The Nits: People Who Cannot Afford to Spare a Piece of Their Minds, But Who Give Authors Selective Chunks

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My first article in a national magazine was published in February 1967 in The Freeman. You can read it here: Domestic Inflation versus International Solvency. Same old problem. Same old central bank solution. Prices in 1967 were one-sixth of today’s prices (CPI).

I do not know how many articles I have had published since then. There are over 5,000 on GaryNorth.com. LewRockwell.com has posted over 750 since the first one in 2000. I suppose I published at least 1,000 before the turn of the century, if you count my newsletters. That’s 30 a year. That sounds about right. I also did at least 250 taped interviews with experts: FireStorm Chats (1981—2003).

All authors suffer from a problem: critical letters telling them they’re all wrong. These letters are invariably short. They invariably come from strangers. Some of them are nitwits. Others are merely nit-pickers. I call them "nits." I have received letters from them for about 40 years.

As far as I can recall, I have never received a critical letter on an economics article sent to me by a professional economist. I have never had a critical letter from a theologian regarding one of my theological articles. The same applies to historians and my historical articles.

I may get a letter from an expert regarding a mistake of some sort: date, spelling error, incorrect page reference in a footnote. Every author likes those, for he can correct the piece if he publishes in another format. I am talking about the standard "you’ve got it all wrong" letter. Or the "you’ve gone too far this time" letter. Or "if you’re so smart, you should know that…." letter. Or the anonymous "you &*(!@#$ Zionist @#$ #$%%" letter.

I have drawn a conclusion based on 40 years of evidence. These letter-writers spend their lives nit-picking others rather than producing anything for public comment.

They have not written a book, published an article in a magazine, or been on the editorial board of a journal.

They may have a blog, although I doubt it.

They are spiritual allies of the flamers who have found their calling in life: sniping at published authors on the Web. The flamers always use pseudonyms. No one can find out who they are or what they have produced.

The crucial fact I have learned over the years about these people is that they have not published anything, yet they see themselves as experts about writing. They see themselves as authoritative experts who can spot the flaws in the published work of someone good enough to get published by a third party or gutsy enough to publish something on his own site.

The experts who are in a position to criticize don’t bother. They are too busy being productive. So, the only people who bother to straighten out published authors are people who have yet to write anything for public consumption. They are unwilling to expose their best work to people like themselves.

The other factor in their lives is arrogance. Why would a stranger imagine that his negative opinion of an article is of any interest to the author? Why should the author care? The critic is unknown to him. If the author searches the Web, he will find no reference to the critic’s books or articles, for there are none. Yet the critic imagines that he has scored a victory for truth, justice, and the American way by sending an email to someone who has gone into print. Why? Because he is a nit.

My advice to anyone with a blog site: do not allow feedback for readers in a forum that is on the same page as your blog. At most, set up a "how-to" forum off the main page. Or maybe a "what’s happening now" forum. But do not allow a "share your opinions" forum. Such forums attract nits.

It is OK to have forums on a subscription Website. The crazies do not pay money to spout off. Very few post on forums in a pay-for-access forum. They are free-time, free-access flamers.

I say this to anyone who is contemplating putting up a blog site. I think you should create one. Focus on a topic and pursue it relentlessly. Become an expert in the topic.

But if you do this, be prepared from critical letters from people who have not done what you have done. They have no blogs. They have no authority. They have no money, I suspect, because people with money don’t waste time. These faceless critics waste time — theirs and yours.

For background, read my article on tar babies. I wrote it in 2001.

Gary North [send him mail] is the author of Mises on Money. Visit http://www.garynorth.com. He is also the author of a free 20-volume series, An Economic Commentary on the Bible.

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