IN THE SUN
those not In the Know and for all you readers outside
the United States Lucianne.com is the site run by the
infamous Lucianne Goldberg, a New York City literary agent
and bit-player in Monica-gate, who held the Linda Tripp tapes
and, for a moment there, the fate of the Clinton presidency
in her hot little hands. From Clinton's point of view,
those hands might just as well have been around his neck.
STAR IS BORN
more than Clinton's lower lip trembled at the thought of it,
it is no wonder. For the redoubtable Lucianne's politics are
unabashedly and even combatively conservative. It was rumored
that she had been a Nixonian spy on McGovern's campaign plane
back in '72. If the Clintonians could play rough, then Lucianne
proved more than their match: as a real Republican fire-breather
ensconced in the urban liberal wilderness of Manhattan, she
was battle-hardened and ready to rumble. Her tough-gal persona
and unapologetic rightism thrilled grassroots conservatives,
and she was a hit on the television talk show circuit. It
wasn't long before she became a hot item on the short list
of right-wing celebrities, sought after as much for the charming
authenticity of her abrasiveness as for her value as a newsmaker.
During that long interregnum in which no news was permitted
unless it had something to do with the Presidential libido,
La Goldberg was much sought after. But Lucianne, smart girl
that she is, never let it go to her head: she knew there would
come a time, and soon, when her fifteen minutes of fame had
long since passed. With stunning swiftness, she managed to
parlay her notoriety into a radio talk show and a website,
the wild and wacky world of the Internet why do you
think they call it WWW? politics takes on an immediacy
and intensity that seems to exaggerate the foibles and conceits
of the human species. Political "chat rooms" are
noisy and often noxious places, filled with the smoke and
flame of cyber-political sloganeering, all too often IN ALL
CAPS and in sentences invariably ending in at least three
exclamation points!!! A more sophisticated form is the posting
site, where champion posters show off their research skills
in uncovering the most informative news articles on current
events: but it is more than a collective clipping service.
For anyone who is a registered member can comment on the article,
or on the last comment, or on anything at all. At its best,
a posting site is a combination political salon and "Crossfire"
segment, in which cute one-liners intersperse serious political
analysis. For some reason, this is a cyber-phenomenon that
as far as I know is purely a creature of the
Right. The best and most famous site of this kind is, without
a doubt, Freerepublic.com,
run by Jim Robinson out of his living room somewhere out in
the California boonies. And therein lies a tale . . .
THE LAND OF THE FREEPERS
spite of many premature pronouncements of its death, Freerepublic
is flourishing with more visitors and more activity than its
heavily-subsidized rival and nemesis, the ultraliberal Salon.com
online "magazine" that since its founding has really
functioned as a virtual Clinton.com. While Salon's stock is
falling, its seems as if Freerepublic's is rapidly climbing,
with almost as much activity as at the height of the Clinton
scandals. The discussions are spirited, but usually civil,
or at least no less civil than out in the "real"
world. But most impressive of all is the consistently high
quality of the postings: there are some real champions out
there (are you reading this "Hamiltonian," and especially
'StandWatchListen"?) whose research skills are truly
awesome, to say nothing of the speed at which they work. If
it's on the Internet, they'll find it and you can be
sure they all have an opinion about it. The unique sense of
community that came out of shared politics and the new technology
created a virtual movement: and the "Freepers,"
as they call themselves, continue to thrive. But like all
movements, especially new ones, the new cyber-populism soon
began to differentiate itself into various tendencies: it
was almost inevitable that a split would come. When it finally
did, all hell broke loose.
L'affaire Lewinsky oozed to halt, Lucianne and her son Jonah
Goldberg, who had been two of the brightest stars in the Freeper
firmament, announced, with great fanfare, that they were leaving
Freerepublic.com forever. They chose to do it in a manner
and in a place that caused a sensation
it was the equivalent of a supernova in the cyber-political
TO THE ENEMY
the pages of none other than Salon.com, Lucianne and her son
Jonah accused the denizens of Freerepublic of having committed
verbal hate crimes against not only homosexuals, but also
against Jews. In an article by Jeff Stein, "Free
for All at Free Republic," Lucianne let loose at
the Freepers. And the special cruelty of it was that she was
given a platform to do it by the same people who had excoriated
the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy out to get the President and
mercilessly mocked Lucianne, Linda Tripp, and other "Clinton-bashers"
as its headline-writers invariably described people
they didn't like. Salon gleefully reported that Freerepublic's
hits were down to half of what they had been a year ago (maybe,
but still higher than Salon!) and more seriously gave vent
to Lucianne's viperish charges, uttered in her characteristically
"salty" manner. As Salon "reported":
a mean shit," says Goldberg of Robinson, once her partner
in exposing Clinton crimes. She launched her own Web site,
Lucianne.com, taking "2,000" Freepers with her,
she says. "I am not anti-abortion, I am not Y2K either.
