Tag Archives: New Media

Kids Today Just Don’t Blog Like We Used To

Verne Kopytoff at NYT:

Like any aspiring filmmaker, Michael McDonald, a high school senior, used a blog to show off his videos. But discouraged by how few people bothered to visit, he instead started posting his clips on Facebook, where his friends were sure to see and comment on his editing skills.

“I don’t use my blog anymore,” said Mr. McDonald, who lives in San Francisco. “All the people I’m trying to reach are on Facebook.”

Blogs were once the outlet of choice for people who wanted to express themselves online. But with the rise of sites like Facebook and Twitter, they are losing their allure for many people — particularly the younger generation.

The Internet and American Life Project at the Pew Research Center found that from 2006 to 2009, blogging among children ages 12 to 17 fell by half; now 14 percent of children those ages who use the Internet have blogs. Among 18-to-33-year-olds, the project said in a report last year, blogging dropped two percentage points in 2010 from two years earlier.

Former bloggers said they were too busy to write lengthy posts and were uninspired by a lack of readers. Others said they had no interest in creating a blog because social networking did a good enough job keeping them in touch with friends and family.

Blogging started its rapid ascension about 10 years ago as services like Blogger and LiveJournal became popular. So many people began blogging — to share dieting stories, rant about politics and celebrate their love of cats — that Merriam-Webster declared “blog” the word of the year in 2004.

Defining a blog is difficult, but most people think it is a Web site on which people publish periodic entries in reverse chronological order and allow readers to leave comments.

Yet for many Internet users, blogging is defined more by a personal and opinionated writing style. A number of news and commentary sites started as blogs before growing into mini-media empires, like The Huffington Post or Silicon Alley Insider, that are virtually indistinguishable from more traditional news sources.

Blogs went largely unchallenged until Facebook reshaped consumer behavior with its all-purpose hub for posting everything social. Twitter, which allows messages of no longer than 140 characters, also contributed to the upheaval.

No longer did Internet users need a blog to connect with the world. They could instead post quick updates to complain about the weather, link to articles that infuriated them, comment on news events, share photos or promote some cause — all the things a blog was intended to do.

Caitlin Dickson at The Atlantic with a round-up

Chris Crum at WebProNews:

Here we go again with another one of those silly social media vs. blogs debates. The New York Times stirred the pot this time with an article called, “Blogs Wane as the Young Drift to Sites Like Twitter.”

“Blogs were once the outlet of choice for people who wanted to express themselves online. But with the rise of sites like Facebook and Twitter,” writes Verne G. Kopytoff. “They are losing their allure for many people — particularly the younger generation.”

This idea that blogs are dying has been around practically as long as either Facebook or Twitter, and it almost always gets dismissed as a ridiculous notion.

WordPress founding developer Matt Mullenweg took some issue with the piece: “The title was probably written by an editor, not the author, because as soon as the article gets past the two token teenagers who tumble and Facebook instead of blogging, the stats show all the major blogging services growing — even Blogger whose global ‘unique visitors rose 9 percent, to 323 million,’ meaning it grew about 6 Foursquares last year alone. (In the same timeframe WordPress.com grew about 80 million uniques according to Quantcast.)”

In fact, in 2010, WordPress had over 6 million new blogs created in 2010, and pageviews were up by 53%.

John Del Signore at Gothamist:

A more accurate headline might be “Google’s Company ‘Blogger’ Sees Domestic Page Views Decline 2%.” Catchy, right? To be fair, the Times does acknowledge “the possibility that the decline in blogging by the younger generation is merely a semantic issue.” That’s because Tumblr is proving increasingly popular, and some kids think Tumblr isn’t blogging. “It’s different from blogging because it’s easier to use,” explains one San Francisco teen. “With blogging you have to write, and this is just images. Some people write some phrases or some quotes, but that’s it.”

The Times also concedes that “defining a blog is difficult, but most people think it is a Web site on which people publish periodic entries in reverse chronological order and allow readers to leave comments.” The study in question found that from 2006 to 2009, blogging among children ages 12 to 17 fell by half. But before you run out and set up a charitable trust to educate children on the vital importance of daily blogging, note the study’s conclusion:

While the act formally known as blogging seems to have peaked, Internet users are doing blog-like things in other online spaces as they post updates about their lives, musings about the world, jokes, and links on social networking sites and micro-blogging sites such as Twitter.

PHEW. So kids are still lustily committing “the act formally known as blogging”—they just don’t like using that old-fashioned word blog (Est. 2004), and prefer expressing their incisive opinions on the latest Family Guy episode in 140 characters or less. We can live with that.

Scott Rosenberg:

So the actual story — which, to be fair, the Times’ article mostly hews to (it’s the headline and lead that skew it more sensationally) — is that blogging keeps growing, but it’s losing popularity among teens.

Social networking is changing blogging. (My postscript to the paperback edition of Say Everything addresses those changes at length.) More of us are using Facebook and Twitter for casual sharing and personal updates. That has helped clarify the place of blogging as the medium for personal writing of a more substantial nature. Keeping a blog is more work than posting to Facebook and Twitter. So I wouldn’t be surprised if, long-term, the percentage of the population blogging plateaus or even declines.

Maybe we’ll end up with roughly ten percent of the online population (Pew’s consistent finding) keeping a blog. As the online population becomes closer to universal, that is an extraordinary thing: One in ten people writing in public. Our civilization has never seen anything like it.

So you can keep your “waning” headlines, and I’ll keep my amazement and enthusiasm.

BONUS LINKS: WordPress founder Matt Mullenweg addresses the story:

At some point you’ll have more to say than fits in 140 characters, is too important to put in Facebook’s generic chrome, or you’ve matured to the point you want more flexibility and control around your words and ideas.

And Anthony DeRosa points out that Twitter isn’t very popular among the teen set either.

Dan Riehl:

I spend time on Twitter I might otherwise have spent blogging. But the net result may actually be good for blogging. One does fewer throw away posts meant to only say something quick, better said via Twitter. What this is really about is alternative media taking on the old, or mainstream media. According to the Times, 14% of children ages 12 – 17 are blogging. That may have halved from when blogging was all the rage in media, but it’s still a healthy percentage.

Among 18-33 year-olds, the percentage dropped by 2 points in 2010. Good. It’s a little crowded out here, as it stands. I’ve no reason to doubt that New Media, in its various forms, continues to grow in size and influence.

Atrios:

I’m sure the emphasis of the internet will keep evolving, but what apparently won’t evolve is the mainstream press’s view of “the internet” as somehow being about young people. For years and years after the rise of political blogging, the press kept writing about it as if it was something that young people were into. As I wrote many times, I certainly wished I could take credit for getting a bunch of college kids interested in politics, but the fact is that people who read this site have always been pretty old. Basically the mainstream media types just wanted to infantalize bloggers as part of their mission of painting us as Very Unserious People.

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The Keystone Kops Are After Greenwald!

Steve Ragan in Tech Herald:

After a tip from Crowdleaks.org, The Tech Herald has learned that HBGary Federal, as well as two other data intelligence firms, worked to develop a strategic plan of attack against WikiLeaks. The plan included pressing a journalist in order to disrupt his support of the organization, cyber attacks, disinformation, and other potential proactive tactics.

