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November 22, 2002

Ever since Michael Moore removed a page from his website where he predicted Democratic victory in the recent election, he's been getting his knuckles wrapped by media nuns across the blogosphere.

Nothing wrong with that, but on the other hand, now that these "enforcers of transparency" have worked over Moore, how about getting on Drudge's case? Drudge has been publishing on the web a lot longer than Michael Moore has, and to date, he hasn't formally archived even one of his dispatches.

About a year ago, some guy started archiving Drudge's site, but that still leaves about six years worth of Drudge's dispatches missing in action. You can find many of them through various means, as I detailed here, but one place you can't find them is Drudge's own site.

So, to summarize: Moore removes one page from his site, and the media watchdogs howl in unison. Over the course of seven years, Drudge fails to archive even one page from his site, and yet the mighty hounds of truth remain silent.

UPDATE: Ken Layne says I'm "silly" to contend that Matt Drudge's failure to archive any of his posts is just as worthy of criticism as Michael Moore's decision to remove one of his posts. First, though, he mischaracterizes my post above by saying "Greg Beato takes some bloggers to task for criticizing Michael Moore's memory hole."

But that's not really true; as I say in the post above, I think there is "nothing wrong with [criticizing Moore]." (I also reinforce this notion in one of my posts in the comments section, when I say that Moore should be accountable to his audience.)

It's also true that I tweak Moore's critics by calling them "media nuns" and "mighty hounds of truth," but that's not because I think they were wrong to criticize Moore. Instead, it's because I think they are wrong to apply their watch-dogging skills to Moore alone. That is, Moore should be criticized, and so should Drudge.

Next, Ken says: "Intent is really the issue here. As the Drudge Report has never had an archive, it's silly to compare that to Michael Moore's selective memory hole."

Even if Ken didn't go on to supply a case for "intent," I think such reasoning lets Drudge off the hook far too easily. It's basically like saying, "Well, because Drudge was lazy and irresponsible right from the start, it's ok that he's lazy and irresponsible."

But instead of getting deeply into that argument, I'll just let Ken continue:

"If I recall from an article I read several years ago, he never added his own archives due to legal advice after the Blumenthal thing. The logic was that a big pile of crazy Drudge news flashes would be irresistible to litigious public figures."

This, to me, if it's really true, sounds a lot like "intent": Drudge knew that his "crazy Drudge news flashes" made him vulnerable to lawsuits, so he didn't maintain an archive of them. Ken tries to give the concept a pro-Drudge spin - he's just protecting himself from "litigious public figures." But to me it's just a smarter, more efficient way of ass-covering than Moore employed: delete everything a few days after you run it, so that if something ends up being wrong or embarrassing, it's harder for people to keep track of it. In other words, it establishes his intent to make his site less transparent.

Posted by Greg Beato at 03:49 PM
You Know You're Right-wing

A couple days ago, WSJ editorial board member Nancy Dewolf Smith wrote about the new Kurt Cobain book of private diary entries, Journals. Smith's critique was two-fold: she condemned Cobain for thinking bad thoughts and in one instance doing a bad thing; she also condemned Newsweek and the New York Times for not referencing the book's most objectionable moments in their coverage of it.

In regard to Newsweek and the New York Times, I think her critique has some validity: they did seemingly tread delicately around some of the book's most objectionable moments.

But what really gets my attention is what Smith writes here: "if Cobain hadn't found an outlet and an audience for his hostility by performing in the band Nirvana, would he have turned the shotgun he used to kill himself in 1994 on the rest of us instead? Such questions are inescapable after reading even a sampling of Cobain's notebooks..."

In other words, Smith seems to be saying, if a person expresses violent fantasies in a private diary, we should inescapably conclude that that person will inevitably go on to commit real acts of major physical violence...

Indeed, Smith actually equates Cobain's private scribblings with the work of actual killers: "And then there's what, for lack of a better phrase, sounds like Kurt in pre-Columbine mode: 'It is time now for the 'fortunate ones,' the cheerleaders and the football jocks to strip down naked in front of the entire school at an assembly and plead with every ounce of their souls for mercy and forgiveness...they are representatives of gluttony and selfish values and to say that they are sorry for condoning these things will not be enough, they must mean it, they must have guns pointed to their heads.'"

For lack of a better phrase? How about "And then there's what appears to be Cobain's notes for a music video..."

Again, not having read Journals yet, it's hard to say what context Smith is ripping this example from. But the scenario Cobain is imagining here is fairly evocative of both the lyrics and the video for "Smells Like Teen Spirit."

