The Dad bloggers are squabbling. Men who write about teaching their children to play nicely with others and to say only nice things or nothing at all, are going at each other lately like kids on a playground.
Put it another way, they are arguing over whose (audience) is bigger.
For two years it has been some version of the following:
Dan Pearce, whose blog Single Dad Laughing is one of the most trafficked on the web, writes something that includes many allusions to how popular he is. A cluster of other bloggers, led by Andy Hines, of Beta Dad, and Jason Avant, of DadCentric, describe Pearce as self-aggrandizing, not exactly factual, and worse. Many blog posts result. Much web traffic is produced.
Then, a few months later they begin again.
Here are a few of the highlights over the two years since most of these men have started blogging:
THE GREAT WATER BOTTLE SCANDAL OF 2010
One of Pearce's first viral posts was about him stopping on a busy highway to help two women who had been in a fender bender. At the time, he wrote:
It took emergency units more than fifteen minutes to get there, and when the first responder finally arrived, I was still the only person standing with these women. The only damn person. I bet more than 5,000 vehicles passed the wreckage in that short amount of time (it was a busy stretch of the interstate). Almost every one of them slowed down to sneak a peak. An incredibly small handful of them stopped. Only one person stayed (me).
Hinds responded by virtually spatting all over his screen.
"He gave some ladies some water, then spent ten hours writing about how awesome he is!," he wrote. "It's nice that he gave them water, but he didn't actually save their lives. The other cars didn't stop because they saw that someone was already there!)"
Hinds mostly objected, though, to the photo that ran with the piece. By Hinds' description it showed Pearce, "collar turned up against the wind and look of grim determination on his face, walking down the breakdown lane, a semi whizzing by, with bottles of water in either hand." Which led Hinds to the question: Who took the picture? Did he ask the poor traumatized accident victims to take some shots? Did he whip out his tripod? Aaaaaaarrrrgghh!"
Pearce answered, that no, "It wasn't taken at the scene, and in fact was taken 15 miles away two days later. [...] The post was in no way meant to show "heroism" (there was absolutely nothing heroic about it). Only to show that one person can make a difference when thousands of others aren't doing anything at all."
THE GREAT HOMOSEXUALITY DEBATE OF 2012
First Pearce wrote a post called "I'm Christian, unless You're Gay",which was a plea for tolerance. Then, in April of this year, he wrote a follow-up titled "A Teen's Brave Response to 'I'm Christian, unless You're Gay." It was about a young man who was given the original blog post to read as a class assignment, and whose Fundamentalist mother was outraged that her son was writing an essay about such blasphemy. Then the son showed her his essay, which was about the fact that he himself was gay, and the mother had a sudden revelation that she must accept her son and fight bigotry and homophobia.
Hinds responded with a post titled "Is Single Dad Laughing's 'A Teen's Brave Response' Story A Hoax? Does It Matter?" In it he described his reaction to the piece.
Seriously? An anonymous email that paints Dan as savior and superhero? A teacher in a small conservative town who assigns a pro-gay blog post as class reading? A lifelong fire-and-brimstone bible-thumper who is converted by a single Single Dad Laughing post? Now who could have dreamed this one up?" (It was Dan. Dan dreamed it up. That's what I was thinking, in case I wasn't clear just now.)
Hinds was not the only one asking these questions.The Daily Beast had posed the same ones. As writer Jesse Singal wrote:
My first instinct: bullshit. The whole thing just read too clean, too easy. Are we really to believe that a woman with deeply-held ultra-conservative Christian beliefs (she wanted the gays shipped off to their own private island!) found out her son was gay, read a single blog post by a tolerant author, and voila? It took her less time to see the light than it would've to watch a couple reruns of "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy."
Pearce said the story was told to him in an untraceable email. Maybe the writer made it up, he said, but he certainly did not. Then he wrote a post titled "How Beta Dad and DadCentric Are Ruining Dad Blogging" and accused those who aren't him of being jealous:
My blog did go big for some reason, I still don't know why. And it did so in a hurry. Within four months of starting it, it was by far the most heavily trafficked personal dad blog on the internet and it's never really taken a step back from that.
When my blog first went viral, subscribers were signing up not just by the hundreds or thousands, but by the tens of thousands. This really upset Beta Dad who started his blog just a few months before I started mine.
He went on to explain that the jealousy had become toxic, infesting the dad blog world like a bad case of crabs. (The other kind.)
I have come to believe that the dad blogging world is like that proverbial basket full of crabs. Before any of them can escape, the other crabs drag them down and "keep them in their place."
I'm sure many all-star dad bloggers could have risen to be big bloggers by now. I'm also 100% sure that any dad blogger who has seen any momentum had to face the wrath of dad bloggers like Beta Dad and others at Dad Centric who will never be happy with the success of anyone but themselves. They will always grab the legs of the crabs above them and try to bring them back down.
