Sympathy for the Cucks

In one of his great essays, Orwell describes a joke in the satirical magazine Punch, making fun of pretentious wannabe-littérateurs (see what I did there?).  The pompous young man announces to his aunt that he’s going to be a writer.  The aunt asks what he’s going to write about.  The dork replies, “My dear, one doesn’t write about anything; one simply writes.”

Blogging in a nutshell, amirite?

But bloggers don’t get paid, and even if they do, it’s probably nowhere near commensurate with the effort.  For instance, here’s the Z Man’s advice to aspiring bloggers:

As far as material, post something every day, even if it is just a couple of paragraphs. That way, you get better and you get into the habit of running a blog. If after a few months it is no longer fun, you’re out a hundred bucks and you learned something about yourself.

Left implied is the actual time spent cranking out a few paragraphs.  You’ll have to take my word for this, but when I’m on my game I’m a blazing-fast writer (and even when I’m off, I’m pretty speedy).  Not quite up to Henry Morton Stanley standards — he apparently crashed out one of his umpteen-hundred-page travel books in something like three weeks — but pretty fast nonetheless.  Still, I bet my “average” blog post — tossed off with few or no links (meaning little to no research), no revisions, bare-bones on-the-fly editing, etc. — takes between 30 minutes and an hour.  Anything that takes sustained work — research, redrafting — can take all afternoon.  A quick search on “how much do contract computer programmers make?” comes back with a range between $35 and $400 an hour.  Assuming my stuff is low- but not bottom-end (and that I’ve taken the advice of Our now-unemployed Betters in journalism and learned to code), a day’s post costs me something between $50 and $250.

Obviously I don’t actually get paid squat, and there’s no legitimate comparison between blog posts and contract code, but the point is, “writing” is one of those “prestige-only” occupations.  Even those writers who are good enough to make a living solely off their authorial voice (the H-list, according to D-Lister Larry Correia’s hilarious official rankings) are so few and far between that it’s just statistical noise – you undoubtedly have a better chance of meeting a professional athlete than you do a professional writer.  Even if you make a buck or two off blog ads, or sell a novel or three on Amazon, writing is just a hobby, for 99.9998% of the people who do it.  When you take all the money your self-published novel made on Amazon and divide it by the umpteen hours you spent writing it, you get the kind of wage college kids stage protests about (be sure to pick up your authentic logo gear at the bookstore!).

Education works like that, too.  Nobody scoffs at teachers’ claims of being overworked and underpaid more than I do, but they’ve got a point for all that.  Teachers work iceberg-style — the work you actually get paid for is about 20% of the work you actually do.  It’s true no matter where you are on the academic food chain.  We joke that teaching is a 24/7 job — 24 hours a week, 7 months a year — but even the tenured work hard.  As I’ve tried to show, above, even those incomprehensible “gender studies” gibberish books represent a significant time investment.  Throw in committee meetings, all the other “university service” bullshit, and the umpteen zillion voluntary-yet-mandatory things the tenured are required to do, and if you’re not exactly at “Indonesian child laborer” wage levels, your plumber still out-earns you by several orders of magnitude.

Why do it, then?  Well, consider medicine.  Medicine is the ultimate iceberg profession.  Now, I’m not saying docs aren’t well-paid; of course they are.  What I am saying, though, is that if a machinist were capable of working 120-hour weeks — as medical residents routinely do — they’d be bringing in way more than doctors.  And those 120 hours are the hours actually in the hospital; they don’t get paid for writing notes, reviewing charts, studying for exams, and the million other things they do.  Dating a medical resident was, in fact, one of the great eye-opening experiences of my life.  When we finally did manage to get together, our “dates” usually consisted of a brief talk over takeout Chinese before she fell asleep on my couch.

Docs don’t do it for the money, in other words.  They do it to be doctors, in the same way professors do it to be professors, and writers do it to be writers.  I know lots of doctors and professors, and none of them — not one — has ever wanted to be anything else.  They’d still do it for half the pay.

This is a key weakness for attacking the Left.

As C.S. Lewis said, the Devil can’t stand to be mocked.  That’s no longer true in this brave new social media world — mocking a Millennial means “ur h8in,” which means you’re thinking about her more than she’s thinking about you, which means she wins — so let’s modify it: The Devil can’t stand to be ignored.  Ace of Spades — no mean Twitter addict himself — points out all the time that the Jonah Goldbergs and David Frenches of the world pretty much live on Twitter.  This is because they know all the stuff I’ve written above is true.

Whatever they get paid, it’s nowhere near a “living wage” for the amount of work they do, if you include “basically living on Twitter” as work.  Which it is, of course, since opportunity cost is a thing and living the Twitter life basically precludes doing anything else.  To this type of person, “I have 100,000 Twitter followers!” isn’t a childish boast; it’s an existential claim.  Deny them that, and they are literally nothing.

