Lessons learned from the FM website project after 14 years and 4,000 posts

Here are the big lessons I have learned from ten thousand hours working on the FM website project, 14 years writing 4,000 posts and answering 50,000 comments. These posts got eight million pageviews.

Some of these posts were forecasts. Most of them were nowcasts (much easier to do than making accurate predictions), analysis of current events drawing different conclusions than the consensus shown in the news media. My first two articles set the pattern — in September 2003 disputing the stories about our victory in Iraq and in October 2003 disputing stories of our victory in Afghanistan. My track record is quite good — see some of the hits and the misses.

Looking back, I am astonished at how simple and even obvious were most of my observations. And how unpopular. Probably 90% of the comments disagree with my conclusions — usually vehemently. These were written by intelligent and well-educated readers in the grip of delusions fed by the news media.

These consensus delusions were even more evident in responses to the more important FM nowcasts. Top of the list is Forecast: Death of the American Constitution, posted on 4 July 2006. I am sure that yesterday’s post will go on that list: For Father’s Day: revolutionary words that will forever change the American family (with its mind-blowing content). These show another fascinating pattern: the important posts get below-average views. Perhaps they are too disturbing? Perhaps we prefer the familiar narratives fed us by the news media, no matter how bogus?

In terms of utility, I put the posts discussing ways to reform America at the top of the list. The internet overflows with warnings and whinings, but little advice what you and I can do to improve America’s future. These are non-partisan. Left or Right, I do not care. These posts give operational suggestions. There are two themes. First, that we need to love the truth more than comforting fiction. Be skeptical!  Second, that we need to assume responsibility for America — see ourselves as it crew, not passengers whining about the service.

The comments show that both themes are deeply unpopular. Which is why I believe reform remains unlikely in America for the foreseeable future — until some future day when we more clearly see the world and realize that we are the weak link in the Republic. The political machinery bequeathed us by the Founders remains idle but still powerful. It needs only our energy to power it.

Thanks for the people who made this possible

Chet and Ginger built the FM website and gave invaluable advice that made it possible. Thousands of commenters kept the quality of the content high, discovering lapses of logic and factual errors (and countless typos).

Another small group provided invaluable aid.  American websites thrive by supporting tribes. Hence their comment threads are usually echo chambers, dominated by confirmation bias and epistemic closure. A few people reposted or linked to articles from the FM website — although they contradicted their tribe’s views. My conversations at their comment threads — mostly defending against brutal criticism — taught me much. I am grateful to these editors, showing a greatness of vision rare but much needed these days: Dave Dilegge at the Small Wars Council, Yves Smith and Lambert Strether at Naked Capitalism, and Anthony Watts at Watts Up With That.

Share your reactions and suggestions in the comments

Has the FM website been effective? How can the FM website improve?

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19 thoughts on “Lessons learned from the FM website project after 14 years and 4,000 posts”

  1. If you’re interested in the real issues facing our country, this should be one of your top sites. You’ll hate much of what you read wherever you are on the ideological spectrum, but the author’s goal is to make you think, not to agree. That’s pretty rare these days.

  2. Thank you all your efforts and for you insights. I enjoy reading “Fabius Maximus” and have found much to like and to think about. Your work is appreciated

  3. Fabius is a great site with real, insiteful commentary on a variety of topics and refreshingly little political bias.

    I’ve shared articles posted here with many friends and associates. Really appreciate the diligent work of the editiors in finding worthwhile content almost every day.

    thank you!

  4. I love the elements of critical thinking and surprise in your commentary. It took me a while to get comfortable with your style; now, I look forward to every post. Thanks for giving credit to Naked Capitalism and Yves Smith and Lambert, two more of my “must reads.”

  5. FM,
    I certainly agree with the poster above that your site is greatly appreciated. You have provided many thought-provoking subjects, and expressed many useful insights on those subjects. Lots of your commenters (perhaps only a few dozen – you know who you are) have also expressed good ideas, such as Obe did on the last post. Your replies often add clarity and context. Sorry you’ve had to put up with trolls and less-than-accurate, but real, tribal perceptions. Effective? Yes. Improvements? None, but hope you can continue because our society needs discussions about ways to re-ignite our spirit..
    Mike Burski

  6. I discovered FM through someone on Twitter, whom I can’t recall. The first few times I encountered one of your articles, I wasn’t quite sure where you were on issues. I think I encountered one of your articles about feminism first and kind of wrote you off as one of those manosphere weirdoes. But I kept seeing your content pop up here and there on social media. I decided to try to figure out just what your angle was and took a deeper dive into your archives…and I’ve been a daily reader ever since.

    Your analysis and counterpoints to the mainstream narrative are always thought-provoking and clever. I hope FM continues for many more years, but I especially hope that we as a society heed your message of reform. Thank you!

  7. The highest praise that I can give is that you are all honest thinkers looking for the truth. Even if I disagree with what you say, I know that is an honest disagreement. Since, people are mentioning how they found you. I was searching around for information on John Boyd and this site popped up.

  8. Thanks for all the hard work that you do on this website. I came across it a few years ago and it is one of my daily reads. Thinking is hard – challenging our presuppositions and conclusions takes energy and is painful. The information and format that you provide on this site is very much appreciated.

  9. FM,

    I truly appreciate all of the time, energy and effort it takes to maintain such a great web-site. I only read a few web-sites and publications daily and FM is one of those. I have learned so much and it has opened my eyes to many ideas and topics that otherwise I would have never thought about. As my spiritual mentor Huston Smith said, “It is easy to give a simple answer. It is hard to give a good one.”

    “Helping to re-ignite the spirit of a nation grown cold.”

    What could be more important than that?

    Keep up the great work.

    Save the willing first,


    1. Jim,

      Thank you for the feedback. It’s always appreciate, good or ill.

      “Save the willing first,”

      That’s a powerful and interesting thought. Unfortunately, America is like a ship. We all sink or sail together. We need to think more like crew than passengers (criticizing less than our awesomeness deserves).

  10. Dear Fabius Maximus,

    This is my first post on your blog, but not my first time visiting it. I am trying to remember how I came across this brilliant and incisive website, but it was sometime in the past two years. I have since become a regular reader and sharer of your stories. While I don’t always agree 100% with your perspective, I do value having my own perspective challenged on a regular basis and have learned much in reading your posts. My only feedback to how you could improve the website would be, “Keep up the great work!”.



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