The Bitches Get Riches Brand Promise: Social Media, Plagiarism, and AI in an Age of Exploitation

“You know how we joke about our ‘brand promise’?” I say to Jess in our weekly meeting.

“You mean our guaranteed minimum of dick jokes? Naturally! Why?”

“I’m thinking of finally writing a real one.”

“Oh, like a sentence or two in the sidebar?”

I make a face. My coblogger regards me with the abrupt suspicion of a dog owner whose faithful friend is chewing on an item of unknown provenance. “How long is it?”

“Kinda long…” I concede, a bad dog chewing faster.

She sighs. “I look forward to reading it.” This is what she says when she’s resigned to receiving an eleventy-thousand-word shitstorm that defies editing for clarity and brevity, delivered the morning we’re supposed to publish. And like X, I’m gon’ to give it to her.

Lately my brain has been leaking big, scary thoughts about the nature of the work we do here. Conversations about AI, plagiarism, social media, and the value of creative labor swirl through my head. I try keeping these thoughts where they belong: in the shower. But sometimes they escape and bully their way to my word processor.

Today, I want to spell out the real Bitches Get Riches promise. To make specific promises, and to explain why they’re so important. Because I want you to know me—and because I want you to know what you can (and cannot) expect from “content creators” in this time so fraught with artifice and greed.

It’s a little different from our usual. Indulge me, and I’ll strive to reward you for your patience.

Bitches Get Riches Brand Promise #1:
We promise to never pretend some else’s idea is our own

That’s right! We think all of our own thoughts! Artisanal thoughts only, chef.

Recently I was talking with a friend about a subset of old men—the guys so cared for by mothers and wives that they lack shockingly basic life skills. It made me think of a video where an older woman “showed her husband places he’s never seen.” Boomer punchline: it’s their dishwasher, vacuum, linen closet… you get it. But the clever part was that she physically held him, as a mother would a child peeking over a zoo fence at fascinating but unsafe animals. And I thought that was charming.

So I looked up the video to show my friend, and found…

They're all the same. Literally. All the fucking same.

Dozens of copycats. Many with minor variations on the joke, but some identical right down to the music.

I know these creators would probably say “It’s a trend, that’s how it works!” Fine. But the “share” button is right there. All of these people saw an idea, had the opportunity to redistribute it, and instead chose to recreate it. And I couldn’t find a single case where a “creator” attributed inspiration for the trend to anyone else. Which begs: How is that not theft?

We promise to never take someone’s ideas and represent them as our own. (Just thinking it makes me flush with embarrassment.) Occasionally, when another’s content inspires us, we promise to always attribute and link—and proceed only if our take is meaningfully expansive or different.

Why we care about attribution

Obviously, this example is low-stakes. But a broken supply chain of ideas can become dangerous and unjust.

How do you vet a source or root out misinformation when there’s no origin cited? How do you find talent when it hides behind so much imitation? And crucially—who’s getting paid? Because a lot of idea thieves appear as idly rich and gorgeous babes with 20 million followers, who I assume were already doing Just Fine™.

You’ve heard us say the most common theft in America isn’t shoplifting, muggings, carjackings, or home invasions. It’s wage theft, by a fuckin’ country mile.

Our culture evolved to protect business enterprises and their capital, not labor. Wage theft is so poorly understood, under-reported, and rarely resolved that most can’t even tell when it’s happening to them, let alone redress it. Think of the infrastructure that exists to prevent burglaries: security guards, steel doors, armored trucks, doorbell cameras, locks, fences… Now think of how little infrastructure there is to deter wage theft. That imbalance lays bare our society’s priorities, doesn’t it?

It isn’t a leap to connect one kind of labor devaluation to another. Copying ideas without attribution discourages creativity, devalues the labor of artists we employ, and thins the soup of our culture with the tasteless water of unoriginality.

It’s also very boring to make! I’m willing to testify to this before Congress, having traced a lot of shit in grade school.

Bitches Get Riches Brand Promise #2:
If our name is on it, it means we made it

Our industry is infested with uncredited ghostwriters. Wanna know how I know?

I get daily emails begging to write for BGR. Half are brands who want to pay for good press; half are aspiring writers who want us to pay them. Our contact page clearly states we don’t do guest posts, and routes requests to an email that auto-deletes them. Yet I still have 77 sitting in my inbox.

