No Default Setting

October 30, 2006

Yesterday on NPR’s “All Things Considered” there was the first part in a continuing series, “Understanding the Veil in Islam, Western Societies.” The report used as its jumping-off point a Detroit Muslim woman whose small-claims case a judge refused to hear when the woman would not remove her veil in his presence; similar controversies have occurred recently in France and in the United Kingdom.

As the NPR piece points out, there are many factors at work here, not least of which is the recent increase in hostile feelings and actions between the Muslim and Western worlds. But at base, this is a very basic outgrowth of the Four or Five Americas (or Britains; or Frances). In the past, (e.g., late-19th- and early-20th-C.) there was a relatively strong national consensus not only on the idea that immigrants to the United States ought to assimilate – to “become American” – but also and most importantly on the idea that American was a single thing which they could become [yes, many minority groups were excluded from this consensus – blacks and Asians especially – but it was a strong and overwhelming consensus nonetheless]. The establishment of universal public schooling in the United States was largely an exercise in reinforcing this idea of Americanness.

For immigrants and outsiders, it was easy to point to what it meant to be an American, and there was substantial social pressure – both from non-immigrant Americans and also within immigrant communities – to conform to these standards.

Now, there is no single American identity but rather many, which operate in isolation and combination; which exclude and overlap; which are interchangeable and infinitely re-define-able.  And that’s great.

But it’s also not so much a problem as problematic for contemporary immigrant communities. There are pressures for conformity with their new nation, but no clear single identity with which to conform, and in fact competing and contradictory signals on this count; and at the same time, the immigrants themselves are more able than ever to maintain contact with their home countries and cultures.

There’s no satisfying “what to do” answer here, only more questions, but questions worth asking. The NPR series I mentioned at the outset will be continuing all week on “All Things Considered,” and I recommend checking it out, as it’s a rare instance of a major media outlet actually asking these questions.


Soup Bowl for a Square Peg Part III – Audience

October 25, 2006

In yesterday’s post I referenced an e-mail sent from HOTSOUP! Editor-in-Chief and former Associated Press political reporter Ron Fournier. There was one more very noteworthy passage from the e-mail, which follows:

Your voice is already being heard…
Fox News began its interview Monday with Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, with a screen shot of HOTSOUP.com, and asked him the question you’ve been answering in the Soup: “What is the biggest issue being ignored by the mainstream media and our leaders?” Cornyn pointed to the importance of the judiciary. The host followed up by citing some of your opinions – health care, education, poverty – and asked the senator whether those issues “are moving the meter” on Capitol Hill. Congratulations!

This community is only a few days old and you’re already MOVING THE METER!

HOTSOUP!, again, was founded and is run by

  • Four Democratic political consultants who are partners in one of Washington, D.C.’s largest consulting firms and were key advisers to the last two Democratic presidential nominees
  • Two Republican political consultants who were key to the advertising and message development strategy for George W. Bush’s two presidential campaigns
  • A former Associated Press political reporter – Fournier – who covered all of the above campaigns

And yet, the above referenced e-mail gives the impression that it is the dynamism and excitement of the HOTSOUP! community – rather than the political and press connections of its founders and proprietors – that landed a screenshot of HOTSOUP! on Fox News and had the newscaster asking HOTSOUP!’s questions to a sitting United States senator.

This is, to say the least, deeply dishonest. But it’s also a useful window into what kind of “community” of “Opinion Drivers” HOTSOUP! strives to be. In short, it’s classic vaporware – a lot of hullaballoo over something that is simply not what it claims to be. In point of fact, there is no community per se at HOTSOUP! – or at least no evidence of a community.

One of the few observable interactions of the site thus far is that a member – who, as I discussed yesterday, fits exactly with the ideological aims and goals of the proprietors of the site – has been granted the opportunity to participate on equal footing with other, proprietor-selected “Opinion Drivers”: Applebee’s International Chairman Lloyd Hill; Under Secretary of State Karen Hughes; American Idol Judge Randy Jackson; and Civic Enterprises President John Bridgeland (who are not even ostensible members of the community). It is, as I proposed, blogging and social software as sharecropping: please the owners with your work and you get your reward – otherwise, there is not much of value offered by this community.