Update:

The Tech Herald was able to get in touch with Glenn Greenwald for his reaction to being singled out in the WikiLeaks proposal. He called the report creepy and disturbing. Moreover, he commented that the suggestions for dealing with WikiLeaks, along with the assumption that the organization could be undermined, were “hard to take seriously.”

The listed mitigations, such as disinformation or submitting false documents, have been discussed before. In 2008, the Pentagon had similar ideas, so that aspect of the document was nothing new.

Greenwald, as a journalist, is a prolific writer on media topics. He is a harsh critic of political figures and the mainstream media. The suggestion made by the proposal that he would pick career over cause is “completely against” what he is about, he told us.

“The only reason I do what I do is because im free to put cause before career,” he said.

Pointedly, he reminded us that his work includes taking aim at political figures, which could be a source of professional leverage with scoops or favors, as well as news organizations who could offer him gainful employment. None of these actions paints a picture of a man who would pick career over his passion.

Update 2:

WikiLeaks is hosting an official mirror of the sixth and final draft of the report. You can see a copy here.

Update 3:

Palantir Technologies has severed all ties with HBGary Federal and issued an apology to reporter Glenn Greenwald. More details here.

Update 4:

Berico Technologies has cut ties as well. More information is here.

Jesse Walker at Reason:

According to a report in the Tech Herald, three security firms recently pitched the Bank of America with a plan to take down WikiLeaks. If the documents at the core of the story are legit — and as Andy Greenberg of Forbes notes, “their level of detail would require immense effort on the part of counterfeiters” — the companies come off as Keystone Kops.

The most interesting detail is that the firms involved — HBGary Federal, Palantir Technologies, and Berico Technologies — placed a lot of emphasis on the pro-WikiLeaks blogger Glenn Greenwald, arguing that “Without the support of people like Glenn wikileaks would fold,” so “It is this level of support that needs to be disrupted.” The firms are confident that this can be done, since “most of them if pushed will choose professional preservation over cause, such is the mentality of most business professionals.”

The source of the documents is a massive trove of HBGary emails that was seized and released by Anonymous. The backstory behind that is pretty fascinating in itself.

Matthew Yglesias:

A consortium of national security contractors, led by Palantir Technology, seems to have been shopping a counter-WikiLeaks strategy. This slide is about neutralizing Glenn Greenwald:

— Glenn was critical in the Amazon to OVH transition
— It is this level of support that needs to be disrupted
— These are established professionals that have a liberal bent, but ultimately most of them if pushed will choose professional preservation over cause, such is the mentality of most business professionals.
— Without the support of people like Glenn, Wikileaks would fold

I like that they’re on a first-name basis with Greenwald. Lee’s 2008 book, The Fortune Cookie Chronicles: Adventures in the World of Chinese Food, is highly recommended. And remember, without the support of people like you, the Yglesias Blog would fold!

Kerry Lauerman at Salon:

We take threats against our own very seriously.

A bizarre plan for an attack on the whistle-blowing site WikiLeaks and journalists construed as sympathetic to it — first reported by the Tech Herald — clearly targets Salon’s Glenn Greenwald, saying that his “level of support” for WikiLeaks “needs to be disrupted.” The report (you can download the purported final draft here) is listed as an “overview by Palantir Technologies, HBGary Federal and Berico Technologies,” and according to a string of e-mails also leaked, was developed following a request from Hunton and Williams, a law firm that represents, among others, Bank of America.

Bank of America is the presumed next target of WikiLeaks, and has reportedly been bracing for what’s to come.

The leaked report singles out other journalists, as well, and suggests that “these are established professionals that have a liberal bent, but ultimately most of them if pushed will choose professional preservation over cause …” And goes on: “Without the support of people like Glenn wikileaks would fold.”

Emptywheel at Firedoglake:

Now aside from the predictable, but nevertheless rather shocking detail, that these security firms believed the best way to take WikiLeaks out was to push Glenn to stop supporting them, what the fuck are they thinking by claiming that Glenn weighs “professional preservation” against “cause”? Could they be more wrong, painting Glenn as a squeamish careerist whose loud support for WikiLeaks (which dates back far longer than these security firms seem to understand) is secondary to “professional preservation”? Do they know Glenn is a journalist? Do they know he left the stuffy world of law? Have they thought about why he might have done that? Are they familiar at all with who Glenn is? Do they really believe Glenn became a household name–to the extent that he did–just in December?

I hope Bank of America did buy the work of these firms. Aside from the knowledge that the money would be–to the extent that we keep bailing out Bank of America–taxpayer money, I’d be thrilled to think of BoA pissing away its money like that. The plan these firms are pushing is absolutely ignorant rubbish. They apparently know almost nothing about what they’re pitching, and have no ability to do very basic research.

Which is precisely the approach I’d love to see BoA use to combat whatever WikiLeaks has coming its way.

Glenn Greenwald:

My initial reaction to all of this was to scoff at its absurdity.  Not being familiar with the private-sector world of internet security, I hadn’t heard of these firms before and, based on the quality of the proposal, assumed they were just some self-promoting, fly-by-night entities of little significance.  Moreover, for the reasons I detailed in my interview with The Tech Herald — and for reasons Digby elaborated on here — the very notion that I could be forced to choose “professional preservation over cause” is ludicrous on multiple levels.  Obviously, I wouldn’t have spent the last year vehemently supporting WikiLeaks — to say nothing of aggressively criticizing virtually every large media outlet and many of their leading stars, as well as the most beloved political leaders of both parties — if I were willing to choose “career preservation over cause.”

But after learning a lot more over the last couple of days, I now take this more seriously — not in terms of my involvement but the broader implications this story highlights.  For one thing, it turns out that the firms involved here are large, legitimate and serious, and do substantial amounts of work for both the U.S. Government and the nation’s largest private corporations (as but one example, see this email from a Stanford computer science student about Palantir).  Moreover, these kinds of smear campaigns are far from unusual; in other leaked HB Gary emails, ThinkProgress discovered that similar proposals were prepared for the Chamber of Commerce to attack progressive groups and other activists (including ThinkProgress).  And perhaps most disturbing of all, Hunton & Williams was recommended to Bank of America’s General Counsel by the Justice Department — meaning the U.S. Government is aiding Bank of America in its defense against/attacks on WikiLeaks.

That’s why this should be taken seriously, despite how ignorant, trite and laughably shallow is the specific leaked anti-WikiLeaks proposal.  As creepy and odious as this is, there’s nothing unusual about these kinds of smear campaigns.   The only unusual aspect here is that we happened to learn about it this time because of Anonymous’ hacking.  That a similar scheme was quickly discovered by ThinkProgress demonstrates how common this behavior is.  The very idea of trying to threaten the careers of journalists and activists to punish and deter their advocacy is self-evidently pernicious; that it’s being so freely and casually proposed to groups as powerful as the Bank of America, the Chamber of Commerce, and the DOJ-recommended Hunton & Williams demonstrates how common this is.  These highly experienced firms included such proposals because they assumed those deep-pocket organizations would approve and it would make their hiring more likely.

