, not CSI.)  

Unlike me, Travis attended the Martin Luther King magnet school in Nashville, and after a bachelor's degree from George Washington University, came back to Tennessee to get his law degree from Vanderbilt University. 

I married an IT security guy; he married a Tennessee Titans cheerleader. 

I am the author of 16 novels and novellas; he is the author of 2 nonfiction books about sports (I don't count his misogynistic Man: A Book as a real book, to be honest. Amazon lists it as 'humor', but it's only funny to the random Neanderthal or poison-penned sports columnist.), But those books are well-written and engaging, and--this is the important part--about sports in the south. 

There is no quicker way to garner the attention of any SEC fan than to call them stupid. Travis knows that. He comes from SEC stock. He was a sports radio talk show host in Nashville. He's made a fortune off the backs of SEC fans. He makes a living off of what he pretends to despise. He looks down on his roots and the people who represent those roots. 

And right now, he's sitting in his office, furnished with money he made from the American sports fan, tweeting about his brilliance, seeing the posts that come up on his search engine feed, and counting his money as the click count rolls up and up and up. 

And just to make it MORE fun, by referring to last year's stupidest fan base list, he got DOUBLE the clicks because, of course, anyone who read his Kentucky-West Virginia article had to click on that post to see which schools were named. If they cruise around the site and check out other articles, he could be looking at 5-10 clicks per unique viewer. That's bank.

Clay Travis isn't a snake oil salesman. Clay Travis is the man who makes the snake oil out of toxic waste and various unidentified substances and then writes blog posts in which he blasts his own product just to create interest in it. He knows that the more people who google "snake oil", the greater the likelihood that he can peddle his poisonous wares to the unwary. 

Ever hear this old saw? "Make the lie big, make it simple, keep saying it, and eventually they will believe it." Apparently Clay Travis lives by this motto. It's made him millions of dollars, and today made him even more. The formula is simple: take a stereotype, like the ones today where he personified Kentucky or West Virginia sports fans as toothless, homophobic, uneducated bigots. Repeat said stereotype frequently from your platform. Travis has made a living stomping out that tired old generalization. For example, in July of 2014, Travis said in an interview with Nate Rau for The Tennesseean :

I take pride in ridiculing stupid people for being stupid regardless of what their beliefs are...My bigger issue is there are a lot of stupid people. And I feel like in our culture today we coddle stupidity quite a bit. And so I don't particularly care what your opinion is, but if it's a stupid opinion I think you deserve to be lit up for it.

Full transcript for the interview is here

So here's the question: who made Clay Travis the arbiter for what is stupid and what is not?

Realize, too, that in this context, Clay Travis's definition of 'stupid' is actually 'different than mine'. 

Every time we click on his site, read his articles, buy from his advertisers, buy his books, and patronize Fox Sports, we empower Clay Travis and other snake oil manufacturers to keep on twitching their poison pens. This isn't a big secret--master manipulators have been doing this crap for years, and we let them. Why? It's entertainment. It's funny to call the fans from your team's arch-rival names. We've all done it. God knows I've heard more about Michigan in the last twenty years than I thought possible. Thousands of people walk around Ohio with "Ann Arbor is a whore" t-shirt.  Sports figures egg that on, like Steve Spurrier's infamous "You can't spell Citrus (as in Citrus Bowl) without UT." Clay Travis is just that little bit smarter than Spurrier, though. Spurrier gives out those quotes for free. Travis charges us for them, one click at a time.  

It doesn't matter what Clay Travis believes. Frankly, some of what you find on his website is entertaining, and he has broken legitimately important sports stories over the years. In the end, though, what matters are Clay Travis's motives. His motives in this case are clear. 

It's the first day of Sweet Sixteen games in the NCAA basketball tournament. Kentucky is riding an unprecedented wave of success, undefeated and, if they make it through the tournament, a shot of being the greatest college basketball team of all time with 40 wins. The situation is unparalleled. There's a lot of excitement around the tourney this year as a result--more interest than usual in March Madness, which is a mainstay of American sports--and which makes a lot of money for everyone involved except the fans. So if you're a snake oil manufacturer, and you want to capitalize on the situation--if you want to get your share of the March Madness pie, what do you do? 

You insult every single person with a vested interest in the game. You belittle them. You make them feel stupid. You make them angry. And then you watch as they self-fulfill your prophecy and run off to leave comments on your blog, not knowing that every time they do they are putting money in your pocket. You make those fan bases so angry, that on the day of this huge basketball game you divert focus away from the game and onto your site. You go on sports talk shows, where you insult fans who call in because they disagree with you, knowing that every single person who expresses their outrage online about your post affects hundreds or thousands of people who didn't know about your article--and they run off to look and the clicks keep on coming. 

Snake oil. 

And the dollars he makes off this snake oil enables him to keep doing what he's doing, something he freely admits. 

Two girls get in a fight at Steeplechase, a cat fight, I think it's the best. It's awesome. The butt-chugging press conference at UT – almost all of our most popular stuff is not really technically sports. Our top-10 dumbest fan bases, millions of people read that stuff. It's entertainment and most people get it. I would equate it is running a site is a lot like on a tiny level being a movie studio. If you're going to do 'Shakespeare In Love,' what gives you the opportunity to do that is that 'Godzilla' is going to do $4 billion in revenue. It's not like 'Godzilla' is redefining what is possible with cinematic art, but it makes so much money it gives you the opportunity to do whatever you want.

But the real tell in his interview with Nate Rau can be found in this comment: 

It doesn't matter what it (content) is. If it's something I would want to read. It could be anything. We do a weekly "Bachelorette" column. I do a "Game of Thrones" review every week. It's just something I think people want to be entertained by. There's a higher quality to it hopefully. How big can it get? That's the question.

How big can it get--that's the question. Well, Travis knew the answer in advance. He was counting on it. 

Pretty damn big. 

It would be interesting to see exactly how much money Clay Travis has made just today from those click rates before he salts it away in some offshore account. Probably more than I could even imagine. But there's a benefit to today, a silver lining in the snake oil smog. Proof that some formulas for money or power still work, proof that Adolf Hitler was right when he said the maxim I quoted above. 

Make the lie big, make it simple, keep saying it, and eventually they will believe it.

The only way to end media manipulations like this stunt Clay Travis pulled is to hit him where it hurts. He can't be fired, since he owns his own site. He has just as much right to say what he did as I do to call it snake oil. First amendment and all that. I will steadfastly defend his right to be an asshat, because I, too, am a writer. His right. 

No, where you hit a snake oil manufacturer is his wallet. That would be his licensing with Fox Sports and his advertisers. As I said and Clay Travis gloats--he can't be fired from Outkick The Coverage because he's the boss. 

I just have to wonder, though, whether his opinions would change if he wasn't making any money off them. If, for example, people actively campaigned within the sports fandom to not patronize his site, to not patronize Fox Sports, to not purchase products from his advertisers and to publicize why that is, how long do you think Clay Travis would have the time and energy to devote to his elitist shenanigans? Because I don't think that his crusade against the stupid really needs to go much further than his own desk, his own laptop, his own behavior.  Anyone would can produce this jewel in an interview: 

It did well for a sports book. It was a regional best-seller in the south. It was a direct-to-paperback. It was a work of literary genius or anything. It sold well.

 Bolding mine. Lord help him, those Tennessee genes are starting to bring him down. As Forrest's mother used to say, "Stupid is as stupid does..."

Hope there's a cure.