Bloggers Guard Their Turf

By Robert MacMillan
washingtonpost.com Staff Writer
Tuesday, May 17, 2005; 9:42 AM

It seems like bloggers and journalists around the world have it in for Gwyneth Paltrow.

For reasons I can't quite fathom, Paltrow is the name mentioned most in the media reports and blog postings about Arianna Huffington's recently-launched news and views Web site, huffingtonpost.com.

Maybe "symbol" is the wrong term. "Human sacrifice" might work better, as the often skewering write-ups seized on Paltrow's still-unrealized intention to post on the syndicated columnist and political gadfly's foray into bloggerdom. The blogging and media elites panned what they saw as an attempt to pass off as "very important" the deep thoughts of another class of elites -- celebrities famous enough that they can't list their number in the phone book.

Just look at Web sites with names like huffington.isfullofcrap.com. That site, with its invitation to vote for an idiot Huff blogger of the day, ought to indicate the amount of vitriol cyberspace mustered for Huffington.

Or try SwineBass's less obsessed but still sarcastic musings: "For some reason, people who are 'celebrities' think that they have a right (divine, perhaps?) to tell everyone about their views and opinions because they have a 'pedestal.' People may think that Jessica Simpson has a great voice (I'm one of them), but that doesn't mean they want to read about her opinion on the use of the filibuster (I'm not one of them)." Another Web site, huffandpuffingtonpost, put up a facsimile page with special guest Charles Manson blogging away from deep inside the lockup .

Nikki Finke's article "Why Arianna's Blog Blows" still takes top prize, even after a week, for taking no prisoners from Huffington's blog menagerie: "What her bizarre guru-cult association, 180-degree right-to-left conversion, and failed run in the California gubernatorial-recall race couldn't accomplish, her blog has now done: She is finally played out publicly."

Why would the ramblings of A- and B-list Hollywood celebrities -- with some think tank types and editors thrown in like a side-order of spinach -- work everyone up into such a lather? It seemed like poor Gwyneth was the one who was singled out the most in all the gabbing about Ariannablog: What will she write? What does she know about Equatorial Guinea's loan agreements with the World Bank? Is she even literate?

London's Guardian newspaper ran a savage, funny satire of Paltrow and others typing inane text-messages into the blog, but the piece makes one wonder what it is that frightens the media pros so. To be sure, some of the barbs are justified. Julia Louis-Dreyfus and husband Brad Hall really did make a hash of their "comedy" routine on gay marriage. M*A*S*H* producer Larry Gelbart's "Bulmedia" was bull-something all right, but media it was not.

So it goes; one of humanity's great pastimes is humiliating our idols before slaughtering them in public. Nothing quite rocks our world like taking down uppity celebrities a few pegs, and nothing has ever given us a chance to practice some good old-fashioned mob Democracy like the blog. Into the valley of death rode the 300 who dared to post at all -- the jackals down in the valley made short work of them.

You say you're tired of Rob Reiner's endless kvetching about the Bush administration being guilty of everything back to Torquemada? Get jealous when Kathryn Ireland writes public kiss-kiss notes about how hard it is to be wealthy these days? ("Arianna i'm so sorry I stood you up for our hike yesterday. I'm remodeling the kitchen in record time of 2 weeks and am the contractor. My mind was completely focusing on plumbing parts. You're all invited to come cook on my Aga next week. it's red.")

We love and hate celebrities because we want what they have and to be what they are -- especially when we tell ourselves we would never want to be like them at all. Huffblog lets us watch either way. Carl Sessions Stepp, a journalism professor at the University of Maryland, said that we might not care about what they have to say about debt relief (though they go on about such weighty topics on the blog), but "there is a mesmerizing pull to see what people have to say."

Love 'em or hate 'em, just as long as you keep reading. That's the real marketing strategy here. You're contributing two of the many millions of eyeballs watching Huffington Post when this baby really gets cooking and starts attracting advertisers. Talk about no such thing as bad publicity!


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