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.