A Quote from Kurt Vonnegut’s “Breakfast of Champions”

by on July 8, 2011 | posted in SEO Theory

Breakfast of Champions is a satire about America, describing, from a I’m-not-from-the-Earth point of view, what we’re all about. The following is a passage describing a science fiction book written by a prominent character in the story, Kilgore Trout.

And here, according to Trout, was the reason human beings could not reject ideas because they were bad: “Ideas on Earth were badges on friendship or enmity. Their content did not matter. Friends agreed with friends, in order to express friendliness. Enemies disagreed with enemies, in order to express enmity.

“The ideas Earthlings held didn’t matter for hundreds of thousands of years, since they couldn’t do much about them anyway. Ideas might as well be badges as anything.

“They even had a saying about the futility of ideas: ‘If wishes were horses, begars would ride.’

“And then Earthlings discovered tools. Suddenly agreeing with friends could be a form of suicide or worse. But agreements went on, not for the sake of common decency or self-preservation, but for friendliness.

“Earthlings went on being friendly, when they should have been thinking instead. And when they built computers to do some thinking for them, they designed them so much for wisdom as for friendliness. So they were doomed. Homicidal beggars could ride.”

This reminds me so brilliantly of the Twitter positivity ecochamber we so frequently see. Why it makes me throw up a little in my mouth when I see some influential person only tweet out the posts of their closest five circle of friends or otherwise, business, independent of the quality of their content.

Why it equally makes me bitter when I view the negative left who form the other side of the coin, ranting with negativity over and over on SEOMoz, Google or otherwise without ever offering a positive opinion on something great they might do. And it goes on – forever. Or at least until a new pessimist is born to take their place.

Friends agree with friends, in order to express friendliness.

Enemies disagree with enemies, in order to express enmity.

So it goes.

  • http://www.northumbria-byways.com Colin

    Hello Ross,
    I also find it interesting to see the way the larger firms are now recruiting and what they ask for.

    Show your

    1.Twitter followers
    2.Face Book
    3. 10 Great things you have done.
    4.Cool code you have written
    and so on.

    It is becoming increasingly rare to find any voices who are saying something unusual and who are also worthy of reading. It’s not always easy to understand what they say, but their uniqueness makes them valuable. For instance Michael Martinez, I forget how many years now I have read his articles, I still don’t fully understand all he says, but I can guarantee that I will remember what he says a lot longer than most of the saccharine sweet blogs around.


    • Ross Hudgens

      Michael stands out for his brash and intelligent opinions, but he is one of the negative bloggers I talk about whose harsh and negative voice, always, makes me take him less seriously. If he offered an equal (or even 30/70) blend of positive and negative posts, I would find the negative points more wortwhile to ingest, and also, easier to take in.

      The positivity echochamber can get old, but the negativity side gets old much, much quicker. When anyone exists on one side of the 1 or 0 dichotomy, it is that dichotomy that will inform biases that seep into their posts – which will then be harmful to those that read them.

      • Sharif

        Disagree here about the positive / negative dichotomy. Michael Martinez’s posts aren’t happy clappy, but there’s enough humour and positivity, to go with the intelligence, if you’re willing to look. He just has his own personal style.

        I also don’t buy that any perceived negativity in his posts will be ‘harmful those who read them’. Depends on the reader, surely. For example there are some aspects of your output I dislike, but I still find your thoughts on search intriguing enough to read. Give people a bit more credit to make up their own minds.

        Lastly, you’re not forced to read the (really) negative stuff out there – from either left OR right. Just filter it out, and get on with things.

  • http://twitter.com/anthonydnelson anthonydnelson

    I would have unsubscribed from your blog RSS if you ended this post with something other than “So it goes.”

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