Robot Sex Poll Reveals Huffington Post Uses Slave Plantation Economic Business Model to Convince Writers to Work for No Pay:
“You Should be Grateful We Let You be Our ‘House Negro’ or You’d be Picking Cotton in the Fields With the Rest of the Slaves”
(This story was published four years ago today on an old blog site and, as part of centrally archiving my published works from over the years, is re-posted here)
By Nate Thayer
April 11, 2013
Two days after my email exchange with the Atlantic magazine, which I posted unredacted and verbatim on my previously obscure blog, went viral sending several hundred thousand readers to my website (a 39,000% increase in traffic over the day before. I checked), I received the following email from the Huffington Post:
date: Thu, Mar 7, 2013 at 1:40 PM
subject: Interview request from the Huffington Post for tomorrow
“Hello Mr. Thayer,
I’m a producer with HuffPost Live, the webTV network of the Huffington
Post. As someone who’s followed your work for a long time (I lived in
Phnom Penh for several years in the early 2000s), I was happy to see
your response to The Atlantic, and the attention it’s been getting.
Would you be interested in appearing on HuffPost Live tomorrow
afternoon to discuss the issue, and the larger questions around how to
make freelancing work sustainable? We’ve got a 30 minute discussion
scheduled for 3:30 pm New York time, and would be happy to have you
join via webcam, or, if you are in New York, in person. I’d be happy
to provide more details or answer any questions. Thanks for your time.
P.S. Yup, I am aware of the irony of the Huffington Post covering this issue…”
The very pleasant and professional Huffington Post representative will remain unnamed.
The only single regret I have regarding the Atlantic magazine kerfuffle is that the unfortunate woman who was tasked by her employers with the job of calling me to request I write for them for free was the focus of any of the resulting negative reaction.
She, like the Huff Post fellow, was very cordial and professional, as was I, and all three of us were just doing our jobs. None of us did anything wrong or different from say, a used car salesman on the car lot does, or a U.S. telephone service provider’s complaint representative who happens to based in Bombay does.
The initial email was followed a couple of hours later by a text message at 4:24 PM March 7:
“Hello Mr. Thayer:
This is xxxxxxxxx ssssssssss from the HP, following up on an email. Would love to do a webcam interview tomorrow if you are interested and available. Thanks for your time.”
This was followed a few minutes later by a phone call from the Huffington Post gentleman reiterating their request for me to appear on a live television debate panel.
The topic? The dust kicked up by the Atlantic brouhaha over for-profit media companies increasing their profit margin by refusing to pay the writers of the stories they sell.
The discussion was both pleasant and frank. I accepted the Huffington Post invitation (which they said would be unpaid), but made sure to add:
“I would be happy to appear on the show, but let’s be frank here. You guys are the very poster child of using unpaid writers as the equivalent of slave labor as the very core of your business model to provide “news” to news consumers. If you are under any remote misimpression I won’t be required to mention, and probably focus rather vigorously on, that fact, you would be mistaken. The Huffington Post is perhaps the most logical example of the merits of why I refused the Atlantic’s request in the first place. You must be–or certainly should be–aware that you would be very mistaken to think I would not raise that issue for discussion on your show.
I would be happy to appear on your television show and certainly will raise the topic of the Huffington Post being perhaps the starkest example of the type of media organization I refuse to enable.
The very fact you are inviting me on the show to talk about the issue of journalists not being able to make a living under the current financial models of corporate media is newsworthy as a standalone story itself.
The irony inherent in your invitation is not going to elude anyone. I just want to be sure that it hasn’t eluded the executives at Huff Post who signed off on your request to invite me on as a guest to discuss the topic. You best double-check with them”
The producer, to his credit, broached that reality in his initial email, and we had no differences of opinion.
Huffington Post producer:
“That is a good point. Let me recheck and run this by my bosses again and I will get back to you in a few minutes.”
The “news poo-bahs” at Huff Post regrouped and reconsidered, and exactly 30 minutes later, at 4:54 PM, they retracted their invitation.
Huffington Post Text Message 4:54 PM:
“Thanks much for making time to talk. Sorry this one isn’t going to happen, but I’ll reach out again for others stories. I’ll just say good luck.”
I didn’t think so.
I had been cordially dis-invited to participate in a debate prompted by my blog post, which they deemed a sufficiently newsworthy topic to merit devoting their daily television live news talk show to discuss.
But they just didn’t want me to broach the fact that the Huffington Post is the most prominent proponent of employing the central business model which was the engine of the slave economy in the American confederacy before a few, apparently misguided in the opinion of the Huffington Post–historical hiccups which threw things off track for a couple of generations, in the view of the Huffington Post and their allies.
Those things would include, say, the civil war, the emancipation proclamation, and the 13th amendment to the Constitution that abolished the practice of one set of human beings requiring another set of human beings to work for free. It reads: “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” That law of the land, enshrined in the core documents that define the moral, legal, and ideological philosophy of the nation, was only enacted as the result of bloody carnage that left a few million people dead in the only war ever fought on U.S. soil since we told King George to fuck off 238 years ago.
Apparently, the Huffington Post believes the wrong side won that war.
Today saw another example of how the Huffington Post is in the business of delivering their customers to advertisers, not serious journalism vital to a free society to the citizenry.
