The other day I was riding the train from New York to Providence. Somewhere in Connecticut, a big man with an Irish accent got on and sat down across from me. He struck up a conversation about all the gadgets I was messing with and we began to talk about technology.
It turned out this man, Frank is an online marketer. He helps web-based companies (mostly online gambling related sites in other countries) grow their profits by increasing their traffic. Since I tend to focus my time on the content of the Husslington Post and not on Search Engine Optimization and all the other tricks for getting lots of hits, I asked for his advice about how to get more exposure for the site.
Frank gave me some simple but good tips: tag all my posts, get rid of code that could be messing up search engines’ “crawlers,” make sure all my posts include key phrases that are searched often by people in my field, etc.
And then he shared an interesting idea: Create controversy. ”Pick someone popular and knock them down… Controversy sells,” Frank said.
This concept made sense to me, but left a bad taste in my mouth. I mean, there’s nothing wrong with publicly disagreeing with someone, but… just to get a rep? Even if it would get millions of people to look at my site, is that the kind of energy I want to send into the world? And how much controversy could one really spark around the topic which I write about most: hip-hop education?
It turns out, if you’re willing to write an outlandish, offensive diatribe that has only the most fleeting connections to reality and truth, you can spark a lot of controversy and, consequently…. get a lot of hits!
Two days after Frank and I met on the train, I received an e-mail about an article called “Hip-Hop Curriculum: Your Day in the DeeKline of PublicK SKoOL EdYOOKayshun.” It’s a remarkably uninformed piece about the Hip-Hop Educator and Community Leader Training Institute that is held at the University of Wisconsin-Madison each summer.
I’ll post the link to the article below, but I strongly encourage you not to click on it, because I think the author’s site has received more than enough traffic (I’m not gonna even include her name because I’m not interested in giving her any more shine than she’s already gotten). I will share one sentence from her post, just so you can see how flagrantly foul and off-base her portrayal of hip-hop education is…
“Math problem: If 50 Cent has 9 bullets in his body, but gets two removed while all but two of his 30 tattoos are lasered off so he can star in movies, how many women did he infect with herpes divided by how many used condoms need to be recycled to keep things green?”
Please understand that as crazy and pathetic as this stuff sounds, people actually read/listen to this woman. She goes on the radio and TV, gets published in newspapers and she has the second biggest online fan club for a political personality (at least that’s what she claims on her website… which also claims Ann Coulter has the number one spot……hmm.).
I’m assuming that because you’re on my site you don’t need me to explain how problematic the quote above is… If you want to read her crazy diatribe and a few dozen well-crafted responses that methodically dismantle her “arguments,” click here.
I’m gonna focus in on just two of the 136 responses that were posted last time I checked. These are are less about the substance of her post and more about her motivation. Here’s a commenter named T’s description of the strategy behind writing a dumb-ass post like the one discussed above:
“Note: A very good way to bump up your hits count:
Attack something that is incredibly popular, successful and well respected with countless supporters who will visit your page to leave angry and disgusted comments, then you take it to the bank…
Hey Mr. Capitalist, wouldn’t you like to buy some ad space on my page? I had two-hundred hits in the last hour!”
Frank (my buddy from Amtrak) would be proud.
Another response from a reader named Alex cheered me up:
Your supremely elitist snark fest of a blog post has inspired me to consider attending this program.
I volunteer a great deal of time, promoting spoken word in and out of the class room. Any tool I can use to help bridge the gap in communicating with teens and educating them on the power of their own voice is valuable indeed.
I mean, I didn’t even KNOW about this program until you harangued so vehemently against it.
You truly can’t buy that kind of exposure!
The main difference now is that instead of increasing “2 Live Crew” Album Sales (ostensibly creating their career by making them free speech martyrs in the early 90’s), your ilk’s inflammatory rhetoric and fear of diverse creativity can actually help promote positive, creative, important projects like this.
Word up indeed. I love it. I guess when you fabricate a controversy, it’s a win for everybody, because people read your stuff, but they also read whoever you’re critiquing.
Then again, it’s also a lose-lose situation because you look like a schmuck and whoever you’re talking trash about wastes their time responding to you.
As Alex points out, when Broward County went after 2 Live Crew, it skyrocketed their popularity as artists. So if some controversy around sound educational practices will drive attention toward the amazing work that hip-hop educators have been doing for years, let’s get it on!
But wait, why accept the “lose” side of the equation?? Why don’t we do what corporations and rappers have done for years and just fabricate some beef? Like, we, as hip-hop educators could decide to write something really inflammatory about everyone who is working to rebuild Haiti after the earthquake. And then a bunch of those folks could write tons of responses about how wack we are. And everyone involved in either effort would read it and get engaged. And some outsiders would hear of the controversy and log on to see what it was all about. And before they knew it they’d be sending checks to Haiti and signing up for the Hip-Hop Educator and Community Leader Training Institute at the University of Wisconsin this summer!
You might be thinking that this would not give us as broad exposure as a blog battle with someone so high up on the Coulter coattails… But how many members of her fan club are going to embrace hip-hop education? And at least we don’t run the risk of bringing exposure to some of her other posts, such as “Favorite Job Interview Question of the Day: ‘Was Your Mother a Hooker?’,” “HOprah Watch: Oprah Made Up Rape Story, Has Nickname ‘Negro’ (From BFF Gayle),” and “Skip Peet’s Coffee, Go to Starbucks: Which Stores Support Gun Control?”…
So who wants beef? If we believe in each other’s work enough, I’d love to battle.