Arianna Huffington: Bloggers do it Better

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In the last installment of the Friendly Fire series–which earlier brought in the Village Voice’s Nat Hentoff, the New York Post’s Bob McManus, and Columbia’s own Karina Garcia–moderator David Eisenbach talked Monday evening with pundit and failed gubernatorial candidate Arianna Huffington about speech, the press, and that mysterious attack ad.

kjhThere are few things more charming than Arianna Huffington, at first. The coiffed but swingy hairdo. The round tones of her accent (Greek). Her pronouncement that she and her 17-year old daughter “absolutely loved” their campus tour. “The stories, you have so many stories,” she rhapsodized. “The Eisenhower story, the dollar bill story…I’m sure some of them are apocryphal.”

But if there’s anything more well known about Huffington than her graceful wit, it’s her biting brand of liberalism, on display in her popular blog, the Huffington Post. Eisenbach had his hands full this evening with the former Cambridge debate captain, who took on Hillary, Ann, and the mainstream media during her hourlong stint in the Faculty House’s elegant auditorium.

The conversation began with the premise of the speech series: who was right on Ahmedinejad and the Minutemen? Huffington came down in the center, saying she would neither have invited said speakers nor attended the events, but also would not have protested their invitation. As better form of protest, she cited the New School student speaker who revised her remarks to preempt John McCain’s cookie-cutter commencement speech (she didn’t have to say it: the art kids kicked our butts on that one).

Eisenbach then posited two reasons he saw as why the Minutemen event got as big as it did: TV talk shows, and YouTube (Bwog trusts that it was number three). Huffington didn’t bother hiding her disdain for O’Reilly and Co., but saved her most deadly barbs for a fellow blonde.  

“Ann Coulter is one of the most toxic human beings in America,” she said, expressing impatience with Larry King and the Today Show for giving her a platform. “I am 56 years old. There is a long list of things I don’t need to do anymore. Life is too short to debate Ann Coulter.”

As much as she dislikes her fellow pundits on the right, Huffington LOVES YouTube, along with everything ephemeral and webby. If the mainstream media has been ADD in covering things like the Iraq War, she said, bloggers have been obsessive compulsive, taking disparate facts and knitting them together into a cohesive story—like Talking Points Memo did by uncovering the US Attorneys scandal. HuffPost did its own bit of citizen journalism in tracking down the creator of this YouTube sensation, an attack on Hillary modeled off an old Apple ad. Blogs, she said, pick up what should be on the front pages and put them on our homepages, democratizing information so even the guy in his garage has a say.

And even in her newsy, grassroots blog, Huffington is having her say. All it takes is a quick tour around Huffington’s site for a clear idea of who she’s backing in 2008, and–evidenced by her hot pursuit of the anonymous YouTuber–it’s not Hillary.

“The times and Hillary do not match. The times demand authenticity, and standing up for what you believe in,” Huffington pronounced. “You can smell the calculation out of every pore.”

The take-home lesson? Huffington doesn’t believe in straight-up journalism anymore. The press should have a point, she believes, not dither around with “some people say…” interviews and “he said, she said” debates. Although some people say her book’s supposed to be pretty good.

– Lydia DePillis

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  1. The weird thing  

    about Huffington is that she used to be on the far right, and suddenly took a turn to the far left. It amazes me - not that people can change, but that people can basically reverse every single view they have.

    • Anonymous  

      Finding out your rich Republican ex-husband is gay can have that effect on people...

      • Cute  

        response Dave Cat, but what does that mean? Lol. I mean, it's a nice dig I guess, but it doesn't really address the substance of her conversion. I'm not sure that I've heard he adequately address it either - she just says that Al Franken persuaded her - but then again I don't really read her books.

        I do, however, read her blog and her posts, and I can say that she's a much better writer than speaker. I haven't read her latest book, though, but it doesn't surprise me to hear negative things about it. It looks stupid.

        • Anonymous  

          Just saying that a dramatic change in one's personal life can impact one's political perspective - for another example, see Matthew Dowd's abandonment of the Bush administration (after serving as a key campaign strategist since '99) after his son got called to serve in Iraq.

          • dave  

            read the NYT article again, he'd been concerned about the war for a while, and lots of other factors - like incomptence - led to his disillusionment. His son was a large factor, but not the initiating factor or the only factor.

          • also  

            its true that changes in one's personal life can affect their politics, but your comment about Huffington was ridiculous. So what if her husband's gay? OK, OK, I'm sure you were kidding, but we still don't really have a good answer for how she underwent such a dramatic change.

  2. Fingers crossed  

    that Anne Coulter has a similar epiphany

  3. actually,  

    her most recent book is terrible and terribly written. (and i don't say that as someone who disagrees with her politics, because i don't.) it's just a generic self-help book about overcoming one's fears. oprah and countless others have already been there.

  4. Matt S.  

    But what about Matt Schoenfeld?

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