THE FIFTY PERCENTERS – Rich Paschall

Resistance, a short story by Rich Paschall

After Durward Tower narrowly won his election to the Presidency late in the century, he declared that he had a landslide victory. It was a mandate by the people to make big changes needed by the country. The wealthy leaders of the Congress and of big business helped to spread this myth. It was to their economic advantage to do so.

The many appointments to the courts gave Tower supreme control of the judiciary. Many were not actually qualified for their roles, but they would support any case for which Tower had an interest.

Both houses of the legislature also bowed to the whims and wishes of the so-called Leader. The minority party had little to say and much less money to say it. By the midterm elections, Durward Tower considered himself the Supreme Leader of the land.

All during his time in office, Tower continued to hold campaign style rallies. He loved the cheers of the people, and they seemed to love him and his policies. Many did not realize that his policies were against their best interests.

“We have great ideas for the country,” Tower told his rallies. “These are the best ideas that anyone has ever had in this office. That is because I am the smartest person ever to hold this office. Trust me on this, folks.”

And they did trust him. Many did, anyway. A few were quite skeptical. When Tower started pushing his extreme policies, their suspicions were confirmed.

The biggest change came in the tax code, which then led to changes in the voting laws. Tower had convinced the populace that anyone making less that 100,000 dollars was a drag on the economy and the country. These were the people that were taking the money of the social services and they must be made to pay. He decreed that they should pay a 50 per cent income tax for being such failures. Those making less than 11,000 were only asked to pay 10 per cent.  This was to show the people that Tower was a caring humanitarian. The Legislature approved of this. This new class of people were referred to as the 50 percenters.

Sometimes enough is not enough

Citizens making between 100,000 and one billion had a graduated tax as before. These were the 100 percenters, and Tower often congratulated them for their contributions to society and to his campaigns.

According to the fearless leader, those making a billion dollars or more must be rewarded for their enormous contributions to society. “Without these people,” Tower would say, “there would be no jobs. There would be no progress. There would be no country. Trust me folks, these people must be encouraged to do more and that can only be done with tax cuts.” Durward Tower felt that billionaires should only pay ten per cent. He told everyone that this was a lot of money and more than anyone else was paying.

It was therefore declared that the 50 percenters should only have a 50 percent vote. With each one having only half a vote, their power was greatly diminished. The one hundred percenters kept to one vote per person. The billionaire class quickly became know as the two hundred percenters, as each one got 2 votes in each election.

“You all know that the country must reward the billionaire class for their hard work. They deserve more votes. They contribute so much more than some of those pathetic losers in the 50 percenters.” Ironically, most of the people that cheered this at the rallies were themselves 50 percenters.

Billie Saunders and Robert Wright were among those that felt the majority were being mistreated by Tower and followers. They decided to form a resistance. Saunders held his own rallies to tell the people about the gross inequities. Wright took to social media to spread the word. He made videos and posted them to various platforms. When the resistance gained some momentum and the protests began to grow, Tower became angry.

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He had his Congress pass the Patriotic Actions law. Basically, it stated that anyone who spoke out against the 50 percenters law was to be considered a traitor to the country. Any traitor was to be imprisoned for a lengthy period. Tower once again took to the rallies to sell his new law.

“People who speak out against the laws of this country are traitors. We have great  ideas for this country. They are the greatest ideas any president has ever had. We can not have any disturbances in public from these bad people. There is only one way to deal with a traitor, and you all know what that is.”

At that the chants began from the audience. “Lock him up, lock him up, lock him up.” When the crowds would erupt with his favorite chants, Tower would take a step back from the podium and survey the crowd with great pleasure. Some thought the look on his face was rather smug, but his followers only saw a patriotic gaze.

In the weeks that followed Saunders was arrested and sent to a detention camp. Wright went underground and kept posting videos and opinion pieces. He formed a resistance of people who tried to hide their identities.

Wright told the Resistance, “We know Tower has tampered with the election. We must get the best computer minds to prove what he has done.”

Meanwhile, Tower kept up his campaign against the Resistance. He used his own social media presence to send out messages to his followers. In one message he treatened to shut down a newspaper that ran an opinion piece written by Wright.

“It’s all lies,” Tower wrote, “printed by that failing paper.”

Wright and the Resistance wondered how they ever got to the place in time where the majority voice did not matter, and one demagogue’s whims became the law of the land. They continued to send out messages about the inequality, calling for people to resist the Durward Tower.

 

FOR NEW BLOGGERS

Somewhere along the way during the past four years, I’ve gained a slew of new followers. Many of them fall into a group I call “baby bloggers.” Not only are they new to blogging, but they are new to life. They are children. Teenagers as young as 12 or 13 years old for some obscure reason actually follow me. Some are girls and boys who want to be writers or photographers– which makes a certain amount of sense. Others aren’t sure what they want, but have discovered blogging and follow me, hoping I’ll follow them back.

