Forbes on blogs: Lowlifes have a new tool

Forbes article on blogs: lowlifes have a powerful new tool
Stephen Baker

I'm reading all about the Valerie Plame case in the Saturday papers. It's a story full of nastiness and lies, and as far as I can see, all of this sleeziness occurred outside the world of blogs. It didn't have to be that way. As the Forbes cover story on blogs notes, those who want to launch secret attacks on people or companies can now do it from a blog. It's a powerful tool and can be used for dark designs. So instead of leaking rumors to the press, or going to all the trouble of setting up front groups to run attack ads on TV, those with a cause to undermine or an enemy to lay low can now blog.

Lowlifes have a new tool. What the Forbes article neglects to mention is that they've gotten along just fine for centuries, thriving in many cases, with more traditional means. That doesn't mean that powerful blog technology in the wrong hands doesn't present difficult new challenges. This is a point Nicholas Carr makes in his defense of the Forbes story.

No doubt, Forbes focuses on the scary stuff. That's OK. If you're writing a story about crime, you don't need to waste much space talking about law-abiding citizens. The story notes, albeit it passing, that, "Attack blogs are but a sliver of the rapidly expanding blogosphere."

Yet I was surprised to see in a sidebar, Fighting Back, that the magazine encourages businesses to get down and dirty:

BASH BACK. If you get attacked, dig up dirt on your assailant and feed it to sympathetic bloggers. Discredit him.

I think that's rotten advice. It threatens to exacerbate the nastiness in the blog world that Forbes bemoans. But even on a practical level, it's bound to backfire. If the news spreads that a reputable business is secretly digging up dirt on its critics, the damage to its reputation could be far worse than what the blogs were dishing out.

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