But the real issue highlighted by this episode is just how lawless and unrestrained is the unified axis of government and corporate power.  I’ve written many times about this issue — the full-scale merger between public and private spheres —  because it’s easily one of the most critical yet under-discussed political topics.  Especially (though by no means only) in the worlds of the Surveillance and National Security State, the powers of the state have become largely privatized.  There is very little separation between government power and corporate power.   Those who wield the latter intrinsically wield the former.  The revolving door between the highest levels of government and corporate offices rotates so fast and continuously that it has basically flown off its track and no longer provides even the minimal barrier it once did.  It’s not merely that corporate power is unrestrained; it’s worse than that:  corporations actively exploit the power of the state to further entrench and enhance their power.

That’s what this anti-WikiLeaks campaign is generally:  it’s a concerted, unified effort between government and the most powerful entities in the private sector (Bank of America is the largest bank in the nation).  The firms the Bank has hired (such as Booz Allen) are suffused with the highest level former defense and intelligence officials, while these other outside firms (including Hunton & Williams and Palantir) are extremely well-connected to the U.S. Government.  The U.S. Government’s obsession with destroying WikiLeaks has been well-documented.  And because the U.S. Government is free to break the law without any constraints, oversight or accountability, so, too, are its “private partners” able to act lawlessly.  That was the lesson of the Congressional vesting of full retroactive immunity in lawbreaking telecoms, of the refusal to prosecute any of the important Wall Street criminals who caused the 2008 financial crisis, and of the instinctive efforts of the political class to protect defrauding mortgage banks.

Nate Anderson at Wired

More Greenwald

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Lara Logan, Nir Rosen… Nothing Funny Here

CBS News:

On Friday, Feb. 11, the day Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak stepped down, CBS chief foreign correspondent Lara Logan was covering the jubilation in Tahrir Square for a “60 Minutes” story when she and her team and their security were surrounded by a dangerous element amidst the celebration. It was a mob of more than 200 people whipped into frenzy.

In the crush of the mob, she was separated from her crew. She was surrounded and suffered a brutal and sustained sexual assault and beating before being saved by a group of women and an estimated 20 Egyptian soldiers. She reconnected with the CBS team, returned to her hotel and returned to the United States on the first flight the next morning. She is currently home recovering.

There will be no further comment from CBS News and correspondent Logan and her family respectfully request privacy at this time.

Doug Mataconis:

Best wishes to Logan for a speedy recovery, physically and emotionally.

Allah Pundit:

Logan wasn’t the only reporter in danger while covering the protests. Katie Couric and Brian Williams ended up leaving Egypt early because of the risk and Anderson Cooper freely admitted to being scared despite sticking it out for a few more days. Couric later told Howard Kurtz about an episode where she too was surrounded and shoved by an enraged lunatic. I wonder how close she came to Logan’s fate.

In an ideal world the army would have shot the attackers on the spot, but you can imagine the chaos that would have broken out in the Square if Egyptian soldiers suddenly started firing on people. As it is, were there even arrests made? And why does CBS’s statement feel compelled to note that the mob had been “whipped into frenzy”? Crowds at all sorts of events get pretty frenzied, but good luck trying that with a judge if you use it as a pretext to join in on a mass sexual assault.

Needless to say, the way journalists cover these events is going to change dramatically. And even more needless to say, America will never see those protests the same way again.

Jim Geraghty at NRO:

The news from CBS about correspondent Lara Logan’s assault in Egypt is awful beyond words.

At a time like this, we all feel helpless. And angry. The perpetrators, anonymous men in an angry mob, may never see justice.

Perhaps we can channel that frustration and anger towards righting a wrong closer to home. To some other outrage… say… the reaction to Logan’s assault from a fellow at the NYU Center for Law and Security, Nir Rosen.

Nir Rosen deleted some of his worst comments about Logan on his Twitter feed, but… it’s the Internet. It’s never gone forever.

I’m sure Rosen will apologize at some point, and perhaps we’ll get some tut-tutting statement from NYU about the need for “civility” and “restraint” and “sensitivity.” Brows will be furrowed. Maybe they’ll hold a seminar about technology and emotional reactions to breaking news events.

But let’s just remember one thing going forward: Nir Rosen believed this was the right moment to let the world know that he “ran out of sympathy for her” and that we should “remember her role as a major war monger” and that we “have to find humor in the small things.”

Your move, NYU.

UPDATE: Nir Rosen has departed Twitter. Your reaction to this development probably depends on whether you think the offense in this circumstance is the ability to broadcast that type of reaction to the crime to the entire Internet, or whether the problem is the reaction itself.

Debbie Schlussel:

So sad, too bad, Lara. No one told her to go there. She knew the risks. And she should have known what Islam is all about. Now she knows. Or so we’d hope. But in the case of the media vis-a-vis Islam, that’s a hope that’s generally unanswered.

This never happened to her or any other mainstream media reporter when Mubarak was allowed to treat his country of savages in the only way they can be controlled.

Now that’s all gone. How fitting that Lara Logan was “liberated” by Muslims in Liberation Square while she was gushing over the other part of the “liberation.”

Hope you’re enjoying the revolution, Lara! Alhamdilllullah [praise allah].

Jeffrey Goldberg:

Nir Rosen, the far-left journalist who joked about the sexual assault on Lara Logan, has company: Debbie Schlussel, the extreme right-wing commentator. Rosen calls for the elimination of Israel, and is a pro-Hamas Hezbollah apologist; Schlussel is a racist anti-Muslim commentator. They come from radically different places on the political spectrum, and yet they share a common inhumanity.

Colby Hall at Mediaite:

Tragic news broke yesterday that CBS News’ Lara Logan was victim to a sustained a brutal sexual attack at the hands of a dangerous element amidst the celebration in Cairo’s Tahrir Square. The news brought universal condemnation and empathy from Logan’s media peers, but it also seemed to also bring the worst out in some people as well. Take for example now former NYU Fellow Nir Rosen , who took to his Twitter feed to make inappropriate jokes that he soon deleted. In the firestorm of controversy that followed, Rosen offered his resignation, which NYU readily accepted.

Hamilton Nolan at Gawker:

What can we learn?

1. Twitter is dangerous.
2. Some things aren’t funny.
3. Even if you don’t like the person they happened to.

Useful lessons for all of us.

Suzi Parker at Politics Daily:

A 2007 article in the Columbia Journalism Review exploring the threats to female foreign correspondents singles out Egypt: “The Committee to Protect Journalists, for example, cites rape threats against female reporters in Egypt who were seen as government critics.”

The CJR article states, “Female reporters are targets in lawless places where guns are common and punishment rare.” They face more sexual harassment and rape than their male counterparts. They are subjected to unwanted advances and “lewd come-ons . . . especially in places where Western women are viewed as promiscuous.”

Such risk is nothing new to Logan. A South African native, she entered Afghanistan after Sept. 11, 2001, by begging a Russian Embassy clerk in London to give her an expedited visa for travel there. She followed up that stint with one as an embedded journalist in Iraq.

