Let fury have the hour
As the 2008 ConvergeSouth blogging conference looms on Oct. 16-17, battle lines are being drawn and salvos are being fired in Greensboro’s blogosphere. You’d have to be an insider or a dedicated lurker to understand all the ramifications and nuances, and besides… politics in Gate City doesn’t operate along clean ideological lines. This recent kerfluffle caught my attention with Fecund Stench’s “A Declaration of War” on his blog, which he’s recently been renamed “Direct Action,” which begins, “Whereas the elected officials of the city of Greensboro and the County of Greensboro [sic] are rife with incestuous political arrangements contrary to the interests of the citizens….” It gets ripe: “I have erred greatly by focusing on race when it’s been about economics the whole time. My good manners kept me from discriminating against the wealthy. But that’s where the bad smell is coming from. South GSO is slowly turning into Soweto while the property developers take bus trips to Charlotte.” Lest you think Fec is some kind of homegrown Marxist, he inserts this nugget: “And yes, I will be voting for John McCain.” Keith Brown, champion of the protest petition, calls Fec’s post a “classic” in an e-mail forwarded to local blogosphere luminaries Brenda Bowers, Bubba Near, Dr. Mary, Dr. Joe Guarino, We101.com operator Roch Smith, Jeffrey Sykes, Republican Party activist Tony Wilkins and Republican NC Senate candidate Joe Wilson. Billy the Blogging Poet then invites all the recipients to his alternate ConvergeSouth event, a backyard hot-dog roast. The comment threads are thick with talk about “grassroots” and “selling out,” but personality clashes seem be at the bottom of the ConvergeSouth boycott. For what it’s worth (sorry for the clichÃ©d ’60s rock phrasing), here’s how Billy sees it: “The political divide in Greensboro’s local government is peculiar in that while the most vocal supporters of the status quo are self-described liberals, the big-money support comes from a few corrupt political conservatives.”
New trick for old dog
In his presidential campaign, Sen. John McCain tries his hand at working the new media using a decidedly old trick: bribery. At his website, www.johnmccain.com, under the button “spread the word,” there is… I guess it’s kind of a contest, challenging his backers to visit a list of “suggested blogs” and hammer home some of McCain’s talking points, handily referenced at the bottom of the page, in the comment threads. “After your comments are verified,” the site reads, “you will be awarded points through the McCain Online Action Center.” Points can be redeemed for prizes, according to the Huffington Post, like autographed books, preferential seating at campaign events and rides on the Straight Talk Express. The idea is to give the impression of a whole legion of dedicated McCain supporters who actively — and eloquently — back their man, but in reality it’s just people trying to win free T-shirts. This kind of fake grassroots campaign has a name: astroturfing.
Plagiarism or mash-up?
Slate.com writer Jody Rosen, after a reader tipped him off, noticed a few similarities between an article he wrote for the website on Jimmy Buffet and another piece on Buffet that ran in the Montgomery County, Texas Bulletin by writer Mark Williams. More than a few, actually — Williams had cribbed about 10 paragraphs from Rosen, and then tacked on another four graphs from a USA Today piece, Rosen discovered through the magic of Google. Investigating further, Rosen found more than a dozen examples of blatant plagiarism by Williams, who pinched his prose from publications like the Washington Post, Rolling Stone, the Boston Globe, the Dallas Observer and the UK Guardian. The Bulletin, a free alternative weekly, has since scrubbed its website of the offending works. Publisher Mike Ladyman said Williams, a freelancer, has been with the paper for six years.