THE SPRING PRESS RELEASE WAR
The following was released over PR Web on June 27. Pearce had contracted with a PR company, paying them about $90 to issue 24 press advisories and place them on various websites and newswires. This was the first, and it read:
Search and Rescue crews were called-in Sunday after famed blogger Dan Pearce of the blog Single Dad Laughing became immobilized and delirious during a strenuous hike to the top of a mountain near his Utah home.
When asked what he could have done differently, he replied, "I can think of a hundred things I could have done better. I felt well-prepared going into it. I hike a lot, just about every week. But sometimes things just happen that are out of your control."
He then added, "I can't wait to get back up there. I'm going to conquer that mountain. I'm not going to let it conquer me."
Pearce uses the pen name "Single Dad Laughing" and according to his website (danoah.com) has more than 130,000 subscribed followers. He started his blog less than two years ago and has become well-known for his intensely worded and controversial opinion pieces as well as his humorous musings about life and fatherhood.
The Dad bloggers kept fairly quiet in response to this one, but Mom blogger Kristen Howerton, of Rage Against The Minivan stepped in:
Kristen Howerton, famed blogger at Rage Against the Minivan, was spending the day at Disney's Epcot theme park with her family, following the Disney Social Media Moms conference in Orlando, FL. Howerton, a wildly popular blogger named one of the top 100 in the "Funniest Adoption Bloggers of Orange County" by Circle of Moms, was enjoying the day with her husband and four small children when things went awry.
Howerton, a renowned blogger with astronomical monthly pageviews, entered the line for the ride with her two sons, Kembe, age 5, and Jafta, age 7. She noted that there were signs indicating that people who suffer from motion sickness should take caution and enter the YELLOW line instead of the more intense GREEN line. Being concerned about her history with public vomiting at amusement parks, Kristen decided to play it safe and entered the YELLOW line. "It was pretty lame," says her son Jafta. "We really wanted to do the GREEN line. I just wish dad had taken us."
THE BABBLE ATTACK AND RETREAT
Early last week, Pearce, who writes for Babble as well as for his own blog, posted an essay titled "Loved and Hated for the Exact Same Reason", Pearce concluded that the reason he was disliked was because he dared to properly promote himself. What he saw as marketing, he said, others saw as "breaking the rules."
to market yourself (or your product or your business) you have to tout yourself. That's what marketing is. No company convinces people to check out its product by saying "my product is okay." Instead, they get people to look at their product by saying, "my product is unique, it's awesome, it's worth looking at, and it has value."
In many of my marketing strategies, I have called Single Dad Laughing famous, popular, or renowned. This has also gotten flack. But let me ask you honestly a few questions. One, have you ever heard me use these phrases outside of marketing? Two, are any of them not true?
As it turned out, quite a number of Babble respondents didn't think that any of those were true.
And in the comments section Katherine Stone, another Babble writer, raised this point.
"One of the best life lessons I ever learned was this: 'If you meet more than three a**holes in a day, you need to take a look in the mirror.' I live in the blogging world now, and for the most part I think it's the most wonderful group of people I've ever met. I'm not sure how you've come to have this feud with some of the dad blogging world, but it might be helpful to try and focus less on what everyone else is doing and more on examining what you may have done to contribute to this situation."
Pearce described her words as a revelation. In a mea culpa the next day he agreed that he had been "self-serving and self-aggrandizing from time to time." Maybe he had deserved two years of mockery and doubt, he wrote:
In the end, it is I who feels intensely inferior to others, not the other way around. It always has been that way. And it always will be that way until I own that.
To all you other parent bloggers, I am sorry for the times I've done these things. I have no excuses. Just some things to think about as I move into my third year of Single Dad Laughing.
Today is the last day of my second year blogging. Maybe year three will be a fresh start for me. Maybe I'll end it with more friends than enemies in the blogging world. Maybe it's too late for that.
I hope not.
And is this the last of the battles?
I think not.
Hinds calls it lying; Pearce calls it being creative. They have been disagreeing for nearly all of the two years they have both been blogging, and they will likely do so until their children are grown and they can't be dad bloggers anymore.
Their rivalry -- all rivalries -- reflect the growth of the sport. Mom bloggers have been sniping at each other for years. Critics of the two most popular -- Dooce and Pioneer Woman, have created entire websites dedicated to pointing out those women's flaws. Gossip, historian Phyllis Rose once wrote, is society's ways of establishing norms. We talk about other people and that teaches us where the lines are for ourselves.
Through that lens, the squabbling is doesn't mark the disintegration of the dad blog genre, but its strength. As Catherine Connors, a former professor of philosophy who blogs at Her Bad Mother wrote when the penultimate skirmish began: "You guys! You have a controversy! You've arrived! AGAIN!"