The voting was tight, but the judges were fair. There were no hanging chads and no spoiled ballots. In honor of the site’s first birthday, here are the posts that got the most readers over the past year. A few of them still have me scratching my head.
‘I’m just quitting’: A scene right out of ‘Atlas Shrugged’ in Birmingham — The most popular story on the site in the first year was read more than 50,000 times. When I started, I wasn’t sure I’d have 50,000 views for the entire year put together, so this was gratifying. I happened to attend a public hearing about environmental issues, because I was doing some research that I didn’t think would turn into a story. But I wasn’t counting on an angry coal mine operator to tell the environmental officials that he wasn’t going to open a mine he had planned — because of the attitudes he saw in the meeting that made him believe people didn’t want him. The comments posted after the story are amazing and heartbreaking in some cases, as people give their own stories about having businesses hurt by the government.
The story was picked up by Instapundit, The Blaze, Free Republic, Fark, Reddit and dozens of other sites. For a few days, it was viral. This one story contributed hugely to increasing overall daily traffic on the site immensely. (Here’s an interview that a radio station in Indianapolis did with me about the story. I wasn’t happy with the interview, but it was my first radio appearance in years, so I wasn’t too upset.)
Does this woman have the right to eat herself to death? Yes, she does — The second most popular story is one that I never quite understood. It’s a story I almost didn’t do, because … well … it’s a stretch to turn it into something appropriate for the site. It was just too interesting for me to leave it alone. It was popular at the time, but it’s had an especially strong life since then. People seem to frequently find it by searching for things such as “world’s most fat woman.” I can’t say it’s a story I’m especially proud of. It was just something fun. You never know when people are going to latch onto a story.
Why do you need a license? It’s time for separation of marriage and state — This story was just last week, but it’s already become hugely popular. Traffic was so heavy for a few days that my readership for May had already equalled the April numbers by May 10. The last time I checked, this story had been shared on Facebook more than 3,400 times. The irony is that it almost wasn’t a standalone story. I had intended it to be a short item as part of a “Notebook” article. The things I was saying seemed so obvious that there didn’t seem to be a lot to say. But it got too long to be part of a Notebook story, so I found some artwork and turned it into a standalone piece just a few minutes before it was published. That was a lucky decision.
Wishful thinking: Why Ron Paul can’t (and won’t) be elected president — People searching for opinions about whether Ron Paul can win seem to be the ones who keep reading this article. I didn’t make a lot of Paul supporters happy when I wrote it, so I don’t it’s especially popular with them, but it’s one of several articles in which I explained why neither Paul nor any libertarian can be elected president. If people choose to continue to believe in the fantasy that he can — and waste their money, time and energy on the battle — that’s their business. But he’s not going to be elected president — because people don’t want anything similar to what we want.
Ugly people sue modeling industry alleging unlawful discrimination — I can’t remember what prompted this, but it’s a satire of modern discrimination lawsuits. An association representing ugly people seems to have sued the modeling industry over its preference for attractive people. It’s been one that has continued to get links months later.
Reality check: A stupid racial prank isn’t ‘the worst thing anybody can do’ — When I did this story, I didn’t yet have the monkeys doing daily news links. If I had, it might have just been a link. But it was a standalone story about a fairly minor story from New Jersey about someone putting a prank sign up in front of some apartments owned by a black couple saying, “Whites only parking.” It was stupid for someone to do, but political correctness was leading to bizarre overreaction on the part of local officials. The woman who owned the apartments was nice enough to offer her perspective in the comments.
What’s this site all about? — This was the article from the very first week in which I tried to explain my intentions for the site. I haven’t read it in close to a year, so it’s possible that I’d modify it a bit now. I’ll have to read it sometime and see. I left a link to it on the front page so readers would have a quick way of finding out what the site’s intention is.
To become a ‘runaway slave,’ you first have to free your own thoughts — I think this was one of the first articles in which I explored the theme that we’re slaves who need to understand that we’re in captivity. Until we understand our situation — and understand that we have the right to be free — nothing is going to change. This approach really resonated with some people, but was very confusing to others. If it resonates with you, we’re probably of the same “tribe.”
Shared misery: Nobody can have air conditioning unless everyone can — A friend of mine was applying to admission at a prestigious East Coast college and he related to me his experience when visiting the place. Some of the dorms have air conditioning, but the older ones don’t. The university administration won’t allow any of the dorms to use their air conditioners — until all of the dorms are air conditioned. It’s a perfect example of the modern progressive left mindset in education.
Be very afraid of men (or women) who question your patriotism — I never expect a story rooted in history to be very popular, but this one turned out to catch people’s attention. It’s about comments made by Hermann Goering while he was in prison after World War II. He understood how was was used by governments to control people. When I first read the quote from Goering that led to the story, I thought it must be faked, but it turned out to be true. It’s a perfect illustration of how patriotism is used today to control people.
NEWS LINKS: Obama signs bill allowing military arrest without trial — It was a shock for this to make the top dozen. It’s just a daily news links collection, but it was popular because a lot of people seemed to be searching for information about the NDAA bill and this happened to be the day the monkeys mentioned it was signed. So I might have had 11 or the top dozen articles, but the monkeys beat me for this spot.
Libertarian freedom vs. conservative tradition leads to culture clash — There are some stories that I write quickly without a lot of thought, but this one was just the opposite. It might even be too long, but I cut it a lot to get it as short as it is. I heard a podcast of a debate between libertarian and conservative interns from the Cato Institute and the Heritage Foundation. As I listened, I found myself thinking that the differences between them weren’t really intellectual as much as cultural. It got me to thinking about the small conservative town where I went to high school — and how I never fit with the culture there. I drove up to the town and spent some time looking around and thinking about the tensions between freedom and tradition. I think the idea at the heart of the story is an important one.
So those are the most popular stories from the first year. I never dreamed I would have this many readers by the end of the first year. It’s been a pleasant surprise. I’ve had to learn a lot about what people are interested in — and what they’re not interested in. I keep trying to adjust to give readers more of what they want. We’ll see if I do a better job in Year 2.