Monday, March 7, 2011

Arianna's Marie Antoinette Moment

Boy, do I love it when frauds are exposed. I love it when people are exposed as users of other people in order to gain their own prominence. There's nothing I like better than to see someone jump a shark out of sheer ambition, only to see the shark rear up and take a prime piece of well-deserved ass.

I have long known Arianna Huffington to be the abject phony and opportunist that she is. When I first heard of her, she was a raving Rightwing wannabe political commentator, trying desperately to gain a foothold in the British political media and failing. She'd just written a polemic, challenging Germaine Greer's feminist writings, which would have made Phyllis Schlafly look like Jane Fonda.

Then there was the plagiarism trial, which resulted in further besmirching her name as a dilettante and a political parvenue.

Fast forward to the Nineties when I'm home visiting my folks, only to see a huge article in the Washington Post's Sunday magazine, describing Arianna Huffington (I'd known of her as Stanisopoulos), dutiful Congressional wife, located in Washington and trying to organise weekly soirees resembling the intellectual and poltical salons of the French Empire, fancying herself and her European antecedents as a modern-day Madame de Stael.

The salon idea failed, but it hooked her up with Newt Gingrich, and together, they mounted a virulent campaign intent on impeaching one William Jefferson Clinton, with Arianna manning the online petition for Clinton's political demise.

Well, we all know how that worked out too, and we all know the success story that eventually became The Huffington Post. In one way or another, we were all sucked into the Huffington vortex, reckoning and believing it to be the Left's answer to Drudge.

I don't know if I were born cynical or if I acquired cynicism, having married a Brit and lived abroad for so long, but - suffice it to say - I never bought St Paul's Damascene conversion and I sure as hell didn't buy Arianna's abrupt Left turn from neocon to Progressive, literally overnight. And I knew I was proven right as soon as she started nit-picking and wantonly criticizing, not only the President, but also various high-profile members of his Administration, in particular, Tim Geithner, as she waged a war against the evils of Wall Street and the corporate take-over of America.

As Arianna always has a very vocal opinion about anything which she can use as a stick with which to beat the President, I cocked a suspicious eye at the fact that she chose to remain silent at the height of the Shirley Sherrod controversy - but then I knew Andrew Breitbart was a co-founder of HuffPo and a protege of Arianna from donkey's years back.

I cocked an even more suspicious eye as she trolled the country, trolling the more gullible and less emotionally and politically mature sections of the Left, in the run up to the 2010 Mid-terms, driving a wedge deeper than the Grand Canyon in that particular demographic. The message the Greek Media Whoracle preached was simply that Obama didn't give a rat's ass about the middle class, that he'd hung them out to dry, and that - by the way - she had a reasonably priced book she'd written that would explain everything.

So, when she announced that she'd signed a pact with the corporate devil that is AOL and sold her little internet baby for the handsome sum of $315 million, I could just imagine that shark tasting feta cheese.

And now, I'm sure he's had a feast.

Her legion of unpaid bloggers took umbrage that she'd scored such a profit on their backs. It kinda smelled like slavery in the Old South - you know, when Massa would laugh all the way to the cotton bank with his profits whilst his slaves toiled wearily in the fields. But, hey, they should be grateful they were cared for, and so Arianna's dutiful bloggers - the hoi polloi, not the well-oiled and wealthy celebrity types - should be grateful she was affording them exposure.

She even despatched one of her paid lackeys, someone named Marco Ruiz, to the front line to explain why she wasn't about to share her good fortune with her unpaid minions, but how, as well, her good fortune benefitted all the little people, dahhhlinks, because these unfortunates got free exposure. Actually, Marco explained, it was rather like the same situation as when an author appeared on a television program promoting his latest book, or when an eminient authority appeared on such a program to expound upon a subject.

Except, it's not, because those authors and authorities get paid an appearance fee. Even her surrogate son, Bill Maher, pays his Real Time guests $2500 for just sitting at a table. That at least covers their First Class air fares from the East Coast.

The beleagured bloggers have even created a Facebook page, highlighting their concerns, entitled, "Hey Arianna, Can You Spare a Dime?" And Marco the cheerleader has been assigned a presence on that page to fight Arianna's corner. His latest attempt was to inform all the unfortunates how ungrateful they were, and how he'd forever be grateful for what Arianna had done for internet journalism and for hiimself.

"But, Marco," a commentator pointed out, "you are paid."

And now, it seems, various contributors have decided to take a leaf from Wisconsin's book and institute a strike against The Huffington Post, demanding collective bargaining rights. The spectre of various HuffPost bloggers manning a picket line en masse outside Huffington's swish Soho offices in New York, with Madame assuming the Scott Walker role is the stuff of legend - another little man standing up for his own interests against a rich corporation, which is, essentially, what Huffington's become.

Bill Lasarow, publisher and editor of Visual Art Source, which has contributed content for free to HuffPo for a year now, has announced that his organisation is going on strike against Huffington, with two demands, specifically:-

1) that Huffington develop a system whereby bloggers are paid for their efforts and

2) that Huffington differentiates between paid promotional content and writers' work.

They are also proposing that contributors band together to instigate a system of collective bargaining. While it's not illegal that bloggers are unpaid, Lasarow points out, it's unethical and just a wee bit hypocritical.

And so much for the sainted little people for whom Arianna had made herself a self-appointed spokesperson.

If nothing else, this proposed action has shown, indelibly, how far removed and how out-of-touch with ordinary people, the faux and fashionable Progressive intelligentsia has become. Immediately this idea was mooted and put into the public domain, one of Arianna's celebrity bloggers - you know, the ones who have substantial income from another source - jumped to her defense.

Robert Scheer, who blogs occasionally for HuffPo, but whose professional writing efforts are imbursed by Katrina vanden Heuvel's trust fund, AKA The Nation, readily assumed the role of Huffington Knight Errant, saying, “In defense of the use of unpaid bloggers, of which I happen to be one among the many who appear on a regular basis on the Huffington Post, we are not exploited.”

Oh, well ... that's all right then. God's in his heaven, all's right with the world, and Robert Scheer speaks for a multitude.

The op-eds, Scheer says dismissively, were never a source of serious income anyway. Maybe not for Mr Scheer, but the striking contributors say - and rightly so - for well-known contributors, who aren't concerned about reimbursements for their efforts, to take this sort of dismissive attitude is nothing short of disgraceful.

And, really, doesn't this sort of disdain smack of the Koch-infested Right? It certainly goes a long way in explaining why, at the beginning of last week, when the Wisconsin protests were reaching their heights, that the editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post sought to write a lengthy account of hers and Bill Maher's exploits at the Vanity Fair Oscar party, making light of Kirk Douglas's aphasia, rather than lend moral support to those middle class strugglers in Wisconsin, whom she formerly purported to support. She would do well to remember Kirk Douglas, a lifelong liberal and Democrat, was the one man who broke the Hollywood McCarthyite blacklisting of Dalton Trumbo, a writer.

Instead, Madame weighed in on the potential strike situation, whilst at a conference in New York City last week, with these words, ridiculing these people: "Go ahead, go on strike! The idea of going on strike when no one really notices!"

Oh, really, Arianna? I guess you haven't been noticing the thousands of middle class people - you know, the ones you convinced the President disdained - camping out in freezing conditions to fight for their rights against a governor, who's increasingly become megalomaniacal.

With such an attitude, it's mete to ask how one says, "Let them eat cake" in Greek, the moral of this story being: Beware of Greeks causing rifts.

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