Wednesday, February 9, 2011

RIP, Huffington Post


I know, it has been awhile.  I work the equivalent of two jobs folks, so sometimes I will be posting a little less (or more) than others.  For my tens of readers, my sincerest apologies.

And now for something completely different.  The death of Huffington Post.  I have been waiting for this sellout for quite some time.  It is of interest to me not just because I am a longtime reader, but because I have noticed over the past year that the site was becoming less political and more entertainment-driven (i.e., trivial and drivel).  I remember well Arianna's career as a right-wing Republican back in the '90s, when she was the wife of an aspiring Senator who never became one (before divorcing), but something happened to Arianna between that split and the early 2000s.  A complete metamorphosis.

Ideology is one of those tricky things because it is a result of belief (like religion), as opposed to some innate quality like ethnicity, race, or physical characteristic.  To be sure, 80% of voters in the US vote the way their parents do/did, and mostly reflect the prejudices and biases of their parents or guardians, but we are not calculators.  We do, after all, change our minds.  I cannot count the number of times I have seen my students switch ideologically, almost overnight (usually, from right to left, but sometimes to or away from libertarianism, as well).  It happens.

It is, however, somewhat less frequent for people to completely and instantly change their worldviews (after a lifetime of commitment to an ideology) in their early 50s.  This is what supposedly happened to Arianna Huffington.  And by instantly, I mean literally the person who once wrote a book and gave speeches bashing feminists as men-haters within a year opining about the importance of choice and gay rights.  The same person who advocated (as recently as the late-90s) expelling all "illegal immigrants" then transforms by 1999-2000 to extol the virtues of immigration and the need for humane treatment and amnesty for the so-called illegal immigrants residing in the US.  The same person who claimed that Bill Clinton was a socialist  (and supported his impeachment) turned on a dime to call George W. Bush (and the entire Republican Party) fascist.

To say that this raised some eyebrows would be an understatement.  Huffington, for her part, claimed she was only a conservative (for the first five decades of her life) because she was 'fooled' by the GOP and conservative establishment (an establishment that she was a big part of).  There was no explanation for how you go from hating immigrants, abortion, and gays to thinking completely the opposite the next day.  No personal revelations or experiences.  No accounts about meeting a victim of a back alley abortion or migrant farm worker starving to make it by.  No need to say how this really happened beyond the claim she was just fooled.

For this reason, I never bought into Arianna's progressive credentials anymore than John Edwards (who was a moderate-to-conservative Senator from North Carolina before pretending to care about poor people in his 2008 presidential campaign [replete with a $400 haircut]).  I do not necessarily think that Arianna was lying to say she had switched sides, but I do believe she was much less ideological than her rhetoric (and some issues were of greater priority than those deemed more valuable to a genuine ideologue).  In that sense Arianna's politics was probably closer to the cynics (my most beloved Greek school of philosophical thought), minus the fact that Diogenes never asserted he was a Hellenistic militarist before changing his mind (and changing it again later on, for a retainer fee of $300 million).

You could tell the jig was up with the Huffington Post by early last year (Jan. 2010 or thereabouts).  Political commentary and articles started being drowned out by articles about Lindsay Lohan, Lady Gaga, and some errant professional athlete of the hour.  Why would a political site do this?  Imagine reading The Nation and the very next week it looks like a British tabloid.  It was not that stark, of course, because the Huffington Post, even at its best, was less journalistically rigorous than The Nation, but the difference between that site today and a couple of years ago is noticeable to anyone who pays attention.

It is in this context that Arianna's sellout of the Huffington Post to a large (and in my view criminal*) corporation like AOL should come as no surprise to anyone.  Here is what the chairman of AOL thinks of the average reader of the Huffington Post.  "Arianna has the same interest we do, which is serving consumers' needs and going beyond the just straight political needs of people."

See, you progressive whiners.  You never knew it, but you are merely consumers to be fed the same escapism as the readers of the National Enquirer.  So, stop ye cryin'.  

I guess that is what we get for venturing outside of the pages of Democracy Now!

*=for those of you who recall what AOL was like back in the '90s and into the early 2000s, when their dial-up internet service would continuously charge you and make it virtually impossible to cancel an account, that is the newest owner of this once progressive site.

1 comment:

JM said...

And now adbusters is coming into the fray:
http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2011/02/bloggers-readers-band-quit-huffington-post/