Ryan Holiday, American Apparel’s PR man, has published a book about how he spent years lying to the media and manipulating bloggers to advance the agenda of the company and his other clients, which include Tucker Max and Linkin Park.
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His main point, however, is that bloggers and reporters are so lazy and mendacious that they manipulate the truth just as much as he does.
The media and PR business, therefore, is a bit like pig wrestling, he argues: Everyone gets dirty, but the pig loves it.
The book is titled “Trust Me, I’m Lying; Confessions of a Media Manipulator,” and can be summed up by a quote from the first page of his introduction: “I’m paid to deceive. My job is to lie to the media so they can lie to you.”
Given that Holiday has happily confessed that he tells lies for a living, here are some of his greatest hits, all from the book.
Disclosure: Large chunks of his book are devoted to criticising Business Insider and its staffers, including the author of this post and his employer, Henry Blodget.
His book says:
I created false perceptions through blogs, which led to bad conclusions and wrong decisions--real decisions in the real world that had consequences of real people. Phrases like 'known rapist' began to follow what were once playfully encouraged rumours of bad or shocking behaviour designed to get blog publicity for clients.
Holiday uses Help A Reporter Out--a web site for journalists looking for expert commenters--to pose as an expert. He writes:
I've used it myself to con reporters from ABC News to Reuters to the Today Show, and yes, even the vaunted New York Times. Sometimes I don't even do it myself. I just have an assistant pretend to be me over e-mail or on the phone.
You can see the Times' retraction of Holiday's lies here.
He says Jezebel writer Iron Carmon did not reach out to Daily Show staffers for comment about a story in which she accused the show of discriminating against female employees.
Holiday writes, 'Her story was a lie' and 'bullshit.'
Here's Carmon's story about female employees on the Daily Show, dated June 23, 2010. Carmon wrote that female writers were marginalized and under-represented on the show.
And here are her emails requesting comment from the Daily Show, from eight days before she published her story.
To create publicity for the Tucker Max movie I Hope They Serve Beer In Hell, Holiday defaced billboards he'd placed with his own protest stickers, then sent photos of the vandalism to blogs claiming it was part of a real protest movement against Max's sexism. He writes:
I orchestrated fake tweets and and posted fake comments in articles online. I even won a contest for being the first one to send in a picture of a defaced ad in Chicago (thanks for the free T-shirt, Chicago RedEye. Oh, also, that photo was from New York.)
From the book:
Another time I had some promotional images for a Halloween campaign I also couldn't use, because of copyright concerns. I still wanted them seen, so I had one of my employees e-mail them to Jezebel and Gawker and write, 'I shouldn't be doing this but I found some secret images on the American Apparel server and here they were.' The post based on this lie did 90 thousand views.
Holiday recounts reading the economics blog Marginal Revolution, on which Tyler Cowen mentioned receiving an email from Jeff Ritze:
Coming across this struck me not only because I am a big Tyler Cowen fan but because I am also Jeff Ritze. Or was, since that's one of the fake names I used to use, and had apparently emailed my post as a tip to Marginal Revolution.
He deliberately served risque display ads on publisher's web sites that violated their policies, just for the publicity it would get.
I'd serve ads in direct violation of the standards of publishers and ad networks, knowing that while they'd inevitably be pulled, the ads would generate all sorts of brand awareness in the few minutes users saw them.
He sent 'fake' traffic to blogs in order to make items published about his company seem hotter with readers than they actually were.
There are also services that allow you to 'buy traffic,' sending thousands of visitors to a specific page. At the penny-per-click rates of StumbleUpon and Outbrain, one hundred dollars means a rush of one thousand people or more--illusory confirmations to the blogger that you are newsworthy. The stat counters on these sites make no distinctions between fake and real views ...
The letter threatened a lawsuit, Holiday writes:
Not a real lawsuit, mind you, but the illusion of one through an intention letter. ... They paid him $500,000 to go away. I think about this often. They may have stolen from my friend, but I still shook someone down.
Holiday devotes pages 116 through 119 to a diatribe against my 'fantastical misinterpretations' and 'ridiculous conspiracy theories' about Charney's financing of his company.
You can read my original post here. It simply states that during the years 2007 through 2010, when AA was performing poorly, Charney loaned his company about $8 million at 6% interest. The interest payments back to Charney on those loans totaled $277,000 in 2007, $346,000 in 2008, $271,000 in 2009, and $266,000 in 2010.
In other words, they functioned as an income stream not available to other employees that enriched Charney to the tune of $1.1 million in total. You can see the numbers on page 81 and page 86 of the company's annual report for 2009 and 2010, respectively.
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