A peal to authority
August 1, 2012 10:06 PM   Subscribe

"Ryan Holiday is not an expert in barefoot running, investing, vinyl records, or insomnia. But he is a liar. With a little creative use of the internet, he’s been quoted in news sources from small blogs to the most reputable outlets in the country talking about all of those things."

"He used Help a Reporter Out (HARO), a free service that puts sources in touch with reporters. Basically, a reporter sends a query, and a slew of people wanting to comment on the story email back. He decided to respond to each and every query he got, whether or not he knew anything about the topic. He didn’t even do it himself — he enlisted an assistant to use his name in order to field as many requests as humanly possible.

He expected it to take a few months of meticulous navigation, but he found himself with more requests than he could handle in a matter of weeks. On Reuters, he became the poster child for “Generation Yikes.” On ABC News, he was one of a new breed of long-suffering insomniacs. At CBS, he made up an embarrassing office story, at MSNBC he pretended someone sneezed on him while working at Burger King. At Manitouboats.com, he offered helpful tips for winterizing your boat. The capstone came in the form of a New York Times piece on vinyl records — naturally, Holiday doesn’t collect vinyl records."
posted by Chocolate Pickle (30 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Note that all of these "news" stories are without consequence.
posted by mr_roboto at 10:09 PM on August 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

Lives in New Orleans. I should call him up for an interview. Since I'm totally a reporter for... some famous news magazine. And, uh. I could make him even more famous. And, uh. I want to do a feature story on him. And, uh. Let's do lunch at this fancy restaurant.
posted by Night_owl at 10:15 PM on August 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

And now that Mr. Holiday has become a news item himself, I expect NPR's Morning Edition will breathlessly tell me all about his exploits tomorrow morning.
posted by Nomyte at 10:16 PM on August 1, 2012 [5 favorites]

Ah, Zelig for the self-promoting SEO Age.

This passage from the article:
"Holiday had a lot of advantages in his experiment – his title as Marketing Director for American Apparel made him seem respectable"
posted by stagewhisper at 10:17 PM on August 1, 2012 [5 favorites]

Heh, he was on NPR not two days ago!
posted by TwoWordReview at 10:18 PM on August 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

mr_roboto: "Note that all of these "news" stories are without consequence."

reveals the man behind the curtain. So called "news" is often just carefully choreographed PR (ie. lies)
posted by stbalbach at 10:19 PM on August 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

Goddammit, he's effectively promoting his book. I hate the fact that I respect this.
posted by Sticherbeast at 10:21 PM on August 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

Ok I lied, it was American Public Radio.
posted by TwoWordReview at 10:21 PM on August 1, 2012

(check out the first person to favorite this post)
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 10:24 PM on August 1, 2012 [3 favorites]

A sidebar in the Forbes article links to How Your Fake News Gets Made, supplied by Ryan Holiday on May 24. From that article:
The New York Times reports last week that 1 out of every 10 Wall Street bankers is a psychopath.
In the Times case, as Edward Jay Epstein excellently detailed for The Daily Beast, the “study” they based their astounding accusation on didn’t exist. It had been erroneously cited after various versions the claim popped up on the Huffington Post and BusinessInsider.
Emphasis mine.

Meanwhile on Metafilter, Rosie M. Banks referenced the same erroneous article that the Times did on May 13 while wondering what the implications were for the nature of US capitalism, only to be refuted by falameufilho pointing out the correction in the NYT article immediately after it was published on May 20. Nickyskye followed up, noticing how the Wall Street Journal had also quoted the misinformation.

The real consequence of these lies is that they are affecting discourse here on the blue! Still, congrats to us for practicing at least the same degree of journalism as the paper of record.
posted by ceribus peribus at 10:59 PM on August 1, 2012 [3 favorites]

He was on On the Media.

His book is about more than how he punked major media outlets into making him an expert -- as I recall, that was just a PR gimmick for the book. He's really writing about how he has effectively gamed the online media to place his stories in high places, mostly through trickling up from small blogs to the larger news sites that use the smaller ones as feeders. He was particularly good at crafting a story as linkbait, and also, because he took out a lot of ad space, blogs felt obligated to cover him through an expensive quid-pro-quo compliance tactic.

A lot of what he describes is just basic PR, except that most people are terrible at it. He sometimes engaged in publicity stunts (he was responsible for the publicity campaign for the Tucker Max movie in which he defaced his own billboards), but even that is tried and true.

He claims he's giving away his secrets because he's out of the business and wanted to call attention to them. But I doubt anything will be done. He discovered that the web is run on clicks, and if he could provide content that leads to clicks, he would get coverage, whether his content was valuable or even true. The smaller sites don't care about truth -- of something turns out to be wrong, they just run a correction, but otherwise they are in a race to be first. The larger sites and mainstream publications are crumbling, and so can no longer vet a story with the diligence it requires.

Anybody can use these techniques. I suspect his book will sell really well. I plan to get a copy.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 11:03 PM on August 1, 2012 [4 favorites]

an inexpensive quid-pro-quo compliance tactic, rather.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 11:04 PM on August 1, 2012

"Holiday had a lot of advantages in his experiment – his title as Marketing Director for American Apparel made him seem respectable"

I cannot help them. It is time for me to return. Open the vortex.
posted by samofidelis at 11:05 PM on August 1, 2012 [10 favorites]

So, this is basically the anti-matter to ask.mefi.com?
posted by roboton666 at 11:38 PM on August 1, 2012

Really, the most shocking thing in this story is that a guy that works for American Apparel doesn't collect vinyl...
posted by peacrow at 11:40 PM on August 1, 2012 [9 favorites]

Was it only 7 years ago that Naked Conversations was written or the Cluetrain Manifesto within living adult memory?