If blogging had existed when I was a teen, I’d have been doing it. For a creative kid, blogging is a godsend. So much better than keeping a diary which you have to hide under your mattress so your mom won’t read it, but she always finds it and reads it anyway. Or just writing stuff no one ever reads. When you blog, even if you don’t have followers, you can be pretty sure someone will read your stuff. Eventually.

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It’s hard to get a blog off the ground. There are weeks, months — even years — before it begins to come together. So when these kids ask me if I’ll follow them, I try to at least give them a read, a “like,” a comment, and some encouragement. I’m already following more blogs than I have time to read, so something has to really grab me to make me sign on.

Some of these baby bloggers are surprisingly good. Others — not so much. Some young photographers need to learn the rudiments of composition and stuff like focusing the camera.

In the writing department, many youngsters need to understand there’s a difference between writing and texting. For the wannabe writers, I’d like to offer some unsolicited advice:

  • Use real words, not internet abbreviations
  • Check your spelling. Spell checkers are one of the premium inventions of the past century
  • Write in sentences and paragraphs. You can break the rules, but first understand them
  • Leave white space on your pages. Too much text and graphics looks cluttered and is difficult to read
  • Punctuation is not optional. Discover how exciting commas and periods can be
  • Do not end every sentence with one or more exclamation points!!! Really, just don’t!!! If you do that all the time, it makes you sound hysterical!!!
  • Use emoticons sparingly 🙂 😦 😀
  • Contractions require apostrophes. In other words — don’t, not dont, can’t, not cant
  • Use black text on a white background (not vice-versa) if you expect anyone over 40 to read you.

If you want grownups to read your posts — by which I mean people other than your texting pals — you will have to write in a way we old people can understand. It’s not just the words you use. It’s also subject matter. I’m mildly interested in what’s going on with your generation,  but I’m way past makeup and gossip. If you are going to write about things that only interest your high school friends, your only followers will be your high school friends. Fine if that’s what you want … but … if you want a broader audience, you’ll have to find other topics.

Most importantly, make sure that you write in a real language, not text-speak. Texting abbreviations are not English. They are something, but I’m not sure what.

THEY FOLLOW ME EVERWHERE

I’M A SINGULAR SENSATION 

The news has been slow around here. Just regular stuff. Accidents, government stupidity and incompetence, scandals of the famous and wannabes. Changes in weather. Boston has a new mayor, too. So after all this ordinary stuff, I was thrilled to find this headline. From Dublin across the seas, this pops up on my browser:

Italian lodger tells police he is ‘guilty’ of cannibal murder

Saverio Bellante is remanded in custody after gruesome killing in Dublin

I bet our newscasters would be really happy to have a shot at something this juicy. Yum. Since the demise of Jeffrey Dahmer, there hasn’t been an incredibly disgusting, gory serial murderer to liven up the news cycle.

That got me wondering about today’s prompt which asks us who we would want — of all the possible readers and followers — to be reading our blog. This isn’t bragging, but I know a few of my favorite authors drop round here now and again, usually when I review one of their books or feature an interview with one of them. I know because they send me little thank you notes, probably advisable for any author that gets a really good review from any reviewer. We are prima donnas no less than they and we feed our hungry egos with the cast off kudos of the great and nearly great.

But how cool to be followed by a cannibal? It would be a coup. Definitely would come with bragging rights!

Garry Clean Harbors-SMALL

While Garry was a working reporter, we occasionally got phone calls late at night from convicted serial killers, sometimes critiquing his performance du jour. Turns out, they watched him on the telly. Who’d have guessed that serial killers have phone privileges? Icing on the cake?

Perpetrators of gruesome murders currently on trial would wave and wink at him in the courtroom. I’m sure all the other reporters were jealous. Aside from being intensely creepy, it always made me wonder if their fondness for my husband and his work would count for or against us if they were to get loose and drop by for a visit. They obviously knew how and where to track him down. Find Garry? Find me too.

Garry with Tip O'Neill
Garry with Tip O’Neill

On second thought, I wouldn’t be surprised to discover I’m a major hit in the prison system. It would explain the thousand or so followers who remain nameless and never leave comments or even a “like.”

Personally, I’d prefer to be followed (breathlessly, eagerly) by a power player in the literary world. An agent!

DEAR READER

Audience of One – Picture the one person in the world you really wish were reading your blog. Write her or him a letter.

selfie me with camera

Dear Reader,

I should have written sooner. You have been following me since I started this whole blogging thing, when Serendipity was new and I wasn’t sure it would fly. Didn’t know what I was doing. You helped me define myself as a writer. Nearly three years now and more than 3,000 posts later, all those old posts are floating around cyberspace. It must be getting crowded!

I’m really talking to you. That’s right. You, in the Lazy Boy, with the cup of coffee. You should drink it before it gets cold. (I should take my own advice.)