Earlier this month, Logan and her crew were detained overnight by the Egyptian army and interrogated. She told Esquire’s “The Politics Blog” that during the ordeal her captors blindfolded her and kept her upright. She vomited frequently. They finally gave her intravenous fluids and released her and her crew.

Logan’s desire to venture into danger zones mirrors the brave actions of female war reporters who came before her. During World War II, many female correspondents had to write under male pseudonyms. They were banned from press briefings and had to submit stories after their male counterparts.

Dickey Chapelle was a World War II photojournalist, posted with the Marines during the Battle of Iwo Jima. She cultivated a signature look of fatigues, an Australian bush hat, dramatic Harlequin glasses and pearl earrings, but loved the grittiness of war. In 1956, the petite photographer covered the Hungarian Revolution, where she was captured and jailed for seven weeks.

In her forties, Chapelle covered the Vietnam War. In 1965, she was the first American female war correspondent killed in action. Famed war photographer Henri Huet photographed Chapelle receiving last rites. She was given a full Marine burial with six Marine honor guards.

Not much has changed in the way of training for such work. In the early days of war reporting, women wrote their own rules for covering conflict — and for surviving. Surprisingly, even in the 21st century, many women travel to war zones with little training. The BBC is the only major news organization that offers special safety instruction for female journalists that is taught by women, according to CJR.

But training or precautions noted in the Handbook for Journalists may not have prepared Logan for the situation she faced on Friday. A mob of 200 abruptly surrounded her crew, from which she quickly became separated. Such tragedies are common during chaotic events.

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Kenneth Cole Steps In It

Kenneth Cole twitter

Kenneth Cole PR twitter

Katherine Noyes at PC World:

For all those who needed an illustration of how a business shouldn’t use Twitter, Kenneth Cole kindly provided it this week by using the current unrest in Egypt as a promotional tool.

“Millions are in uproar in #Cairo,” read the original tweet from Thursday morning. “Rumor is they heard our new spring collection is now available online at http://bit.ly/KCairo.”

Widespread uproar was the result, all right, but not as a result of any spring collection. Such was the magnitude of the outcry at Cole’s insensitivity, in fact, that the company hastily removed the tweet that same day and issued two retractions instead.

“Re Egypt tweet: we weren’t intending to make light of a serious situation,” read the first. “We understand the sensitivity of this historic moment -KC”

A second, posted on Facebook soon afterward, read as follows:

“I apologize to everyone who was offended by my insensitive tweet about the situation in Egypt. I’ve dedicated my life to raising awareness about serious social issues, and in hindsight my attempt at humor regarding a nation liberating themselves against oppression was poorly timed and absolutely inappropriate.”

Erik Hayden at The Atlantic:

And a snapshot of reactions:

  • The Next Web – “Oh dear, we thought that big brands might have learnt that hijacking hashtags isn’t a good idea”
  • Advertising Age – “Kenneth Cole and others in the media and marketing industries not only suffer from a lack of tact, they suffer from a lack of historical knowledge and the ability to grasp that the situation in Egypt could get a hell of lot uglier than it is even at this moment.”
  • Styleite – “Apparently Kenneth Cole knows there’s nothing like a violent political revolution to boost sales!”

Brenna Ehrlich at Mashable:

Cole made a similarly indelicate statement in the past; following 9/11, he told the New York Daily News: “Important moments like this are a time to reflect… To remind us, sometimes, that it’s not only important what you wear, but it’s also important to be aware.”

The Twitterverse, unsurprisingly, is not happy with Cole’s 140-character missive. A fake account — @KennethColePR, à la @BPGlobalPR — has even cropped up, mocking the designer with such tweets as: “Our new slingback pumps would make Anne Frank come out of hiding! #KennethColeTweets.”

Amy Odell at New York Magazine:

Since the Tweet caused mass offense around the Internet, a Kenneth Cole parody account @KennethColePR emerged. Its tweets include, “‘People from New Orleans are flooding into Kenneth Cole stores!’ #KennethColeTweets.” Also: “People of Haiti, fall into our store for earth-shattering savings! #KennethColeTweets.” Not to be outdone by: “Hey, Pope Benedict – there’s no way to fondle our spring shoes inappropriately! #KennethColeTweets.”An hour ago, the pranksters got serious, tweeting that they would turn over the fake account to the brand if they made a donation to Amnesty International or another charitable organization. And still, a quick scan of the Kenneth Cole Facebook wall reveals a lot of people thought that Cairo tweet was funny anyway.

Adam Clark Estes in Salon:

Oh, Kenneth.

Unspoken rule No. 1: Don’t make jokes about tragedies. You’ve donethis sort of thingbefore — mixing up bad puns and profundity. It’s oh-so-tempting to try to make light of grim situations, sad stories and global traumas. Don’t try to make it funny. That’s what comedians are for. Kenneth Cole is a fashion designer known for sharp-looking dress shoes, not sharp wit.

Unspoken rule No. 2: Don’t make marketing gimmicks out of tragedies. This is just like rule No. 1 but more directed at Kenneth Cole. When the world’s attention is fixated on one event, sometimes it’s not the best idea to jump up and down with the “Look at me!” routine. The unrest in Egypt isn’t the Super Bowl. It’s a troubling story with historical implications. Nobody wants to hear about your spring slacks.

Chris Morran at The Consumerist:

When you think of Kenneth Cole, you probably don’t associate the apparel brand with edgy, topical humor. And you probably won’t ever again, after the company stuck its shiny leather shoe in its mouth with a Tweet referencing the current political upheaval in Egypt.

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Arianna Told Me To Write This Blog Post

Arianna Huffington at The Huffington Post:

I’ve used this space to make all sorts of important HuffPost announcements: new sections, new additions to the HuffPost team, new HuffPost features and new apps. But none of them can hold a candle to what we are announcing today.

When Kenny Lerer and I launched The Huffington Post on May 9, 2005, we would have been hard-pressed to imagine this moment. The Huffington Post has already been growing at a prodigious rate. But my New Year’s resolution for 2011 was to take HuffPost to the next level — not just incrementally, but exponentially. With the help of our CEO, Eric Hippeau, and our president and head of sales, Greg Coleman, we’d been able to make the site profitable. Now was the time to take leaps.

At the first meeting of our senior team this year, I laid out the five areas on which I wanted us to double down: major expansion of local sections; the launch of international Huffington Post sections (beginning with HuffPost Brazil); more emphasis on the growing importance of service and giving back in our lives; much more original video; and additional sections that would fill in some of the gaps in what we are offering our readers, including cars, music, games, and underserved minority communities.

Around the same time, I got an email from Tim Armstrong (AOL Chairman and CEO), saying he had something he wanted to discuss with me, and asking when we could meet. We arranged to have lunch at my home in LA later that week. The day before the lunch, Tim emailed and asked if it would be okay if he brought Artie Minson, AOL’s CFO, with him. I told him of course and asked if there was anything they didn’t eat. “I’ll eat anything but mushrooms,” he said.

The next day, he and Artie arrived, and, before the first course was served — with an energy and enthusiasm I’d soon come to know is his default operating position — Tim said he wanted to buy The Huffington Post and put all of AOL’s content under a newly formed Huffington Post Media Group, with me as its president and editor-in-chief.

