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October 29, 2005

Forbes on blogs: Lowlifes have a 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.

08:33 AM

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Well since I was one of the unnamed bloggers that Lyons singled out in the story (and incorrectly as a matter of fact), it is only fair that I post a link to my response here:

http://www.controlscaddy.com/A55A69/bccaddyblog.nsf/plinks/CBYE-6HMPRC

Posted by: Christopher Byrne at October 29, 2005 05:47 PM

it seems hard, that, coming up with something interesting to say (blog) each day about what others say and do...

don't let the voice of the people get you down, the sound of 1 million flowers blooming, and not blooming.

when you need a break, consider Costa Rica, then consider us: Palmmgt.com

Posted by: palmmgt at October 30, 2005 08:27 PM

The side bar definitely is bad advice. Any one who is attacked will keep his/her defenses up, and not be likely to cave. You don't fight a media -- yes, blogs are media -- campaign by trying to discredit people, or other underhanded methods.

You fight with the truth, as any good PR practitioner knows. And, yes, you do rally support. You also state your case, if you were wronged. If the "attack" blog is accurate, in any way, you admit your error. Then, say what you will do to correct.

Simple crisis communications.

Mike

Posted by: Mike Driehorst at October 30, 2005 11:31 PM

Let's hope that blogs don't turn into "flame wars"! You can't blame the method - blame the writer.

Posted by: Chris Hamoen at October 31, 2005 08:15 AM

Hi there

Just wanted to say I think Forbes are crazy...they have totally devalued their editorial brand with this poor article.

They raise an interesting point but do so little to take it any further.

Of course there will always be bad bloggers...but arguably this is more about people and not about the tools they use.

For me I see a whole new wave of positive activism (aka corporate engagement) happening on the back of blogging.

Indeed a fellow blogger and I have joined together in the form of a positive challenge to Starbucks to test their FairTrade promise.

It took only 3 days for Starbucks to get in touch. Starbucks have done the right thing and have engaged with the conversation as opposed to merely being the subject of the conversation.

I recently summed up my thoughts on all of this and what it means for business in an article on my site. The article is called Activism 2.0 and you can read it at this link:

http://cityhippy.blogspot.com/2005/10/feature-activism-20.html

Namaste

CH

Posted by: City Hippy at November 1, 2005 08:20 AM

Since I have a free Forbes subscription (which I will not renew), I know that this is not the only bad article that has appeared recently.

My concern is that this is an opening salvo in a thrust to eliminate the anonymity of bloggers. I see that the ability of large entities to litigate individual bloggers into silence is potentially a much worse abuse than attack blogging.

Posted by: Edwin at November 6, 2005 02:57 PM


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