Sunday, July 25, 2010

Sunday Reading

The Scourge of Anonymity — Glenn Greenwald looks at the perils of trusting anonymous sources on the Internet.

CNN’s Kyra Phillips and John Roberts spent a good five minutes yesterday expressing serious concern over what they called “the dark side” of the Internet: the plague of “anonymous bloggers” who are “a bunch of cowards” for not putting their names on what they say, and who use this anonymity to spread “conspiracy,” “lunacy,” “extremism” and false accusations (video below). The segment included excerpts from an interview with Andrew Keene, author of Cult of the Amateur: How Today’s Internet is Killing our Culture, who explained that the Real Media must serve as “gatekeepers” to safeguard the public against the dangers of anonymity on the Internet. Roberts demanded that bloggers should “have the courage at the very least to put your name on it,” while Phillips announced: “something is going to have to be done legally. . . . these people have to be held accountable, they’re a bunch of cowards.”

These CNN journalists have a very good point, of course: it was, after all, Internet bloggers — using the scourge of anonymity — who convinced the nation of a slew of harmful conspiracy theories: Saddam had WMD, an alliance with Al Qaeda, and responsibility for the anthrax mailings. Anonymity is also what allowed bloggers to smear Richard Jewell, Wen Ho Lee, and Steven Hatfill with totally false accusations that destroyed their lives and reputation, and it’s what enabled bloggers to lie to the nation about Jessica Lynch’s heroic firefight, countless U.S. airstrikes, and a whole litany of ongoing lies about our current wars. And remember when anonymous bloggers spewed all sorts of nasty, unaccountable bile about Sonia Sotomayor’s intellect and temperament? Just as Roberts lamented, blogs — as a result of anonymity — are the “Wild West of the Internet . . . . like a giant world-wide bathroom wall where you can write anything about anyone.”

His point, of course, is that all of those anonymously-sourced stories appeared in the mainstream media; i.e. newspapers and broadcast news outlets.

More below the fold.

Tightly Wrapped PackageThe Miami Herald tries to lift the curtain around Rick Scott, the multi-millionaire Republican running for governor in Florida.

”The only thing we know about him is what he’s wanted us to know, so I’m eager to see what he’s like for real,” said Joni Weist, a Sarasota Republican club leader who said she left unsatisfied after hearing him speak.

”I had to keep asking him follow-up questions regarding his plan to attract businesses to Florida,” said Radio Mambi host Ninoska Pérez Castellón, who spoke with Scott in Miami. ”He’s very much like what he projects on television, but in this particular election, I think people need more than an image and a promise because of the economic situation. He gives very standard answers, and voters are going to want more from him and all of the candidates.”

Scott on offshore oil drilling: ”We have to continue to look at it.”

On his business background: ”I know what it’s like to balance a budget.”

On social issues: ”Family values are very important to me. I’m a Christian. I am pro-life and pro-family.”

The few questions he fields from voters at some events offer the only unscripted moments of his campaign.

At a Clearwater diner, Scott agreed with high school teacher Sean O’Flannery in supporting a bill vetoed by Gov. Charlie Crist that would have overhauled teacher tenure. Asked for his education plan, Scott told the teacher he would release one soon but cautioned what would work in Clearwater won’t work elsewhere.

”And also a school’s color,” Scott said. ”If you’re 70 percent African-American, you are going to deal with different issues.”

The teacher agreed, but the McCollum campaign seized on the remarks, calling them ”concerning.”

Robert Phillips, a former corporate executive, asked Scott about the $1.7 billion fine for Medicare fraud paid by his former company, Columbia/HCA. Scott gave his stock response in which he takes responsibility and says he wished he had more auditors.

”All he’s told us is trust him,” said Phillips, who remains undecided about the race. ”That’s not enough.”

Leonard Pitts, Jr. on the Sherrod story.

[I]sn’t it telling how often conservatives will discover their burning concern over race just when it becomes useful to them? We saw this last year. In a nation where one state may soon require Latinos to show their papers, conservatives hyperventilated over the ”racism” of Sonia Sotomayor extolling the virtues of a ”wise Latina.”

Now, against the backdrop of an Agriculture Department that long ago admitted to decades of discrimination against black farmers, Breitbart weeps over the ”racism” of Shirley Sherrod refusing to assist a white farmer — right up until she did.

It is probably useless to say Breitbart should be ashamed. There is little evidence he possesses the ability. But Sherrod is pondering a defamation suit, and a judgment in her favor might help him fix that defect.

May she win big. And may the outrage machine choke on the bill.

Gone Flat — Alex Jung at Salon interviews Paul Solotaroff on the decline of the muscle culture in America.

Where have all the muscle men gone? Just a few short decades ago, men like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Hulk Hogan and Sylvester Stallone, with their glistening bodybuilder physiques, were not only movie stars but the embodiment of the 1980s American zeitgeist — pumped up, ripped and always ready to take off their shirt and start flexing. Nowadays, hyper-muscular physiques are more readily associated with a hard-partying subset of gay men and the cast of “Jersey Shore” than with conventional notions of sexiness (the Village Voice went so far as to conflate the two by putting the “Jersey Shore” stars on the cover of its queer issue). It’s a change that telegraphs the ways in which our ideas about masculinity — and sex — have changed since the early ’70s.

Muscle culture and the politics of masculinity are two things that are awfully familiar to Paul Solotaroff, contributing editor at Men’s Journal and Rolling Stone. His new memoir, “The Body Shop,” recounts his own tortured relationship with steroids and weightlifting — an obsession that simultaneously built up his body and broke it down. Coming of age in the ’70s, he was saddled with a slight frame and father issues, but when he began injecting steroids as a freshman in college, he went from anxious beanpole to muscle-bound hulk in a few short months. This change led to a career as a stripper, coke-fueled orgies and a lifetime of health problems.

Doonesbury — Clip and save.