Airing your dirty little secrets
(IDG) -- Way back in October (Oct. 5 to be exact) I wrote a column (The 'Net as a propaganda machine), in which I discussed how the Internet community is as willing to distribute fiction as it is to distribute fact.
Add a hint of salaciousness and you'll really see the Internet in action. This means that if any of your dirty little secrets get out, containing the damage is extraordinarily difficult.
The trouble is it is one thing to have your peccadilloes exposed and quite another to have everyone and his brother comment about them in what is effectively a public forum. Worse still, the Internet makes the consequences of exposure of even trivial indiscretions far greater than any other medium.
Consider the case of radio pundit Dr. Laura Schlessinger. If you haven't heard the good doctor on the radio, she does a call-in agony show that is hugely popular (she beats Rush Limbaugh's ratings). Her Web site is www.drlaura.com.
While I think she often gives out good advice, she has recently become rather self-righteously religious. She has also become somewhat brutal in her treatment of callers over the past couple of years, upbraiding them in no uncertain terms for their amazingly bad judgment (she should be kinder to them . . . after all, how bright can they be calling into a radio show and airing their problems in public? And without them, there's no show. . . . On the other hand, perhaps they all have masochistic streaks and actually enjoy the treatment).
It turns out that in her late 20s, Dr. Laura allowed her boyfriend to take nude photos of her. Unfortu-nately for Dr. Laura, her now very ex-boyfriend kept the photos and recently, in exchange for large amounts of money, sold the pictures to a company called the Internet Entertainment Group (IEG). IEG immediately put them on the World Wide Web.
Initially, Dr. Laura apparently denied the existence of the photos (according to the newsgroup alt.radio.talkdr-laura) but later owned up to the fact. The problem for Dr. Laura is that her current, rather strict, ethical position is being publicly contrasted with her past behavior - never mind that she was younger and less wise then.
The last installment of the story had Dr. Laura going to court (curiously at the same time as Pamela Anderson Lee) for a restraining order against IEG displaying the photos (Ms. Lee was trying to block IEG's distribution of her honeymoon video).
Dr. Laura failed (as did Ms. Lee) for the simple reason that given the scope of the distribution of hundreds of thousands of copies over scores of Web sites, the judge considered a restraining order to be pointless.
But by doing so, the judge has allowed IEG to continue profiting from the photographs. Doesn't that seem wrong to you? If IEG was adjudged to have acted improperly, then it should be constrained to desist on principle - never mind that many other sites have hijacked the same content.
Dr. Laura will probably brush this problem aside with little consequence other than embarrassment and large legal bills, but the point is that once again, the Internet changes everything. Could we be entering an era in which public figures will have no choice but to be more discrete and more honest? After all, there's no chance that we, the public on the Internet, will stop being interested in their dirty little secrets.
Back to the top
© 2000 Cable News Network. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines.