I have a confession to make, which may surprise close readers of this space. Earlier this year, I wanted to actually start a blog– you know, write off the cuff like a blubbering fool about any topic that crossed somebody else’s mind. I needed help, some of my curmudgeonly correspondents to help breathe life into a made-up person named Fabio Folio. Nobody wanted to help, and then I discovered that a Google search revealed that “Fab Folio” was the name of a real person in Italy, so I retired the character. I’d like to say that my second choice was “Valerie Flame,” but I can’t find the piece of paper where I wrote that. I bring this up to expand on some points about fake blogs (flogs?).
If anything, the blogs should be fertile ground for parody. You can register a blog with any name, and no one can touch you. Parody has always been protected by the courts, provided that the target is well-known. But as I explained two weeks ago, the Cahill decision in Delaware takes for granted that no reasonable person would take the medium of “blogs and chat rooms” seriously, so the target potential is now wide open. You could, for example, create a fake blog of some real zero, like the White House special staff assistant for featherbedding, in the chance that that person might be promoted to be head of a federal agency. Let’s face it: why toil writing from the reality-based community as joe Zeelister, when you can have much more fun, and possibly more political impact, writing as the future Secretary Featherbedder?
So I wonder why there aren’t enough fake blogs. No, not the spam blogs or “splogs” the Allisters were groaning about. I was delighted to read last week that a blog belonging to “Harriet Miers” had hit the scene reinforcing the doofy/ditzy image that’s emerged from her personal correspondence with the President. It’s not quite drop-dead funny, but it’s been entertaining enough to garner notice in Slate and the New Yorker. The apparent Supreme Court nominee has kept plugging away, unlike the “Michelle Maklin” who only lasted through April Fool’s Day this year.
It’s possible we need some high-profile targets to lead the way. There are enough characters associated with the White House, particular those with the Muppet names: Scooter… Grover… Condi (this comes close). The parody can be high-level as well. A common trope of columnists like Tom Friedman or Maureen Dowd is to just channel the voice of some world leader. Now a high-brow writer can don the guise of their favorite Muppet, er, politician and speculate what might be going through their mind each day. It would be a very creative exercise– like Primary Colors but in real-time. Hey, given the number of leaks coming out of the White House now, I wouldn’t be surprised if some new anonymous sources helped out. No shield law? No matter! Read the Cahill decision about blogs and chat rooms. I quote: By their very nature, they are not a source of facts or data upon which a reasonable person would rely. Then again, the court is assuming a nation of reasonable people.
The ultimate coup would be to start a website, call yourself a blogger (any definition will work), claim the right of anonymous speech and a press exemption from campaign laws, and then hammer away at a political target. This is the logical extension of what a lot of blog promoters are advocating, but it seems to be a line of distinction that would be in order. I’ll explain more in an upcoming piece.
Update, November 17th: A new blog appeared From the Desk of Patrick J. Fitzgerald, posing as the Special Prosecutor in the CIA leak case on October 24th, and cites the Miers blog as an inspiration. The Right Honorable Samuel A. Alito, Jr. blog was claimed on October 28th; the judge was nominated for the SCOTUS three days later. The anonymous author has gone through some pains to explain that this is, in fact, a parody.
The New Yorker magazine– which has pretty much snubbed its nose at the social media peddlers (for an unofficial “no comment” see this thread and search for me)– has actually outflanked the blogs on this. The other week they padded the Talk of the Town with an added riff of the Miers Diaries. This week, Jeff Toobin slyly uncovered the identity of Article III Grouper, who blogged Underneath Their Robes. “A3G” was not a young woman at a large city law firm, as was claimed, but a thirty-year assistant US attorney named David Lat. Nobody’s perfect. Toobin wrote: “Although he intended to remain anonymous, the success of the blog made coming cleanly irresistible.” (I have no link to Underneath Their Robes as the site has been taken down. )
Leaving me to wonder though– the guy blogs aren’t quite attracting the attention as the gal ones. I had, of course, referred to the image of Miers as “goofy-ditzy,” and I would not have done that for a man. Then again, neither Fitzgerald or Alito have come across has either. Nor have even decent caricatures been attempted– Fitzgerald as a workaholic. Alito hasn’t said much. Still, I wonder if posing as a woman was an effective literary device for the readers, or for the writer– helping to get in character. How come the Miers writer hasn’t come out yet? I know just the person to interview her.
Update, January 15th: Amy Klein (not the one I knew growing up) at the Bergen (NJ) Record, called me for comment and wrote an article in last Friday’s paper, This just in from ‘Alito’: Put a Cork in it, Senator! She contacted the parodist, who revealed himself to be Andrew Case, a New York City employee, and playwright. Unlike Miers’s spoofer, Case has had the luxury of blogging during confirmation– and with success on the way, now faces a lifetime role. Hmm. Could things have turned out differently? I told Klein over the phone that may be “Sam Alito” could have hammed up his Jersey roots a bit better. But parodies only work when the mark has a shot at succumbing. Alito’s nomination will glide through like a scull on Lake Carnegie.
Klein also did a little more searching and found Tom Delay’ Blog, which had a run for a week starting on April 1st, and then went dormant until the scandal blew up in October, and then again in January. The blog hasn’t led the news; it’s just followed it, and that shows a lack of imagination. My advice would-be political agitators, those with plausible deniability of having connections to any party apparatus– read the Cahill decision, dig up anything that smells funny connected to your mark, and parody away.