Nothing brings out the sharp knives like a celebrity who attempts to form a coherent thought about something outside the realm of celebrity. So when Arianna Huffington decided to launch a Web site with a blog penned by actors, musicians, producers and the odd politico, you knew she was going to get it right between the eyes.
As we noted yesterday, we’re going to wait a few days before we pass judgment — even if that makes us the lone holdout on the planet. But that won’t stop us from taking note of the hordes of “citizen journalists” who have been busily clicking away for the 35 or so hours of the site’s lifespan, offering the careful, reasoned analysis the Internet has long made its hallmark. Or, as Jack Shafer of Slate calls them, “the millions of thugs, opinion artists, and expert witnesses who inhabit the blogosphere” who have pounced on Huffington’s fledgling site “like … a swarm of fire ants invad[ing] a robin’s nest and turn[ing] the chicks to red pulp.”
For our money, we’re giving Nikki Finke the early lead in premature hyperbole. In her latest column, the famously hysterical — and sometimes brilliant — columnist for the LA Weekly simply destroys Huffington’s site, calling its debut “horrific,” before getting down to business:
This Web site venture is the sort of failure that is simply unsurvivable, because of all the advance publicity touting its success as inevitable. Her blog is such a bomb that it’s the box-office equivalent of Gigli, Ishtar and Heaven’s Gate rolled into one. In magazine terms, it’s the disastrous clone of Tina Brown’s Talk, JFK Jr.’s George or Maer Roshan’s Radar. No matter what happens to Huffington, it’s clear Hollywood will suffer the consequences.
And that’s just the first paragraph.
Funny thing is, as we said, Huffington’s site only launched yesterday — the same day that Finke’s 1,700-word denunciation was available on the Web. We know a little bit about what it takes to put together a 1,700-word column, complete with quotes and a fair amount of research — which makes us wonder if Finke wrote most of this stuff before even having seen the site. Once she gets past the bombast and bluster, Finke recounts Huffington’s various failed funding attempts as the site was pulled together. But, as Finke rolls along, relying heavily on quotes from a bevy of “friends,” “insiders” “sources” and even a “Hollywood player,” there’s nary an attributed quote in sight, save for Arianna herself (who doesn’t come off so well as she trys to defuse Finke by offering her blog space). Conveniently for Finke, all of her anonymous sources second her contention that Huffington’s site is a train wreck, and that Arianna herself is little more than a political dilettante whose only concern is self-promotion. Finke is no kinder to Huffington’s initial Hollywood contributors, archly dismissing three of them as “has-beens.”
Over the course of a long career, Finke has done some great work writing about the abuses of corporate media, but on days when she lets her worst instincts take over, we get columns like this, and the word “has-been” does come to mind.
Perhaps Finke is a prophet, and the Huffington Post will devolve into a train wreck — but right now, the train has barely pulled out of the station, Nikki. Even Jesse James, who pillaged and plundered from one end of the railroad to the other, generally waited until the train had gathered a little speed before he made his raid.