It also is derived from a fundamental misunderstanding of the basic nature of online communities and user-generated content in communal or networked settings. Users join communities for two basic reasons:

  • Shared interests – to read others’ ideas and opinions and contribute their own; a desire to make new friends and allies
  • Presence of pre-existing friends in the community

HOTSOUP!, by casting itself as a place for

  • people who are different from each other
  • people whose friends ask them about stuff (but not their friends)

is actually intentionally isolating itself from the basic principles of online community.
Additionally, the “reward” for being a successful (whatever that might mean, though correct-thinking seems to be the metric in use) member of the community is the opportunity to interact with and on the same level as people who are even more different from them: celebrities.

At a very basic level, this might make a kind of sense: after all, people love celebrities, and celebrity culture is perhaps the most prevalent form of contemporary American culture. But while people love celebrities, very few actually flatter or delude themselves that they could actually be friends with celebrities, even if they harbor dreams of being a celebrity themselves. Mostly, people like spending time with and talking to people who are like them: people that they know – their friends.

Tomorrow and/or Friday: credibility, identity and language.


Soup Bowl for a Square Peg Part II – Content

October 24, 2006

In a continuing analysis of HOTSOUP!, today I’ll address some issues of content.
The proprietors of HOTSOUP! offer the following rationale for the site:

“There is no single place for Opinion Drivers to gather online. That was the day we set out to build HOTSOUP.com.”

Not entirely grammatical, but that’s picking nits. It’s arguably true that no “single place” exists online for the set of all “Opinion Drivers” – there are hundreds, thousands of those places, where for the most part like-minded people – assembled along measures of similarity in knowledge, politics, interests, kitten-photo-taking, etc. – gather. The Internet hasn’t been around forever, but it’s been around long enough for many of these sorts of communities to be born, die, and be re-born in dozens of different ways. There’s been plenty of opportunity for a “single place” to arise and by using some basic deductive logic one might easily conclude that the fact that one hasn’t might signal that people don’t want a “single place.”

But maybe I’m wrong, and there is room for such a general-interest community site. To that end, I’ll offer an e-mail that went out today to HOTSOUP! members from the site’s Editor-in-Chief, former Associated Press political reporter Ron Fournier. It read in part,

Look for Ian Broverman, a suburban Maryland robotics engineer and the first Hot Issues panelist drawn from the community, to join Applebee’s International Chairman Lloyd Hill, Under Secretary of State Karen Hughes, American Idol Judge Randy Jackson, and Civic Enterprises President John Bridgeland.

Since HOTSOUP.com premiered less than a week ago, we’ve been flooded with requests to include community Members in the homepage feature. Ian emailed us in July, shortly after we announced plans for the site, and asked to be a part of the HOTSOUP community. “Biased Internet has isolated and galvanized viewpoints like they never have been before,” he wrote. “I’m glad to see people coming together, as you are.”

We stayed in touch with Ian, and asked him to answer our first Hot Issues question. Ian, whose panel will remain “in the Soup” for several days, said polarization is the most important issue ignored by the mainstream media and leaders today.

“When you have people changing jobs quickly and talking in chat rooms to people who think exactly like them, they start forgetting how to deal with people not like them,” Ian says in his Hot Issues viewpoint. “That’s why it’s really important for people to come together and really talk to people that don’t quite think like them.” As you know, that’s a core value of HOTSOUP.com.

There are a few things going on here that I’ll return to later, but for current purposes by far the most important is the last paragraph. Fournier and the rest of HOTSOUP!’s proprietors enumerate such a wide range of topics for discussion as to be essentially meaningless in forming boundaries for usage, but are explicit that the very first “Hot Issues” discussant has been chosen because he is interested in an issue of the most interest to the site’s proprietors. It’s a community where you can talk about anything, but some – those who agree with the site’s proprietors – are more equal than others.

Secondly – what do a long-time Bush family political operator (Hughes), a CEO about whose corporation Fournier just wrote a book (Hill), Randy Jackson, and a former policy adviser to George W. Bush (Bridgeland) have to say about “polarization,” and why should anyone care? I frankly have no idea.

Getting back to the attitudes of the proprietors towards the users, there is a consitent thread running through what appears in the above e-mail from Fournier, and the Membership Agreement.

3. Fees. You acknowledge that Hotsoup.com reserves the right to charge for the Services and to change its fees from time to time in its discretion. If Hotsoup.com terminates your Membership because you have breached this Agreement, you shall not be entitled to the refund of any unused portion of subscription fees.

