Monday, October 26, 2009

ARCHIVE: Making a killing by threatening to make a killing

By Kéllia Ramares
Online Journal Associate Editor
April 25, 2005—I really thought I had my finger on the pulse of Internet, or at least Blue State Internet, humor when I started offering products in my online store that said, Necons, Inc. Killing for the Culture of LifeSM. When sales of my audio documentary, "Peak Oil," started moving a bit in February, I figured word-of-mouth advertising, supposedly the best kind, and high gasoline prices, would multiply the sales. I hoped that sales of “Peak Oil” and my other serious titles, would bring me supplementary income that would allow me to do serious journalism without worrying about the rent.
But no one has ordered the Neocons, Inc. gear, or other items with incisive messages like "Your Religion is Not My Law" or "Theocracy is Un-American." Orders for my public affairs CDs have dried up. Silly me, why didn’t I realize that the quick way to make good money online is to threaten a rabbit’s life?

Yes, there’s a guy on the Internet who has threatened to eat his pet rabbit on June 30 if people don’t make $50,000 worth of donations or purchases by then. As of April 10, the last time he posted the balance in his PayPal account, he’s about halfway to his goal. If he gets the $50,000 he wants, he will have received more for not eating a rabbit than I grossed working as a journalist in 2002, 2003, and 2004 combined!
As if that’s not loony enough, someone else has now started two sites that let people vote with their wallets over whether a snail found in a package of celery should be saved or smashed with a mallet. The guy who built these sites has set no monetary goal. But he claims that, as of April 15, the combined total of his “save” and “smash” Pay Pal accounts was $98 and change. That’s more than the City of Berkeley, California pays me to run the remote broadcast for one of its Rent Stabilization Board meetings…and the snail owner didn’t have to leave his house to get the money!
Either the rabbit guy knows a ton of people or word-of-mouth advertising works better for rabbit ransoms than for public affairs CDs. His items are hot sellers. In a case of “Success Breeds Success,” CafePress, which hosts his online store, has given him extra publicity. And the blurb they’ve written about the threatened rabbit mentions the snail, too.
In the meantime, my CafePress store, featuring CDs full of serious, underreported public affairs is languishing, even with the addition of T-shirts and such. I’m just one of the over 2.1 million people selling items on CafePress. They claim oil is a hot topic, but the only part of the oil issue they are pushing is the “war on oil” [sic]. To find stores like Radio Internet Story Exchange, Peak Oil Aware, and Peak Oil Awareness, which are selling goods that would help you understand why there’s war for oil, you would have to know to put the phrase Peak Oil into the CafePress search engine.
The whole website Radio Internet Story Exchange comprises just a few of the over 8 billion pages Google says it searches. In fact, it turns out that many visitors to my web site are various spiders, crawlers, and ‘bots sent out by search engines to catalogue pages. Spiders, and crawlers and ‘bots (oh my!) do not carry cash or credit cards to order stuff on the pages they catalogue.
I suppose I should just stop whining, start web sites called “” and “” and let voters pay to decide whether I should persevere with alternative journalism or dump it for a more lucrative shift at McDonald’s. But I’m not going to do that. Instead I’m going to ask you, “Where the hell are your priorities?”
If the rabbit and the snail are being well treated, as they appear to be, there is no animal abuse here. They are not in fear, because they haven’t the faintest idea that their lives are being ransomed on the Internet. Like it or not, vegetarians, vegans, and “People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, “ it <i>is</i> legal to eat rabbits and snails in this country, though, for best culinary results, I wouldn’t recommend smashing a potential escargot with a mallet.
Are some of you still having nightmares over the rabbit-skinning scene in Michael Moore’s “Roger and Me”? Maybe that’s where the rabbit man got his inspiration. The woman in that scene had a sign in her yard indicating that she would sell rabbits “for pets or food.” She didn’t care as long as she got the money. This was a poor woman trying to survive in depressed Flint, Michigan. She was running a business, not a gimmick.
What kind of guy would declare that he will eat his pet rabbit unless strangers ransom the animal? He has inspired similar sites involving a snail. Do you really want to encourage this kind of behavior? Obviously, CafePress does; they make money from each online store sale, so they’re hyping it. But do <i>you</i> want to encourage this?
What do <i>you</i> get out of spending money to vote on whether one rabbit or one snail lives or dies? Has political discourse in this country descended to the level of what CafePress has named “The Great Rabbit Debate”? Human beings are killing and being killed in the Middle East and other oily places in the world, and no amount of protesting is stopping it. Do <i>you</i> spend your money on ransoming the life of a rabbit or a snail because you think you are impotent to do anything greater? Or is it because you can’t find anything more fun to do?
Do you figure that the world has gone so insane that it’s pointless to learn about serious issues? Or am I the insane one for trying to make living warning you of the crises that lie ahead?
UPDATE: Radio Internet Story Exchange no longer exists. Broadcaster At-Large is its successor. <a href="" target="_blank">My Cafe Press store</a> now just sells my poetry book, "Near the Ragged Edge of Earth". Nobody buys that, either. I still do journalism and I still need money.