Monday, February 7, 2011

Who is Arianna Huffington?

Greetings Friends,

The big news on this first Monday in February is the acquisition of The Huffington Post by AOL. Just when I've all but abandoned my almost 20 year-old AOL e-mail account (created back in the days when people didn't use their real names on e-mail), I see that AOL is attempting to become an online news juggernaut with the help of Ms. Huffington and her Post. It's a bold move; one that will breathe new life back into an Internet dinosaur, and turn the former wife of a former Republican congressman, into the left wing "Queen of all Media". So much for Oprah and OWN.

I've long been fascinated by Arianna Huffington for precisely the reason I mentioned above. She was married to former Republican congressman Michael Huffington, a Texan oil millionaire, and member of the Bush family social circle. She was a textbook social conservative in her former life, courting the religious right in her husband's election campaigns. The marriage lasted until 1997, and a year later, Michael Huffington came out as a bisexual. That revelation would make any woman want to switch teams herself; in Huffington's case, she switched political teams and literally transformed herself.

I recall faint mentions of Arianna Stassinopoulos Huffington during the glory days of the Reagan administration; she was a prominent DC socialite at that time. After that, the next time I heard the name "Arianna Huffington" was when she traded in her Lincoln Navigator SUV for a Toyota Prius because she felt driving SUVs financed terrorism. This was shortly after 9/11, when our "addiction to oil" was at the forefront of our troubles. In 2005, she went online with The Huffington Post, which started out as a meandering blog, used to showcase the verbosity of her celebrity friends. It grew from there to what it is today: a full-fledged Internet newspaper, chock full of the same opinions, but augmented with Sports, Entertainment, Style, Food, Travel, Tech, and many of the other features you find in traditional newspapers.

I like Arianna Huffington. She managed to take lemons and make gallons of lemonade. She's educated, she's written books; she's come a long way from traversing the Beltway, to becoming a formidable woman in a world still dominated by men. She is on the cusp of a "Brand New Media Universe"; so says the current banner of her Web site's home page. I'm cheering for her, because Rupert Murdoch is in need of a serious bitch slap. If anyone could do it, I'm betting it will be Arianna. We have to make peace with the fact that traditional forms of media are most likely doomed. We must forge ahead into new and uncharted territory, but be mindful at the same time of our monopolistic media predecessors. Maybe this is a good thing; it remains to be seen, and I would bet my life that Huffington and AOL are going to try like hell to make inroads into Mr. Murdoch's stranglehold on the right. After all, the dinosaurs became extinct. Those who evolve, survive.


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