For years futurists have been regularly prophesizing that the power of the Internet will level the playing field between the mighty and the weak, and one more nugget of evidence that this day is finally dawning has now come to my attention.
A few days ago my regular Google sweeps discovered that a website called ZeroHedge had picked up and reprinted my recent article American Pravda, and although I had never heard of the source, I clicked a link and casually investigated. The website seems absolutely bare-bones in style, posts long essays one after the other, is apparently run on a quasi-volunteer basis by several pseudonymous editors, and focuses on financial or political issues, especially of a controversial or scandalous nature. That description would easily apply to a hundred or a thousand other webzines, but a crucial difference is ZeroHedge’s traffic, which seems to be absolutely enormous.
Although my article was just one of many posted that day, the running total of readers quickly reached ten or twenty thousand, while tweets went out to a vast multitude of recipients. In just a couple of days it accumulated as much readership as my original version had received in a week or two, and once I investigate the website’s traffic with the Alexa tool, I soon discovered why. This self-operated webzine, apparently run on a shoestring, seems to be almost as popular as the entire Atlantic website, with all of its archives, major feature stories by prominent journalists, and popular bloggers. Put another way, ZeroHedge’s traffic is several times larger than the combined total of National Review, The Nation, and The New Republic. And I’d never even known it existed until last week.
How did ZeroHedge become aware of my piece? While I can’t be sure, I strongly suspect that the lead came a few days earlier, when Tyler Cowen, a prominent professor of economics at George Mason University, had highlighted my piece at his popular Marginal Revolution blogsite under the attention-getting title “The Most Provocative, Fascinating, and Bizarre Piece I Read Today”. His posting generated a long thread containing hundreds of comments, a major outpouring of tweets, and a huge increase of traffic back to the original article. And since ZeroHedge seems to glory in shocking stories inadequately covered by our timorous mainstream media, they probably decided my material was right up their alley.
In any event, the combination of these new discussions and republications along with the Forbes column of the week before quickly tripled or quadrupled the total pageviews of my piece, which although still well behind my Meritocracy article, is now running almost three times ahead of my next most successful article.
And who knows what the future may bring? Sydney Schanberg ranks as one of the most renowned American journalists of his generation, many of today’s 50ish top MSM editors may have originally been inspired to become reporters by his film The Killing Fields, and he has uncovered what surely ranks as “the Scandal of the Century.” It would take just one curious MSM editor to assign one MSM reporter to interview him and publish the results to produce such an explosive MSM chain-reaction that surely “all the walls would start tumbling down.”
Meanwhile, my recent Salon column, arguing that a large increase in the federal minimum wage must be included as part of the immigration reform legislation moving through Congress, has begun attracting some notice. Prominent blogger Mickey Kaus characterized it as a declaration of my opposition to the proposed amnesty, which I’d say was half right. I would certainly oppose the bill in its current form, for the reasons given, but would immediately become a strong supporter if a $12.00 minimum wage were added as a sweetener. Given the overwhelming elite consensus behind the immigration bill and total elite disinterest in any minimum wage issues, perhaps shrewd Democratic constituency groups should consider taking the same “tough-bargaining” position.
In addition, blogger Andrew Sullivan contrasted my economic immigration arguments with those of ubiquitous economist Tyler Cowen on the same subject. I argued that without any change in the minimum wage, the vast increase in lesser-skilled labor from increased immigration would prove disastrous to the economic prospects of ordinary working Americans. Cowen seemed to claim that the more millions of eager low-wage workers who flow into our country, the higher their wages will rise.
Now admittedly, my opponent is a renowned free market academic at a leading university, who has surely forgotten more about basic economic principles than I have ever learned in my life, but doesn’t the old law of supply and demand work the other way round? Or does Cowen’s theory rely upon the innate generosity of America’s totally altruistic class of business employers?