HOTSOUP! is currently a free service, but feels the need to include a “Fees” section in its Membership Agreement. The first principle of this service is its treatment of Members as, principally, revenue units. This is reinforced later in the same Agreement, in how HOTSOUP! treats the content produced by its Members. This is a long excerpt, but important:

5. Non-commercial Use by Users. The Services are for the personal use of Users only and may not be used in connection with any commercial endeavors except those that are specifically endorsed or approved by Hotsoup.com in writing prior to such commercial use. Illegal and/or unauthorized use of the Services, including collecting usernames and/or email addresses of Members by electronic or other means for the purpose of sending unsolicited email or unauthorized framing of or linking to the Website is prohibited. Commercial advertisements, affiliate links, and other forms of solicitation may be removed from Member profiles without notice and may result in termination of Membership privileges. Appropriate legal action will be taken for any illegal or unauthorized use of the Services.

6. Proprietary Rights in Content on Hotsoup.com.

a. By displaying, uploading, publishing or sharing (collectively “Posting”) any content, messages, text, files, images, photos, video, sounds, profiles, works of authorship, or any other materials or media (collectively, “Content”) on or through the Services, you hereby grant to Hotsoup.com, a non-exclusive, fully-paid and royalty-free, worldwide, perpetual, irrevocable and transferable license (with the right to sublicense through unlimited levels of sublicensees) to use, copy, modify, adapt, translate, publicly perform, publicly display, store, reproduce, transmit, syndicate, broadcast and distribute such Content in any manner, in any medium, for any purpose, including, without limitation, commercial purposes. Hotsoup.com and its licensees reserve the right to display advertisements in connection with your Content and to use your Content for advertising and promotional purposes.

b. You represent and warrant that: (i) you own all right, title and interest (including all intellectual property rights) to the Content posted by you on or through the Services or otherwise have the right to grant the license set forth in this Agreement, (ii) the Posting of your Content on or through the Services does not violate the intellectual property rights, privacy rights, publicity rights, copyrights, contract rights or any other rights of any person or third party, (iii) you have already paid, and you will be solely responsible for paying (to the extent any later become due) all royalties, fees, and any other monies owing any person by reason of any Content posted by you to or through the Website or Services, (iv) if your Content contains images, video, audio or other media, you are the individual who appears or is heard in your Content, or alternatively, you have obtained from any and all individuals (including consent from parents or guardians for any individual under the age of 18) who appear and/or are heard in your Content to grant the rights described herein, (v) you agree to keep all records necessary to establish that your Content does not violate any of the foregoing representations and warranties and to make such records available upon request of Hotsoup.com, and (vi) that you have no outstanding agreement or obligation that is in conflict with any of the provisions of this Agreement or that would preclude you from complying with the terms and conditions found herein. You agree to pay for all royalties, fees, and any other monies owing any person by reason of any Content posted by you to or through the Services.

c. The Services contain Content of Hotsoup.com (“Hotsoup.com Content”). Hotsoup.com Content is protected by copyright, trademark, patent, trade secret and other laws, and Hotsoup.com owns and retains all rights (including all intellectual property rights) in the Hotsoup.com Content and the Services. Hotsoup.com hereby grants you a limited, revocable, nonsublicensable license to reproduce and display the Hotsoup.com Content (excluding any software code) solely for your personal use in connection with viewing the Website and using the Services.

d. The Services contain Content of Users and other Hotsoup.com licensors. Except for Content posted by you, you may not copy, modify, translate, publish, broadcast, transmit, distribute, perform, display, reproduce, use, license, create derivative works from, transfer or sell any information or Content contained in the Website or any Content appearing on or through the Services. You may not develop or derive for commercial sale any data in machine-readable or other form that incorporates or uses any substantial part of the Website or its Content. You may not transfer to or store any data residing or exchanged over the Services in any electronic network for use by more than one user unless you obtain prior written permission from Hotsoup.com.

e. You grant the rights hereunder whether or not your Content is used by Hotsoup.com, any other Users or HOTSOUP.com?s licensees. You acknowledge that your consideration for the rights you grant to Hotsoup.com and its licensors under this Agreement in and to your Content is, among other things, the tools and functionality provided for your use of the Services. You will not receive any further compensation of any kind for your Content and you will not receive credit on or in association with your Content. Your Content will not be acknowledged, returned or held “in confidence” by Hotsoup.com or its licensors. Hotsoup.com and its licensors reserve the right in their respective sole discretion to remove or not post any Content, for any reason. Your Content will not be returned, and Hotsoup.com and its licensors have no obligation to inform you of any decision to remove or not post such materials.