So, basically what Smith is saying is that producing a creative work (i.e., a song) is just one step shy of killing 13 people. Talk about moral equivalence - I don't think even Tipper Gore thinks song lyrics are that dangerous!

But you know what is really egregious about this WSJ op-ed? The outrageous double standard it employs.

A few days ago, I was talking about how quickly some people cry "double standard," even if the situations to which a standard is being applied are relatively dissimilar and even if the institutions doing the applying have no connection to each other. In such instances, of course, a true double standard simply cannot exist.

But if you compare Smith's op-ed with an op-ed by Melik Kaylan that the WSJ published a while back about Ann Coulter, you actually do have the right conditions to see whether or not a double standard is in effect.

That is, the same institution published both pieces. And both pieces presumed to judge the seriousness of someone's private utterances that another party ultimately published.

In the case of Kurt Cobain, it was the remark quoted by Smith above, and a few others that she included in her piece.

In the case of Ann Coulter, it was this remark she made to NY Observer journalist George Gurley while he was interviewing her for a profile: "Is your tape recorder running? Turn it on! I got something to say...My only regret with Timothy McVeigh is he did not go to the New York Times Building."

Sticklers will point out that there actually is a difference here: while Cobain didn't willfully make his diary entries public, Coulter did willfully make her remark public.

Beyond that, however, the situation is pretty much the same.

So how did the WSJ respond to these two similar instances?

Smith uses words like "icky" and "disturbing" to describe Cobain's diary entries, and says things like "Snippets are scattered through the 'Journals' like a breadcrumb path to the doorway of a psyche that seems a bit worse-off than most" and "There are sadistic fantasies about traditional figures, such as 'the Virgin Mary Hooked thru her back on a meat hook.'"

Kaylan uses words like "impassioned outrage" and "conservative firecracker" to describe Coulter and her outbursts. Of her own sadistic fantasies about traditional figures, i.e., her desire to blow up the Times building and all its inhabitants, he writes: "Miss Coulter...acts out her thoughts in a kind of 'what if' political theater, a tongue-in-cheek agitprop..."

As it happens, I agree with Kaylan: Coulter knows that if someone really did blow up the Times, her career would be up in smoke as well, so of course she doesn't really wish them ill.

But why does the WSJ find tongue-in-cheek agitprop in Coulter's remarks, and a bread-crumb path to Columbine in Cobain's similar rantings? Or to put it more specifically, does Smith really believe that Cobain was serious when he wrote: "I like to make incisions into the belly of infants then fuck the incisions until the child dies."

Well, I suppose it's possible that she is that dumb.

But my guess is that she really does understand that Cobain was simply practicing the kind of hyperbolic nihilism that has defined punk rock since its inception: he was trying to think of the most awful, provocative, shocking thing he could say, and he said it (in the privacy of his diary). Just like Coulter tries to think of the most awful, provocative, shocking things she can say (in public).

But since Coulter is an avowed conservative and Cobain had liberal leanings, the WSJ championed Coulter and vilified Cobain.

That, for anyone who is unclear on the concept, is a genuine double standard.

Posted by Greg Beato at 01:15 PM
November 21, 2002
Deep Denial

According to a press release from the RIAA, intellectual property terrorist Johnny Deep (my characterization, not the RIAA's) continues to exploit artists and record companies to the tune of $1500 a day.

The RIAA says Deep "has willfully disregarded an order issued on November 4, 2002. In that order, the court directed Aimster to immediately prevent its users from uploading and downloading copyrighted works or shut down its operations until it can do so."

The press release continues: "The RIAA's motion also suggests that the court directly fine John Deep his daily profits ($1,500 per day) with the money going to the Court. "

I have sent an email to Deep asking him if that's an accurate characterization of his profits, and how many subscribers Madster currently has. (Subscriptions go for $4.95 a month.) If he replies, I'll post his response here.

According to this article, Deep owes $450,000 to Boies Schiller & Flexner LLP, the law firm that has been representing him in his legal battle against the RIAA.

So Deep doesn't pay anything to artists. He doesn't pay anything to record companies. And he doesn't pay anything to the law firms who represent him when he gets into to trouble for trying to make money by not paying anything to artists and record companies. At least he's consistent.

Posted by Greg Beato at 01:55 PM

In my ongoing campaign to enrich Big Media, I decided to give a try.

