I wrote an essay.
It was called Absolutely Nothing, an answer to Edwin Star’s famous question: War, what is it good for?
That essay has been called a savage indictment of the Iraq War, and I suppose that it is. I was there. I lost friends there. I have strong opinions about that conflict and those who sent us into it and who now want us to go back.
That essay struck a nerve with people.
And it became widely popular.
And now it’s spread across the world, gone viral, millions have read it.
Those people, they turned me into a meme, an internet sensation. They took my face, my words, my life and slapped their URL on it and spread it across the world.
My essay was a hit.
Simple, right? Anybody could do it. You just sit down, type some words, fifteen minutes maybe, hit publish, and boom! instant fame.
Sure, anybody could do it. Anybody.
Except, of course that it is not easy.
And not just anybody can do it, very few can in point of fact.
I’m not blowing my own horn here, but I’m not going to pretend any false modesty either.
Not everybody can do it, but I can and that is a simple provable fact.
Don’t believe me? You try it. Go on start a blog. Write something. Put it out there. No tricks. No gimmicks. Just write something. Go on. I’ll wait. Just sit down, type some words, fifteen minutes maybe, hit publish and give me a call back when you achieve the level of notoriety my essay did. Or the one before it. Or the one before that. Go on, I’ll wait. Let me know when they turn you into a meme.
Oh come on, give it a go. Because anybody can do it right?
You know what you’re going to discover?
You going to discover the same blunt truth every naïve newbie learns, and that is this: Writing is work. Hard work. Exhausting work. Frustrating work.
Blogging is work. Hard work. To do it right, takes skill and dedication and work. And yes, it is writing in every sense of the word.
The kind of writing that created my essay Absolutely Nothing? That kind of writing? Well, you see, there’s not one goddamned thing easy about it – because to write something like that takes your life.
It takes your life.
Your whole life.
Absolutely Nothing was two thousand, six hundred words long. About six pages in any standard 12-point font, double-spaced with 1” margins on standard letter-sized paper. Six pages. You want to know what it took to put those twenty-six hundred words together?
Because I’ll tell you.
Fifteen minutes? Hell. Writing that article took 30 years of my life.
You want to know why that essay resonated with so many people?
You want to know why you could feel the raw emotion and the rage and the pain?
You want to know why the words sing?
You want to know what that took? It took enlisting in the Navy at 21 years of age. It took decades of service, working my way up through the ranks. It took sailing across tens of thousands of miles of ocean. It took walking on six continents. It took endless watches and days without sleep. It took being hungry and cold and being scared out of my mind. It took three wars and a dozen deployments short of war. It took making Chief Petty Officer, a rank only a small percentage of enlisted Sailors achieve, one which required years of dedicated effort and sustained superior performance, at sea, on land, thousands of hours of work and study, years of experience under conditions most civilians would never understand or be able to hack. It took learning how to lead, it took pain and setbacks, it took earning the trust and respect of those around me – men far bigger and far tougher than me. It took earning a college degree one credit at time, when I could find a few minutes to study between training and deployments and sixteen hour work days. It took making Chief Warrant Officer, a commissioned rank and a distinction that comes to only a very few of the very best of the Chief’s Ranks, one that cannot be given but must be earned through more than a decade of dedication and sacrifice. It took serving in war zones around the world. It took going to Iraq. It took volunteering for and leading hundreds of missions. It took spending months, years, away from my family and friends, twenty years of missed birthdays and Christmases. It took missing family funerals, and it took standing at attention while they buried my shipmates under the cold white marble. It took leading men and women into harm’s way over and over and getting them all home again. It took watching my comrades die, one hundred and twenty-eight as of today, of my friends and shipmates and comrades in arms who came home in boxes. It took dozens more, those who returned alive but not whole, shattered, broken, torn, and bloodied in body and spirit. More, it took a decade of work, of writing every single fucking day. Working to improve my skill and craft, to find my voice, to create my unique style, to learn how to fit words together in a way that is distinctly mine, to figure out how to reach people and gather an audience one precious mind at a time. It took working far into the night. It took getting up early. It took hundreds of hours of dedication and frustration and sweat. It took time away from other things I should have been doing. It cost me money, thousands of dollars to build my site, buy the books, to take the classes, to learn the craft. It cost me time with my family, with my wife and son. And most of all, it took my experience, my hate and my pain and my rage and my love and my admiration for those who died and who were maimed and who served with steadfast loyalty under the most terrible of conditions.
