The Slaughterhouse

Huffing and Puffing

The Huffington Post shows off its wares.

By From the March 2009 issue

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The Huffington Post Complete Guide to Blogging
By the Editors of the Huffington Post
(Simon & Schuster, 230 pages, $15 paper)

Last time we saw Arianna (July-August, 2008), she was having a hard time trying to "focus." This time around, no such luck. In fact, she is happy to showcase her sexual linguistics. In one of the excerpts from her blogging featured in this volume, she warns her gal readers of the dangers that await those of them who deprive themselves of sleep: "So do yourself a favor and go to sleep right after sex. Or before sex. Or instead of sex. Just not during sex."

In another, she plays sexual politics to mock one of her progressive targets: "Wouldn't it be delicious if the female orgasm were the thing that tips the scales in favor of the Intelligent Design crowd? It would make for a great closing argument. 'The female orgasm is so complex and strange, it could only have come from God.'" At this rate she'll soon be writing for Bill Maher, who as it happens is also showcased as a Huffington Post blogger. Here's Maher spilling the extent of his knowledge:

Republican sex scandals are getting to be like Iraqi car bombings. By the time you hear about one, there's been another. Ted Haggard, Mark Foley, Bob Allen, Vitter, Craig… It's like Clue, only the answer is always "A Republican… in the washroom...with his cock."

Larry Craig, to be fair, has female admirers at the HuffPost as well, as in this from one Hilary Rosen: "Larry Craig isn't gay. Thank god cuz we don't really want him be. Ick."

Which brings us to some of the HuffPost gang's admonitions to prospective emulators. "Don't use your blog to purposefully target and defame someone." "Write like you speak." "…Or don't clean up the grammar"—Rosie O'Donnell sure doesn't at her Rosie.com blog, "and judging by page views, it seems to be working for her." As for the need to censure "excessive foul language," that applies only to the Comments section. Such a double-standard, though what else can you expect from a collective that spends much of its time celebrating being on the cutting edge of a "new form of human communication," one that is "more democratic" (and "more interactive" and "more fun") than anything ever before? So if "raucous democracy" and "participatory democracy" is your cup of herbal latte, you've come to the right place.

I've been there before. Here's how it works. The setting was the Arianna-organized "Shadow Convention" not far from Staples Center in Los Angeles the night before the opening of the 2000 Democratic Convention. The lobby of the aging, Italianate Patriotic Hall was hopping with progressive fervor, as longhairs in jeans and denim shirts awaited the likes of that evening's speakers Gary Hart, Paul Wellstone, Russ Feingold and other representatives of the democratic wing of the Democratic Party. And where was Arianna? Inside a glass-enclosed VIP room, visible to, yet safely removed from, the rabble as she mingled with fellow nomenklaturists granted entrance through a door zealously guarded by bemuscled bouncers from the former Studio 54 and the KGB.

The Huffington Post is a continuation of the lobby scene, if in a different setting. It feigns talk of community and interactivity and burgeoning democracy yet is utterly dependent on its celebrity ties and all the air-headed status politics derived therefrom. As a business model it's been hugely successful, which shouldn't surprise seeing as how we're now led by a president passing himself off as a cult leader of a very committed zombie following. Thus while this blogging guide goes through the motions to offer rudimentary tips to anyone wanting to start up a blog of her own (in the progressive world "her" always trumps "his"), it can't help but toot its own horn at every opportunity and to remind readers of Arianna's many chic connections. And so we get "advice," as the cover promises, from, among others, the ever loyal Gary Hart, Ms. Jamie Lee Curtis, and Steven Weber. I mention them because who will ever forget what they have to say?

Hart, for starters, is the last person in Arianna's circle who uses "liberal" where everyone else uses "progressive." He remains syntactically challenged too: "As a member of a generation passing from the public stage, the Huffington blososphere has provided me a venue...." Jamie oozes earnestness: "The first time I blogged, like the first time I wrote a book, I didn't know I was doing it. I was just expressing an idea….  The individual roving mind of a woman. My mind." And what's on her mind: "I think we as a species are on a suicidal course…" That would upset Steven Weber. You might remember him from the TV show Wings, or as one of the wimp boyfriends offed by the murderous roommate in Single White Female. So it's easy to find him daring when he confesses he's been using his blogging space on Arianna's site "to reveal my political leanings and subsequently encourage a response other than praise from an audience." Oh, good, I thought, a potential Ron Silver. Yeah, right. Next time we hear from Weber, 146 pages later, he's trashing Bush for depriving children of universal health care.

If there's a hero in this operation it is David Mamet. The book tries to present him as a frequent presence, when in fact his contributions petered out almost two years ago. And other than the deserving good things said about Mickey Kaus and Greg Gutfeld, this will leave the reader with only one Huffer to like—for, yes, it's simply impossible to dislike Nora Ephron. So pick your poison. You can gush along with HuffPost associate blog editor David Flumenbaum when he says, "The question of what makes a blog post good is as simple and as complicated as asking what makes a poem beautiful, what makes a feature story captivating…" Or you can smile at Ephron's witting honesty for comparing blog contributions to soap bubbles, "meant to last just a moment or two.…The odds on a blog being relevant or even comprehensible days later [are] remote; just as well that it last[s] only a moment." Certainly the Huffington Post's moment has come. How long before it's gone?

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About the Author
Wlady Pleszczynski is editorial director of The American Spectator and the editor of AmSpec Online.