Currently, you need a PC, U.S. citizenship, and a love of movies so great that you'll watch them on your computer. (Of course, if you have a TV close to your computer, you can play the movie on it if you have the right cables.) Also, it helps if you don't actually watch that many movies despite your love for them, because Movielink's selection is pretty limited so far.

But online services have to start somewhere, so I decided to try it out. The process was a little rocky - first, I had to upgrade my copy of Windows Media in order to get the latest Digital Rights Management software. Then, after I paid for and downloaded my first movie, I made the mistake of logging off the Internet before actually trying to view the movie - and that somehow corrupted the movie file I had downloaded.

That meant a call to tech support - and of course I was starting to think, "Tech support for watching a movie?"

But the tech support guy was helpful, he credited me for the movie, and I downloaded it again. And this time I stayed connected to the Internet as I began playing it, and everything worked fine.

So now I have 24 hours in which to finish watching the movie, and then it self-destructs...

In other words, the service isn't perfect yet: the whole key to making it work is to make it more convenient and more economical than any other way you can currently rent movies. That means if video stores give you 5 days to watch a movie, should give you 5 days to watch a movie. does let you keep the movie on your hard drive for as long as a month - but once you actually start watching it (as opposed to just storing it), you only have 24 hours to finish watching it. And that, I think, doesn't really take into account how people may actually use this service - while I doubt I'll watch too many 90 minute movies straight through on my computer, I might watch them in ten-minute bursts over the course of a few days. So should think about giving its customers at least 72 hours to watch a movie once they actually start watching it.

Next, price. Here is all over the map. I rented "The Friends of Eddie Coyle," a hard-boiled crime flick from the early '70s starring Robert Mitchum and Peter Boyle - at a $1.99 it's a bargain. But some of the movies cost as much as $4.95, more than you'd pay at the video store, more even than cable pay-per-view.

Plus, there's no discount for buying in bulk, and no monthly subscription options. If they offered something like 10 movies for $15, I'd probably fork it over now, and they'd end up getting $15 quicker from me than they would by selling me five movies for $3 each. also needs a better interface - even with only a couple hundred movies in its catalog, choosing one is a slow process because the interface is image-oriented rather than text-based and they only show you about ten movies per page.

Also, there's no sense of community on the site. I know I said earlier that you have to start somewhere, but with providing the template for what users want in an online shopping experience (and that's all is, with faster delivery), you'd think it would employ at least some community-oriented features (commenting, wish-lists, favorites lists, etc.) from the get-go.

Same thing with an affiliate marketing program: one of the reasons porn is at least semi-successful as an online content play is that porn site operators know it's hard to get people to actually pay for content online. Thus, they enlist the services of thousands of commission-based salesmen via affiliate marketing programs. For some reason, though, non-porn online content services (like Rhapsody and now don't seem particularly interested in capitalizing on affiliate programs.

Still, sounds like it's off to a promising start. The tech support guy I talked to said they'd done about 20,000 downloads in the first week - twice as many as they were expecting to do. If expands its catalog pretty quickly, and if it offers better pricing options, I'll probably become a regular user and even take the time to figure out exactly how to connect my TV to my computer. Already, it's pretty clear that with a few improvements, this really could be the best way to rent movies - more flexible than pay-per-view, more convenient than video store rental. If they keep prices high and worry too much about piracy/file-sharing/hacking, the service will probably fail. But if they focus on creating loyal customers by offering better value and more flexibility, could be a huge success.

Posted by Greg Beato at 08:25 AM
November 19, 2002
The Naked and the Brain-Dead

First rule of punditry: when you start taking editorial cues from your two-year-old child, it's time for a long vacation. Or at least a nap.

Exhibit A: Mistress Malkin's latest exercise in celebrity navel-ring-gazing.

The synopsis: While shopping with her daughter, Mistress Malkin spies an issue of Rolling Stone sporting a nude Christina Aguilera on the cover. Mistress Malkin thinks Aguilera is a skank. Mistress Malkin thinks lots of teenage girls are skanks. Mistress Malkin blames radical feminism for this widespread skankitude.

Now, let's take a closer look.

"Aguilera's privates are strategically hidden behind a guitar," Mistress Malkin exclaims in the essay's second paragraph. "[H]er backside is tastelessly, tritely, exposed."

Apparently, Mistress Malkin views the world through a pair of ass-tinted glasses: see for yourself exactly how "exposed" Aguilera's backside is in the photograph Mistress Malkin is describing.