7. Content Posted.

a. Hotsoup.com may delete any Content in its sole discretion, including, without limitation, any Content that in the sole judgment of Hotsoup.com violates this Agreement or which may be offensive, illegal or violate the rights, harm, or threaten the safety of any person. Hotsoup.com assumes no responsibility for monitoring the Services for inappropriate Content or conduct. If at any time Hotsoup.com chooses, in its sole discretion, to monitor the Services, Hotsoup.com nonetheless assumes no responsibility or liability for the Content, no obligation to modify or remove any inappropriate Content, and no responsibility for the conduct of the User submitting any such Content.

b. You are solely responsible for the Content that is posted on or through any of the Services through your Member account, and any material or information that is transmitted through your account to other Members and for your interactions with other Users. Hotsoup.com does not endorse and has no control over the Content. Content is not necessarily reviewed by Hotsoup.com prior to Posting and does not necessarily reflect the opinions or policies of Hotsoup.com. Hotsoup.com makes no warranties, express or implied, as to the Content or to the accuracy and reliability of the Content or any material or information that you transmit to other Members.

I’m no lawyer, but on the face of it this Membership Agreement seems possibly illegal – certainly unenforcable – and, most importantly, incredibly insulting. In essence and in English, the text of this Agreement says:

  1. It is the responsibility of Users to make sure that they own content that they post – we are not liable if this isn’t the case.
  2. Once Users post content that they’ve certified that they own, WE own it. You can still use your own content, but so can we, for whatever we wish.
  3. You can’t use any other User’s content. For anything.

Section 6(d) is really one of the more remarkable clauses one could include in a Membership Agreement for what seeks to be a high-profile blog/social-networking service/something, as it purports to prohibit blogging. You’re not allowed to excerpt and link to HOTSOUP! content:

Except for Content posted by you, you may not copy, modify, translate, publish, broadcast, transmit, distribute, perform, display, reproduce, use, license, create derivative works from, transfer or sell any information or Content contained in the Website or any Content appearing on or through the Services.

It’s blogging and social networking as sharecropping, basically – all production for the benefit of the owners.
Of course, HOTSOUP! can’t actually enforce these terms, as many of the uses they prohibit are explicitly covered by Fair Use. But given this sort of draconian and insulting view of what its Users are there to do – provide Fees, due dilligence and Content for the site’s owners – I can’t imagine that enforcing the terms is going to be much of an issue – who in their right mind would bother dealing with or providing content for HOTSOUP!?

Well, the site’s owners do have an intended audience, as it turns out. I’ll return to that issue in the next installment.


Soup Bowl for a Square Peg

October 23, 2006

Anyone interested in issues of identity and discourse owes it to themselves to visit HOTSOUP! [their exclamation point, not mine] There are so many things going on there that I could write a ten-thousand word post and not even get to the meat of it.

Instead, I’ll focus on several different elements of the site which are particularly noteworthy over the course of several posts this week.  Broadly, these are the important elements for further examination:

  • Credibility
  • Identity
  • Content
  • Language
  • Audience and Usability

But first, a little bit of background.

HOTSOUP! is a…well, it’s a bit difficult to say exactly what it is. I’ll let them try:

HOTSOUP.com is the first online community that joins Opinion Drivers from across the spectrum. The community connects well-known influencers from the worlds of politics, business, religion, and popular culture with influencers who drive opinion at the grassroots and community levels. Harnessing the power of social networking technology, HOTSOUP.com levels the playing field by giving anyone and everyone a voice in how America’s institutions can work better.

Better? No?

TWO GROUPS OF OPINION DRIVERS…

Opinion Drivers are the individuals who, every day, influence their friends, colleagues, and peers. They fall into two categories:

  • A relatively small group of Opinion Drivers is the famous personalities whom we read about in newspapers and see on television. They help shape opinion by virtue of their elected offices, access to media, or leadership roles in business and industry. What sets these people apart is their ability to affect public opinion on a grand scale.
  • A larger group of Opinion Drivers is the roughly 30 million grassroots influencers we know through our communities: friends, neighbors, PTA members, firefighters, homemakers, small business owners, and non-profit directors to name a few.