That’s how I know a good chunk of my peers use ghostwriters. With a cottage industry that tenacious, business is booming somewhere.

Obviously, we respect those who hustle. (It that’s you, I wish you nothing but luck. The world needs your words, and you deserve acknowledgement. But srsly pls stop emailing me.) My problem is with the established writers and influencers who hire them… and pretend they don’t.

We promise if our name is on it, we really wrote it. There’s over a million words of free advice on BGR. Every one was written by Jess or myself. The only exception that comes to mind is podcast transcriptions, created by Purple (who volunteered for season one) and our producer Ducky (who was paid for all subsequent seasons, thanks to our Patreon).

This is also true across social media and any other way you might get in touch with us.

Why we insist on a personal connection to readers

A lot of what we write is stupid lighthearted! But like clowns in a Shakespearean play, we get away with Real Shit. We’re proud that we tackle difficult subjects as often as we can stomach. We may have to dump jokes in as one dumps parmesan and red pepper flakes onto hopelessly bad pizza… but they get written.

We can’t lose sight of the stakes these topics represent in real human lives. Money is a factor in so many of life’s worst tragedies: unhappiness, burnout, divorce, illness, incarceration, and death. It’s the #1 cause of stress and the #1 tool abusers use against their victims. We can’t overstate the power its presence or absence has over a person.

Readers often write to us feeling confused, angry, and hopeless. Divulging that fear and pain is an act of trust we take more seriously than you can know. We can’t fix everybody’s problems—but we sure fucking try!

Respectfully, people who employ uncredited ghostwriters must have other priorities. Maybe writing just ain’t their strong suit, and they genuinely think it’s better to outsource to a professional wordsmith. Maybe they’re jerks who want to make a quick buck and don’t care how! Either way, we decided long ago that our voices are the rock upon which we built this church. And that’ll never change.

Getting paid to let someone imitate my voice would really free me up to focus on masturbating and video games. But it would deprive me of the sense of purpose I get from helping people who need help. I just can’t make that trade.

Bitches Get Riches Brand Promise #3:
Nothing on this site is written by ghostwriters, sponsors, or AI

We have reasons to reject (human) ghostwriters beyond narcissism. If somebody hands me an article—how do I know it’s accurate? Original? Properly cited and sourced? Vetting is boring. In the time it takes me, I could’ve written the article myself and filled it with tangents on why Speed Racer (2008) is the most underrated film of the century.

These drawbacks apply to AI tenfold.

Ugh. I don’t wanna talk about AI. If I crumpled all the handwringing AI panic articles I’ve read this year into a ball and tossed that ball into the air, it would achieve orbit. I’d christen this second moon Talos and feel super smug about it!

… But I have to talk about AI, because AI is already talking about me.

If you ask ChatGPT to “write an article in the style of Bitches Get Riches,” you’ll get a result that pretty successfully mimics our style. It’s shallow, yes. But it clearly understands what you’re asking for, and doesn’t hesitate to give it to you. From this moment on, spotting fakes will only get harder.

We promise to never use AI as a writing tool. This is for all the same reasons we won’t use ghostwriters. But most importantly, it’s because AI is fundamentally less trustworthy and less ethical.

Why we’re against AI as a writing tool

Sophisticated AI tools like ChatGPT are the result of systemic, shameless theft of intellectual property and creative labor on a massive scale. These companies have mined the data of human genius… without permission. They have no intention of acknowledging their stolen sources, let alone paying the creators.

The tech industry’s defense is “Well, we stole so much from so many that it kinda doesn’t count, wouldn’t ya say?” Which is an argument that makes me feel like the mayor of Crazytown. I don’t doubt the courts will rule in their favor, not because it’s right, but because the opportunities for wealth generation are too succulent to let a lil’ thang like fairness win.

I’m not a luddite. I recognize that AI feels like magic to people who aren’t strong writers. I’d feel differently if the technology was achieved without the theft of my work. Couldn’t these tools have been made using legally obtained materials? Ah, but then they wouldn’t have been first to market! Think of the shareholders!

We’re lucky to have the ability and will to write. We won’t willingly use tools that devalue that skill. At most, I could see us using AI to assist with specific, narrow tasks like transcribing interview audio into text.