Information is become meaningless. (and wants to be free nonetheless)
posted by infini at 3:41 AM on August 2, 2012

The idea that you can make up the news appears value free, since you can make it up to support any side you like, but it actually has a built in bias which is to support the Fox point of view.
posted by Obscure Reference at 4:47 AM on August 2, 2012

“I have seen fake news future, and its name is Ryan Holiday.”—Rock critic Tom Masz
posted by tommasz at 5:21 AM on August 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Meh. The Yes Men do it better.
posted by flabdablet at 5:22 AM on August 2, 2012

Bababooey! Howard Stern rules!
posted by Splunge at 5:48 AM on August 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

"Ryan Holiday is the new Todd Lokken."

- Todd Lokken
posted by blue_beetle at 5:59 AM on August 2, 2012

This is the exact mental image I have of anyone who describes themselves as having any expertise in social media marketing. So, thanks, Ryan, for providing an actual person to project my intense hatred onto!
posted by Mayor West at 6:03 AM on August 2, 2012

you are a terrible bad job
posted by samofidelis at 6:21 AM on August 2, 2012

Now we know where Jonah Lehrer's Dylan quotes came from.
posted by notyou at 7:37 AM on August 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

In case many of you dropped out after that humdinger of a line about AA giving respectability:

were the situation different, I could see easily myself swindled by someone like Holiday.

The mind reels at the staggering irony...
posted by SomaSoda at 8:08 AM on August 2, 2012

reveals the man behind the curtain. So called "news" is often just carefully choreographed PR (ie. lies)

There's actually not much of a connection between "journalists get taken in by deliberate liar" and "journalists get played by cunning PR campaign." A journalist has good reason to be skeptical about anything the PR department of some company or the flak for some politician claims. The journalist is really falling down on the job if they fail to double check that info. But a journalist has no reason, at all, to do a background check on somebody who calls in and claims to be, say, an insomniac. That's just a case of a jackass shitting in the pool. You don't institute mandatory bowel checks on everyone who enters the pool in that case--you just do your best to clean it up and try not to let that particular jackass back in the pool next time.

A properly functioning society relies, necessarily, to a certain extent on a presumption of honesty and good faith in most social interactions. Demonstrating that you can fuck things up by acting dishonestly and without good faith isn't exposing holes in the system that need to be plugged--it's demonstrating that you're an asshole.
posted by yoink at 10:21 AM on August 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

I would turn that around. There will always be a percentage of assholes. Always has been, always will be. Someone who assumes good faith from every stranger is hopelessly naive, and is bound to get taken again and again.

A good journalist should be suspicious of a citizen who shows up with a story that's too good to be true. But since journalists are afflicted with confirmation bias, just like everyone else, they tend to take such stories as god-sends, not as someone feeding them a line.

The word "truthiness" was invented a few years ago to describe just this situation: one where a "fact" so closely matches your prejudices that you assume it's right and don't bother checking to see if someone is feeding you what you expect to find.

The reason Holiday was so successful at peddling his lies is that he carefully tailored them to match what his marks were looking for.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 10:45 AM on August 2, 2012

A good journalist should be suspicious of a citizen who shows up with a story that's too good to be true.

Yes, indeed. That's not, however, what this asshole did. He didn't come in and say "OMG, I just met an alien!!!"--that's a story that needs to be double checked and verified. He deliberately responded to pretty anodyne requests for pretty anodyne material. If you are interviewing people about "why they prefer vinyl records" you might double check them if they say "I can buy vinyl records for $5 at a flea market and sell them for $50,000 on eBay." You won't double check if they say "I just think the sound is better than CDs."
posted by yoink at 10:56 AM on August 2, 2012

A quote from the New York Times Piece on vinyl records.: " Editors' Note: July 18, 2012

An earlier version of this article included quotations from Ryan Holiday of New Orleans discussing why he preferred vinyl records. The reporter reached Mr. Holiday through a Web site that connects reporters to sources on various topics.

Mr. Holiday, who has written a book about media manipulation, subsequently acknowledged that he lied to the Times reporter and to other journalists on a variety of subjects, fabricating responses to their online queries. (He says he does not own a turntable.)"
posted by CRESTA at 12:09 PM on August 2, 2012

Perhaps my bababooey comment was too silly. So I'd like to add an addendum to it. It's very easy for anyone to become one of those people that intrudes them self into the "conversation" that is the world today. So these days we have people such as Ryan that can become news or create news by simply being there.

Earlier on, even before the interweb was such a big deal, people that were fans of Howard Stern would insert themselves into news programs or TV and radio showws using that very phrase.

It might be that there was a horrible accident or maybe just a simple discussion of current events on a regular TV show. But the odds were that you'd hear BABABOOEY and HOWARD STERN'S PENIS at one point. The idea was that the fans of this "shock jock" would call in and start a reasonable discussion of whatever was going on and then interject this call to their hero.

As far as I'm concerned the guy in the FPP is no different than the idiots that did that thing.

What he and the fans of Hoard Stern did and continue to do is dilute the possibility of of serious discussion and discourse.

Don't get me wrong. I'm all about Operation Mindfuck and the Discordian lifestyle fnord.

But these amateurs have to get a life.

posted by Splunge at 1:15 AM on August 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

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