Battle of Blogging

23 March 2006
Arianna Huffington's blog, the Huffington Post  has landed itself in some trouble over a blog it published on 12 March, which purported to be written by George Clooney. Had it been written by a taxi driver from Swindon, it would be pretty safe to assume that not much attention would have been paid to it. In the (unspectacular) piece, headlined "George Clooney: I am a liberal. There I said it!" , George blasts the Democrats for caving in during the run up to the Iraq war. There are also one or two expletives thrown in for good measure. The most memorable line is saved for the end: "I am a liberal. Fire away." (Maybe whoever came up with this might have been inspired by George Bush's answer in 2003 on how to deal with the Iraqi insurgency: "Bring them on. We have the force necessary to deal with the situation.")

Clooney was furious when he discovered that his name had been put to this blog, which it transpired had been fashioned out of interviews he had given to CNN's Larry King and to the Guardian. According to Huffington, the whole thing was a "an honest misunderstanding . . . between Clooney and the publicist.'' When Clooney was first approached and asked if he would write a blog for Huffington's website, he replied that he didn’t know how to go about doing it. She then emailed him a sample blog using the quotes she had assembled from the various interviews. When she later asked Clooney's publicist from his film Good Night, and Good Luck if it would be ok for her to publish the sample as a blog on her website, she claimed that she had been given approval.  

 Things didn't end when the blog was removed from the Huffington Post. In a statement, Clooney stated that he was unhappy with Huffington's explanation. "What she most certainly did not get my permission to do is to combine only my answers in a blog that misleads the reader into thinking that I wrote this piece," he said. "These are not my writings. they are answers to questions and there is a huge difference." Clooney told the Daily News in New York, "She said some things that I won't share, but she did tell me that this could be bad for me - bad for my career."  "Well, screw you!" was Clooney's response. "I'm not going to be threatened by Arianna Huffington!"

After coming under much criticism from her fellow bloggers, Huffington wrote in a post on Saturday entitled, "Lessons Learned" that she made a big mistake in misleading her readers. This isn't the first time Huffington has found herself facing charges of unethical practice. She was accused of plagiarism in her hugely successful biographies of Pablo Picasso and Maria Callas. After the Callas book, it is thought that she had to pay out a substantial figure to avoid a lawsuit.

But maybe she should be given the benefit of the doubt in this case. After all, what she had written was actually said by Clooney. And besides, journalists are always cobbling together stories from various sources. Like this blog, for example.

Stop the secrecy: Publish the NHS COVID data deals

To: Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care

We’re calling on you to immediately release details of the secret NHS data deals struck with private companies, to deliver the NHS COVID-19 datastore.

We, the public, deserve to know exactly how our personal information has been traded in this ‘unprecedented’ deal with US tech giants like Google, and firms linked to Donald Trump (Palantir) and Vote Leave (Faculty AI).

The COVID-19 datastore will hold private, personal information about every single one of us who relies on the NHS. We don’t want our personal data falling into the wrong hands.

And we don’t want private companies – many with poor reputations for protecting privacy – using it for their own commercial purposes, or to undermine the NHS.

The datastore could be an important tool in tackling the pandemic. But for it to be a success, the public has to be able to trust it.

Today, we urgently call on you to publish all the data-sharing agreements, data-impact assessments, and details of how the private companies stand to profit from their involvement.

The NHS is a precious public institution. Any involvement from private companies should be open to public scrutiny and debate. We need more transparency during this pandemic – not less.

By adding my name to this campaign, I authorise openDemocracy and Foxglove to keep me updated about their important work.

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