Collectively, grassroots Opinion Drivers are an enormous and growing force because Americans place decreasing trust in old-line opinion leaders such as network anchors and politicians; they’re turning to each other for advice and guidance in these fast-changing times. Where is a good place to eat out? What’s the best car to buy? Who’s the best candidate for school board and for president? More and more, Americans are turning to trusted friends and neighbors to answer such questions and manage the crush of information at their fingertips in the info-tech age. If you’ve ever been asked, “Hey, what do you think about…,” then you are probably an Opinion Driver. Welcome to the HOTSOUP.com community. …CONNECTED BY ONE PLATFORM

That’s right – people have friends, and talk to them about things, because of the “info-tech age.” If your friends talk to you, apparently, you’re an “Opinion Driver,” and in that way you’re just like famous people. The math here is a little weird – what are the other 270,000,000 Americans doing out there, friendless and mute? – but let’s work with that.

Opinion Drivers across the country are losing patience with party lines and PR spin.

I don’t know that I agree with this, but…

Opinion Drivers want access to the personalities who set the national agenda, and conversely, those leaders want direct access to the people who can help them shape public opinion. HOTSOUP.com is that venue.

So the people who are losing patience with party lines and PR spin want access to…politicians and PR professionals?

HOTSOUP.com offers Opinion Drivers:

 

  • “Hot Issues,” an area where well-known and grassroots personalities share their opinions on weekly/bi-weekly issues. Community members can engage in interactive discussions on these opinions through discussion boards, and by scoring presentations and posting their own content on the subject via video, text, and imagery.
  • “Loops,” which community members can create around any issue or interest. These are micro-communities within HOTSOUP.com that allow Opinion Drivers to engage in thoughtful and interactive conversations with people from all over the country. Smart, civil debate is encouraged.
  • “Lifestyle & Entertainment,” which is our phrase for the areas on the site where we offer entertainment-driven content including Book Reviews, Breaking News, Polls & Opinions, and Networking with other HOTSOUP.com members. All of these areas support full-motion video and full interactivity including discussion and voting.

These would be excellent services to offer, were they not available already to Opinion Drivers (remember: that means your friends talk to you). But, unfortunately, HOTSOUP! has been beaten to that particular punch by…the Internet.

HOW WE GOT STARTED

Carter, Chip, Joe and Mike, prominent Democratic strategists, and Mark and Matthew, Republican heavyweights, had successful private sector practices that specialized in helping corporate clients find Opinion Drivers. It was frustrating; the rise of the Internet and other societal trends made Opinion Drivers both more important and harder to reach.

And Ron, one of the country’s most respected journalists, was observing his readers’ behavior change and co-authoring a book, Applebee’s America, about this audience and the community-building potential of the Internet.

Despite representing both sides of the political aisle, Internet media and journalism, we all reached the same conclusion: There is no single place for Opinion Drivers to gather online. That was the day we set out to build HOTSOUP.com.

So HOTSOUP! utilizes the “community-building potential [potential?] of the Internet” for people with friends who are sick of PR spin and politicians.  The folks behind this site adivse Presidents and CEOs in their day jobs.

Carter, Joe, Mike and Chip are Carter Eskew, Joe Lockhart, Michael Feldman and Chip Smith, the founding partners and managing partner of the Glover Park Group, one of Washington, D.C.’s largest consultancies and were all leading advisers to Al Gore and John Kerry’s presidential campaigns;  Mark and Matthew are Mark McKinnon and Matthew Dowd, who were in charge of advertising and message development for George W. Bush’s presidential campaigns. Ron is Ron Fournier, who covered all of the above campaigns for the Associated Press.
But because you’re an Opinion Driver, they want you.

Tomorrow, I’ll get into just what ways they want you. And yeah, it’s actually even dirtier than it sounds.


More on Mark Foley and Moral Panic

October 4, 2006

In yesterday’s post, I was imprecise about the full extent of the role former Rep. Mark Foley (R-FL) played in promoting the moral panic narrative over the last decade. Glenn Greenwald is more thorough:

“When this scandal first broke, I spent a few hours researching federal law with regard to Internet sexual activities and “minors” and, while I knew that Foley was involved in enacting some of these bills, I was really amazed how far beyond that it went. Mark Foley was literally at the center of virtually every activity and law and program over the last 10 years ostensibly designed to battle the evils of Internet sex and minors. Mark Foley spent 12 years in Congress and it is not an exaggeration to say that he basically devoted his whole Congressional career to adding decades of imprisonment on to the mandatory punishments for those who use the Internet to talk about sex with children. He didn’t just condemn that which he was doing. He made the crusade against it his life’s work, in the most vocal and public way possible.”

There you have it. The man was not just a participant but a central leader in the development of a moral panic over sexual predators and the Internet. His own actions, of course, are what brought him down – and rightly so. But it is the maelstrom of moral panic he and other Republicans created that now threatens to bring down, at a minimum, the leadership of the House of Representatives, if not the GOP’s unitary control of the Federal goverment.


Media Narratives and Moral Panics

October 2, 2006

danah boyd has often talked about “moral panics” and, espcially, the moral panic over MySpace.com. When the Deleting Online Predators Act (DOPA) of 2006 was being considered in the House of Representatives, she wrote the following:

I found out about my alma mater talking to strangers online in the 90s. I learned about what it means to be queer, how to have I learned about what it means to be queer, how to have confidence in myself and had so many engaging conversations. Sure, i found some sketchy people too, but i learned to ignore them just as i learned to ignore the guys who whistled and honked from their cars when i walked to the movie theater with my best friend. We need to give youth the knowledge to know the risks of their actions, the structures to be able to come to us when something goes wrong and the opportunity to grow up and connect to their peers. Eliminating cultural artifacts because we don’t understand them does not make our lives any safer, but it does obliterate so many positive interactions.

I’ll get back to that later, but thankfully, after DOPA passed the House in July it has gone nowhere in the Senate over the summer and fall up to the recent recess.  And as it exists in the first place not so much to address an issue of pressing importance but to score political points, it will almost certainly go nowhere in the Senate’s lame-duck session following the November elections. So that’s good.

What’s not so good are the actions of now-former Rep. Mark Foley (R-FL), who was and is a genuine sexual predator, both online and off-. He resigned last week after records surfaced of his outrageously inappropriate sexual conversations over instant messenger (IM) with one particular 16-year-old male House page who apparently wasn’t the first or last. And in the media storm that’s followed and continues, it’s become clear that the Republican leadership of the House of Representatives has known about these e-mails for a year and about Foley’s general tendencies for five years, but never dealt with him.

Well, that’s not quite right – they dealt with him. They kept him protected, so that he could continue to provide votes on bills like DOPA and the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006. In fact, he was the chair of the House Caucus on Missing and Exploited Children. And the GOP are continuing to try to make the whole issue go away.

But it ain’t gonna work. The GOP, if nothing else, have for the last decade been masters of creating and nurturing their preferred media narratives. They’ve been so successful that people – many members of the press included – often fail to recognize that they are not reading or reporting the truth per se but a version of events carefully crafted for political gain. Sure, politicians always do that – but the modern GOP have been the real masters of the form, to the point that people’s perception of “reality” on many issues now hews more to GOP talking points than to observable facts. For instance, “Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.”

Okay, okay. But this post really isn’t about politics. It’s about an aspect and expression of post-reality.

The fact of the matter is this: child sexual abuse is an enormous problem. And bills like DOPA do almost nothing to address this fact, because the 95% of victimes of sexual abuse know their abusers. Sexual predators are almost always either family – spouses of married parents; aunts or uncles – or figures in trusted positions of authorities – church and social organization leaders; teachers; coaches. Or U.S. Representatives – which would seem to be the relevant relationship here (i.e., U.S. Rep. to page, rather than some random online predator).

But – because the GOP [and yes, many Democrats have gone right along on this issue – but it’s clear who’s cranking the handle on this Wurlitzer] is so successful with its manipulations of public opinion, they have convinced a great many people – especially in the media – that online sexual predators are the greatest threat ever to Western civilization. And now “th[is] story is out of control of the spinmeisters” and is now a self-sustaining media sensation in a media context that the GOP and Foley himself created. “Irony” does nothing to describe this situation, really. It’s just perverse.

Which brings me back to the passage I cited from danah at the beginning of the post. The truth of the matter is that teenagers, while often confused about themselves and their place in the world, are not nearly the naifs that the media makes them out to be. The IM exchanges (and really, I don’t feel like quoting them – they’re easy enough to find and you can just take my word for it) make clear that in that particular context, this particular page was definitely creeped out by and cautious towards this particular predator. Which is actually easier to do online, several hundred or thousand miles away from whomever you’re speaking to, and where you control whatever information you give them, than it is if you’re a 16-year-old Congressional page and the creepy predator is a U.S. Congressman who, if not your boss, than is definitely in a position of direct and immediate power over you, and in direct and immediate physical proximity.

And of course, the page never would have this particular predator if he hadn’t been a House page and the predator hadn’t been the Chair of the House Caucus on Missing and Exploited Children. That is where children and teenagers ought to be protected – in those situations where it is actually likely they will be abused. Like, say, the U.S. House of Representatives.

Ugh.