This is how it works: The Huffington Post creates faux news to attract readers. Those readers are categorized as page view statistics who/which are then peddled to advertisers in exchange for cold cash money.
The Huff Post are not in the business of delivering credible journalism to news consumers.
The Huffington Post (Disclaimer: for the first time in this article I am speculating) doesn’t really care whether they are selling toothpaste or being entrusted with ensuring the robust health of the vital institution of providing information important for the common good of a free people in a free society. They will sell whatever product will maximize their profit margin and return of investment.
I could be wrong on citing toothpaste as an example. I don’t have a shred of corroboration to make that assertion, and they might well, as far as I know, not ideologically embrace the system of modern dental hygiene.
Regardless, they certainly have proven themselves comfortable with writing stuff which provides no credible evidence or citations, so no foul no harm on the above paragraph.
More precisely, they are the poster child for delivering page clicks to advertisers in the guise of being a serious media organization.
Their argument to those who produce the product they sell–news– boils down to the false premise of “You Should be Grateful to be Our “House Negro” or You’d be Picking Cotton in the Fields Like the Rest of the Slaves.”
So give the headline writer for the April 10 story, “Robot Sex Poll Reveals Americans’ Attitudes About Robotic Lovers”, a gold star and the assignment editor cum marketing huckster a black mark for creating a non-story from a brilliant headline:
The April 10 headline, is an example of creating a non story from thin air, a la the National Enquirer of old, via a sensationalist, misleading headline.
But the Huffington Post went to remarkable acrobatics, even for their rather starkly transparent absence of standards, and took it one unethical step outside the out-of-bounds marker, which they usually try to keep their tippie-toes from straying across, to maintain the fiction they are an actual provider of a product resembling serious news content.
They constructed their “aliens-abducted-my-mother” story by trying to attach the mantle of credibility of a Stanford University research study to the article that had exactly zero to do with the story the Huffington Post published.
From the Huffington Post story which I refuse to link to as a matter of principle because: 1/It is a bullshit story that was created to drive readers to their site by misleadingly citing entirely unrelated Stanford University research and then ‘conducting’ a Huff Post poll, whatever that means to fit their headline, and 2/ because it is the Huffington Post, whose entire business model is based on using slave labor with the 3-card Monty, marketing-trick sales pitch to convince their unpaid writers to work for free using the same argument slave owners on the plantations used to convince the ‘House Negro’ that s/he had a bright future compared to the false premise alternative; the slaves working the fields to pick cotton.
The Huffington Post used this successful business model to sell the company for $315 million in 2011. None of that money went to those who actually produced the product they then sold for that profit: the writing.
And now back to the story of sex with robots.
Here are the opening lead three paragraphs:
“A provocative new poll shows that Americans have little trouble imagining a future full of personal service robots — at least when it comes to robots tasked with cleaning our homes, driving our cars, and even helping fight our wars.
But the HuffPost/YouGov poll shows that we’re a bit squeamish about bots in especially personal roles, such as caring for elderly people or replacing a human sex partner. These findings are consistent with research conducted by Stanford University’s Dr. Leila Takayama, an expert in robot-human relationships.
“We’ve been finding that people prefer the idea of working with robots instead of having robots work in place of people,” Takayama told The Huffington Post in an email.”
The above three paragraphs were constructed to encourage the reader to blink and not recognize that the first reference to a “provocative new poll”, which was citing the second reference to a “HuffPost/YouGov poll”, which was entirely unrelated to the third reference to “research conducted by Stanford University’s Dr. Leila Takayama, an expert in robot-human relationships.”
And then we get to the eye-catching part of the story that relates to the headline, with the readers having been attempted to be snookered to thinking these were findings by Stanford University: “And what about robotic sex partners?”
“Eighteen percent of respondents indicated that they believed sexbots will be available by 2030. Nine percent indicated that they would have sex with a robot if they could (though perhaps they wouldn’t have been keen on admitting that if they could).
Sex with a robot raises some thorny ethical questions — including whether a married person who hooked up with a robot would be guilty of infidelity. What did the poll find? Forty-two percent of Americans indicated that such a dalliance would constitute cheating. Another 31 percent said it wouldn’t, and 26 percent said they were unsure. Respondents under age 30 were almost as likely to say it wouldn’t be cheating (34 percent) as that it would (36 percent). Americans over age 65 were far more likely to say that it would, by a 52 percent to 24 percent margin.”
The Huffington Post claimed the poll had a margin of error of 3.7%
“The poll was conducted Feb. 20-21 among 1,000 U.S. adults. It used a sample selected from YouGov’s opt-in online panel to match the demographics and other characteristics of the adult U.S. population. Factors considered include age, race, gender, education, employment, income, marital status, number of children, voter registration, time and location of Internet access, interest in politics, religion and church attendance.
The Huffington Post has teamed up with YouGov to conduct daily opinion polls. You can learn more about this project and take part in YouGov’s nationally representative opinion polling.”
Are there any further questions why a news organizations that has as its very essence a business model to increase its profit margin by eliminating the expense of paying for the product they market for sale is not an acceptable alternative to providing quality news that is worthy of labeling itself as journalism in a free society?
I didn’t think so.