When we started this blog, our ambition was noble: to defend the helpless. This has not changed. Initially, however, we sought to defend those falsely accused by the media. The media has an advantage that is hard to overcome: once it has said something, it is taken as true by most people. Almost no one has the resources or the will to mount an effective defense against this. We saw ourselves as a remedy.
to some extent, we think we have succeeded. We have written many, many long and short pieces that examine statements in the media that we found to be deliberately deceptive — the first sin — and at then same time motivated chiefly by the authors’ desire to profit in some way from their deception — the second, and possibly greater sin. We have therefore ranged from the silly and mundane — “Bait Car,” ” Brad Meltzer’s Decoded” and the editorials of Paul Krugman — to the seriously malevolent — the Village Voice’s smear campaign against Bruce McMahan serving as an archetype, and backpage.com’s insulting defenses for its flagrant pimping of child prostitutes as a logical extension.
This brings us to today, where we start to close one chapter of our history and expand on the next. We featured the McMahan story for several reasons:
1. It was a perfect example of editorial irresponsibility and ineptitude. No effort was made to check facts, confirm “evidence,” or even to employ some semblance of judgment. Even the most cursory review of the so-called evidence would have revealed its transparent illegitimacy; even the most shallow scrutiny of the story itself would have exposed its almost childlike silliness. Instead, the flimsiest scraps of “proof” were twisted into a tangled tissue with the deliberate intent of titillating the fevered imaginations of the feeble-minded. Sin One. An examination of the comments that the articles drew will expose the level of perception available to those who swallowed the story whole. They read like graffiti on a dive bar wall.
2. It was a perfect example of deliberate character assassination for profit. That Tony Ortega, the now-unlamented departed editor, printed the story as a public service, seems open to question. We leave it to our readers to determine if our interpretation seems a more likely explanation. Sin Two.
The Village Voice foray, however, exposed a far fouler and far greater miasma of depravity than the simple slime job that the McMahan fiasco represented. During our research on the Voice and its parent, we found the first reference to the initially-incredible deliberate and direct involvement of backpage.com in child trafficking.
Well, we found religion, of a sort. And as epiphanies tend to do, it changed us, hopefully for the better. So we have redefined our focus and our purpose. We intend now to be much more activist in exposing these specific kinds of abuses of the internet in general, and the media’s use of the internet in particular. Our efforts will no longer be confined to simple posts on this blog, to will expand to include active engagement in the public sphere with those who engage in this kind of behavior.
Why? For two reasons.
First, we are now convinced that words, although powerful in themselves, often benefit to a rewarding degree from some sort of supplementary action in the real world. Here, we let Occupy Wall Street inform us. Hell, if a group this gossamer could attract that much attention from so many people, we figure that we have a fighting chance to achieve similar success if we mount a serious effort against a real threat to the safety of our children, our society and our sense of fairness.
Second, we fear for the future of the internet. When operations like backpage.com exploit the web to commit crimes more hideous than murder — that is, sentencing children to a kind of walking death, where torment continues without abatement until death is a merciful absolution — then governments feel they have an obligation to act. We all know what that means. The best way to keep the web free of restriction and intervention by (lord help us) the minions of an all-powerful state agency is to do our best to police it ourselves. In short, the public interest in general is best served by the eradication of operations like backpage.com specifically. This is best accomplished by generating and sustaining an unrelenting wave of pressure — through demonstrations, through petitions, and through merciless prosecution — on all those who operate or abet this horror. Mr. Larkin? Mr. Lacey? We’ll be speaking about you often, soon, and at length.
So changes will come to our page once more. We will advise our readers as and when they do.