It also sounds like Mistress Malkin gets that top-secret MTV channel, MTV-X. Because it's only available to A-List conservative pundits like Mistress Malkin and Bill O'Reilly, I've never actually seen it, but it sounds pretty good. While the standard version of Aguilera's new "Dirrty" video features about as much skin as an episode of WWE Smackdown! and the sort of narcissistic air-humping that inevitably leads to, well, even more narcissistic air-humping, Mistress Malkin describes the version she apparently viewed as "hardcore."

Or maybe she's just lying. The true mark of power, of course, is to insist that 2 + 2 = 5 and make people believe it.

In any case, Christina does not measure up to Mistress Malkin's stern standards, and that makes Mistress Malkin very, very angry. As she verbally abuses the naughty young singer, calling her "sordid" and "pathetic" and "foul-mouthed" and "ridiculous," Mistress Malkin's desire for control is palpable. She wants to dictate exactly who Christina fucks. She wants to decide how Christina dresses. She wants to regulate how Christina expresses herself. She yearns to give the skanky little vixen a good old-fashioned spanking on her tastelessly, tritely, exposed backside and turn her back into "the young woman who once sweetly warbled the theme song to the Disney movie, Mulan."

But as Mistress Malkin works herself into a buttoned-down, pent-up lather repeating Christina's dirty lyrics and quoting the New York Post's reports of Christina's naughty lesbian-lite shenanigans, it's pretty clear what's going on here: Miss Aguilera, wily sexual predator that she is, is topping from the bottom, forcing Mistress Malkin to write about lap dances and fondling buxom stripper-breasts...

And when she induces Mistress Malkin to write "F***" twice in the span of two sentences, Mistress Malkin almost melts down completely. But then, as if to regain some semblance of control, the flustered conservatrix blurts out another lie, this time describing a Christina quote as "apropos of nothing" when, if you read the article it comes from, it's clearly apropos of something - an earlier Rolling Stone about Jennifer Love Hewitt.

For the next two paragraphs, a flushed and disoriented Mistress Malkin stumbles through some odd non-sequiturs about Christina's skin color. While it seems that Christina is somewhat confused about her own racial identity ("I guess we have to have one white person in it," she says in the Rolling Stone article, about a dancer auditioning for her video), Mistress Malkin exaggerates Christina's whiteness just as much as Christina exaggerates her non-whiteness. "Flava lover Aguilera herself is paler than vanilla ice cream when not slathered in coffee-colored, self-tanning lotion," taunts Malkin, and one is left to wonder: is the phrase "coffee-colored" a subtle dig at Christina's not particularly visible Hispanic heritage? A boasting reference to Mistress Malkin's own gorgeous, naturally coffee-colored hue? Or both?

After that bit of weirdness, things get even weirder. Mistress Malkin writes:

"I don't see anything wrong with being comfortable with my own skin," Aguilera snaps defensively, as she strikes another gangsta pose and shows off her ridiculous body piercings - which Rolling Stone has painstakingly diagrammed for the masses.

Why is this weird? Because that quote doesn't actually appear in either the the online version of the article, or in the print version.

It does appear in an AP article, however, but Malkin never cites it as a source - instead, she makes it sound as if it appears in the Rolling Stone article that she's reading at the newsstand. Also, there's nothing in either article about Christina striking any sort of "gangsta pose" while discussing her piercings. It's possible, of course, that Mistress Malkin is using the phrase in a metaphorical sense rather than to describe an actual physical pose, but are body-piercings generally associated with gangsta fashion? In the universe I inhabit (which I realize may not be the surreal realm Mistress Malkin presides over), they have their roots in punk and goth fashion...

Also, it's worth pointing out that while Mistress Malkin assesses quotes that don't actually appear in the Rolling Stone article, she fails to mention why Christina gets what Mistress Malkin dismisses as "ridiculous body-piercings": because, Christina says, they make her "feel a little more strong or empowered."

Even more importantly, Malkin fails to cite the relatively lengthy section of the article that details Christina's troubled relationship with her father, who apparently used to physically abuse Christina's mom, and on at least one occasion, Christina herself.

Instead, Mistress Malkin simply writes the following:

As I am returning the trashy magazine to the newsstand rack, my toddler chirps in again: "Mama, where's her shirt?" I answer: "Her mama forgot to tell her to put one on."

Did you get that? Mistress Malkin returned the magazine to the newsstand rack! That means that while she was standing there reading the article, she was presumably taking notes on it, because there are several Christina quotes in Mistress Malkin's piece that she records with complete accuracy. I'm not quite sure why I think this is so funny, but every time I picture Mistress Malkin at the newsstand line, reading the Rolling Stone article and taking notes on it and keeping her two-year-old daughter in tow, I get a good laugh...

