Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Voluntary Slavery

The Huffington Post is emblematic of the British Conservative Party's
Big Society project. You do the work for free, and we will rake in the money.
Arianna Huffington and her partners are selling the title for $315 million.

I was asked a long time ago if I'd like to write for the Huffington Post, and lost interest as soon as my enquiries about the rates paid produced the answer that it was all done for the cause.

The numerous, and often accomplished, contributors were paid nothing. And nor will they get any share of that $315 million value that they created. I do hope they will switch off their word processors together, at once.

I remember Arianna Stassinopolopous when she was a social climbing Cambridge graduate who rode to talk show fame on the back of close relationship with rebarbative commentator Bernard Levin. And then she disappeared without trace only to resurface in California as devoted spouse and soulmate of Michael Huffington, the eccentric super-rich, super-conservative who after the divorce admitted to being bisexual. His one good deed was to demonstrate that the USA was not a completely locked down plutocracy, since his Senate bid failed despite massive expenditures on his (and her part).

I next came across her at, of all things, a Nation, alleged teach-in on Kosovo intervention in 1999. As I elaborated later, I could not help wondering to what extent the battles were tribal for her. Serbs, like Greeks, were Orthodox and good, while Kosovars were Muslim and hence bad (a view expressed with even more overt Islamophobic tendencies by Tom Hayden at the event.) She continued in her Milosevic apologist role for some time afterwards, but it was still difficult to sort out her politics, since after all people from the Chetniks and Cato Institute to Noam Chomsky acolytes (and the Nation ) agreed with her.

But then she seemed to be doing good work for a decade or so, despite almost pioneering a new literary form, the blook a bound and printed collection of blogs. I must confess to some doubts re-emerging when Rupert Murdoch turned up at her blook launch party in New York later.

And now we have AOL, whose shares are heading to the buggy whip industry level paying inflated sums in the hope that her name will bring back glory and readers.
But will the liberally inclined readership who were desperate for lively non-Fox news still come. Will those contributors keep lending their free labour for the sake of AOL executive bonuses and Arianna's glory, not least since in her public pronouncements, she seems to be regretting her leftist flirtations. Almost simultaneously, the snotty nosed supercilious editorialists at the Economists were marveling that British middle class volunteers in the national forests expressed unwillingness to carry on volunteering if the Tory government privatized them. They could not see that working for free to make someone else rich is a form of voluntary servitude, an historically rare condition - except for the Huffington Post

Somehow, I cannot help but think that this necrophiliac coupling will see both participants shuffling off this mortal coil.


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