I'm not a homophobe, I'm not an anti-Semite Christ
... I have a Jewish husband ... I have four people who work
for me and half of them are gay. I mean, this is ridiculous."
BARREL OF MUD
it's true: the poison of political correctness so permeates
our culture that even the conservative movement is saturated
with it. Of course, many on the Right are not "antiabortion,"
but they take pains to point out that neither are they pro-abortion
either. Such subtleties are lost on Lucianne, however, who
merely slings the whole barrel of mud at her former friends
and allies without making too many fine distinctions. She
isn't Y2K? This may or may not mean that Lucianne.com will
be down as the new millenium dawns. Perhaps it means that
she has complete faith in the assurances of Clinton/Gore that
Everything is Under Control.
ART OF THE SMEAR
it is not hard to miss the meaning of the ugly charge of anti-Semitism,
hurled without proof, context, or any reference to a particular
individual. This is the traditional smear technique, which
has always been used against conservatives by the Left, here
employed by the Respectable Right against allegedly dangerous
radicals. It was a cheap and slimy trick, a reckless charge
offered without a shred of evidence or documentation, just
the baldest of accusations. What is going on here?
IN A FUNHOUSE MIRROR
cyber-split in the conservative movement is a funhouse mirror
reflection of a fissure that has long threatened to divide
the Right into two camps. The issue is who and what is the
Respectable Right, but the key question is really where
is it: outside the Washington-New York-California corridor,
the favorite (and only known) breeding grounds of that fabulous
sect known as the Neoconservatives, is considered an ideological
no-man's-land. Ex-lefties who gravitated toward the Right
as the failure and evil of Stalinism unfolded, the neoconservatives
(or neocons, for short) ensconced themselves in the Washington-and-New
York-based institutions that made up the conservative movement,
taking over existing organizations and creating a plethora
of new ones. Loaded down with foundation money, and corporate
sponsorships, they triumphed in the eighties. But it was only
by mistake, or for the sake of convenience, that this cosmopolitan
coterie of publicists and activists, many of them writers
and academics, became known as conservatives: for really they
were Mensheviks, or Right-wing Social Democrats, who were
content to give "two cheers for capitalism," as
neocon godfather Irving Kristol put it, but three or
perhaps even four or five cheers for the Cold War. The glorification
of war soon overwhelmed the earlier conservative "isolationism,"
and an openly militarist authoritarianism displaced the old
libertarian anti-statism of Robert A. Taft and John T. Flynn.
For a while the neocons had the Right in their vise, indeed
for as long as the Cold War lasted: but now that the Kremlin
is fallen, the bottom has fallen out of their ideological
bandwagon. Their great crusade to make the world safe for
"democracy" is not nearly as popular as the fight
against Communism: instead of looking to right every wrong
in every country, the American people want to right the wrongs
committed by their own government in their own
country against their own countrymen. Or can we expect
that the International Tribunal in the Hague will take an
interest in who killed the children of Waco?
LUCIANNE-SALON AXIS: MORE THAN A MARRIAGE OF CONVENIENCE
scares the neocons, who don't like populist movements, and
especially rural white Protestant movements which they claim
have been traditionally prone to anti-Semitism. Of course,
since such sentiments as opposition to the Federal Reserve,
the belief in a ruling elite analysis of events, and the view
that U.S. foreign policy in the Mideast should be neutral
in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are all considered "anti-Semitic"
according to the sociological ruminations of neocon scholars,
whole sections of the Right are declared off-limits, the "extremist"
"fever swamp" that must be avoided and isolated
at all costs. This was the whole point of the Salon article
and a point of agreement between the Luciannites and
their ostensible enemies in Clintonia.
ART OF THE SMEAR, PART II
framed by Salon, which labels Robinson an "extremist"
the favorite epithet of the Smear Brigade, in which
anyone to the right of William F. Buckley, Jr. is portrayed
as a potential Timothy McVeigh the charge of "anti-Semitism"
blends naturally into the general background of calumny. Again,
it is a charge offered without proof or even
some sense of the need for any. A charge, repeated often enough,
becomes its own truth, as any liar or gossipmonger knows.
