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Thursday, May 19, 2005

Oh, Arianna!

She’s back — just when you thought it might be safe to buy a Hummer now that “our Saudi friends” have made the sticker price a bit friendlier. Arianna Huffington has assumed a new guise: online publisher of a blog called The Huffington Post. I’m breathless with anticipation about the waves this publication may churn in the promising if uncharted waters of group celebrity blogging, myself being a blogger of the solitary (at home, don’t ask what I wear) variety. Say what you will about Arianna — what she does best is reinvent herself as circumstances change. She’s been poor and now she’s rich; the transition was arduous but she seems to be adapting. Arianna did hard labor as a Newt-era Republican, only to parole herself out for rehabilitation with Michael Moore and Sean Penn. Somewhere along the way she got married rich divorced — not only in that order but with a Newtonian cause-effect trajectory that makes commas gratuitous. Her 2003 "campaign" for governor of California proved an exercise in haplessness even by contemporary political standards, beginning with that cheesy attempt to crash a photo-op with Arnold and Maria, who did their best to shrink away discreetly (no easy maneuver given the biceps and cheek bones, respectively). But I digress. Judging from the first few editions of the Post, Arianna may well have found her long elusive niche as facilitator of an online group tête-à-tête featuring the views of people who don't normally hold forth at length on political or social issues. “At length” is here defined as longer than it takes to utter snarky anti-Bush slogans of the Whoopi Goldberg kind or to write checks for causes spanning the left spectrum from the new Hillary middle to the far Chomsky fringe. Mike Nichols, Ellen DeGeneres, John Cusack and David Mamet all appeared in the Post’s roll-out issue. Day two’s inclusion of Gary Hart, Walter Cronkite, and Joe Scarborough suggested a move toward the policy/press mainstream, with “Mash” creator Larry Gelbart aboard to offer side-splitting comedic relief: “Devoutly to be desired: Here DeLay, gone tomorrow.” (Hint: Italian potato chip—not!) Here was Arianna’s keen self-analysis on the cusp of week two: “After our thrilling first week, I’ve decided to get a larger perspective on things by returning to Greece, the birthplace of (in order of importance) democracy, and, as it happens, me. I’ll be blogging from the motherland over the weekend and keeping tabs with my new Siemens SX66 Pocket PC Phone.” The reference to the Siemans phone was hyperlinked to Siemans’ Web site, suggesting that the advent of this magnificent ne device ranks higher even than the birth of democracy on the “order of importance” scale. Oh, by what absence of discernment — or simple lapse of attention — did Michael let this remarkable woman get away? Audience? Arianna’s high-profile media foray is likely to be watched closely, not only by the usual train-wreck-in-slow-motion gawking fans of Nancy Grace but also by decent, unaffiliated types who just think it would be nice if Arianna could find something she could stick with for a while this time — you know, in that “The kids are watching and mom’s really starting to scare ‘em” sense. For their part, seasoned journalists will want to see whether her bold endeavor manages to break any blockbuster stories that haven’t already been corralled by Barbra Streisand, that dauntless political seer who last week blogged this media-bending scoop at her personal Web site: "Despite all of the Administration's mistakes and shortcomings, Bush was re-elected by the American people….” (Hey, Al Franken: How’d you miss that one?) So color me optimistic about Arianna’s new quest! After all, this is a woman who wrote an estimable book, Fourth Instinct: "The Call of the Soul," about how to employ Esalen methods to achieve great things, not excluding useful marriage. But even my optimism has its limits. This is also a woman who not long ago made a simpering spectacle of herself, claiming that the Antichrist is here and driving an SUV. Say what you will (I mean this enough to say it twice), but whatever you do: Don't count Arianna out. Never forget: the Gabor sisters were conspicuous cultural mavens for quite a long stretch, even if their genre wasn’t always obvious. Wifely Eva lived in a TV community called Hooterville. Alpha female Zsa Zsa endeared herself by refusing to be bossed around by a traffic cop waving around one of those insulting breath-o-lyzers. (You go, ZZG!) It shouldn't be necessary to note that Arianna has never been accused of slugging even a Kindergarten Cop, and for that reason the image seems unworthy of mention. I am personally offended by anyone who would grope for such a cheap laugh. Where are the campus speech committees when we need them most? The idea that The Huffington Post will be scaring Matt Drudge sleepless is another joke I won’t stoop to make, chiefly because I find it hard to type when laughing convulsively.