In the early, and perhaps more innocent, days of financial blogging, one of my favourite blogs was Yves Smith's Naked Capitalism, which I valued for its links to influential posts and articles elsewhere, and its somewhat more opinionated and entertaining posts than many other analytical blogs. In recent years, however, Naked Capitalism seems to have become increasingly polemical and less analytical, with a bias against bankers, advocates of conservative economic policy and creditors in general. Perhaps encouraged by this tone, Naked Capitalism's commentary has become more vitriolic and dominated by prejudiced, fixated, irrational and often
A particular feature of Naked Capitalism that began to disturb me was its advertising. Despite the blog's content being rightly critical of the amorality and recklessness of the financial industry, in the UK at least, Naked Capitalism often carried advertisements for some of the most predatory financial businesses. Not wanting to embarrass Yves, I first wrote to her by email three years ago to ensure that she was aware of the issue – manifested on that occasion in an advert for a leveraged property investment scheme – which I supposed might not be evident to her in the US. She thanked me for letting her know, and said that blocking such
While I believe that there is no question that the conflict between the content of such a post and its accompanying advertisement looks – and if benefit is derived from the advert is – hypocritical in some way, my mind is genuinely open about whether that hypocrisy matters or is unethical. First, we should be wary of making the tu quoque fallacy; that is, that doing something oneself should not make one's criticism of that action less valid. Second, it could be argued that such adverts are just rogues thrown up by a
Although it would be foolish to accuse a blogger as obviously vehemently against sleazy finance as Yves of tailoring her content to ingratiate such advertisers, there will always be, I think, a danger of being seen to have a conflict of interest when writing opinions about business that is paying you. For example – this is for the sake of argument, not a serious accusation – this week, Yves did not include in her daily links a BBC headline story about the closure of 62 UK debt consolidation firms, for which prominent adverts regularly appear on Naked Capitalism as seen from the UK, on the grounds of their misleading marketing. A more realistic danger is that the author of a blog which makes money from adverts might be tempted to write more opinionated and controversial posts, in a more provocative style, to attract notice and stir up comment, and to post more often to keep readers checking the site, in order to increase traffic to generate more revenue. I have wondered whether this might apply to some other
Minded to write a post on the subject of advertisers and blogs myself to raise, in a detached way, these questions for discussion, I asked Yves (respecting the copyright claim which appears at the bottom of Naked Capitalism pages) for permission to use my screenshot showing the juxtaposition of her payday loan post and the payday loan advert to illustrate the hazard involved in accepting
Anyway, to this I thought "no problem"; I did not see the post as a priority and would cross the bridge of being excommunicated from Naked Capitalism if and when I came to it. So yesterday, when Yves wrote a post about the hypocrisy of Friedrich Hayek and Ayn Rand (with which, by the way, I am in complete agreement) in calling for the abolition of Medicare and then using it themselves, I could not resist making a comment asking how Hayek and Rand's behaviour in criticising something that they took advantage of differed from Yves' own position on payday loan adverts. However, when I tried to do so, I found that my comment was blocked – I have apparently been banned from commenting on Naked Capitalism even before writing a critical post! I am therefore writing the post now, and being denied use of the screenshot, am providing my own version of Yves' antidote du jour instead for readers' amusement.