Take a sip. I’ll wait. No hurry. I cancelled my doctor’s appointment today. I can’t really afford the copay right now. With the “good” car in the shop and the repairs not yet paid for, money is painfully tight. A bit frightening if I think about it. The best I can do is postpone anything that costs money until (hopefully) the coffers refill, at least a bit.

It’s good my husband likes pizza so much. It’s amazing how happy the man is eating a cheap frozen pizza. I try to fancy it up, adding mushrooms, sometimes some bacon or whatever other bits of stuff we happen to have in the house. But it’s still pizza. The king of junk food. It goes very well with football.

You are the one I write for. A lot of old friends are gone, either to that great beyond or moved too far away to ever see them. It’s sad, but you help fill that empty place.

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I’m glad you exist. I’m grateful you like me well enough to spend some of your day with me. Maybe I follow you. I can’t follow everyone because there aren’t enough hours in my life to read that much and also write, but I try.

I don’t always comment. It doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy your post, just that I’m not feeling witty … or everyone else in the world has already said whatever anyone could possibly say. If I can, I will always send a like. So you know I’ve dropped by.

I hope I can be as much a part of your world as you are of mine. You are terribly important to me. I don’t say how much I appreciate you nearly often enough. You brighten my day when I’m feeling poorly. You make me feel appreciated when I think I’ve been forgotten.

I wish we could meet. Get together to laugh and drink coffee or tea. Eat a few crumpets or donuts. Maybe someday we’ll have a giant convention. I’ll be there, with all my bells on.

Meanwhile, thanks for everything. For caring, sharing, being there. For liking me. For being part of my world and letting me into yours.

Lots of love and a great big fuzzy hug,

Marilyn at Serendipity.

A LITTLE BIT FAMOUS. MAYBE.

Ready, Set, Done!

I’ve been brooding over statistics. In particular, I keep staring at my follower numbers, puzzled, and I’ve reached a conclusion.

I don’t really have more than 7000 followers no matter what the numbers say. I bet most of these “followers” are spam-bots or people who stopped by once, clicked “Follow” and disappeared. Who knows what motivated them to “follow” at all? Maybe it was a slip of the mouse, pure accident?

Hyannis downtown people

Daily views of posts are something. They lend themselves better to analysis. I disregard surges on a single post. Often it’s situational: a big snow storm and everyone shows up to read Garry’s experiences in the blizzard of ’78. Or I write something about a new TV show so when it’s Googled, I pop up. Voila! Thousands of hits on an unexceptional post.

Most people who come to read a post for a specific reason don’t come back. Maybe a few of them will drop by again, but mostly, they won’t. It’s not personal. These are not people who follow blogs. They are looking for information and when they find it, here or elsewhere, they go home.

But I can’t ignore the more than 213,000 views I have on Serendipity. Or the recent upsurge of daily visitors. This does not seem to be a “blip,” and might constitute a trend.

I don’t know most of the people who “read me.” I don’t generate as many comments as more controversial sites. Sometimes, I regret that, but not usually.

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Most of my visitors don’t comment. They don’t even click “like.” Yet I’ve started to meet strangers and discover they’ve “read me.” I’m pleased and happily surprised when it happens.

Blogging can be weird that way. You can be a little famous — and never know it. I’m sure it’s the only kind of “fame” you can achieve without realizing you’ve achieved it.

MORE STATS AND STATS – 5,000 BLOG FOLLOWERS

5000 followersStatistics are a hot topic among bloggers. Some of us obsess over them. I don’t obsess exactly, but I’m aware and interested. I take a daily look. Usually.

Over all, things are looking up at Serendipity. There has been a slow but steady increase in readership over the past 7 months. It’s encouraging — and today I breached a threshold.

FOLLOWERS

I’ve got 5,000 blog followers, the only followers I feel I can (more or less) accurately count.

I have no idea how many Facebook “friends” check out my blog. I suppose a majority of them occasionally check out a post, but most are linked to me because we play (or played) the same game(s). A few hundred more follow me via Twitter and Tumblr. I have no idea how actively they follow. I have no idea how actively anyone follows unless they comment or otherwise make contact.

WHO IS ACTUALLY READING ME?

I’m sure at least half of my 5,000 blog followers are no longer actively following me or were never really following me at all. Some are spammers and con artists, pornographers, trolls and troublemakers. I don’t hear from the real weirdos … and there are a few of them, too. The conspiracy nuts, the ones who are planning to overthrow the government but hopefully lack the skills to do more than rant.

Many followers sign on hoping I’ll do a reciprocal follow. I don’t. Won’t.

For anyone who wants me to follow them, I often check out sites because a comment catches my interest. Don’t send your link if you haven’t read a post or two on my site. I’d just as soon you not send your link at all. If you comment, I’ll have all the information I need to find you. Sending your blog’s link as a comment is rude.

