HAVE YOU EVER heard of gossipreport.com? It's a controversial, six-month-old Web site that encourages people to gossip about their friends and neighbors. The gossipers are anonymous, but the people being gossiped about are identified by name and often by photo. The site's motto is "You tattle, we tell."
Now, I know what you are thinking. You are thinking: Wow, that's a bad idea! But you're thinking that only because you haven't visited gossipreport.com. If you'd visited it, you'd know it is a colossally, horrendously bad idea, like sausage-flavored soda, or "The Holocaust on Ice," or "Gigli II." It violates just about every norm of human decency.
A stroll through gossipreport.com establishes that it is the exclusive province of empty-headed, mean-spirited, vulgar, provincial, petty losers who can't spell. Here's an actual example:
"I heard she got divorced cause she stapled the bed sheets around her first husband real tight then beat him with a fryin pan. He told everybody he got in a 4 wheeler accident but . . .''
And a user named ihearthank writes:
"Lacey seems to have it all together, but I know something about Lacey that no one does . . . Lacey eats her toenails."
"Talk about the biggest looser! He has .02% blood in his alcohol. Last summer in a drunken state he threatened to kill all my cats, then two of my cats vanished and only one came back! Oh, and did I tell you what he did to my chainsaw? He spiked my two-cycle engine gas with either kerosene or diesel . . . "
And there is the occasional vicious backhand:
"She is a very sweet and genuine person. However, I've been hearing lots of rumors that she is bulimic . . . "
One news story about gossipreport.com discovered teen-agers who were terrified to go to their high school because of what their classmates had said anonymously about them. If the creators of gossipreport.com defended it simply on the grounds of free speech, they would just be irresponsible jerks. But in media mailings and an interview with the press, founder Elizabeth Bloch has actually said that her site's gossip is important, the work of citizen journalists who community-edit to delete the dubious, the malicious and the unfair. "We're about finding the truth," Bloch has said.
That's when it occurred to me to test out the site's noble quest for truth. I asked a few friends of mine to create dippy pseudonyms for themselves, and together we started savaging me on gossipreport.com. My profile features the photo at the center of this page.