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A Declaration of Independence

[ 162 ] January 2, 2013 |

In the spirit of Andrew Sullivan’s bold Declaration of Independence from old media, Lawyers, Guns and Money would like to announce that it also wants your money. For a donation of only $19.99, you assure yourself of access to all the extraordinary LGM content that you have grown accustomed to, without the overbearing presence of “editors,” or the expectation of “quality.”* ** *** ****


*Donation does not assure you of any exclusive content.
**Donation does not remove ads or other revenue generating widgets from site.
***Donation is not, by any means, tax deductible.
****Donation will only incidentally reach any victims of Hurricane Sandy, or of any other natural disaster.

Comments (162)

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  1. Scott Lemieux says:

    I can assure Kentucky readers, however, that a substantial portion of your donation will be returned to the Kentucky economy, if distillers haven’t outsourced everything yet.

  2. Ken Houghton says:

    Hey! Sullivan’s asking for $19.99 to keep the site ad-free.

    Next thing you know, you’ll be declaring that the adverts for LowerMyBills.com and SunAnt.com are the best value you provide.

  3. John Protevi says:

    *****Donation does not guarantee the presence or absence of JenBob’s stylings on any one visit. That is in the hands of an angry God.

  4. Ron says:

    For $19.99, would you at least be willing to make me aware of all internet traditions?

    Or, to use a different version of the same joke, shorter Andrew Sullivan:

    Brother, can you spare a dime for a fellow American who’s looking to go Galt? With your $20, I can be independent.

    • david mizner says:

      Yeah, just 19.99 to be able to read ad-free “inquiries” into whether black people are less intelligent than white people.

      And not having to be bothered with being able to leave a comment!

      • Reilly says:

        And not having to be bothered with being able to leave a comment!

        I never Sully myself so I was unaware that he doesn’t have a comment section. Which explains this bizarre quote from his pitch:

        All your extraordinary emails are anonymous – a sign of a community eager to debate the real issues rather than take credit for their own insights.

        Why yes, unattributed insight is the highest form of internet contribution, a selfless gift to the common good. Which is why I weep for Andrew, who who must reluctantly carry the burden of altruism lost by writing under his own name — and thus take credit, if that time ever comes, for his own insight.

      • witless chum says:

        Hey, Andy, we got a Fifth Columnist over here!

  5. ploeg says:

    ****** Donation will not facilitate occasional delivery of erotic material to your mobile device, but you are welcome to think of it as a fringe benefit if you are so inclined.

  6. perhaps you should investigate the Sky Loans link that shows up in your sidebar.

  7. Roger Ailes says:

    ***** Do not taunt Happy Donate Icon.

  8. jimintampa says:

    Done and done – when do I get the Sekrit Handshake? Decoder Ring?

  9. Linnaeus says:

    LGM and Jacobin will be getting holiday cheer from me this year.

  10. Aaron B. says:

    Welp, there’s my cue to stop reading Sully.

  11. Brad DeLong says:

    I will donate only if you promise at least one war a year with Crooked Timber…

  12. Matt says:

    ****Donation will only incidentally reach any victims of Hurricane Sandy, or of any other natural disaster.

    I think this is the wrong track. You should promise that, if you get, say $10K in donations or more, you’ll make a trip to NY City or Atlantic City or the like to personally help the local economy. It would be extremely humanitarian of you.

  13. Eli Rabett says:

    WTF, lawyers, guns and money and you clowns can’t even set up a shell 501 c3?

  14. somethingblue says:

    I think you need a more progressive donation structure. I propose:

    Aluminum level ($14.99): access to all posts plus an LGM totebag

    Titanium level ($19.99): access to all posts plus no totebag.

    Magnesium level ($24.99): benefits per Titanium level plus Scott records your answering machine message (“Hi, this is X. I can’t come to the phone right now because James Madison.”)

    Stainless Steel level ($29.99): Magnesium level plus autographed copy of J. Otto Pohl’s dissertation.

    Beryllium level ($34.99): all the Stainless Steel goodies plus any conservative chain e-mails you receive are automatically reforwarded to Joe from Lowell.

    Cobalt level ($39.99): Beryllium level plus Wayne LaPierre’s head on a stick. [Limited number available.]

    • J. Otto Pohl says:

      You know if you just e-mail me I can send you a free pdf of the dissertation. It won’t be autographed, however. The department does not have a scanner. So to get a signature on an electronic document requires me to go over to Akuofo hall and climb up to the internet cafe above the Taco Bell and have it scanned back in. I generally only do that if there is big money involved.