I flashed back to November 10, 2010. That was the day that I heard Tim speak at the Quadrangle conference in New York. He was part of a panel on “Digital Darwinism,” along with Michael Eisner and Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen.

At some point during the discussion, while Tim was talking about his plans for turning AOL around, he said that the challenge lay in the fact that AOL had off-the-charts brand awareness, and off-the-charts user trust and loyalty, but almost no brand identity. I was immediately struck by his clear-eyed assessment of his company’s strengths and weaknesses, and his willingness to be so up front about them.

As HuffPost grew, Kenny and I had both been obsessed with what professor Clayton Christensen has famously called “the innovator’s dilemma.” In his book of the same name, Christensen explains how even very successful companies, with very capable personnel, often fail because they tend to stick too closely to the strategies that made them successful in the first place, leaving them vulnerable to changing conditions and new realities. They miss major opportunities because they are unwilling to disrupt their own game.

After that November panel, Tim and I chatted briefly and arranged to see each other the next day. At that meeting, we talked not just about what our two companies were doing, but about the larger trends we saw happening online and in our world. I laid out my vision for the expansion of The Huffington Post, and he laid out his vision for AOL. We were practically finishing each other’s sentences.

Two months later, we were having lunch in LA and Tim was demonstrating that he got the Innovator’s Dilemma and was willing to disrupt the present to, if I may borrow a phrase, “win the future.” (I guess that makes this AOL’s — and HuffPost’s — Sputnik Moment!)

There were many more meetings, back-and-forth emails, and phone calls about what our merger would mean for the two companies. Things moved very quickly. A term sheet was produced, due diligence began, and on Super Bowl Sunday the deal was signed. In fact, it was actually signed at the Super Bowl, where Tim was hosting a group of wounded vets from the Screamin’ Eagles. It was my first Super Bowl — an incredibly exciting backdrop that mirrored my excitement about the merger and the future ahead.

Jack Shafer at Slate:

I underestimated Arianna Huffington when she launched her Huffington Post in May 2005. I didn’t trash the site the way Nikki Finke did, though. Finke called Huffington the “Madonna of the mediapolitic world [who] has undergone one reinvention too many,” and slammed her site as a “humongously pre-hyped celebrity blog” that represented the “sort of failure that is simply unsurvivable.” And those were among Finke’s nicer comments.

Instead of critiquing Huffington’s debut copy, I speculated as to whether she was up to the job of “impresario.” In the scale of things, my write-up is more embarrassing today, now that Huffington has sold the Post to AOL for $315 million, than is Finke’s pissy take. Huffington has proved herself a first-rate entrepreneur, incubator of talent, and media visionary.

Felix Salmon:

My feeling, then, is that this deal is a good one for both sides. AOL gets something it desperately needs: a voice and a clear editorial vision. It’s smart, and bold, to put Arianna in charge of all AOL’s editorial content, since she is one of the precious few people who has managed to create a mass-market general-interest online publication which isn’t bland and which has an instantly identifiable personality. That’s a rare skill and one which AOL desperately needs to apply to its broad yet inchoate suite of websites.

As for HuffPo, it gets lots of money, great tech content from Engadget and TechCrunch, hugely valuable video-production abilities, a local infrastructure in Patch, lots of money, a public stock-market listing with which to make fill-in acquisitions and incentivize employees with options, a massive leg up in terms of reaching the older and more conservative Web 1.0 audience and did I mention the lots of money? Last year at SXSW I was talking about how ambitious New York entrepreneurs in the dot-com space have often done very well for themselves in the tech space, but have signally failed to engineer massive exits in the content space. With this sale, Jonah Peretti changes all that; his minority stake in HuffPo is probably worth more than the amount of money Jason Calacanis got when he sold Weblogs Inc to AOL.

And then, of course, there’s Arianna, who is now officially the Empress of the Internet with both power and her own self-made dynastic wealth. She’s already started raiding big names from mainstream media, like Howard Fineman and Tim O’Brien; expect that trend to accelerate now that she’s on a much firmer financial footing.

Paul Carr at TechCrunch:

We really have to stop being scooped by rivals on news affecting our own company.

Tonight, courtesy of a press release that our parent company sent to everyone but us, we learn that AOL has acquired the Huffington Post for $315 million. More interestingly, Arianna Huffington has been made Editor In Chief of all AOL content, including TechCrunch.

Now, no-one here has been more skeptical than me of AOL’s content strategy. I was reasonably scathing about that whole “tech town” bullshit and I was quick to opinion-smack Tim Armstrong in the face over his promise that “90% of AOL content will be SEO optimized” by March. Hell I’ve stood on stage – twice – on TC’s dime and described our overlords as “the place where start-ups come to die”.

And yet and yet, for once I find myself applauding Armstrong – and AOL as a whole – for pulling off a double whammy: a brilliant strategic acquisition at a logical price. As AOL’s resident inside-pissing-insider, I can’t tell you how frustrating that is. I can’t even bust out a Bebo joke.

An important note before I go on: I have no idea how any of this will affect TechCrunch. So far AOL has kept true to its promise not to interfere with our editorial and there’s no reason to suppose that will change under Huffington. That said, it would be idiotic to think that our parents’ content strategy – particularly the SEO stuff – won’t have annoying trickle-down consequences for all of us in the long term.

As I wrote the other week, I hate SEO. It’s bad for journalism as it disincentivises reporters from breaking new stories, and rewards them for rehashing existing ones. And it’s bad for everything else because, well, it’s garbage. But when discussing the SEO phenomenon privately, I’ve always cited the Huffington Post as the exception that proves the rule.

Arianna Huffington’s genius is to churn out enough SEO crap to bring in the traffic and then to use the resulting advertising revenue – and her personal influence – to employ top class reporters and commentators to drag the quality average back up. And somehow it works. In the past six months journostars like Howard Fineman, Timothy L. O’Brien and Peter Goodman have all been added to the HuffPo’s swelling masthead, and rather than watering down the site’s political voice, it has stayed true to its core beliefs. Such is the benefit of being bank-rolled by a rich liberal who doesn’t give a shit.

Ann Althouse:

What difference does it make? AOL as a brand meant something to me in the 1990s, but not now. Who cares whether AOL retains a semblance of political neutrality? In any case, mainstream media always feels pretty liberal, so why would anyone really notice. Now, that quote is from the NYT, so… think about it. The NYT would like to be the big news site that looks neutral (but satisfies liberals). HuffPo is the raging competition, which needs to be put in its place.

Alexis Madrigal at the Atlantic

Erick Schonfeld at TechCrunch

Kevin Drum:

Last night I saw a tweet saying that AOL was going to buy the Huffington Post for $31.5 million. Yowza, I thought. That’s a pretty rich valuation. Maybe 20x forward earnings? Who knows?

But no! AOL actually bought HuffPo for $315 million. I mentally put in a decimal place where there wasn’t one. I don’t even know what to think about this. It sounds completely crazy to me. The odds of this being a good deal for AOL stockholders seem astronomical.

