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Thursday, May 20, 2004

A "Culture War" Battleground 

If you're interested in checking out one of the most vicious battlegrounds in the "culture war," visit Abuzz.com.

This isn't a call to arms or an advertisement for Abuzz, but I am recommending a visit--if you want to see how an unmediated free-for-all plays out in this toxic political environment. In my opinion, it's the only consistently interesting forum on the web--other than the Democratic Underground. Before you go, I'd like to give you a little info and share a few observations to help you get the most out of your visit.

One of the first things you'll notice is that Abuzz is a service of the New York Times. Because of its pedigree, Abuzz has registered over a million members, although most have been driven away by the unrelenting politically motivated combat. Predictably, some of the dedicated combatants are vocal opponents of the NYT and the "liberal media."

A few years ago, Abuzz was a thriving forum, living up to its promise as a "knowledge sharing community" for "knowledgeable, intelligent people." Due to financial considerations motivated by the dot-com bust, the NYT all but abandoned Abuzz. Operational control was turned over to Boston.com, and the management team was practically eliminated. In the absence of reliable mediation, Abuzz gradually degenerated into a no-holds-barred ideological slugfest.

On top of the unavoidable verbal abuse, Abuzz's software has a noteworthy flaw that allows member names to be duplicated. As you can imagine, this flaw is exploited mercilessly by a few individuals with malformed scruples. Fortunately, every account has a unique identification number, and a core group of dedicated members do their best to "out" imposters--and add an air of sanity to an otherwise surreal demonstration of the First Amendment.

In addition to stolen aliases, the mal-scrupled use spamming to great effect. They have refined it to a thread-trashing science. Amazingly, with just a few responses, virgin threads are victimized with vulgar invective--deviously formatted to make the thread nearly impossible to scroll through. If you're shocked by what you read on right-wing sites, you'll be thoroughly appalled by the right-wingers on Abuzz. But don't be surprised if you find yourself dismayed with the behavior of a few of the progressives.

On the positive side, there are several interesting threads every day, some of which turn into fascinating debates and discussions. Many of the members are exceptional people.

Again, I'm only suggesting that you have a look. The best way to start is to click on "New Interactions," and look through a few pages of thread headers. Enjoy...

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