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PAGE VIEWS 

Everybody’s numbers fluctuate. They go up and down without any obvious reason. Unless it’s a multi-week nose dive, I don’t worry about it. Usually, there’s no apparent reason. Or, it can be a seasonal thing. Holidays, the weather, political stuff — all these and dozens of other factors will change what people do online. I used to fret over it, but my recent life has been so stressful, I decided to make blogging a stress-free zone.  I know if things get slow, they will pick up. Eventually. Blogging on the same site for three years has taught me patience.

And, of course, I’m a wild card, maybe the biggest wild card. Because I’m the primary writer. I post every day and have for more than two years, only missing the period when I was too sick to do it.

Even at the best of times, all my posts are not brilliant. I have inspired days and blah days. Sometimes, I think a post is terrific, yet no one agrees. Other time, I think a post is dull, pedestrian — but it gets tons of hits. Go figure. I’m definitely better at gauging my work than I used to be, but that brings me up to maybe 50%. The rest of the time, I think I’ve got it nailed, but I don’t.

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THE COOL KIDS

I keep hearing that there are “cool” bloggers who are hyper popular and garner all kinds of awe and adulation. Everyone (apparently) wants to be one of the cool kids. I don’t actually know who the cool kids are because I avoid extremely popular sites. They are so busy, it’s impossible to have a dialogue with anyone. Or at least, I can’t. I’m not going to line up to be heard.

I think there is a tipping point when a blog becomes an enterprise. It gets too busy, too professional. I’ve seen blogs morph from personal blogs to businesses. I wonder if the bloggers even realized what was happening.

The first symptom? They stop responding to comments … or only respond to a particular group of followers. If I comment but never get a response? I will stop reading and following. I don’t require 100% reciprocity, but I need some acknowledgment. If you are too busy to ever answer my comments, you are too busy for me.

TAKING A LONG VIEW

I prefer to take a long view of statistics. I have yet to match, much less exceed, the numbers I made in November 2012. I had a lot of help that month. We had a highly controversial presidential election and a super hurricane which conspired to make the Internet a wild and crazy place.

I’m getting back up there gradually, month by month. Statistically speaking. This time, maybe it won’t be a fluke and it will stick.

Then again, maybe not. I’m sure I won’t post every day forever. I’ll get tired someday. Not soon, but eventually. Nothing is forever. Definitely not me.

STATS AND STATS – 6,001 FOLLOWERS?

Someone just alerted me that the count displayed on my site shows 6,001 followers.

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No matter what it shows, I don’t have anywhere near that many followers, unless you count Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter. My Facebook total is especially meaningless in this context. Most of them are people with whom I used to play Metropolis. I don’t play Metropolis anymore, but the connections I made because of the game are still officially Facebook friends. They were never real friends, just folks with whom I played a game.

For reasons unexplained (probably rivalry), Google followers are not counted.

None of the WordPress counts are reliable. Until last year, hits from the Reader were not counted. Then, for a while, WordPress provided a separate tally of Reader hits. After a few weeks, it was discontinued.

Now I have no idea how or if Reader hits count. Who is counted? Many of us use not just WordPress’s Reader, but other readers. Like Bloglovin, to name just one of many.

As far as I know, the only hits that count (for sure) are when a reader clicks on an individual post. If a readers just accesses your site, then scrolls through, reading as he or she goes, it counts as a single hit. On the other hand, if someone is looking at a photo gallery, then clicks on 6 different pictures, you will get 7 hits — 1 for selecting the post and 1 each for every picture.

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It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.

You can study the statistics all you want, but all you can extract are general trends. More or less traffic. A little analysis will show you which of your posts get the most traffic, though the count on that is also suspect. It is not unusual for the number of “Likes” on a post to exceed the supposed total number of hits on it or show 17 hits when you’ve got 75 “Likes” and 55 comments. How can that be?

The only followers I count are WordPress followers yet I know I have followers who prefer to not create a WordPress profile and never register. So they aren’t part of the “follower” count. I’m not sure whether or not they count at all.  I only know they exist because they are friends and have told me they read my posts. Since none of them comment or “Like”, are they counted?

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We want to make sense of our numbers, but it isn’t going to happen. It won’t make sense because WordPress won’t tell us how they come up with the numbers. We need a definition of “hit.” I’d like WordPress to tell me if Reader “hits” are included in the count. Until we have a realistic idea of how they come up with the numbers, we will never understand what they mean.

Does anyone besides me wonder why they won’t tell us for what are they using our numbers? How are they mining our data? To whom they are selling our personal information? I don’t worry about hackers nearly as much as I worry about being sold as part of a list.

What I can tell you with certainty, is I do not have more than 6,000 followers. No matter what it says in the little box.

And all of us are getting more hits than the hit count shows.