Center for American Progress, Meet the Streisand Effect

from the beware-the-backlash dept

Back in 2005, Mike coined the term "the Streisand Effect" to describe the situation where an attempt to suppress information generates increased publicity for that information. Our latest example comes via my friend Matthew Yglesias, who on Friday had some choice words for a center-left organization called Third Way. Matt blogs on a site run by Center for American Progress (CAP), though with full editorial control over the posts on his particular blog on the site. Despite calling Third Way out, the post got little overall attention on the blog.

On Sunday, however, readers of Matt's blog were treated to this creepy post in which Matt's boss, Jennifer Palmieri, noted that his posts don't reflect the opinions of the Center for American Progress, and then insisted that CAP has "a great deal of respect for [Third Way's] critical thinking and excellent work product." This is a great illustration of the differences between traditional and web-based media. In a traditional paper publication, everything is subject to editorial control, and in all likelihood Matt would have been asked to tone down his criticism of Third Way before his writing hit the presses. But Matt's blog gets posted unfiltered, complete with curse words and spelling errors. The immediacy of Matt's blog is a big part of what keeps readers coming back to the site. And it's also what made Palmieri's post so damaging.

Although Matt's blog is hosted on CAP's site, it's Matt's blog, and readers expect to get Matt's unfiltered opinions. Having Matt's boss hijack his blog in order to publicly reprimand him is really jarring. And then there's the Streisand Effect. Everyone would have forgotten about Matt's original post within a few days had someone at Third Way not called Matt's boss and demanded an apology. Instead, the entire liberal blogosphere is talking about Matt's post... and about Third Way's thin skin. The backlash is going to do far more damage to Third Way's reputation than Matt's original post could have.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Dec 2008 @ 12:18pm

    hmmmm . . .

    while this might be bad for thirdway, it sounds like it might be a boon for COP. The more people are talking about the story the better . . . right?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Matt (profile), 22 Dec 2008 @ 12:45pm

    not quite reprimand...

    Hmm, I find it incredibly stupid when they make a point to show the whole "your opinions are yours, not of so and so company" but then again, we have the legal issues if people don't do such. I seem to recall it's taken as official advice or something if it's not said right? However, making a guest post on a blog about it I do find pretty stupid overall. My workplace will not ever be posting an entry on my blog as guest or otherwise saying that my opinions are my own, and that includes if I post about my own workplace.

    On the flip side, my workplace asks that we do the same when we post. I just don't do it because I don't make reference to things at my work. (nobody knows where I work based off this post, for example). If I do reference my work for advice or something, then I do disclaimer it similar to how the "guest poster" did as well. Not that I want to, but maybe Mike can dig up where that liability comes from again?

    However, it doesn't seem like a reprimand, just stupidly stating the obvious. Boo on american progress all the same.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    uncle bob, 22 Dec 2008 @ 2:00pm

    let's hear it for...

    ...shilling for our friends! Way to go TechDirt! ("Making Mountains out of Mole Hills since 1997"(tm) )

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Mike (profile), 22 Dec 2008 @ 2:20pm

      Re: It's probably worth pointing out....

      Mr. Yglesias has since made pointing out that he made that post himself before he went to bed, so his blog wasn't really "hijacked," he was asked to post the comment and he did so. Personally I think this was more his fault than anyone else's, as if you are going to post what someone else has said in your blog for them, it would probably make more sense to make it clear that you are the one posting it, not the person you are posting for.

      That's a fair point... though the overall issue remains. Calling out that particular post did a lot more harm for Third Way. If Third Way or Palmieri had thought about it at all, they would have realized that it was best to just let the issue die. Calling extra attention to it is just a bad idea.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Jonathan Lang, 22 Dec 2008 @ 2:08pm

    Eh, my html is rather rusty, here's the link to the aforementioned post:

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Always amused, 22 Dec 2008 @ 11:58pm

    People are interesting creatures

    Too often, people are too quick to rush to judgment. With that in mind, I'm willing to bet that it's just a playful out of work gesture. It's fun to give people you know and/or work with a little kick on their blog.

    In such a scenario, Matt's fear may be self-generated, and he just needs to play it out on the blog and call back the dogs. I wouldn't be surprised if DC has at-will labor laws on the books like most states. Should this be the case, she probably would have found a reason to let Matt go well before this. But, this isn't the case. Matt may have found a cleverly disguised pal, and just doesn't know it yet.

    Another second scenario is that Jennifer may be getting heat from her management for something. Such a scenario is more difficult to discern. Jennifer may need his disparate help.

    Either way, vilifying Jennifer doesn't help anyone, and will only result in difficult times at the office.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    gene_cavanaugh, 23 Dec 2008 @ 2:04pm

    Third World and Matthew Yglesia's blog

    So Third World said something, then Matthew said exactly the same thing, but made it sound insidiously different, then Matthew's boss insisted he should say the same thing, so now everyone is up in arms???

    NOT ME, they all said the same thing (when you take out the emotion and look at it logically - oh, I forgot!! We no longer use logic in America!). Sorry people, my bad!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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