Still, maybe I’m the one who’s crazy. After all, I haven’t paid a lot of attention to either HuffPo or AOL lately. I’m a huge skeptic of synergy arguments of all kinds, but maybe Arianna is right when she says that in this deal, 1+1=11

Peter Kafka at Media Memo:

So maybe AOL + HuffPo won’t equal 11. And maybe 10x Huffington Post’s reported 2010 revenue is a very pre-Lehman multiple. But the broad strokes here make sense to me:

AOL is pushing its workers very hard to make more content it can sell. HuffPo is a content-making machine:

Huffington Post still has the reputation as a left-leaning political site written by Arianna Huffington’s celebrity pals. In reality, it is most concerned with attracting eyeballs anyway it can. Sometimes it’s with well-regarded investigative journalism, and much more often it’s via very aggressive, very clever aggregation. And sometimes it’s by simply paying very, very close attention to what Google wants, which leads to stories like “What Time Does The Super Bowl Start?

However they’ve done it, it’s worked–much more efficiently than AOL, which is headed in that direction as well. AOL reaches about 112 million people in the U.S. every month with a staff of 5,000. The Huffington Post, which employed about 200 people prior to the deal, gets to about 26 million.*

AOL can start selling this stuff immediately:

HuffPo reportedly generated around $30 million in revenue last year, but that was done using a relatively small staff that sales chief Greg Coleman had just started building. AOL’s much bigger sales group, which has just about finished its lengthy reorg, should be able to boost that performance immediately.

AOL can afford it:

Tim Armstrong’s company ended 2010 with $725 million in cash, much of which it generated by selling off old assets. This seems like a relatively easy check to write and one that shouldn’t involve a lot of overlapping staff–AOL figures it will save $20 million annually in cost overlaps, but that it will spend about $20 million this year on restructuring charges. HuffPo is about four percent of AOL’s size, and several of its top executives are already stepping aside. (This is the second time in two years that sales boss Greg Coleman has been moved out of a job by Tim Armstrong.) The biggest risk here will be in the way that Huffington, who is now editor in chief for all of AOL’s edit staff, gets along with her new employees. On the other hand, morale is low enough at many AOL sites that it will be hard to make things worse.

AOL Gets a Really Big Brand:

There’s some downside risk to attaching Arianna Huffington’s name to a big, mainstream media brand, as her politics and/or persona might scare off some readers and/or advertisers. But two years after Armstrong arrived from Google, AOL still doesn’t have a definable identity, other than “the Web site your parents might still pay for even though there’s no reason to do so.” Being known as “the guys who own Huffington Post” is infinitely better than that.

HuffPo’s “pro” list is much shorter, but only because there’s not much to think about for them: Huffington, co-founder Kenneth Lerer and their backers get a nice return on the five years and $37 million they put into the company. And those who stay on get to leverage the benefits of a much larger acquirer–access to more eyballs and more advertisers. Easy enough to understand.

Dan Lyons at The Daily Beast:

No doubt Hippeau and Lerer and Huffington were drinking champagne last night, but the truth is, this deal is not a victory for either side. It’s a slow-motion train wreck and will end in disaster.

Listen to Nick Denton, who runs Gawker, which now becomes the biggest independent Web-based news outlet. “I’m disappointed in the Huffington Post. I thought Arianna Huffington and Kenny Lerer were reinventing news, rather than simply flipping to a flailing conglomerate,” he told me.

Denton insists he has no intention of ever selling Gawker, and he seems not-so-secretly pleased to see his opponents cashing out: “AOL has gathered so many of our rivals— Huffington Post, Engadget, Techcrunch—in one place. The question: Is this a fearsome Internet conglomerate or simply a roach motel for once lively websites?”

One big problem with the deal is that Arianna Huffington now runs editorial for AOL properties, which include tech sites Engadget and TechCrunch. Those sites are both accustomed to being free-wheeling, fiercely independent and fiercely competitive—so competitive, in fact, that recently they’ve been battling with each other.

Michael Arrington, who runs TechCrunch and just sold it to AOL a few months ago, is an abrasive, big-ego, sometimes obnoxious guy. He’s a friend of mine, so I mean this in the best possible way. But I can’t imagine him working for Arianna.

The other, bigger problem is AOL itself. AOL touts itself as a media company, but as Ken Auletta reported in The New Yorker recently, most of what AOL publishes is junk, and 80 percent of its profits come from a rather seedy little business—charging subscription fees from longtime users who don’t realize that they no longer need to pay for AOL service, and could be getting it free.

The other problem is that AOL’s chief executive, Tim Armstrong, is a sales guy. He ran sales at Google before he came to AOL in 2009. Nothing wrong with sales guys, except when they start telling people how to do journalism. Sales guys deal in numbers. But journalism is about words. Sales guys live in a world where everything can be measured and analyzed. Their version of journalism is to focus on things like “keyword density” and search-engine optimization.

Journalists live in a world of story-telling, and where the value of a story, its power to resonate, is something they know by instinct. Some people have better instincts than others. Some people can improve their instincts over time. The other part of storytelling is not the material itself but how you present it. Some can spin a better tale out of the same material than others.

But no great storyteller has ever been someone who started out by thinking about traffic numbers and search engine keywords.

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Ring Around The Rosie

Publius at Big Government:

An anti-abortion group Tuesday released undercover video taken in its latest attempt to discredit an organization that provides abortions — footage of operatives posing as a pimp and a prostitute seeking health services at a New Jersey clinic.

The group releasing the video, Live Action, said it depicted a Planned Parenthood clinic employee offering to help cover up a sex ring so that its prostitutes could receive health services.

John Hudson at The Atlantic:

As with a lot Andrew Breitbart does, it’s wise to exercise a healthy dose of skepticism. The conservative media mogul who brought the world the Shirley Sherrod non-scandal, is now hosting a new undercover video about Planned Parenthood. In the video, a Planned Parenthood worker appears disturbingly eager to help two people receive abortions for 14 and 15-year-old girls without going through any legal provisions. When speaking with Planned Parenthood, the couple also suggests that the young girls are prostitutes. Despite that, the worker happily recommends an abortion provider that has less strict “protocols” regarding their age and identification

Kathryn Jean Lopez at The Corner:

Watching this new video that Live Action is releasing this morning, the best-case scenario for understanding what the heck might be motivating this woman is: She knows this goes on and she wants to make these kids as safe as possible. But she could be part of the solution and actually report this crime. The Live Action senario before her presents criminal behavior –  sex trafficking. And yet she meets it with even more. She even calls a colleague an awful name for being more “anal” about the rules. About sex trafficking? About child abuse?

Talking about underage girls at one point, she even offers her philosophy that an underage girl is “still entitled to care without mom knowing what the hell is going on.”

And apparently even if mom is far out of the picture and she’s slaving away for a pimp, birth control should be provided, abortions should be provided.

This particular video was taken of a clinic visit on January 11 in Perth Amboy, N.J. The timing of the video comes as New Jersey governor Chris Christie – who has already said “no” already for some Planned Parenthood funding — has a bill before him he could veto that would be another Planned Parenthood entry for some state and federal funds.

The release of the video this morning has been “expedited” by recent media reports that Planned Parenthood is onto Live Action’s most recent routine and wants the FBI involved. There is nothing Lila Rose would welcome more. (She has yet to receive any notification from Planned Parenthood or the FBI. All she knows she’s read in the media.)