That’s what it took.
That’s what it took to write those two thousand six hundred words. It took my service and my experience and my goddamned life.
And that, right there, is what syndicated talk radio host Mike Malloy stole from me.
That is what you steal from writers and artists and singers and musicians and painters and photographers and dancers and other creative people when you take our work without asking, without permission, without payment.
You, you thieving bastards, you steal our lives.
And you have the audacity to wonder at my anger? You have the unmitigated gall to question my outrage at your rape? You who sat here, safe and fat, you, you sons of bitches, you deserve nothing but contempt.
You’re stealing my life, you fucker.
Mr. Wright I have never been so disappointed with anyone as I am with you. Money? thats what your about? you say that Mike Malloy who works for free is a theive jus because he read your geat letter on his show? Mikes doesn’t make any money from your letter. Mike a real American who calls out merecenarie cowards like you .your letter is to important for you to want money it needs to be out their and should be free to all americans! but your mad because people read it and you didn’t “get paid”? you are not a writer you are a bloger and you need to learn that words on the internet are free for ALL. you need to stop whining and listens to Mike maybe you’ll learn something! [sic]
– Stacy [M]
I gave more than twenty years of my life to this country.
I served in a war I didn’t agree with for my country.
I watch my friends and brothers and sisters die, for my country.
I wrote an essay, a product of my skill and viewpoint and experience and that very service.
I published it on my own website, for my own readers.
Mike Malloy and others took my words, my life, without permission, but I’m the mercenary coward?
My “letter” is too important for me to want money.
My words are too important for me to want money. I guess I’ll just live on the fame and the glory then. I can’t wait to see my mortgage company’s face when I tell them that my words are too important for me to pay them in actual money – but hey, maybe I can offer them some exposure on my blog, eh? Maybe they’ll cut me some slack, because my words are so important. Yeah. Maybe Mike Malloy will pitch in and give them a little “free” coverage too.
My words are too important. Why is that you, suppose? Is it because I spent my life writing that essay?
But those “important” words, they’re not worth anything?
Funny, a few days ago those words and my authority to speak them were worth something to Mike Malloy. They were obviously worth something to his listeners, the hundreds who first wrote to offer praise and then wrote in disappointed sour condemnation, the people who pay Mike Malloy Radio Productions LLC $59.40 per year for a subscription to his podcasts, but call me a mercenary and a whore and a greedy coward.
Malloy works for free? He does? Really?
Given that he and his wife both make up Mike Malloy Radio Productions LLC, I have to wonder how they pay their mortgage, put food on the table, make their car payments, put clothes on their kids – if they don’t make any income from their radio show?
How is it that Mike Malloy makes a living from his words, and that makes him a hero of progressive talk radio, but me? If I want to make a living from my words, my experience, my life, I’m just a greedy mercenary whore.
Mike Malloy is a great American. Me? I’m a coward.
You know what it took for me to write that essay while Mike Malloy, Michael Savage, Rush Limbaugh, Glen Beck, Ann Coulter, and the rest of these thieving bastards were safe in their studios? I and those like me were out there in the dark and dangerous corners of the world fighting the wars these jackasses goaded America into. That’s what it took.
And that, right there, is why Mike Malloy lacks both the skill and the authority to write Absolutely Nothing.
Jim. Thank you for your letter sent to Mike Malloy. His reading of your letter on Monday night gave me the chills. Unfortunately, like most of us, my blood was already boiling. I wish I had been prepared to record it since I do not have access to the podcast. If you have the letter posted online, please share the link with me. I'll share it with my family and friends. Thank you for your service and your dedication to the truth.
– Mark [T]
Access to Mike Malloy’s podcasts.
He wants me to give him my essay for free because he can’t afford to pay for Mike Malloy’s podcasts.
So I gave it to him and I wonder how ole Mikey feels about getting stiffed out of his money?
[… ]all he did was read your public blog aloud, and give you a bunch of free advertising. And believe me, I am sure he is NOT making money off reading your blog. In fact, he told everyone on his show about your site! If anything, he brought YOU people going to your site. I had never heard of it before. So, I really don't get why you are so pissed off. Why are you blogging if you don't want people to read it? You sound really litigious. If you are looking for deep pockets to sue, you are barking up the wrong tree. Try Rush Limbaugh! I'm sad and sorry I ever went to your site!
- Susan [S], Malloy Chat Forum moderator
Except, of course, for that part where Malloy is in point of fact making money off my intellectual property. He makes money from advertising revenue and from subscriptions to his podcast – recordings that contain my material.
