The Fix

Will a time delay save the Grammys and Oscars from the Super Bowl's booby trap? Plus: The furious rise of the anonyblogger.


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Christopher Farah
February 5, 2004 4:30AM (UTC)

Afternoon Briefing:
Delays, delays: Drudge is running a press release from the head of CBS affiliate relations announcing an "enhanced" delay in the Grammy Awards to be broadcast Sunday, Feb. 8. The 5-second delay they've used in the past was for audio and now they say they will be able to edit out "inappropriate audio and video footage from the broadcast." They add: "The precise length of the new delay has yet to be determined." There's also talk that ABC wants a delay during the Oscar show, which has traditionally been one of the few live shows broadcast without any delays. All this hullabaloo because of a breast! The mammaries quite visible on the red carpets alone could cause hours of delays. (Drudge, Variety)

The wearing and tearing of the flag: The Veterans of Foreign Wars aren't as upset by Janet Jackson's boob as they are by Kid Rock's flag poncho, made by cutting a slit in the red, white and blue. The VFW's leader said the outfit was "in poor taste and extremely disrespectful." (AP)

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Streaker's lament: Meanwhile, the man who did the most to get attention ended up being ignored. Mark Roberts, somewhat of a professional streaker from Liverpool (he's done it on ITV, at Wimbledon and the Grand National), ran on the field before the second half, got in an Irish jig and some moonwalking and then was gingerly escorted off by a player. Said Roberts about Janet: "She took my thunder. If she hadn't done that I would have been front page material." (Scotsman)

The Passion of "The Passion": Today's rumor about Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" is that Mel is considering cutting a line from the film that both focus groups and Jewish groups may have complained about. It's a passage from Matthew that has a Jewish high priest declaring "His blood be on us and on our children." (CBN)

Not during teatime! Brits heard the C-word and the F-word in the same exclamation last night when ex-Sex Pistol John Lydon ran amok on an ITV show called "I'm a Celebrity ... Get Me Out of Here!" The station apologized to the 98 people who called to complain. (Guardian)

-- Karen Croft

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I know you are but who am I?
You don't have to look long to find the names of a slew of public (and often media) figures held up for some serious derision on the blogs Atrios, Media Whores Online or The Minor Fall, The Major Lift.

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On Tuesday, Atrios called New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof "human scum," for a series of stories Kristof wrote about international prostitution, adding, "F--- you Kristof." MWO's attacks have been noted in Salon before. And a quick scan of TMFTML will turn up a recent spoof of a column written by Christopher Hitchens for Vanity Fair that paints him as an anti-Semite who believes Jews have horns, and who doesn't know how to spell "yarmulke." TMFTML likes to swipe at the predictable media targets -- Peggy Noonan, Tina Brown, Michael Wolff -- but is distinguished in his desire to take the long knives out for writers whose names only the most obsessed mediaphiles would recognize (and whose gigs, a reader's left to guess, he may covet dearly). Not long ago he wrote elaborately of how a freelance writer for the Times, whose stories he disliked, should "die, ideally in the most painful and protracted manner possible."

It takes a certain courage to shoot half-cocked into the media landscape like that. Or does it? These and other bloggers have made names for themselves by having no names at all -- and by using the safety and security of their secret identities to spread gossip, make accusations and levy the most vicious of insults with impunity.

Anonybloggers have given various reasons for the decision to withhold their identity. MWO's proprietor told Salon in a detailed e-mail that MWO writers and producers were concerned that if their identity were known, it could "detrimentally affect their employment," given the site's controversial content. "There is a long tradition of anonymous speech in America," writes MWO, adding, "the right is consistently protected and defended by our courts." MWO went on to claim that mainstream publications would be better off if all their articles were published anonymously. "Editors and publishers would be far more concerned with accuracy and credibility if they understood their entire news organization would be accountable."

But what about the hypocrisy in attacking others while protecting oneself from any sort of retaliation? MWO says its critics "are able to respond directly to our content, and they do. Should any contributor run afoul of any free speech regulations, there would be legal accountability." Atrios, meanwhile, refused to comment at all for this story, saying, "I just don't think it's an interesting topic."

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TMFTML didn't reply to an e-mail from Salon, forwarded via the domain's owner, San Francisco writer Greg Beato. (Beato says he is not TMFTML.) In fact, last Thursday, TMFTML -- in an act that was, as many blogs are, simultaneously self-effacing and self-aggrandizing -- made a desperate, slightly paranoid-sounding plea for the public to respect his anonymity. Like MWO, he feared for his job. ("You know those ten, eleven posts that you see on this site every day?" he wrote. "They happen during working hours.") For a blogger who never sheds an ounce of sympathy for his subjects, the post could be easily confused with one of his spoofs.

Not surprisingly, journalism experts suggest anonybloggers are operating outside of any reasonable ethical line. "One of the things that's going to have to become a standard for the Internet is, if you want to be taken seriously, you have to be identified," says Alex Jones, director of Harvard's Shorenstein Center. "Anonymity is almost always, for the mainstream anyway, something that says, 'Be very, very careful.'"

But it hasn't stopped the mainstream from citing the blogs. The New York Times' Paul Krugman cited Atrios in a column, and Atrios has even appeared on public radio. Reports by Media Whores Online have certainly been picked up by partisans on the left, especially on CNN's "Crossfire."

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And in this one respect, perhaps, lies some nobility in anonyblogging. Unlike some talented writers (Elizabeth Spiers, formerly of Gawker, say, or Talking Points Memo's Joshua Micah Marshall) who have turned blogging into high-profile gigs, how can an anonyblogger ever capitalize on any success? Beato, a longtime blogger himself, calls his anonymous brethren "a bunch of misguided souls who don't understand that the whole point of blogging is self-promotion."

-- Christopher Farah

Editor's note: This story has been corrected since its original publication.

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Christopher Farah

Christopher Farah is an editorial fellow at Salon.

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