    • Pseudonym says:

      A real progressive blog would structure suggested donations as a percentage of one’s hypothetical Eisenhower-era income tax bill.

    • Uncle Kvetch says:

      I want the donation level that includes an actual, functioning green lantern. Preferably autographed by our hosts.

    • Pitchfork level ($99.99): Professor Loomis will come to your house and personally put your head on a stick.

      • ajay says:

        Molybdenum level ($199.99): SEK will come to your house, stare through the window for 42 minutes (plus ads) and write a Visual Rhetoric post about what he sees.

        Promethium level: ($499.99): You, or a member of your family, will be granted a speaking part in the next humorous accident to befall SEK. (Waiver and tetanus immunisation necessary to participate).

    • Bill Murray says:

      Shouldn’t the levels be based on Zevon songs?

      Mohammed’s Radio ($10, you get access to each front pager reading their post(s) of the year)

      Carmelita ($20, this level’s money goes to getting a new female front pager, plus you get a package of Jimmy Dean pure pork sausage)

      Desperation Under the Eaves ($30, this level goes to front pagers house repair)

      Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner (%40, Wayne LaPierre’s head [picture] on a stick)

      Excitable Boy ($50, you get a signed photo of SEK’s office with a visual rhetoric-style examination of where the student’s were having sex)

      Accidentally Like A Martyr ($60, the special Loomis defense fund level)

      Werewolves of London ($75, aaahoo, you get to have pina colada’s at Trader Vic’s with a front pager, assuming you meet a few other requirements which shall never be articulkated)

    • Halloween Jack says:

      Wayne LaPierre’s head on a stick. [Limited number available.]

      Cut off one**, and two will take its place. Hail Hydra!

      **Not an actual threat; commenter takes no responsibility for any adverse events that may occur, and very little in general.

  15. jon says:

    Jumpin’ Jehosaphat, what Blessings the New Year brings! Too long have we been ground down beneath the boot heel of quality. The Day of Liberation is truly upon us!

    I can only hope that your ill gotten gains will be funneled directly into an autonomous killer drone swarm. After all, if you give us the guns, we’ll get our own butter.

  16. Murc says:

    I got nothing against Sully trying to monetize himself independently. Regardless of the quality of his commentary (sometimes good, often quite bad) dude works his ass off and he deserves to get paid.

    But his whole huge essay when he announced he was going independent was very… dated. It read like it was written in 2001 by a guy who has just discovered the whole ‘new media’ thing (as it was then called) and still hasn’t come down from the high he got last night in his college dorm room as he and his other journalism major buddies worked out how this was going to change EVERYTHING.

    I mean, that just might be a function of my being a millennial and, thus, marinated in irony. I shouldn’t begrudge anyone genuine, sincere enthusiasm in something. But it was a bit like reading someone waxing rhapsodic about the ‘information superhighway’ and how they were totally going to get a ‘game-changing’ online presence going and have you seen their new web presence? Something that is just… dated.

    I also don’t know that I’m willing to pay just for commentary without getting other things as well. Sullivan is just that… a commentator. He has no actual expertise. Here at LGM, for example, a lot of what gets posted is political commentary… but Erik is an actual expert in labor issues. He has credentials, has done scholarly work. Farley is an expert in international relations. SEK is an actual teacher. Scott and Paul are lawyers can speak dispositively as to matters of law.

    There’s a reason that opinion pieces were traditionally included as added value in news outlets, rather than being the thing and the whole of the thing.

    • ScrewyCanuck says:

      That’s Sully for you: a day late and a dollar short.

      P.S. you’re not really jaded until you’re pickled in irony.

    • Scott Lemieux says:

      Scott and Paul are lawyers can speak dispositively as to matters of law.

      You are about to make Ann Althouse very angry!

      • Paul Campos says:

        No lawyers blog here. There aren’t any lawyers blogging at Althouse either (Having a law degree doesn’t make somebody a lawyer. This insight is just one of many that can be yours for the low low price of $4.99 if you buy DON’T GO TO LAW SCHOOL (UNLESS).

    • Uncle Kvetch says:

      It read like it was written in 2001 by a guy who has just discovered the whole ‘new media’ thing (as it was then called) and still hasn’t come down from the high he got last night in his college dorm room as he and his other journalism major buddies worked out how this was going to change EVERYTHING.