As to the “free” advertising. I didn’t ask for it. I don’t need it. I’m not interested in it.
This is no different than if a sign painter put up a billboard with your name on it unsolicited, and then stopped by your house to help himself to your property as compensation. In addition to writing, I’m an artist. I work at the lathe, I turn wood into very expensive artwork. Do you think I’d be grateful if Mike Malloy walked into my studio, took one of my pieces without paying and then showed it around town, and when I protested said, “Hey, whatcha bitchin’ about? I drummed you up some business, didn’t I, you greedy fucking whore.”
You have no idea what it took to create that artwork. My dad taught me how to turn when I was kid. My dad is dead now and that memory, those skills, the reflexes in my hands are all I have of him. More than 40 years of my life have been spent in developing the skills he gave me, I’ve invested tens of thousands of dollars into the tools it takes to make my artwork, and I’ve invested hundreds of hours into the piece you stole. I’m the artist, I decide what it’s worth. A deal goes two ways, you don’t just take it and give me something I don’t want or need, something that is worthless to me in return. You took my life, asshole, I decide what that’s worth, not you. Malloy’s “exposure” is worthless to me.
I don’t need Mike Malloy, he needs me.
He didn’t serve, did he? He wasn’t sent into war on a lie, was he? His experience is what? Sitting on his flabby ass behind a microphone? No, he needed me, he needed my words, my experience, he needed me to lend validity and gravity to his message. And just like Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and all those bastards the essay was about, Mike Malloy used my experience and that of my comrades to further his own agenda – and then discarded us when he was done. To him veterans like me, we’re good for a few page hits, a bit of advertising revenue, but not worth actually paying for. Talk about a metaphor for this nation. It’s not enough we got fucked by our own government, and ass-raped by the system that was supposed to care for us when we got home, no, no, the Mike Malloys of the world see us and figure they can squeeze just few more drops of blood from our lives.
CWO Wright, thank you for saying like it is. Oooarah! Heard it on the Mike Malloy show. I posted it on my blog and I’m emailing the full text to everybody I know!
- Gus [A] and he did, post the full text on his blog.
Hi Jim: Thanks for your awesome article I have sent around on facebook and my website because it speaks the truth so many want to deny. I will catch up with you later as I am on the run. View my website to see we agree on much. One Vietnam Vet to another from Iraq, and with a perspective that shines and blazes. Peace, Love and Joy.
- Daniel C. [L], and he did, post the full text on his blog and his facebook page.
Heard it on the Mike Malloy show and if he can just use your words for nothing, guess we can too.
Peace and love, Brother, right in the ass.
Let me guess, you guys used to work for Colin Powell, didn’t you?
Mr. Wright. Heard your letter read on the Mike Malloy show. Perfect! Way to take down these criminals! I wanted you to know we printed out a thousand copies and we’re handing them out to every customer at [coffee shop] along with directions on how to get Mike’s podcast. Thank you and thanks to Mike Malloy!
- Cindi [M]
Well, ain’t that just grand?
Yeah, why don’t you just hand my essay out for free with directions on how to buy a subscription to Mike Malloy’s radio show? Sure, that’s just fucking great.
Boy, tell me again how Mikey did it for me, because I just never get tired of hearing that story.
He [Jim Wright, me] puts his thoughts out there very well. Facebook is a marketplace of ideas, passed around and shared. His thoughts got picked up. Were they attributed to him? Then I don't understand the anger. If they were not, then... what? Sue? Pitch a hissy fit? I used to enjoy SKS. It's quickly losing its appeal. And, I'm a writer.
- Nancy [R]
And I’m a writer. Really? Well then, Nancy, why don’t you write for Mike? You can do it for the exposure, that and $59.40 a year will get you a subscription to his show.
Like they say, artists tend to die of exposure – they laugh when they say it, but they’re not kidding.
Sorry you're going so deep into this. Mike Malloy and Stephanie Miller are two of the best radio hosts around. You should have been happy to have them spreading the word about you. Oh well.
- William [C]
Yeah, yeah. I'm the problem. I'm the enemy. Three days ago I was a happy Jim Wright fan, sharing his stuff and thrilled to see him get some much deserved attention. Now it's all going to go to shit. Now you folks are going to troll other people who share your views and wanted to help spread them. But I'm the problem. Enjoy!
- William [C]
William was yelling at my Facebook audience.
And yes, Bill, you are the problem.
