Internal Memo: Arianna Huffington

arianna 0 Internal Memo: Arianna HuffingtonI come from Greece, the land of Zeus. What sprang full-born from my skull has now fetched $315 million. Now, like the Queens of Minos, I will rule an empire, an empire of content. The Internet is a labyrinth. Teeming and toiling within the endless maze are journalists, citizens, citizen-journalists and unique visitors. It doesn’t take a Midas to monetize them. My feeling is that a service provider whose profits have been diminishing since the ’90s should have no trouble doing it. Go ahead, call me a classicist!

I get a little wistful when I think of my teenage home, Athens, birthplace of democracy–a system betrayed on a daily basis by our politicians. Of course, every house in Athens was run by a vast squadron of slaves. The Huffington Post is by contrast far more egalitarian. We have dozens of salaried employees; all of my assistants are paid a living wage; and those bloggers who blog without pay do so on a voluntary basis. I do not force them to blog; they are compelled to do so by the force of my charisma, and they are compensated–in memes. If you need any further evidence that they are not slaves, let me assure you that I could not sell them to Nick Denton or Carol Bartz or Tim Armstrong if I tried.

The greatest Athenian to come before me was perhaps Socrates. The journalists of his day were known as sophists. Their business model sent them in search of rich, fatuous and impressionable young men who would pay the sophists to tell them how to live, as if they were buying some kind of subscription. In a tremendous revolution, this model was overturned by Socrates, who created a new media called philosophy. Instead of asserting lessons, he would ask questions, just like a good blogger. He held his discussions in the agora, ancient Athens’ version of the Internet. And his conversations were memorialized in dialogues, roughly similar to today’s comment sections. His saying, “The life unexamined is not worth living,” was one of the world’s first memes. Socrates, however, died before he was able to monetize his revolution. Why take hemlock when you stood the chance to sell your little agora act for 315 million drachmas?

In Greek we have a wonderful word, eleutheria. It means freedom–what could be better? And under the new dispensation, AOL and the Huffington Post can offer our bloggers so many freedoms. They are free of the whims of editors. They are free of nit-picking fact-checkers. They are free of the contracts shackling so many magazine writers. They are free of the burdens implied by the payment of a wage. They are free, free at last, of the burdens of deadlines, style and grammar that turned so many journalists of the last century in places like Fleet Street and Times Square into hacks.