It is only natural that people who started out as spreaders
of rumors evolved effortlessly into political gossip columnists
and smearers of the reputations of their perceived enemies
on the Right as well as the Clintonian Left.
is especially revealing is that Salon quotes one Robinson
Giles, a partisan of Lucianne's, as calling Robinson "a stinking
mackerel in the garbage can of truth." Giles lets slip out
the real politics of the split when he continues ranting on
about how "Robinson allowed the site to become 'a hate
group open to all sorts of off-the-wall stuff conspiracy
theories that really come from the left."
this is a very curious remark to have made, and it wasn't
just casual but packed with political meaning. Aside from
the usual smokescreen thrown up by the phrase "hate group,"
here we have the self-proclaimed pro-choice Y2K-skeptical
"moderates" who have a lot of gay friends
or so they say and live in the Big City and don't mind
an abortion or two every once in a while, claiming that the
"extremists" really "come from the left."
Just what could this mean, I wondered, as I read the
Salon piece. I soon decided to find out for myself.
CYBER-ENCOUNTERS OF THE WORST KIND
had never been able to decipher the somewhat arcane and cumbersome
process by which Lucianne.com readers could go from being
"lurkers" to participants in the posting process:
they seem to have a lot of rules and "guidelines,"
but very little instruction. At one point, however, in an
idle moment, I went lurking on Lucianne.com, researching my
column, but didn't find anything. I hadn't really explored
the site all that much after my initial curiosity over the
brouhaha in Salon, because it wasn't really very interesting.
The posts, I noticed, were nearly all from East Coast newspapers
and a selected list of British papers, whereas on Freerepublic
you could find everything from the New York Times to
the South China Morning Post and everything in between,
including all sorts of miscellaneous and very interesting
documents. What is more, there didn't seem to be many posters:
it looked staff-driven, rather than spontaneously-generated
like a real conversation.
difference between the Freeper experience and spending a few
minutes in Lucianne's World is the difference between a free-wheeling
beer-bust in small town America where any topic is likely
to come up, and a snooty somewhat subdued (if not downright
dead) cocktail party on the Upper West Side of Manhattan,
where everybody knows everybody else and what isn't
said is rigidly defined and brutally enforced as I
discovered to my surprise.
I thought, this place is kind of boring: I mean look
at all those articles from the New York Times, for
god's sake, no wonder none of the lurkers are talking:
what are we supposed to talk about? Out of sheer boredom,
I registered under the name of "Garrett: after
Garet Garrett, my favorite writer and starting posting
articles from Antiwar.com. I genuinely thought that this would
give the roster of posted articles some balance: there were
almost no articles dealing with foreign policy, whereas Freerepublic
has a whole section devoted to it. I posted my column on George
Dubya's foreign policy advisors, ("Dubya
Dubya Dubya Dot Warmonger Dot Com") and the last
one on Iraq ("Is
Iraq Next?"). There, I thought, proud of myself
that I had finally mastered the art of posting, I have
made my contribution. Now let's see what kind of conversation
develops. Boy, was I in for a shock . . .
blitzkrieg-like swiftness, the shock troops of the Lucianne.com
Thought Police weighed in with their interdiction: "Thread
closed"! What? What can this mean? I thought.
Right below the "thread closed," a graphic of a
gate x-ed out, as if to explain the inexplicable, a Thought
Cop who called himself "ij south" posted the following
message: "This is not a legitimate news source, it is
an advocacy site."
couldn't help laughing out loud. Here is a website that advertises
Lucianne's radio talk show interview with a Washington
Times correspondent as "getting the dish from Washington"
ruling that Antiwar.com is not "legitimate." (Gee,
weren't we profiled on the Lehrer News Hour? If that
doesn't makes us legitimate, then nothing short of canonization
will work!) And wait a minute, I thought: doesn't that line
about "legitimacy" sound familiar?
CRISIS OF LEGITIMACY
is the very same argument made about Matt Drudge, when he
broke the story that became Monicagate. The President's henchmen
worked overtime denigrating the venue, disdaining the Internet
as inherently unreliable or more unreliable than the
"mainstream" print and television media and
getting egg on their faces when it turned out Drudge was not
only first but the story was right. If you read his
to the National Press Club, available on his
site, you can catch the flavor of the conflict between
the cyber-media and its' jealous and vengeful opponents. Drudge
points out trenchantly that this is a very political
conflict, and that the fight to delegitimize the Internet
(and specifically him) as a news source reflects a larger
battle: the struggle between the populist anti-Big Government
masses and the entrenched elites, in the news media as well
as the White House.
