How the Internet Works: My Relationship With Joseph Wilson

This is a story about how the internet works. Late at night a few days ago I did a a somewhat nasty item about Valerie Plame Wilson’s reported $2.5 million advance for a book telling what she’d done in the CIA. Within a few hours, I got a very thoughtful response from Steve&#151

paying off informants is not always an easy task. Finding people who are willing to talk to you and give you good information is a job in itself. Besides since her job is classified, we really don’t know precisely what she did. So let’s give her the benefit of the doubt.

followed by a much tougher comment from Anonymous:

Mr. Weiss, you have no idea what you are talking about. You are clueless

And that was it. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that Anonymous was Joe Wilson, Plame’s husband, who I mentioned in the post, and that he was alerted to my item by a search service that alerts people who monitor their appearances on the ‘net. It’s just a guess. But that was the feeling I got from the formal and angry, masculine note.

Two lessons. One, the best part of the internet is highly-specialized conversations, gatherings of experts, or to use Howard Rheingold’s expression, Smart mobs. Focused education. I learned more about how the CIA works.

Two, I wish I hadn’t been so nasty. We thought the internet was the wild west, full of flaming and irrationality, because it’s a “virtual reality” where people go in masks. Well, we had it wrong. It’s actually very sophisticated socially, and people who flame get sorted out rather quickly. It’s not a virtual reality, it’s reality. Put another way, it’s only as artificial socially as a dinner party, and maybe less artificial than a dinner party, because people are being more honest. And there’s a ton more exchange of views than there is in a newspaper. If you’re going to be a jerk, you’ll suffer for it on the internet.

Which is to say, I promptly ordered Joe Wilson’s book The Politics of Truth: Inside the Lies that Led to War and Betrayed My Wife’s CIA Identity: A Diplomat’s Memoir. Looking forward to reading it, Joe.

Article continues below
More from Politics
Mayor Bill de Blasio huddles with his former counsel Maya Wiley.
De Blasio Says ‘Going Forward’ He Won’t Hide Conversations With Private Consultants