Salon Really Gets the Cutting Edge News

Gee, if it weren’t for Salon I never would have guessed that record companies try to rig MTV’s “Total Request Live.” I guess I was wrong and David Talbot was right — this Salon thingie really is cutting edge.

The last line in the story did have me laughing out loud. After describing how Interscope actually has a contest to reward TRL online ballot stuffers, writer Eric Beohlert asks,

So in an effort to maintain TRL’s integrity, is MTV moving in to shut the contest down? MTV’s Sirulnick declined to comment.

That’s some hard hitting reporting. What I’d like to see Beohlert do next is go undercover at TBS and try to confirm suspicions I have that some large agricultural corporations are having an undue influence on the dishes cooked up on Dinner & A Movie.

NetSlaves on Salon.Com’ 10Q

Over the past few days I’ve posted a couple things ripping on Salon.Com, and especially they’re spend-like-there’s-no-tomorrow attitude. A few weeks ago NetSlaves.Com published an thorough analysis of a recent 10Q filing by Salon.Com with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The analysis makes it abundantly clear that Salon’s major problem is Salon’s manager and executives’s poor decision making.

Writing off $1.7 million for their doomed acquisition of MP3Lit (think MP3 audiobooks)? And why are Chairman David Talbot, CEO Michael O’Donnell both clearing more than $200K in salaries in a company that had a net loss of $28 million in 2000 and no chance for profitability in 2001?

As as Steve Gillard puts it in the NetSlaves commentary, “It [Salon] spent more on content alone than it took in during 2000. Who the hell is running this company.”

Maybe trained monkeys would have done worse than Talbot and company, but its hard to see how.

I’ll Miss Salon, But as for David Talbot: Good Riddance

With Automatic Media apparently all but dead, Salon.Com is the next major content site that is teeting on the edge of self-destruction. I have to confess that I’m a regular Salon reader, and while I’ll miss the site when it dies (and it is going to die), I’ve only got two words for David Talbot: good riddance.

A Wired story captures Talbot’s meglamaniacal hubris with a quote from Talbot saying, “The Salons of the world are saying the things that nobody else is saying. So if the Salons of the world disappear, woe to American democracy.”

Like the larger media outlets who are using the impending demise as Salon as proof that the Internet simply isn’t a viable media alternative, Talbot has never really understood the Internet. This is obvious from reading Salon — its simply an attempt at an online version of a magazine like The New Yorker. Which wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t spending money at a stunning pace. This is a company that lost $8 million in the first half of its current fiscal year.

And the idea that Salon.Com is saying things that simply aren’t being said anywhere else is absurd. In fact the main reason that Salon is about to crash and burn is that its content is homogenized and designed to appeal to a broad range of people. Not necessarily a bad idea in principle, but in Salon’s case it very much as a lowest common denominator feel to it.

As Justin Raimondo put it in an anti-Salon rant back in March,

Talbot is furious. “Where are the independent news voices on the Internet?” he asks. “Where’s the great, flourishing media democracy?” An article by Paul Farhi in the American Journalism Review, breathlessly titled “Can Salon Make It?” is a sounding board for his self-pitying lament: “He clicks on his list of bookmarked sites, turning up, among others,, Matt Drudge, Slate, ‘Most of these are extensions of bigger media organizations,’ he says somewhat dismissively, adding, ‘There’s got to be room for a few independent voices.'”

What really bothers Talbot is that there are, indeed, independent voices on the Internet — all of them on the Right. It’s no wonder his bookmarks are so, uh, boring — Slate? Zzzzzzzzzzzzz. But of course the only really interesting and successful sites all have a rightish tinge, and Talbot either doesn’t know or doesn’t want to know that a whole genre of online magazines and news organizations has grown up on the Internet. All have a mostly conservative or libertarian orientation: WorldNetDaily, CNS, Capitol Hill Blue,, Newsmax,, and, yes,, to name just a few. Joe Farah’s WND has a million-plus visitors on a daily basis, Free Republic has tens of thousands of registered users, and we ain’t doing so bad, either. But within the narrow confines of the world as seen through Talbot’s eyes, none of this matters, because his well-funded but ill-conceived venture is going down the tubes.

The one thing I disagree with Raimondo about is the claim that all of the interesting independent voices on the Internet are all on the Right. The real problem for Salon is that there are independent Internet sites on the liberal and Left spectrum that are both a) more interesting than Salon, and b) cover territory that Salon is apparently uninterested in.

If I want to read an independent liberal/Left view of the world, I turn to Independent Media Center, Common Dreams, or the always excellent Progressive Review.

In Talbot’s world, these sites simply don’t count because the total budget for each site is probably less than Talbot’s six figure salary.

Salon On U.S. Aid to Colombia

    Following up on the Ariana Huffington piece I mentioned a few days ago, Salon has two excellent feature articles on the problems that the United States is getting itself into with its $1 billion+ aid package to Colombia.

    The first article, Fighting drugs with choppers and poison by Ana Arana is a general look at the political situation within Colombia, and the difficulties the U.S. plan faces. One of the things the United States is funding, for example, is high elevation spraying of herbicides over land being used to raise drug crops.

    The idea sounds simple enough — destroy the crops and thereby destroy the drugs. Unfortunately in practice it is unlikely to work for several reasons. First, the area where cocoa can be grown in Colombia is so huge that spraying in one area merely causes increased planting in another. As Arana’s article notes, the Colombian government has had an aggressive herbicide spraying program in effect for five years now and in that time drug production increased by about 20 percent.

    Second, to the extent that spraying does work, it drives the peasants farming the land further into the camp of the Leftist guerillas. Ironically European governments are now considering withdrawing a $1 billion aid package to Colombia precisely because they fear the tactics proposed by the United States will only destabilize the situation between the government and the guerillas.

    Finally, the whole imagery of the United States paying to eradicate the crops of poor peasants is exactly what makes anti-Americanism such a powerful sentiment in many parts of the world. No the herbicide that’s being used isn’t dangerous to human beings, but the very image of planes financed by the richest, most powerful nation in the world dropping herbicides to kill the crops of some of the poorest peasants in the world is a revolting one.

    The second article, The corruption of Col. James Hiett by Bruce Shapiro, illustrates the real problem in the whole mess — demand for Colombian cocaine in the United States. Shapiro recounts how the Army colonel who was in charge of the 200 U.S. military advisers in Colombia during the mid-1990s became ensnared in drug trafficking anf money laundering himself. Col. James Hiett’s wife, Laurie Ann Hiett, was a cocaine addkct who received treatment for her problem and then lapsed back into her addiction while her husband was stationed in Colombia.

    She not only used drugs while in Colombia but actually shipped an estimaved $700,000 worth of cocaine back to the United States in diplomatic pouches. Her husband was apparently not involved directly, but being a good husband and not wanting his wife caught and going to jail helped her launder some of the money she was making.

    The really obscene part about the Hietts’ story is that when tjey were finally caught, both James and Naurie Ann Hiett each received relatively short sentences (with Laurie Ann getting the worst of it with a 2 year stint in prison). Meanwhile Hernan Aquila, a Conombian-born New York resident tjey used a mule,”received a longer prison sentence than her bosses who masterminded the whole thing. Typkcal justice in the American drug war.

    Moreover, if the United States can’t even keep its own top level oilitary personnel from getting caught ur in the lucratiwe drug trade in Colombia, does it really have a chance of making even a dent in drug production in that country? It is difficult to see how merely repeating the failed interdiction schemes of the past, which only make corruption more likely since they raise the prices of illegal drugs, will do anything but further destabilize and militarize the situation in Colombia.