COMES FULL CIRCLE
was therefore with some surprise that I encountered this statement
from Lucianne's cyber-Praetorian Guard, a Mr. "ijsouth"
(what is it with the "monikers," doesn't anybody
have a good old-fashioned name anymore?) Here was Lucianne,
a prime beneficiary of Drudge's success her site would
be completely empty if not for the link he provides
making the very same argument made by Drudge's enemies in
the White House (and they make it to this day): "You're
this was bizarre, it was more maddening than anything else:
and I determined to do something about it. Nothing unethical,
mind you: just something to provoke discussion and make my
point. I then posted an
article from Investor's Business Daily that was about
Antiwar.com along with an announcement: the administrators
of Lucianne.com had unfairly and arbitrarily ruled out Antiwar.com
or anything originating on it as a "legitimate"
news source, when other "advocacy" sites routinely
have their material posted, including the Heritage Foundation
(surely an "advocacy" group) and the Center for
Popular Culture. But this raises the question, I wrote, of
what is a legitimate news source, a question I though
interesting enough to provoke quite a discussion amongst the
lurkers. I added: "Email the administrators of this site
and let them know what you think."
the lurkers came out in record numbers: a site that seemed
previously comatose, if not actually dead, came to life all
at once, with seven or eight postings, all of them sympathetic
and several saying that they would immediately check out Antiwar.com.
It was getting pretty lively there for a while, with an interesting
discussion going on about the proper management of a website
until, in a sudden burst of smoke and a thunderous
burst of anger, Lucianne Herself stepped in to put a stop
to it and announced that anyone and everyone associated with
Antiwar.com was permanently banned from posting anything on
Lucianne.com: "You guys have your own website,"
she hissed, "now shoo and go there!" "It's
not your politics," she claimed, "but your attitude."
THE OUTER DARKNESS
were banished, exiled, purged, not to mention Cast
Into the Outer Darkness and don't you believe it wasn't
for our politics. Good old "ij south" no doubt learned his
lesson at the knee of Mr. Giles: "Antiwar.com, huh? Probably
one of those extremist, conspiracy-mongering hate groups that
really come from the left" which just about sums
up the opinion of this Manhattanite grouplet of anyone to
the right of Rudy Giuliani. If you aren't for "gay rights,"
and don't take your political cues from the editorial page
of the New York Post, then you're probably one of those
terrible Freepers whom we wouldn't want to sully our site
REALLY NEED TO GET OUT MORE
Lucianne and her gaggle of gay neocons to attack the Freepers
or anyone else as "extremists" who "really
come from the left" is a case of the pot calling the
kettle black. For in reality that is, outside New York
and environs their big hero Giuliani is a liberal Republican,
at best, far to the left of the GOP mainstream. And
as for their antipathy to anyone who says that we should put
America First, and disdain the idea of a global empire, it
is hardly shared by the rest of the conservative movement
and especially not by the Republican congress. It was
the Right that took the lead in opposition to Clinton's war
for "human rights" in Kosovo, and any future interventions
will meet popular resistance from grassroots conservatives
as well as their representatives in Congress.
let Lucianne stew in her own juice for a while: her Draconian
methods are sure to strangle what little life there is on
her site. But more importantly, the neocons are losing their
intellectual and political stranglehold over the conservative
movement as a whole, not just in cyberspace. As a closed-off
little sect, dependent on buying influence with money and
finagling it through their liberal friends, they have no future.
They can only temporarily try to stem the rising tide of rebellion
against the status quo, not only against the globalist foreign
policy of both parties but against the ruling circles in this
country. They are now pushing Bush, furiously posting articles
that put him in a good light and denigrating everything that
points to the fact that we are in for more of the same
but the lack of enthusiasm is so obvious that it is embarrassing.
And naturally, in true neocon style, they will no doubt continue
to try to control what little discussion there is, ruthlessly
purging anyone who raises fundamental questions. What is fatal
for a posting site such as Lucianne.com, is that fundamental
questions are always the most interesting ones. Lucianne's
online Thought Police can close off all the threads they like,
but in doing so they open themselves up to the greatest enemy
of all: boredom. The market will soon take care of Lucianne.com
unless they can get a grant from some big neocon foundation,
if they haven't already and never was such a fate so