      Can it be true? Andrew Sullivan, wildly overestimating his own significance? I’d better keep an eye out for flying pigs on my way home tonight.

    • Malaclypse says:

      The whole thing reeks of the sort of numerical literacy that leaves one finding The Bell Curve plausible.

      Back of the envelope: assume no overhead at all, and that the three principles want to earn 60K each. Add employer payroll taxes, plus bennies, and you are looking at compensation costs of 200K annually. That’s 10,000 subscribers, just to break even, with an impossibly easy set of assumptions. Add in overheads, and the sort of salary Sully no doubt feels entitled to, and you probably need to hit the ground running with somewhere around 30,000-50,000 subscribers. Minimum. Depending on web development costs, which I don’t know enough about to model well, you might need upwards of 100,000 subscribers.

      To put that into perspective, the New York Times, with a paywall working better than anyone had guessed, has 566,000 subscribers.

      Not Gonna Happen.

      • Nahhh, that’s not what he’s going for.

        There’s probably some piss-off money from Tina Brown. Between that and people paying more than twenty bucks enough of his herd of readers will pause their cud-chewing and donate so that they’ll have enough cash to at least say “we did it” and nominally start one of those tablet/commission projects he mentioned.

        At which point they’ll solicit funds from some foundation or grant or something using this same kind of cheesy rhetoric with big piles of “our established readership makes us different from all the other tablet/commission projects out there and we’ve demonstrated it can makes this stuff work” heaped on top.

        Or try to, anyway. Sullivan’s Wolfram-like insistence on taking credit for shit he didn’t do might throw some sand in these New Media gears.

      • ploeg says:

        Granting that many would find a NYT digital subscription to be worth more than a Sully subscription, a NYT digital subscription runs you at least 9 times more than what Sully’s proposing.

        And since paywalls can be defeated easily (and are thereby to a large extent voluntary), of course Sully has to play up the gee-whiz-support-independent-media angle to get his readers to part with their money. It’s pretty much his main competitive advantage against outlets such as the New York Times Company.

      • Murc says:

        Well, to be clear, Sullivan’s actual business model might be entirely viable. He has an enormous readership and only needs a small percentage to convert.

        I mean, Penny Arcade, which is basically just a webcomic and some ancillary bitching, manages to produce enough revenue just from ads to support its creators, their families, and a bunch of employees very comfortably. Their kickstarter generated a shit-ton of money as well.

        Remember, whatever personal antipathy you might have for him, Sullivan DOES have a devoted readership. An enormous one. It is entirely reasonably to think he might be able to leverage that into direct revenue FROM them without a publisher of some sort as an intermediary. It’s been done before.

        My criticism of him was more about the impossibly breathless tone and attitude surrounding this enterprise. Sullivan is setting up a small, independent online business. This isn’t a bad thing, but it also isn’t remarkable in and of itself.

        It’s like waxing rhapsodic over opening a pizza parlor. Good for you, but you’re no pioneer.

        • somethingblue says:

          Maaaaah! Murc is saying mean things about Job Creators!!

        • chris says:

          Penny Arcade has merchandise. Does anyone even want a Sullivan t-shirt, or a book of his greatest hits (if he has any)?

          • UberMitch says:

            What would a Sullivan t-shirt say?

            “Sully is willing to consider that black people are genetically less intelligent and all I got was this lousy t-shirt!”

            “Ask me about Sarah Palin’s amniotic fluid!”

          • Murc says:

            Sullivan has a couple books that are pretty solid sellers. I know Virtually Normal has done very well for him and continues to generate solid royalties even after many, many years.

            (This actually kind of baffles me, as Virtually Normal is extremely dated now.)

            • Bijan Parsia says:

              Yes, but I for one have no need to pay someone for silly, rather uninformed writing that has better than even odds of 1) enraging me and 2) lowering my total information levels. The internet will give me this in abundance for free!

              (Put aside the racism, Palin insanity, etc….would following Sullivan during the presidential election been remotely useful? It might have been funny, but not really that funny. Freak outs were all over…it’s not like Sully is especially good at them.)

          • swearyanthony says:

            Doesn’t he have a book or two of the window pictures he posts?

      • elm says:

        Another problem is how he will attract new readers with this model. Will those who currently link to him pay to read his stuff? Will they continue to link if their readers can’t follow it? If he has no new readers, eventually his customer base will shrivel and die.