You’re perfectly happy to get hundreds of hours of free entertainment from me, to have a place that you can comment and like minded people to associate with, a safe place that I protect – built through my efforts and my work at no expense to you. And you think I should be grateful when people steal my life? You’re right, you and people like you, you’re the problem. You’re a fucking vampire, Bill, sucking the blood out of people like me for your own nourishment and giving nothing back, expecting me to dance and caper for your entertainment without compensation.
You don’t give a damn about me, you selfish little parasite, you just want free blood and you don’t care where it comes from.
You are indeed the problem.
(William was unfriended. Friendship, at least with me, is a two way street)
I've been listening to Mike Malloy for years, off and on. Same with Stephanie Miller. I read your post, which has been everywhere, and thought it was fucking great. But to learn that you thought you should get something out of it... I've had my 15 minutes of fame. Now you've had yours, with a lot bigger splash than I had. Why I did, I was doing for my children and the children of everyone. Why did you do it? To get paid? Mike's not about the money, trust me on that. He gets fucking death threats, and he lives in Georgia to boot. Not easily scared. You took it way over the top. Say you're sorry and move on.
- Steve [V]
Oh, right. You were doing it for the children, all the little children of the world.
What about my children?
What about my children? Is my son not worth anything?
Oh, and just for the record, Steve, I get death threats too – from selfish assholes just like you. And Georgia? Really? Don’t make me laugh, Jackass, put on your big boy pants and come try Alaska sometime. Alaska? Fuck, how about you try Iraq, asshole.
You really have to love this idiot. Mike Malloy steals my material, offers me something I find utterly worthless as compensation, and I, me, I should say I’m sorry? How much you want to bet that Steve beats his wife. Smack! Why do you keep making me hit you? It’s your fault! Smack! Say you’re sorry and move on! Smack!
Seriously, fuck you, Steve.
I have a thousand more messages just like those. Hell, two thousand, I don’t know, I stopped counting.
I think it would have been easier on folks like Mike Malloy and his fan club, not to mention Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, if people like me had just gotten ourselves killed in Iraq.
Sure, it’s a whole lot easier to ass-rape a dead veteran than a live one.
We make better symbols dead, you can put whatever words you like in our mouths and you don’t have the trouble of paying for our healthcare or our talent.
You want to know the really ironic part?
You want to see naked hypocrisy?
Check this out:
All materials contained in this Site are protected by international trademark and copyright laws and must only be used for personal, non-commercial purposes. This means that you may only view or download material from this Site for your own use and you must keep all copyright and other proprietary notices attached to the downloaded material.
The reproduction, duplication, distribution (including by way of email, facsimile or other electronic means), publication, modification, copying or transmission of material from this Site is STRICTLY PROHIBITED unless you have obtained the prior written consent of MIKE MALLOY RADIO PRODUCTIONS, LLC or unless it is expressly permitted by this Site. The material covered by this prohibition includes, without limitation, any text, graphics, logos, photographs, audio or video material or stills from audiovisual material available on this Site. The use of materials from this Site on any other web site or networked computer environment is similarly prohibited.
That’s a (fair use) excerpt from the Mike Malloy Radio Productions LLC website regarding use of his intellectual property.
You can read the whole thing here and ain’t that a peach? Malloy’s material is his protected property, but mine isn’t. You need written permission to use his material, but mine you can just take without permission or compensation. Malloy demands you respect his property rights, but me? I’m a greedy mercenary whore.
I wrote Malloy, he refused to answer.
I became angry, I said so on social media. He came snooping around (and don’t pretend he didn’t, he “liked” several comments left by his cronies on my Facebook page. I can prove he was there). Eventually Malloy responded:
Well, I'll be goddamned! I read your piece on the air because it appealed to me. I decided it might appeal to others. Big fucking mistake. I had no idea you are such a mercenary, greedy type. Wow. I had no idea you are such an amateur as to bitch when someone (me) gives you publicity. Make money off what you wrote? You have to be kidding. This is where your amateurishness is so apparent. In the first place, reading a piece on the air is considered "fair use." And, um, how would I "make money?" As far as your web site and what it says there about "using" your "stuff", sorry, but I've never been to your site. A friend emailed a link from Australia. Now, take your ugly, mercenary words and go back to wherever you came from. And, strong suggestion: Back off with your threats, especially on social media. You are leaving a very public and incriminating trail. Sue me? For reading something you wrote on the air? Un-fucking-believable! Sorry I rattled your cage, JIm. My mistake. Big time. Trust me on this: you just disappeared. - MM
He took my material because it appealed to him.