At a recent industry meetup, I listened as two personal finance gurus gushed about how easy AI made their lives. “All my newsletters and blogs are AI now! I add my own touches here and there—but it does 95% of the work!” Must be nice, I whispered to the empty void where my faith in mankind once dwelt, fingernails digging into my palms. It’s tough knowing I’m one of the myriad voices “streamlining their production.”

I feel strongly that every content creator who uses AI has a minimum duty to acknowledge it. Few will. It sucks. I’m frothing. Let’s move on.

Bitches Get Riches Brand Promise #4:
Any assistance we get comes from humans who are treated kindly, credited, and compensated

This is more of a management philosophy for Jess and I. “Be the change you want to see” means building a company where nobody fantasizes about pushing us down the stairs.

That’s why we promise to never pretend we do all this ourselves. Part of it is fairness to our staff. They deserve recognition for their valuable contributions. And frankly, they eat before we do. So although I tend to derail our production meetings with comments like “It looks like I’m wearing underwear, but I swear they’re just slutty shorts,” I think I’m doing ok as a boss!

But there’s another reason. I call it the myth of Special People.

Normal People struggle to wake up, make rent, and keep ONE (1) succulent alive. But there are other people out there—Special People. They rise at 4 a.m. in their minimalist mansion to meditate and work out before driving unpronounceable sports cars into the boardroom (or recording studio, or sports arena) to further revolutionize life as we know it. And you get to hear all about it because they have time to describe it in their podcasts, TEDTalks, and audiobooks. When interviewed, they concede that it’s hard to make time for their children and supermodel spouse, but they manage because family is so important, yknow?

Special People are hiding one of two terrible secrets:

  1. That work is getting done by others.
  2. That work is not getting done at all.

The myth of Special People really disturbs us because they’re fundamentally insecure (and constantly comparing your sad little private self to your lionized public image only further entrenches those fears).

What happens when we believe in the myth of Special People

Many giving and talented people never get recognition for their work. And the consumers of Special People content—the Normal People—compare themselves to a false paragon of productivity, and learn to hate themselves. Literally nobody wins here.

This has been on my mind ever since watching Plagiarism and You(Tube). It’s an epic callout of a few notable YouTubers for egregious plagiarism. Hbomberguy’s meticulous approach proves beyond doubt the plagiarism was intentional, systemic, yet also boldly obvious and sloppy. Twenty million people watched, and I’d like to think it’s not just for the drama. (Though the drama is delicious—the Popeye’s Spicy Chicken Sandwich of YouTube drama, with a six-pack of hot biscuits and honey.)

James Somerton, one of the plagiarists covered in Hbomberguy’s video, is a great example of how damaging this myth can become, even when it exists on a fairly small scale.

Somerton’s fans believed that he…

  • recorded and edited long-form video essays every week, and…
  • performed hours of media consumption and academic research, and…
  • hosted a weekly podcast, and…
  • was active on Twitter, Discord, and Patreon, and…
  • live-streamed on Twitch, and…
  • was working on writing books and film scripts, and…
  • was producing multiple whole-ass films, and…
  • was a full-time caregiver for a sick parent.

That’s far more than anyone can do. But we’ve been acclimated to the myth of Special People. Anyone with experience in these fields could look at this list and guess that he was either massively assisted by others, or cutting hella corners. In Somerton’s case, it was the latter. He plagiarized scripts, fudged research, and never delivered on the film production work his fans funded.

But because his fans believed he was one of the Special People, they championed him to the further detriment of all the writers whose words and ideas he stole. Some fans disbelieved and even bullied his victims when they came forward. What a senseless and ironic tragedy.

This is why Jess and I are emphatically not interested in crafting this kind of illusion. If we did, we’d only hurt ourselves, our readers, and the broader community.

Bitches Get Riches Brand Promise #5:
We only sell stuff we wish we could’ve bought years ago.

We hate selling stuff. We’re also bad at it. Just so… so bad.

This is unfortunate, because Jess and I need to make money to keep doing Bitches Get Riches. Do you know how many bricks of gouda we require to write about systemic racism in credit scoring? Two. But they’re each $6.99, for fuck’s sake!

Affiliates bang on our door as often as would-be ghostwriters. Some pitches are so irrelevant they give me secondhand embarrassment. (A dozen cryptocurrency platforms have sought a partnership with us, even though we have a single article on crypto: Investing in Cryptocurrency is Bad and Stupid.)