        Most places get around this by having a mixture of free and premium content (Baseball prospectus, for instance), by allowing a limited number of views a month (NYT), by having the first paragraph free and the rest available by subscription (ESPN Insider and a lot of NCAA recruiting sites, often tied to writing misleading teasers to get you interested enough to pick up a subscription), by allowing links from certain sites provided you watch an ad (Salon), etc. The last one seems precluded by Sully’s no-ad policy and I don’t know how viable the middle two are.

        I’m pretty sure this won’t be successful long-term if he can’t solve this problem.

        • Murc says:

          Er… did you read how this is going to work, elm?

          Will those who currently link to him pay to read his stuff? Will they continue to link if their readers can’t follow it?

          Anything linked to from another source will be free if you’re following the link.

          by having the first paragraph free and the rest available by subscription

          That is in fact the model. You get a certain number of free ‘Read Mores’ a month and the rest you have to pony up for.

          Most places get around this by having a mixture of free and premium content

          Which is something he’ll be doing.

          • elm says:

            I read the first 3/4s of his post and stopped. I guess the details were at the end. My bad.

            I still think he’s going to have problems adding readers because I suspect his incoming links will drop. Not all the people currently linking to him will care enough to pony up the money for a subscription.

    • elm says:

      I think everyone on the blog is an actual teacher, not just SEK.

    • mds says:

      I got nothing against Sully trying to monetize himself independently.

      Me neither. I just wish he would try it down at the rendering plant.

    • Halloween Jack says:

      I’m reminded of Melanie Griffith believing, during the dot-com boom, that she’d get rich off of running what was in effect her own fan site. You can see how well that worked out.

  17. Ronan says:

    Just donated $200..lwt me know if theres some mistake and it doesnt process

  18. Karl says:

    Salon went to a subscription model in 2001 and it saved them, breathless appeals and all. That’s how far behind Sullivan is. I hardly expect his average reader to be well-informed on historical matters and his post shows he doesn’t either. Two major differences: Salon has always published original journalism, and Salon never stopped running ads.

  19. Jon Hendry says:

    I might pledge, if you could get Celtic Thunder on the blog.

  20. RhZ says:

    But how will I know when Sully is being an ignoramus? Oh right, I still know he is publishing something, therefore…

    Murc, we have been over this about Sully before. He is a horrible human being and you should not wish him well. When a fricken foreigner calls US leftists traitors, that’s when the line has been crossed. Not the curve bell, not seeking to infect someone with HIV, not smearing E. Kagan, although each of these is objectively horrible and his has done all three. Yes, he works hard, at being a self-centered asshole.

    God, you are such a millennial! Kidding, I kid.

    That said, he does have a big readership, by virtue of starting up so early if nothing else. Now will those people pay money for the ‘enlightening’ commentary of Sully? Even with the ‘good’ stuff that you imagine exists.

    I mean, I hate him for his war-mongering back in 2001-2003, and this looks like an absolutely stupid idea, but it seems like such a great opportunity to laugh at his dumb ass that I hesitate. Could he be this clueless?

    …and could he pls take McArdle with him behind his firewall? Now that would be a New Year’s present to remember!

    • Bijan Parsia says:

      I feel that his last response to Ta-Neshi Coates was such an awful combination of self-congratulation, maudlin condescension, culpable cluelessness, and crappy writing that I feel the urge to vomit just remembering it.

      Ugh. Ugh ugh and ugh.

      • LosGatosCA says:

        Assholes will be assholes, no need to provide an audience for their assholery. The Kid from Brooklyn, or some like guy, at one point was pulling in somewhere near $250k a month just to hear/see him act like the drunk guy at the corner bar with a Mister Microphone a poor man’s Donald Trump.

        The Nigerian thing has run it’s course, now it’s pay wall time for the suckers.

    • Murc says:

      When a fricken foreigner calls US leftists traitors, that’s when the line has been crossed.

      While I cannot argue with most of your other points, I don’t know what Sullivan being an englishman has to do with the price of tea in China.

      The problem with his odious fifth column comments back in the day was that they were odious. They can’t be made more or less odious depending on the national origin of the person uttering them, nor are foreigners given less of a right to comment on the US simply because they weren’t born here. Plenty of foreigners have written scathing, and accurate, indictments of the loyalty of various US persons.

      • RhZ says:

        Call me a bigot then. I take it more seriously when it comes from a foreigner. He is certainly vile no matter what his documentation is.

        But still, you forgive him don’t you? That’s so very sad…

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