It’s crucial that we understand the difference.  Oscar Wilde nailed these goobers’ psychology over 100 years ago: “There’s no such thing as bad publicity.”  Goldberg et al would rather be praised than mocked, of course, but: Mockery serves the exact same psychological function.  In a very real sense, these people are terrified they’re NPCs — they’re not real, because they’ve dedicated their lives not to doing something, but to being something… and that “something” rests entirely on external attention.  That’s why they’ll write anything, say anything, do anything, so long as they can keep telling themselves they’re “writers.”

Cut that off, and they’ll self-immolate.  It must be a horrible way to “live.”

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6 thoughts on “Sympathy for the Cucks

  1. Pickle Rick

    I’ve never been on Twitter and I deleted my Facebook long ago and have been happier without it. The leftists and cucks will, as we’re seeing, will eat each other in woke purity spirals without us around to bash on.

  2. Joseph Moore

    This made me think of dogs and children, who also would rather be yelled at than ignored. For that matter, and maybe more to the point, people in abusive relationships endure just about anything rather than do without the bad attention their abusers deal out. The dog, the child, the abused adult will return over and over again to the hand that deals out the abuse, because the insanity of expecting something other than abuse is outweighed by the fear that of being ignored.

    (Re: blogging – I’m not nearly that fast; a post of any length takes me half a day. Economically speaking, I’m an idiot.)

    1. Severian Post author

      That’s the point, though — economically speaking, EVERY writer is an idiot. Jonah Goldberg evidently gets paid enough to live in a very tony part of DC, but “being Jonah Goldberg” is a 24/7 gig. I don’t Twitter myself, but judging from the amount of time just Ace of Spades spends just reporting on his various Twitter slap-fights with Goldberg, I have to reckon JG spends four, five hours a day just on Twitter. For zero remuneration, with an exorbitantly high opportunity cost.

      That’s why full time writers have traditionally been either hacks, or gentlemen of leisure. I wish there was a better term than “hack,” because there’s nothing wrong with being a hack — a “hack” writer is an entertainer, like a vaudeville performer or a baseball player. Hacks make money, because a) they know they’re hacks, and b) embrace being hacks, because c) they get paid to tell the kind of stories they themselves would like to read. See e.g. Larry Corriea, in the links above. His mantra is GET PAID, and he does an excellent job of it (and he spends his limited free time making fun of SJWs, so that’s a bonus). But he also fully acknowledges the paradox — he’d still do it for free, just not as well and not as often, because writing is also a labor of love, even for hacks.

      And if this seems to imply that bestselling authors, even “literary” ones, are just hacks who have been elevated to the ranks of gentlemen of leisure, well, I don’t think Charles Dickens, or Mark Twain, or many of the other “greats,” would disagree.

  3. bgalbreath

    “Opportunity costs” are real, but they necessarily involve a comparison. The cost of doing A is not doing any of the great number of non-A things that I might do instead. So the opportunity cost of doing any particular thing is very large. Instead of looking at that large set, I think we should ground the zero opportunity cost situation in a single alternative. I could search for the all-things-considered best thing I might do now, and measure the cost of doing anything else relative to it, but it’s often hard to identify what that best thing is. It is somewhat easier to figure out what I most want to do, what I would spontaneously do if I “had my druthers” and independently of any extrinsic factor such as being being paid or otherwise compensated for the trouble. The zero opportunity cost thing to do is what I find intrinsically engaging at the moment. The problem of just leaving it at that we often wind up wanting things in the short term that have longer term effects that we don’t want. I might be addicted to World of Warcraft (or golf) and spend a lot of time and resources on it fully willingly, yet deplore the fact that this is what I most want to do. When someone else asks me to consider the opportunity costs of my passionate hobby, they are implicitly pointing to other things I might do that would, in their opinion, be a better use of my time. So, even the attempting to understand “opportunity cost” in the (sort of) value-neutral terms of desires lands us back into a question of values: what is the best use of my time?

    1. Maus

      I am inclined to agree with your take on the inescapably value-bound nature of opportunity cost analysis; but it’s even more meta than that. To spend any appreciable time contemplating the relative benefit of one choice over another is itself a second order opportunity cost. The worst case scenario is analysis paralysis, where an ultimate choice is delayed to the point where its original intrinsic value has decayed. That is why I favor the bias for action over deliberation. If one stays within his wheelhouse of knowledge, skills and abilities, the downside of a quick, decisive action will rarely be beyond the capability to respond and adapt to neutralize it. Wisdom is knowing one’s limitations; prudence is not exceeding them and courage is staying within their boundaries when others push you for rash actions. It is the leap into the unknown that most often results in “game over.”

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