We promise that we would sooner shut down than resort to selling bad products. If we have an affiliate relationship, it means Jess and I both answered “yes” to all three of these questions:

  1. Is this product or service something we’d personally use?
  2. Do we think a majority of our readers would benefit from it?
  3. Is there no better or cheaper solution that does the same thing?

Why we’ll never sell you stuff you don’t need

I’m exhausted by the amount of doubting I do every day.

These days, if I see a beautiful model, I assume they’re ‘shopped. If I hear a glowing recommendation, I assume it’s sponcon. I assume that most things for sale on Amazon are dropshipped counterfeits backed with AI-powered five-star reviews. I’m ready to attribute pretty much everything said by influencers, celebrities, and politicians to unseen PR teams with obscure agendas. I try not to admire public figures, because I’ve grown to cynically expect nothing real from them. Manufactured “authenticity” feels like bait to lure me into a parasocial relationship for future commodification.

That’s not how I want to live. It’s tiresome. But life has taught me that many stand willing and eager to rip others off. I can’t stop them, but I absolutely refuse to join them.

I would rather eat a seven-layer parfait of different colored broken glass than enrich myself by deceiving others. I’d find no relaxation in the comfort of a larger house or nicer car if I knew it was paid for by people whose trust I violated.

Jess and I, like our staff, deserve to be paid for our labor. A lot of people do that by contributing to our Patreon, for which we’re incredibly grateful. If a day comes when that’s not enough, you’ll know because this site will be a 404 error—not a cryptocurrency ad.

Bitches Get Riches Brand Promise #6:
We take these promises seriously because our goal is to help, and we can’t if we don’t

The common thread through these promises is our refusal to get ahead by exploiting others.

We are one teeny, tiny island floating on the chaotic sea of the internet. And not like, a nice sandy island—one of those patches that’s half driftwood, half garbage. Yet whatever influence we have, we’ll exert it fighting exploitation.

Exploitation is the final boss for us as personal finance writers. Longtime readers know we get extra fired-up when we talk about it.

People can defend themselves in all sorts of ways, from all sorts of harm. But exploitation often happens so subtly or covertly that they don’t realize it’s happening. By the time they do, it’s become so reenforced and systematized that it’s hard to know how to fight back.

Consider the case of Lily Ledbetter, who didn’t know she was vastly underpaid until someone told her. By then, the statute of limitations for discrimination had expired. She fought her case all the way to the Supreme Court, became an activist, and lobbied Congress to change the law. Now consider how few people are in a position to respond to exploitation that strongly and successfully.

Obviously, we could never successfully fight exploitation by perpetuating it. So we promise to never tell ourselves that our ends justify any means.

Is it possible to succeed with such high standards?

Yes, I think so. You just can’t guarantee it.

Conan O’Brien is one of the rare celebrities I genuinely admire. It’s as much for his business ethics as his comedy. During the 2007 Writers Strike, he refused to work with scabs and kept his staff paid out of his own pocket. After the legendarily disastrous Tonight Show debacle, he fought for substantial restitution on behalf of his team. On top of their settlement from NBC, O’Brien contributed an additional “large seven-figure amount” to make them whole.

He talks with passionate respect about his staff. His personal assistant Sona Movsesian may be the only famous personal assistant. Conan had bits starring crew members who’d normally never be mentioned, let alone on air. In them, he plays at being a terrible boss. The jokes work because he’s clearly not. Conan is talented enough to not have to step on anyone—or leave anyone behind—to aggrandize himself. I’ll never be that funny, but god, I can strive to be that secure.

My husband remembers hearing someone ask Conan, “How does someone get to where you are?”

Conan’s response was something like, “You might as well ask me where to stand to get hit by a meteorite.” That’s how success works. It isn’t guaranteed, even to the most talented and hardworking. But we’re always capable of being honest and respectful in our dealings with others. (Note: I can’t find this quote. Knowing my husband, it was almost certainly a Simpson’s retrospective. If you recognize it, holler at me.)

Bitches Get Riches Brand Promise #7:
These commitments come with limitations, and we’re cool with that

Promises are easy to make when they ask for no sacrifice. Jess can promise to give me all of her chocolate Halloween candy next year. But it doesn’t mean much, because she famously doesn’t eat chocolate. (Yes, this makes her as unknowable and monstrous as the Phantom of the Opera. I can’t get into it right now.)

But each of our promises comes with a real trade-off. We accept them; but some are disappointing for readers.

