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November 25, 2002
A subtle menace

She thinks it's just fine for young women to host porn sites. When single moms ask her for advice about dating married men, she emphasizes pragmatism over morality. She encourages young girls to hang out with potentially dangerous creeps.

Five times a week, she dispenses this kind of poisonous dreck via the world's most widely syndicated column. Nearly 100 million people read her so-called "advice" every weekday, without acknowledging it for what it really is: insidious liberal propaganda.

Does she really believe that "professional counseling" is the solution to every marital dilemma? Why doesn't she ever tell her weak and sinful readers to have an affair with the Lord for a change?

And why this morbid obsession with sex, sex, sex? If she ever talked about the things that really obsess most real Americans - guns, stricter immigration policies, anti-abortion - perhaps the rest of the world would realize we're not so decadent after all.

The ugly truth is that just like the rest of the news media, pretty much every major advice column is plagued by liberal bias.

But Dear Abby, aka Abigail van Buren, aka Jeanne Phillips, is the Dan Rather of the bunch. She has more influence than a thousand Noam Chomskys. She was spreading her vile cant long before anyone had even heard of Michael Moore and she'll be spreading it long after he's gone. It's time to add her to the blogosphere blacklist.

Posted by Greg Beato at 11:10 PM
November 24, 2002
Talk is cheap

Will make it to Christmas? "The San Francisco company has said it could run out of money by Dec. 1, barring an emergency infusion of cash," says the SF Chronicle.

With its money woes making news again, there's some talk at regarding how has managed to rack up an accumulated deficit of nearly $80 million in less than 8 years, including this post:

"But the real nail in the coffin is their far-left reporting/editorial...if you are going to post a bunch of baseless rhetoric to get readers fired up you had better have a convenient method for opposing views to reply. Otherwise you wind up with former readers like me, who don't like to be beaten-up with our arms tied behind our backs . Disagreeing with many of the articles drove me to read the site, but in the end it also drove me away. Slate is a similar site, but the forum is much more accessible and tied to the content and the authors/guest writers and columnists seem to actually read the forum posts."

While the poster says he's blaming's partisanship for its problems, what he's really blaming, ultimately, is's lack of interactivity. That is, because he didn't have a way to talk back, he left. But his departure wasn' t's problem: readers (left or right) are probably the one thing doesn't need more of. It simply needs more paying readers and more advertisers.

But I think the post is interesting because it does show how far has strayed from its initial conception of itself.

"SALON is an interactive magazine of books, arts and ideas. Inside SALON you'll find not only authors, artists and thinkers, but a kinetic community of readers and kindred spirits eager to thrash out cultural issues," declared in 1995. "Readers from all over the world can drop by at their convenience, and when they do they will always find well-known writers, artists, musicians, filmmakers and multimedia designers as well as other savvy, opinionated readers. We provide the room. The drinks are on you."

A couple years later, spent money on a big TV campaign to reinforce the metaphor of magazine as cocktail party and authors as hosts/bartenders.

But it never really tried to make the metaphor reality. In the early days, it did sometimes invite response via links to the Table Talk section at the end of articles..

And it even employed at least one person to facilitate those conversations (and may still). But from what I remember, Salon authors articles rarely participated in the Table Talk discussions (Scott Rosenberg and a couple others were the exceptions). But even more than that, Table Talk always felt like a peripheral part of the site, and definitely a secondary concern. And over the years, the initial vision of a site where the articles and essays would fuel a "kinetic community of readers and kindred spirits eager to thrash out cultural issues" seemed to fade. At some point, stopped putting links to Table Talk at the end of articles. At the same time, sites like Slashdot took the cocktail party metaphor and made it truly user-centric: instead of putting the articles first and the reader comments second, Slashdot made the comments the star of the show and the articles that prompted them secondary. Blogs have basically done the same thing.

Had did things differently, would its fate be any different? I doubt it - it's hard to make money from community-oriented sites too. Its cumulative losses might be lower now, but I look at that $79 million accumulated deficit debt as a good thing - in part, it means that actually paid writers, editors, designers, and illustrators for their work, and I'll never chalk that up as a bad thing.

Posted by Greg Beato at 06:27 PM