What do you get for the Ricochet fee?
My yearly subscription came up last week. It was going to cost me $30 for the year. If there was a time to reconsider Ricochet, last week was that time. Also, on Sunday I joined a few other Ricochet folks for a meetup. It was pleasant enough, but again, it provoked a question on whether Ricochet is worth the cost and the trouble. On the drive home, I formed the question in a very simple way: what do you get for the Ricochet fee?
My answer is in two parts. First, with Ricochet, you get an audience.
We’ve probably all heard the Rob Long pitch a hundred times. I like the features that he promotes. But what works for me is that Ricochet is a fairly special audience. The code of conduct and the fee combine to create a membership filled with people I’d like to talk with. They can be critical, for sure, but the criticism is civil, usually constructive, occasionally funny, and more often than not, positive. The membership has turned out to be intelligent, diverse, and they bring a lot of experience to the site. Best of all, no matter how badly someone else might hate what you write … you’re saved by a 200-word limit. Even if a critic despises everything you stand for, the most you ever need endure is a two hundred word slam. (If only I could impose such a limit on my teenage daughters.)
But the second part is as important as the first: why do you need an audience?
It’s not just a selfish thrill of seeing your name in public. The media is the major part of this country’s collective consciousness. But for the most part, the media is structured to flow information in only one direction. They tell you. They inform you. They shape you. If you’re like me, you occasionally want to push back a little. I really don’t want Rachel Maddow explaining the “meaning” of events to me. I occasionally want to tell Paul Krugman to keep his self-indulgent snobbery to himself. And yes, I occasionally want to tell Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity to give it a rest.
Right now, there are only three ways to interact with the media. You either have to drag down their ratings (hard for one viewer to do that), organize a boycott (I rarely buy their products in the first place), or write letters to the editor (sure, of course they respect your opinion! I’m sure they’ll take what you say to heart!). The media do more than host the nation’s conversation – they also rig the game so that the conversation will promote what they want promoted. Congress was supposed to be where we had an honest conversation with each other, but they checked out of that role a long time ago.
I want something more than that. I’d like our nation’s collective consciousness guided by something more mature than a small fraction of neurotic morons with nice hair. That’s why, as a responsible, tax-paying, and occasionally intelligent adult, I’d like to participate in the national conversation, unedited and unrestrained by the people whose “news judgment” is measurably insane.
The only way to take the nation’s conversation away from those lunatics is to start a better one ourselves. That’s why I want an audience. It’s not to see my name in public, but to be an active part of a conversation that’s bigger than me, but isn’t controlled by the lunatics who run the current media.
For me, that’s worth a lot more than $30.