Thursday, October 27, 2005

Daniel Lyons’ anti-blogging screed

Forbes Magazine has, for reasons best known to itself, has published an anti-blogging screed. It is filled with misinformation and spectacularly bad advice. The first paragraph says it all:

Web logs are the prized platform of an online lynch mob spouting liberty but spewing lies, libel and invective. Their potent allies in this pursuit include Google and Yahoo.

Katie bar the door! The blogs are coming!

Gregory Halpern knows how to hype. Shares of his publicly held company, Circle Group Holdings, quadrupled in price early last year amid reports that its new fat substitute, Z-Trim, was being tested by Nestlé. As the stock spurted from $2 to $8.50, Halpern's 35% stake in the company he founded rose to $90 million. He put out 56 press releases last year.

Then the bloggers attacked. A supposed crusading journalist launched an online campaign long on invective and wobbly on facts, posting articles on his Web log (blog) calling Halpern "deceitful,""unethical,""incredibly stupid" and "a pathological liar" who had misled investors. The author claimed to be Nick Tracy, a London writer who started his one-man "watchdog" Web site,, to expose corporate fraud. He put out press releases saying he had filed complaints against Circle with the Securities & Exchange Commission.

Did Circle Holdings post a response on its website? Did it engage sympathetic bloggers? No, it got into it with the blogger. Because putting a stick in a hornets’ nest works so well.

...Some companies now use blogs as a weapon, unleashing swarms of critics on their rivals. "I'd say 50% to 60% of attacks are sponsored by competitors," says Bruce Fischman, a lawyer in Miami for targets of online abuse.

And the evidence to support this contention would be?

Dry treatises on patent law and trade policy don't drive traffic (or ad sales) for bloggers and hosts; blood sport does.

Depends on the blog.

... "A blogger can go out and make any statement about anybody, and you can't control it. That's a difficult thing,"says Steven Down, general manager of bike lock maker Kryptonite, owned by Ingersoll-Rand and based in Canton,Mass.

George III felt the same way.

..."Blogging is still in its infancy. Imposing regulations would create a chilling effect," says Annalee Newitz

It would also be unconstitutional.

Gregory Halpern at Circle Group, in Mundelein, Ill., used this approach against his nemesis, Nick Tracy, a.k.a. Timothy Miles. After the first attack Halpern contacted the blogger's lawyer but got nowhere. He demanded a correction, only to get mocked:Miles posted on his blog an audio file of a perturbed message Halpern had left on his voice mail.

Halpern had better luck, however, when he allied with Gayle Essary, who runs the FinancialWire online news service and had tangled with Miles, too. Halpern dug up details on Miles (his photo and Oregon driver's license; his links to a litany of questionable companies; his claim to be an ordained minister; his Web site that describes a mysterious crystal that contains a message from God) and fed them to Essary. Essary did 15 articles on Miles without citing Halpern as a source, and when Halpern heard from people asking about Miles' allegations against Circle Group, he referred them to FinancialWire, saying it had "exposed this guy a long time ago."

Great, character assassination via anonymous sources, because it's working so well for Scooter Libby and Karl Rove.

But you just have to love the ending:

Halpern has had less luck getting anyone in Congress to listen to his plaint. He says that may change if a few politicians get a taste of what he has gone through. "Wait until the next election rolls around and these bloggers start smearing people who are up for reelection,"Halpern says. "Maybe then things will start to happen."

Mr. Lyons, why didn’t you call Trent Lott for a quote?

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