Amateur bitch. Make money off what you wrote, you have to be kidding.
Funny thing about that, as the famous professional writer David Gerrold noted on my Facebook page – amateurs don’t get paid.
How would he make money? I’m guessing that would be the same way he makes money off of his broadcast every single goddamned day. Q.E.D.
Leaving aside that fact that I somehow doubt a man like this would have any friends, he claims he never heard of Stonekettle Station or what it says here about “using my stuff” (you know, exactly like it says on his site about using his stuff), he says a friend emailed him a “link.” So he read my essay and directed people to my site – now how did he do that if he didn’t know where it was? He expects others to adhere to his rules regarding his property, but doesn’t bother with finding out how I feel about my property even though he obviously knew where my site was.
Progressives like this? These are the people that give right wing extremists legitimacy – ironically the very people Mike Malloy rails against on a daily basis.
When the Tea Party and the militiamen out at the Bundy Ranch threaten to shoot down Americans over collectivism, this right here is what they are talking about, i.e. liberals and progressives like Mike Malloy who think that products of work and ideas of intellect are community property and can be confiscated without agreeable compensation and distributed freely to others – except for their own property, of course. This is exactly what the right fears, and correctly so it would seem. Quod erat demonstrandum.
When my own readers attempted to contact Malloy and complain, they received various responses:
Uh, do YOURSELF a BIG favor and get the fuck off my email. Oh, and your attempt to sound cool is way missing the bullseye. Thanks.
Are you serious? Or just another right wing head fuck? Don't answer. I don't care. Do this: Get the fuck off my email.
Mr. Malloy read and commented on some of Mr. Wright's brilliant blog post, which was forwarded to him from another listener, then praised Mr. Wright's comments on the show last night. He also urged his listeners to contact Mr. Wright at his StoneKettle site to tell him how much they appreciated his powerful, important work. Imagine the shock to then receive this response from Mr. Wright following the program last night:
"At the moment, I regard Mr. Malloy as a fucking thief and I'm considering suing his radio program into the poor house. I've sent him a message, but he hasn't responded. If any of you know this jackass personally, have him contact me. Otherwise I'm going to pull a Harlan Ellison and drop the flying monkeys on his head. I don't know Stephanie Miller either. I've never heard of her show. I never sent her a letter either. She also didn't get my permission to use my stuff. She's number two on my list. Same deal. These people are making money off of my material without so much as sending me a thank you card. This is NOT flattery, it's THEFT. Let me reiterate something here, my material is my intellectual property. This is clearly stated on my webpage. If you steal from me, I will hunt you the fuck down, flay your skin off, and wear your dead heart for a goddamned hat"
This is what provoked the email Mr. Malloy sent to Mr. Wright this morning (which was later, apparently, posted on his FB page). Was Mr. Malloy's email to Mr. Wright so outrageous, given this invective and threat he received from Mr. Wright?
Yeah, about that last one.
Notice anything funny about that?
“Imagine the shock to then receive this response from Mr. Wright following the program last night: … he hasn’t responded. If any of your know this jackass personally, have him contact me…”
Now ask yourself something, if I sent that to Malloy, then why would I say “he hasn’t responded. If any of your know this jackass…”
That quote was taken from my Facebook page, not from any message sent to Malloy.
Yes, that is correct, Malloy’s response to complaints that he stole material from me and then acted like a jackass … was to steal one of my Facebook posts as justification.
Make of that what you will.
As I said on Facebook, frankly it just doesn't leave me feeling very motivated.
This was never about the money.
I give away my stuff to my readers, to the community I have created, for my own reasons. But those words are still mine, no different than if I gifted my friends with the artwork from my woodshop.
The last three things I’ve written went viral, what if the next one does too?
Is this what I have to look forward to? Theft? Hate? Hypocrisy? It’s bad enough I get that from the rightwing nuts and the Tea Party cranks and the Sarah Palin worshippers. Now I have to watch out for the progressives and the liberals too?
It’s getting so that I can’t tell the right wing haters from the left.
I’m not welcome on the left. I for damned sure don’t belong on the right. And I don’t fit into the middle. I have become an alien in my own land, a stranger to the country I fought for, and I look around and realize that I am not alone in this.
I wonder, you know, maybe I should have just stayed in the business of killing people, maybe I should have just stayed in Iraq.
At least there I knew who the enemy was.