Saturday, September 13, 2008

Everyday People and Arianna Huffington

A few of my friends and family don't understand my fixation with blogs. I maintain a blog. I read blogs. I have pretty much avoided getting my news through televised mainstream media because of blogs. They ask me, "How can you trust the information you get via blogs? How do you know who these people are? They could be crazy."

While I could make arguments about how blogs fact-check other blogs, instead I'll turn the question around. How do you know established figures in the media aren't crazy? Because someone has a byline under the NYT or Washington Post, am I to assume that they are vetted experts?

As a rather stark example, what follow is a paraphrased account from a friend of mine taking a flight from Newark, NJ to Austin, TX. Consider it my first investigative reporter in the field, although in truth he didn't ask for this assignment he just stumbled up on it.

My friend travels heavily for business and so was promoted to first class. He was sitting in 2A and there was a woman in 1E that was drawing considerable attention to herself. Some of her actions included:
  • She was talking on her cell phone during boarding and taxiing. The flight attendents had to ask her three or four times to please shut off her cell phone. Eventually they joked with her that they were just going to contact the captain and ask him if he didn't mind waiting at the gate until this woman completed her call. Only then did she shut off her phone.

  • After turning off her phone, she immediately turned on her iPod and put in noise-canceling earbuds. She had to be told repeatedly to turn off the electronic device and remove the earbuds during taxi and take off.

  • She had brought a salad on board with her and was eating it with her fingers, spilling food all over herself. My friend remarks, "I was sitting in 2A, like I said, and I asked the guy in 2B if he knew if we were getting fed. His joke was that maybe we’ll get to suck some cheese off the shirt of the crazy lady up in 1E."

  • Not satisfied with the salad and the iPod during flight to occupy her, she grabbed a newspaper from the magazine pocket from the guy across the isle from her. Of course, there were no complientary papers given out on this flight, even to first class passengers, but that didn't stop her from 'borrowing it without asking'.

  • Sitting in a bulk head row, the woman planted her feet up against the bulk head. This made it difficult for the flight attendants to serve food and drinks to the passenger in 1F. This woman seemed oblivious to that fact and didn't move to make things easier.

  • At one point, the cockpit door was opened so the pilot could use the restroom. As is now standard practice, the flight attendents blocked the isle with the food service cart as a secruity measure. The woman in question here took this moment to stand up and apparently try to use the restroom herself. Standing up and approaching an open cockpit door is not a good idea.

  • The flight attendants started asking other first class passengers if this woman was famous. They didn't recognizer her but she seemed to be acting as part of some privledged class, so they suspected she might be use to being pampered.
When telling me this story, my friend remarked that he flies over 100 times a year on business and he has never seen anyone thrown off a plane for behavior. This woman came the closest he had ever seen.

When leaving the plane, the passenger manifest happened to be in sight and my reporter-under-cover hazzarded a glance at it. The woman in question? Arianna Huffington.

I debated for quite a while whether to reveal the name. In truth the name is not really that important. She didn't do anything illegal and is free to be obnoxious in her behavior on as many plane flights as she wants. But every time I read an article by her now, I cannot help but to think of this story and what kind of person she is and how she views her place in society.

Are some of the bloggers I read the same kind of personality? Perhaps--I have no way of knowing, of course. But sometimes when I read the works of famous and established writers I get the impression of: "You should listen to me because I am witty and intelligent and famous and becuase I am me." I post this story to remind everyone not to get caught up in the celebrity of someone who gets a lot of press--even if they are part of the press.

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