From her undercover work, it is absolutely clear, Rose says, that “the perfect partner for a pimp is Planned Parenthood itself.” This Perth Amboy clinic presents itself “a save haven for sex trafficking.”

She’s confident both in the transparency of her group’s undercover work, and enthusiastic in the prospect of a full review by the Department of Justice about how Planned Parenthood officials flagrantly violate mandatory reporting requirements of the sexual abuse of minors.

Rose believes that the innocent unborn need to be protected, but also has a great love for these women who find themselves in these clinics. “Every prostitute is a victim,” she says.

“Planned Parenthood could be the first line of defense,” Rose says, for an Asian girl smuggled into the country for sex. Instead, in this particular Pert Amboy clinic, a sex trafficker was coached into how to make everything “look as legit as possible.” Coaching. “For the most part, we want as little information as possible,” she explained. The Planned Parenthood worker’s only obstacle to providing him the full “streamlined” services he wants to keep his business running is some auditing details she’s worried they could get caught on for abortions of these girls, in the country illegally, under 14 and 13, needing abortions. Saying – laughing — “You’ve never got this from me. Just to make all our lives easier,” she hands the pimp the name of another, non-Planned Parenthood clinic, which can get away with more. “They’re protocols are not as strict as ours, they get audited differently.”

When asked how long a girl might have to wait to get back to the work of the sex trade after an abortion, two weeks minimum is the answer. He protests, “We’ve still got to make money.” The clinic worker understands his predicament and so advises that the girls can still work “Waist up, or just be that extra action walking by” to advertise the girls who are still at full-body work.

It’s chilling. It’s ridiculous to know that in the wake of catching onto Live Action’s fieldwork, Planned Parenthood has reportedly warned its clinic workers to know there could be cameras on them. Another kind of alert is called for.

Weasel Zippers:

And this woman’s salary is paid with your tax-dollars.

Rachel Slajda at Talking Points Memo:

In a statement, Planned Parenthood said Live Action visited two Central New Jersey clinics on Jan. 13, including the one in the video. A spokesman for Planned Parenthood said that, immediately after the visits, clinic employees told their managers and called local law enforcement. It was not immediately clear, however, whether the woman in the video notified management or police.

The statement says “appropriate action is being taken” into the woman’s actions.

Planned Parenthood insists on the highest standards of care, and safeguards the trusted relationship we have with patients, families and communities. What appears on edited tapes made public today is not consistent with Planned Parenthood’s practices, and is under review. Phyllis Kinsler, CEO of Planned Parenthood of Central New Jersey (PPCNJ), has stated that, “the behavior of our employee, as portrayed on the video, if accurate, violates PPCNJ policies, as well as our core values of protecting the welfare of minors and complying with the law, and appropriate action is being taken.”

Live Action has not returned calls for comment.

The unedited video is not available. Live Action said in a release that it is sending the full footage to the FBI and state investigators.

After eight clinics reported the same strange visit within five days, Planned Parenthood reached out to the FBI, via a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, calling for an investigation into a potential sex trafficking ring. In the letter, Planned Parenthood notes that the visits had all the earmarks of a hoax.

The FBI reportedly opened an investigation, Planned Parenthood said.

A spokeswoman for the organization told TPM that at least some of the individual clinics also called local law enforcement when they received the visits.

At least one of Live Action’s campaigns against Planned Parenthood turned up actual wrongdoing. At a clinic in Indiana in 2009, an employee was fired and another resigned after Live Action released video of them saying they wouldn’t report it when Rose, posing as a 13-year-old, said her 31-year-old boyfriend impregnated her.

Ed Morrissey:

If Planned Parenthood objects to this method of investigative reporting, then perhaps they’ll press for tough inspection regimes.  After all, as we have seen in Pennsylvania, the political activism of the abortion industry has cowed public officials into inaction while the poor and underage get exploited, maimed, and sometimes killed.  Obviously, state agencies that exist to protect women and enforce the law aren’t doing their jobs — especially not when the Amy Woodruffs of the world feel comfortable in telling pimps how to keep their 14-year-old victims secret and working “from the waist up” for two weeks after an abortion.

Congress needs to act to cut off public funding of Planned Parenthood entirely.  They get around $300 million a year from taxpayers, and as Live Action has repeatedly proven, routinely flout laws voters have set for the protection of women and children.  I suspect that subsequent video releases will result in more sanctimony from Planned Parenthood, followed by more firings.

Jed Lewison at Daily Kos:

So another weirdo wingnut James O’Keefe wannabe has released a hoax video targeting “the left.” This one was created by an anti-choice activist named Lila Rose and it targets Planned Parenthood. Rose, who collaborated with O’Keefe in the past, aimed to produce a carbon copy of his ACORN/pimp hoax videos, this time substituting ACORN with Planned Parenthood and O’Keefe’s pimp outfit with actors and actresses claiming to be part of an underage prostitution ring.

Rose is just now releasing the videos in which she claims that Planned Parenthood conspired to cover up the prostitution ring. She only leaves out one detail: Planned Parenthood officials, who instantly realized they were probably being punked, nonetheless went to federal authorities on the off-chance that Rose’s actors weren’t part of another O’Keefe style hoax.

Planned Parenthood, a perennial protest target because of its role in providing abortions, has notified the FBI that at least 12 of its health centers were visited recently by a man purporting to be a sex trafficker but who may instead be part of an attempted ruse to entrap clinic employees.

In each case, according to Planned Parenthood, the man sought to speak privately with a clinic employee and then requested information about health services for sex workers, including some who he said were minors and in the U.S. illegally.

Planned Parenthood’s vice president for communications, Stuart Schear, said the organization has requested an FBI probe of the man’s claims and has already fielded some initial FBI inquiries. However, Schear said Planned Parenthood’s own investigation indicates that the man has links with Live Action, an anti-abortion group that has conducted previous undercover projects aimed at discrediting the nation’s leading abortion provider.

Even though Planned Parenthood went to authorities (despite their confidence that they’d been targeted by an O’Keefe-style fraudster), more than a week later, Rose still released the videos.

Rose isn’t going to get anywhere with her fraud. The only question is which is worse: falsely accusing Planned Parenthood of complicity in a child sex ring or forcing authorities to divert resources from pursuing real crimes while they investigate whether her hoax was, in fact, a hoax. Either way, the only thing her actions accomplish is to further discredit the playbook of clowns like Andrew Breitbart.

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Mirengoff Out At Powerline

James Meggesto:

As an enrolled member of the Onondaga Nation; as an attorney who has dedicated his life and law practice to the representation of Indian tribes, tribal organizations and tribal interests; and as a partner in the American Indian law and policy practice at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP, I was shocked, appalled and embarrassed by a recent Web posting by another Akin Gump partner, Paul Mirengoff, who posted on his personal blog an insensitive and wholly inappropriate criticism of the use of a Yaqui prayer as the invocation to the recent memorial service held in Tucson, Arizona. As soon as I and the firm became aware of this posting, the firm took immediate action to deal firmly with this unfortunate situation. Accordingly, Bruce McLean, chairman of the firm, issued the following statement: “We sincerely apologize for the blog entry posted by Akin Gump partner Paul Mirengoff on his personal blog, powerlineblog.com. Akin Gump is neither affiliated with, nor a supporter of, the blog. We found his remarks to be insensitive and wholly inconsistent with Akin Gump’s values. Mr. Mirengoff regrets his poor choice of words and agreed to remove his post.”

