A bully is still a bully

Seth Finkelstein writes on the recent Maine weblogger being sued by an ad agency brouha. The ad agency dropped the lawsuit, in part because of the noise generated by webloggers. Contrary to belief, this was not the result of a ground swelling of support as much as a carefully orchestrated media event. In the post he points to, Media Blogger Association president Robert Cox writes:

The real story behind the “Maine Blogger” story is that this blogstorm did not just “happen”. I personally spent several weeks developing a media strategy which we launched last Thursday morning. The original goal was to get the story in front of 3-5 mm people by Friday night. We easily surpassed that figure and the number continues to grow.

Once we were ready to drop the story, I reached out to the membership of the Media Bloggers Association with an “MBA Legal Alert” and they responded in force. Hundreds of bloggers responded to the MBA’s request to post on this story and make their readership aware of what was happening in Maine. We also sent out a traditional press release to our “press list” and added in about 100 Maine/Travel media outlets – that’s how the Globe got the story. Once the ball was rolling lots of other folks got behind the effort and Lance was a full-fledged bloglebrity.

This kind of blog/MSM media strategy is part of the two-pronged approach we take as part of our Legal Defense Initiative. I think the real story is that this strategy can be – and has been – so effective.

Seth responds with:

And I agree – it can be, and has been, so effective. But … it’s important to realize just how old-school top-down this is structurally. In fact, scarily so. Work with people who have big megaphones, get them to echo the story, then go up the media pyramid. It’s extremely traditional. Now, the powers here were used for good instead of evil. But, still, what if it were the reverse?

I followed this story. My initial sympathy was with the weblogger, being sued by some big corporation. But then I read the Maine weblogger’s posts on his ‘investigation’ and found his effort to be flawed, and personally biased. The issue at stake was the Maine weblogger was angry at having to pay more for Pay-per-click ads, and blamed the Maine Department of Tourism because of their use of Pay-per-click. They’re driving up the prices, he cries. But then he takes his reader on a journey through implied charges of government corruption and malfeasance, hints of conspiracy, and out and out accusations of misuse of public funds and fraud.

He gave out assumptions as facts, when proven wrong he seldom retracted what he wrote without twisting it about into some new form of accusation, he brought in other organizations not even connected with the event–all because he had to pay more for Pay-Per-Click.

When, after many communications with both the state and the ad agency failed to resolve the issue and he was sued, bloggers cried out about free speech and censorship. I think on a young man standing in front of a tank in China, and I’m embarrassed.

Lots of webloggers patting themselves on the back, job well done, and bully defeated. But who was the bully?

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