I want to kill bugs, sir!


Talk Show Wars Spin-Doctoring Backfires
1999-07-08 01:07:17

Jabber Streams
You have come a long way from the Bloodthirsty, Beady-eyed news Hawk that you were in days of yore. Maybe you should try reading something besides those goddamn motorcycle magazines -- or one of these days you'll find hair growing in your palms.
-- HST


Like an old-fashioned minister of information, Art Bell has tried to control the propaganda coming from his opponents, and failed. Apparently unaware of the famous aphorism that the Net routes around censorship, he has tried persuasion and cajoling to shut down opposing viewpoints on web sites and discussion forums. But it hasn't worked.

Art hoists the black flagThe most recent casualty of Minister Art has been the infamous "Shadie Pines" (sic) web site (www.shadie-pines.com), maintained by Joe Oddo. Surfers became aware that Oddo's site was defunct when they tried to access it yesterday afternoon and received an "access denied" error message. Later in the evening the entire site was replaced by a single page with the cryptic message "Peace" in large black letters.

Until yesterday, Oddo's site was the best source of information and gossip on both sides of the Talk Show Wars, a fierce dogfight of words, and now lawsuits, being played out on the Internet between Art Bell and his detractors, namely former talk show host and "Reverse Speech" guru David John Oates, and the frequent talk show guest Robert A. M. Stephens.

Ironically, Shadie Pines started out several weeks ago as a 100% pro-Art Bell web site, an outgrowth of Art's heavily trafficked web page about the dispute. Art's site only posted articles and net flotsam generally sympathetic to his side of the story, until the volume of articles became so numerous that it was just simpler to link to a whole new site specializing in pro-Art Bell items. So Art stopped managing the news himself, and linked to shadie-pines.com.

However, Oddo eventually insisted on linking to web bulletin boards containing messages posted by Art's enemies, and other dissenters. So the link between the two sites was severed. Oddo said at the time that he felt it was better to provide both sides of the issue than to be censored.

In this case, Art's persuasion techniques have worked, at least temporarily. In an email to Pigdog Journal, Oddo explained that he removed Shadie Pines after talking with Art Bell who convinced him that a settlement in the legal case between Art Bell and David John Oates was more likely if he "[reduced] the ability of the rumor mill to agitate the situation."

Despite attempts to put a lid on the information flow, the net rumor mill cannot be easily silenced. Through a network of increasingly numerous anonymous web bulletin boards, with colorful names, such as "Howl," "Behold II," "Reap the Whirlwind," and "Shadier Pines," the discussion continues to rage unabated. These are maintained by both friends and foes of Art Bell alike. How long will it be before someone else puts up a web site to organize and synthesize this information?

Incidentally, Pigdog Journal's coverage of the Talk Show Wars began with a piece questioning whether someone was out to silence Art Bell. By a quirk of fate, Art is seemingly stooping to the same low tactics that his opponents use.

Is it time for Art to hire a net savvy PR consultant?

UPDATE (July 8, 1999)

Art Bell Responds!

Over.  End of Story.  Go home now.


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