The post was subsequently removed, and Mr. Mirengoff issued the following apology:

“In a post last night, I criticized the use of a Yaqui prayer as the invocation to the memorial service in Tucson. In doing so, I failed to give the prayer the respect it deserves. Although I did not intend this as a slight to the religion or to the Yaqui tribe, it can clearly be interpreted as one. For this, I sincerely apologize to my readers, to the Yaqui tribe, to all tribal leaders and Indian people and, specifically, to Carlos Gonzales who delivered the prayer. I regret my poor choice of words, and I have removed the post.”

Paul Mirengoff at Powerline:

I have made the decision to discontinue blogging at this time. I thank John and Scott for bringing me along on this ride and I thank our readers as well. I couldn’t have hoped for better writing partners or for better readers. Best regards to all.

Legal Insurrection:

I’m late to this, but the story has not received a lot of coverage in the conservative blogosphere.  Paul Mirengoff of Power Line blog no longer is of Power Line blog.

Mirengoff is an attorney at Akin Gump, a big law firm with a large presence in Washington, D.C., where Mirengoff works as a partner in the employment law group.

Mirengoff was one of the founders of Power Line.  While I have disagreed with the folks there from time to time, there is no doubt that the Power Line bloggers are among the biggest names in the conservative blogosphere and make a valuable contribution to the conservative movement.  Any disagreements I have with them are disagreements among teammates.

So why is Mirengoff no longer at Power Line?

It all resulted from this blog post Mirengoff made after the Tucson shooting memorial service, in which the service was opened with a prayer, of sorts, from an American Indian tribal leader:

“As for the ‘ugly,’ I’m afraid I must cite the opening ‘prayer’ by Native American Carlos Gonzales,” Mirengoff wrote. It “apparently was some sort of Yaqui Indian tribal thing, with lots of references to ‘the creator’ but no mention of God. Several of the victims were, as I understand it, quite religious in that quaint Christian kind of way (none, to my knowledge, was a Yaqui). They (and their families) likely would have appreciated a prayer more closely aligned with their religious beliefs.”

The original post has been taken down, and I can’t find a Google Cache version, but the post was picked up elsewhere and is available here.

It is clear that Mirengoff was setting up a “the good, the bad, and the ugly” type of structure (originating, I think, from the movie of the same name).  Mirengoff even put the word ugly in quotation marks.  This is a very common device signalling that Mirengoff did not literally mean “ugly” but was using the term in the context of the phrase he was parodying.

Mirengoff’s post was not an attack on American Indians, the Yaqui tribe, or the participation of the tribal leader in a tribal prayer.  The point of the post quite clearly was on the absurdity of not having a Christian prayer said for Christian victims.  The lack of a Christian (or Jewish) prayer was commented on and criticized by a lot of people, and I agree with that criticism.  The American Indian leader was welcome to participate with a traditional prayer, but if you were going to have a memorial service, why not also pay religious respect to the people you were mourning?

Robert Stacy McCain:

The lawyer who denounced Mirengoff, James Meggesto, is a member of the Onondago Nation of New York who was hired by Akin Gump in February 2007 – i.e., right after Nancy Pelosi’s Democrats took over Congress. Megesto was one of three lawyers, including Vanessa Ray-Hodge and Madeline Soboleff Levy, hired by the firm at that time as part of an expansion of Akin Gump’s “American Indian law and policy practice” according to a Feb. 23, 2007, press release. Akin Gump’s total haul from lobbying in 2007 was $32 million – an increase of 25% over the previous year.

You may recall that Pelosi and Democrats were elected in 2006 on a promise to clean up the “culture of corruption” in Washington. Exhibit A in the Democrats’ case against the GOP that year? Yeah: “Casino Jack” Abramoff’s shady dealings with Indian tribes.

So in criticizing that Yaqui prayer at the Tucson memorial, Paul Mirengoff wasn’t just being politically incorrect, he was also offending a lucrative segment of Akin Gump’s lobbying clientele, whom the firm had recently hired three lawyers to service. Small wonder that Mirengoff was likely forced to choose: Quit blogging at Power Line or quit working at Akin Gump.

Dan Riehl:

It would have been good to know about the Murkowski – Akin Gump connection when Mirengoff was pushing her over Miller in the Alaska Senate race. Filed under F for transparency.

Charlie Martin at PJ Tatler:

This is what Granddaddy used to call “pissing in the soup,” and I’m not a little bit surprised, nor particularly disturbed that Mirengoff’s firm would prefer he either not piss in the soup or get the hell out of the kitchen.  And frankly, I don’t agree with either McCain or Jacobson: I think a liberal blogger who offended a big client would have something large fall from a great height upon his head.

There’s one more point, though.  As one of the differently-religioned (I’m a Buddhist, and my mother, also a Choctaw, converted to Judaism some years ago — when I say “differently-religioned” I ain’t just messing around) I may be more sensitive than some others to the general religious assumptions we make socially. On the other hand, sometimes I wonder if people pay attention to what’s being said.  Consider, for example, if we translate this by substituting references to other religions and, well, tribes:

As for the “ugly,” I’m afraid I must cite the opening “prayer” by Rabbi Schmuel Greenblatt. It was apparently was some sort of Hebrew tribal thing, with lots of references to “the Creator” but no mention of God. Several of the victims were, as I understand it, quite religious in that quaint Christian kind of way (none, to my knowledge, was a Jew). They (and their families) likely would have appreciated a prayer more closely aligned with their religious beliefs.

I don’t mean to excuse the organizers of this debacle; it would have been appropriate to have had a Pastor, and a Priest, and a Rabbi, and hell, an Imam and whatever, if they were going to have a Yaqui shaman. (What makes this even harder is that ever since Carlos Casteñeda, every half-pint poseur has talked about learning from the Yaqui; who the hell knows if Gonzales had any better claim to be a medicine man than I do?)

But if anyone has trouble understanding why someone might be offended, go back and read the parallel universe excoriation of poor Rabbi Greenblatt’s little prayer.

James Joyner:

On the surface, it strikes me that Akin Gump overreacted to a minor incident.  But I don’t know enough about the firm’s clientele and business model to really evaluate. And, certainly, it has every right to control its public image, to include ensuring the partners don’t write embarrassing things in public fora.  Mirengoff is a labor law specialist with a distinguished record in the field and knows that.

Jeff Goldstein at Protein Wisdom:

Doesn’t matter, really. If we’re going to pretend that language works in a way that it clearly doesn’t — and to institutionalize that idea into our very epistemology — what we will end up with is the slow erosion of our speech, as more and more of it becomes subject to “interpretations” motivated by cynicism and a will to power.

This latest is just another dismal example of how precisely such a “democratic” method of “interpretation” can and will be used to diminish the individual at the whims of a motivated collective.

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