For example: Because we want to generate our own ideas, this means you won’t find us on every social media platform. If we work hard to come up with a fresh idea on TikTok, we’ll likely see that work ripped off by bigger channels because that’s what TikTok’s culture Do Be Like. It makes being original unappealing. Conversely, it’s not a coincidence that we thrive on Tumblr, which encourages users to build on each other’s ideas while preserving everyone’s contributions. Tumblrinas don’t embrace a “who cares, I like it” attitude about content theft. (Although they do re: wanting to fuck monsters.)

Here’s another: Because we write everything ourselves, we aren’t as present and responsive as we’d like to be. Even with two of us and a part-time producer, we struggle to take on more than just writing. We’re slow to release new material. We get busy and skip weeks. We fail to respond to every comment on every platform. I know that must be frustrating. The upshot is: when you do get us, you know it’s truly us, and you know we’re giving you our all.

Bitches Get Riches Brand Promise #8:
We’re not for everybody—but we’re always for you

My favorite thing about the name “Bitches Get Riches” is its ability to instantly drive away anyone who wouldn’t like us anyhow. We’re like the movie Snakes on a Plane: no one will be confused when they see many scenes featuring snakes, many of them on a plane.

The only thing our name’s missing is a hint about the depth of our convictions. These promises are very much part of the fabric of everything we do.

Jess and I have been writing this blog for eight years. That’s enough time to gestate a whole person from zygote to getting their heart broken by Bridge to Terabithia. We have no easy articles left to write. Your attention, dear readers, has pushed us to write increasingly complex, nuanced, and original stuff.

These topics matter. Livelihoods—and sometimes lives—are at stake. We strive to get them right. But we also strive to get them right by doing right.

And that’s the real Bitches Get Riches Promise!

If you made it this far, congrats! Since our readers come for financial advice, I’ll reward you with a dusty nugget from Henry David Thoreau. It’s the advice that guides all business decisions here at BGR.

Goodness is the only investment that never fails.

– From Walden by Henry David Thoreau

If you’d like to invest in us, you can do so at Patreon.com.

Addendum: Did I fuck up our original brand promise of a bare minimum of dick jokes? I can’t remember making one?? So, um… Henry David Thoreau? More like Henry David Buh-low… Me!

7 thoughts to “The Bitches Get Riches Brand Promise: Social Media, Plagiarism, and AI in an Age of Exploitation”

  1. deeply appreciate this as an almost-21 year old, also very cynical, reader of ur blog for over … probably 6+ years now ??? i believe i found y’all through tumblr and have been reading since. i’ve always trusted your vibes, and the words u’ve put to them, and this post makes me feel so warm. thankful for all the work yall do can’t wait to start contributing on patreon one day!!

  2. Thank you thank you for the (relatively) deep dive into the myth of Special People. As a true solopreneur these people are everywhere online and always make me feel like a failure. I’m also in the coaching industry which is…extremely problematic with this type of handwaving and what my household calls “toxic positivity.”

    1. We are familiar with the evils of “toxic positivity”! And it truly is hard out there for solopreneurs because of these Special People. The nice thing is that in the course of researching for this article… we’ve noticed we’re not alone in this kind of analysis. I know it borders on toxic positivity… but I believe actual human creativity will eventually win out in this weird little robot war.

  3. Thank you for this article. I am a senior bitch (66) and have a huge amount of respect for your work!

  4. As a 68 year old white male reader I think you’re doing things right. I always took the high road through the corporate landscape and while it might have cost me a battle or two I did just fine in the long run. Treating others fairly, being honest and sticking with your values is always the best way to succeed and to be able to feel good about it. Great stuff!

  5. Yours is the first blog I recommend to just about anyone. I found you at a time where the politics and religion I was raised in took a back seat, and I instead focused on learning about the inequities and power struggles that I didn’t have to deal with navigating. My financial journey quest to have the ultimate FAFO card in my back pocket (to play at my employer of course) was just getting off the ground, and you proved that normal people could achieve this goal. You agreed on the best snack of all time – cheese crackers (though I am still particular to the Cheez-it), and provided an instructional manual on getting out of a toxic household that was extremely useful to someone in my life.

    So many people have and will benefit from these articles. I will forever be grateful to Piggy and Kitty. I will stay a Patreon for as long as I possibly can.

    Thank you for continuing to give a genuine f*** about people.

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