Sometimes August really is a slow season for news. Case in point in recent days is the amount of ink spilt to discuss liberal political blogger Joshua Marshall’s charge that in an “egregious trespass” the WashingtonPost.com has “purloined” the name of his site for one of its online columns. Best of the Web Today, InstaPundit, Tapped and the Washington Times have all weighed in, some pro, some less so, regarding the little guy’s plight at the hands of the conglomerate. Most damaging to Marshall’s case has been BOTWT’s discovery that Fox’s Bill O’Reilly began using the name Marshall implies is exclusively his some two years before Marshall’s site came into existence.
But all that may be neither here nor there. Marshall’s site is called Talking Points Memo. So is O’Reilly’s segment on his Fox News show, though often it’s simply called Talking Points and at other times “The Memo.” Meanwhile, the WashingtonPost.com is calling its new political column Talking Points, a much less controversial unacknowledged borrowing from Marshall than Marshall’s unacknowledged borrowing from O’Reilly. By itself, Talking Points sounds relatively generic, a widely enough used term of the bureaucratic age. But add the word “memo” to it and right away something distinct is formed. Marshall should go vegetarian: he has no beef.
There is, in short, a world of difference between Talking Points and Talking Points Memo. Just as there is between Grover Cleveland and Grover Cleveland Alexander, or between George Washington and George Washington Carver.
InstaPundit Glenn Reynolds defends Marshall against O’Reilly on the grounds that the Talking Points Memo has become identified with Marshall’s in a way it apparently hasn’t with O’Reilly. But one could just as easily argue that until Marshall lodged his complaint no one paid much attention to the name of his site anyway. Reynolds expresses disappointment that the Post‘s Howard Kurtz didn’t address the matter in his recent weekly online chat, and Marshall himself claims that people at the Post must have heard of his site given that Kurtz’s online Media Notes column has kindly picked up on items from his site once a week or so for the last two years. But that doesn’t necessarily mean the name of his site caught on, since a spot check suggests that when Kurtz links to Marshall it is always to him by name and not to the name of his site.
At least Marshall doesn’t have to complain that nobody knows his name. Perhaps his complaint all along has been that nobody knew the name of his website, and now he’s found a way to get it out. Then again, the recent publicity just might only serve to get his name out that much more, widening still further the gap between his own fame and that of his site. Marshall should be happy he’s not one of those obscure bloggers who hide behind cute site names and monikers as if they were still stuck in the CB radio world of Smokey and the Bandit. One exception to this practice is the so-called Bull Moose, which only pretends not to have a known author because everyone knows it’s the product of Marshall Wittmann, a major league Washingtonian. The Bull Moose he may be, but whenever Howard Kurtz’s cites him he always calls him Marshall Wittmann.
Oddly, although everyone also knows that InstaPundit is really Glenn Reynolds, more often than not he’s referred to as InstaPundit. Reynolds doesn’t seem to mind. Nor does he appear at all upset that his web moniker has sparked many imitators — Indepundit, Gedankenpundit, Happy Fun Pundit — whom he links to with no worry they are somehow trespassing on his product.
By Internet democratic standards, it’s almost unseemly for Marshall to be so uptight. One would think his progressive nature would have him calling for a thousand Talking Points to bloom.
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