If you're a blogger, own a blog, read a blog, or hate blogs you've probably heard the story by now about the no longer anonymous blogger, Rosemary Port, who is suing Google for $15 million for outing her to a model she called a "skank" on her blog, "Skanks in NYC."
If not, the story goes something like this: Rosemary Port, now famous and probably getting massive traffic on her little blog as a result of her whining, posted the following on her "Skanks in NYC" Blogger blog.
"I would have to say that the first place award for "Skankiest in NYC" would have to go to Liskula Gentile Cohen. How old is this skank? 40 something? She's a psychotic, lying, whoring, still going to clubs at her age, skank."
"Yeah she may have been hot 10 years ago, but is it really attractive to watch this old hag straddle dudes in a nightclub or lounge? Desperation seeps from her soul, if she even has one. -Anonymous blogger
Cohen, a model for Vogue among other magazines, actually 37-years-old, got pissed and took Google to court for the blogger's name and won. The judge decided that calling someone a skank and a Ho was in fact defamation and Google handed over the info. Cohen didn't file a suit though. She unskankily e-mailed Port and forgave her. Probably with a stern talking to.
Port, is now whining that her right to privacy was violated.
"I not only feel my client was wronged," Port's lawyer, Salvator Strazzullo, said "but I feel now it sets precedent that anyone with money and power can get the identity of anyone that decides to be an anonymous blogger."
With the exception of the money and power, I hope he's right. I hope anyone can call someone out for what they say. You give up your right to privacy when you publicly lie, slander, or spread rumors about someone.
I'm guessing the judge, Joan Madden, is old enough to remember the pre-intertube days. Back then if you wanted to publicly call someone a skank you had to have your own TV, radio show, or a printed column in a newspaper or magazine with your name and face all over it. At the very least, when you made claims about a skank undulating and straddling dudes the claim came with pictures, film footage, or eye witness accounts. You couldn't just blurt out random crap and get away with it.
Regular schmucks like you and me had to write scathing letters to the editor with our real name and address on it and maybe our rant got plastered in the paper for neighbors to see what a moron you really are. But that was back when people checked their spelling, thought about what they were saying, and had something to lose.
Since the beginning of the intertubes any idiot with a keyboard can have a blog and say whatever comes to mind without regard for the truth or for the effect it might have on the target du jour. I know first hand and in the interest of full disclosure I admit to being one of those idiots. I run shitheadery.com and while I make efforts to corroborate and attribute most of what I say to reliable sources I have done it anonymously for a year. While I think people are more likely to follow the Caped Shitheader on Twitter, rather than say Richard Zombeck, the issue of credibility comes into question when people start trusting the rants and random crap that comes from an anonymous source.
I started questioning this when Sarah Palin said that bored, anonymous, pathetic bloggers who lie annoyed her. It's the only time I've considered what she said as possibly valid. I thought of it again when I read comments from drive by commenters on blogs and article. Especially when my wife and I became the target.
A few months ago my wife and I agreed to be interviewed by PRI and HuffPost about our experiences with loan modification scams, Obama's Making Home Affordable plan, and our on going negotiations with our loan servicer Ocwen. We did this with the hope that our experience would inform others and possibly make it easier for them to talk about their own experiences. We were in the process of refinancing the week prior to the collapse and within a few days the bank backed out.
The article in HuffPost received 466 comments over the course of a couple of days and reading them, admittedly a mistake, made us doubt our initial decision.
Let me clarify a few key points about our situation: We are not looking for a government handout, 1300 square feet is not a huge house, houses do cost more than $100,000 in Massachusetts, and we do not own SUVs, giant flat screen televisions, and gold plated toilets. Nor did we borrow against the house to live like movie stars. We got a loan we could afford at the time and we trusted our realtor and broker when they wrote the loan and when they recommended a "trusted" loan modification company when the economy tanked, my wife lost her job at Harvard, and Bush was still in office. We trusted them and their advice in the same way I trusted my surgeon and cardiologist when I had open heart surgery two years ago. The heart thing seems to have worked out.
Despite the articles being well written and for the most part accurate this didn't stop anonymous comments from flooding in from people who had apparently neglected to read the article or simply made stuff up to suit their own anger and agenda.
Here are just a few:
"Why feel sorry for the Zombecks? These people want something for nothing and feel entitled to a house that they have no capital invested in. I am deeply offended by this use of my tax dollars.
They cannot believe that they are not entitled to a free home or one that they can afford? what planet do they live on? Who buys a house with no money down then demands a government cram down what entitles them to a house?" - funkalicious
"Maybe these deadbeats should realize that this measure was ment (sic) to assist homeowners who could pay their bills, but had fallen behind. It wasn't ment to allow you to live in your house indefinitely and not pay a mortgage." - poliguy70130
"People like the Z family remind me of leeches... both in intelligence and attitude. They seem to be living by an 'I want it now, I want it all and I want you to pay for it, and most importantly, I never want to have to think for myself' attitude. Sorry. I feel no compassion whatsoever." - KillTheMessenger
"How can a small house be worth more than $100K to begin with? Something isn't adding up." - JoeBlough
These are just a few of the comments we were subjected to. None of them substantiated. No indication that these people had read the article. And certainly no research or knowledge of what millions of homeowners like us are facing. One went so far as to make fun of our last name. I haven't been called "Zombie" since the fifth grade and I have to admit I got a little nostalgic and verklempt. Another guy in Boston, who had lost his wife to cancer was subjected to similar abuse and gutless insults simply because he was able to save his home..
For a couple of days I obsessively read the comments, researched hari kari web sites, wondered if I had enough strong rope and a tree, and thought of changing my name or moving to Siberia - houses are pretty cheap there.
Then one of the commenters, KillTheMessenger, responded to another comment from someone, like us, who has been unable to refinance despite good credit (like us) and not completely upside down (like us at the time).
"Do you need to refinance? Will it kill you if you don't? If it won't, pay whatever you have to until your principal is low enough so that you can refinance, no matter what. It might suck, but at least you get to keep your home. And it's not like you didn't know what the rate would be when you signed the loan." - KillTheMessenger
Calling someone a loser, a dead beat, or a leech because they're trying to get a bank to lower the existing interest rate is one thing, but questioning a financial strategy that's been fed to us by banks and realtors as viable seemed a little odd. This is the same strategy they suggested when they sold homeowners unreadable, unconscionable, and explodable loans. Not just sub prime, but seemingly normal ones as well.
I started looking into the profiles of some of the people commenting. Among the cruelest and most ridiculous of the commenters, were funkalicious, JoeBlough (yes really), and gjohntheterrible with 1106, 5279, and 6939 total comments on the Huffington Post respectively.
KillTheMessenger came in with a whopping 19,157 comments since April 2008. That's nearly 50 comments a day. And at ten minutes a comment that's a full time job.
So if I were to speculate, which would be unfair because I don't know these folks, I'd hazard a guess that they work for the banks, live with their mom, drink too much, are probably out of shape, have never had any kind of physical contact with the same species, or they sit at work and do this instead of their jobs. Either way, they're hypocrites and to use their own derogatory terms, leeches. But that's just my opinion.
Recently Huffington Post introduced the ability to sign in and comment using Facebook accounts. While I'm fairly sure that this was done as a convenience to people who would rather not fill out yet another form, it's a good start to holding people accountable for their comments.
That being said, the people who made unsubstantiated and ludicrous comments in those articles may be very nice people just trying to get the word out and have their opinion heard, but we'll never know their motives or their personalities, nor will we be able to correct, congratulate, or criticize them. They're anonymous.