Alas, this passage also offers a distressing glimpse at Mistress Malkin's conception of motherhood: indoctrinate your children with your values so forcefully that they will continue to do exactly what you tell them to do, even if they turn into 21-year-old multimillionaire divas.

And finally: what about Dad? While Mistress Malkin chastises Christina's mom for her adult daughter's decisions, she has no stern words for Mr. Aguilera...

Now, when she moves on to admonishing not just Christina but all the dirty young vixens "hanging out at the mall with their thong straps glittering out in the open, their hip-huggers succumbing perilously to the forces of gravity, their noses and eyebrows and tongues marred with metal, and their faces plastered with red light district makeup," Mistress Malkin does briefly succumb to the forces of parity and give a quick finger-wag to the "dadas" as well as the moms.

But she abandons that tack pretty quickly, in order to dress down the dressed-down harlots directly:

Gutter talk is for vagrants, not for young ladies who want respect from the world. Promiscuity isn't a sign of maturity. It's a sign of self-loathing. Being "comfortable in your own skin" doesn't require having to bare every last inch of it in public.

There it is in a nutshell: the core philosophy underlying Mistress Malkin's School for Young Ladies, and it makes you wonder if the anti-American pundit truly understands why we're spending billions of dollars to battle Islamist terrorists who believe that suicide is foreplay and dead virgins are preferable to actual women: it's not to curtail free speech, or to teach young ladies that enjoying sex means hating yourself, or to trade in hip-huggers for burkas. Indeed, nubile 21-year olds who love sex and swear like a longshoreman with Tourettes syndrome are one of the many things that makes this country great. And Mistress Malkin's attempts to suggest otherwise simply mark her as a meddling, blue-nosed traitor, a petty Bin Laden determined to make America a little less free.

And believe it or not, I haven't even gotten to the most egregious part of Mistress Malkin's essay; she saves that for last, concluding that "This naked truth cannot be disguised: The era of radical feminist sexual liberation has produced a generation of shameless skanks."

Or to put it another way, Playboy used to be a fusty, highbrow magazine devoted to theater criticism. And Hustler specialized in entrepreneurial advice. But then Betty Friedan and Kate Millett gave Hugh Hefner and Larry Flynt the go-ahead, and things started changing. Next, Gloria Steinem revealed that only boob jobs would allow women to achieve economic parity. And then Andrea Dworkin started arguing that ass cleavage was actually the best way to subvert the phallocentric hegemony. And after that, Naomi Wolf started exclaiming that uptight bitches who can't suck a bowling ball through a cocktail straw will never experience true self-esteem, and that fat thighs are really just the Goddess's way of saying, "Fuck you, you dirty cow whore!"

And 2 + 2 = 5.

Posted by Greg Beato at 10:03 AM
November 18, 2002
Totally '80s

Uh oh. has already used up half of its selections for the Top 100 Albums of the '80s, and it has yet to include Soft Cell's 1981 "Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret." Will this generally underrated masterpiece of sleazy synth-pop make the Top 50?

So far, validation of my musical tastes has come from the inclusion of X's "Los Angeles," Big Black's "Songs About Fucking," and Paul Simon's "Graceland." And my guess is that tomorrow the Top 50 will include the Beastie Boys' "Paul's Boutique" and Public Enemy's "It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back."

And who knows, maybe even the Jesus & Mary Chain's "Psycho Candy" will make the list. Another long shot is Galaxie 500's "Today" (or "On Fire").

But if they didn't make the bottom 50, I doubt any of these other personal favorites of mine will make the top 50: The Cramps' "Songs the Lord Taught Us"; Half Japanese's "Charmed Life"; The Swans' "Children of God"; The Flesheaters' "Forever Came Today"; The English Beat's "Special Beat Service"; Nick Cave's "The Firstborn is Dead"; The Birthday Party's "Junkyard," and Death of Samantha's "Where the Women Wear the Glory and the Men Wear the Pants."

Since most of these were fairly obscure even in the '80s, I can understand how they wouldn't make the list now. But Soft Cell? Everyone knows Soft Cell, and while I've never actually listened to Duran Duran's "Rio" (which did make the list) all the way through, can it possibly compare to "Non-stop Erotic Cabaret"?

Posted by Greg Beato at 10:01 AM