Greeting your public

This week’s Net Report went live on the New Statesman’s website this morning. I note that Ben Goldacre posts the unedited copy of his weekly Bad Science column to his blog. This seems like a fair enough convention, so I propose to follow it, too. You can read the edited version here.

PR exists to convince the majority at the wrong end of the celebrity power law that the minority at the other end deserve to be there, satisfying our – objectively, ludicrous – desire that someone who can jump high, sing in tune, or paint also has both acceptably bland political views and great hair. Thus does PR perpetuate an aspirational culture that decouples man’s interests from his fellow man. So hurrah for the internet, which promises to destroy PR doom by putting celebrities directly in touch with their fans.

But there are still rules of engagement. Monty Python – so geek-chic they have a computer programming language named after them – get it right. Last year, bored with low-quality rip-offs of their videos appearing on the net without permission, they released their most popular clips free-to-view on their own YouTube channel, the only way they saw of taking the power back, short of “coming after you in ways too horrible to tell”. This mixture of generosity and contempt has continued to win nerd hearts, Eric Idle’s latest offering “Eric Idle responds to your fatuous comments” (96,474 views so far) earning nothing but praise, despite mocking its intended audience without relent. Perhaps in this era of participation for all, it’s only right for the audience to be the punchline?

Lily Allen got it right in the early days, too. When she blogged about feeling ashamed of her weight in 2007, she won enough sympathy for most people to later forgive her ignoring our advice and going a bit Atkins anyway. But – oops – then she tried politics. And not just any politics, the internet’s own electric fence issue: copyright infringement. In her new blog,, she defended the government’s plans to disconnect persistent filesharers from the internet. But if she was looking for New England, what she found was neither green nor pleasant.

Quicker than you can say High Court Injunction, the internet hordes had descended, pointing to two mp3 mixes of other people’s songs on offer – without permission – from another of her sites. With both blog and infringing mixes since taken down, it looks like the web has found its own Baroness Scotland. And in a sweet bit of creative destruction, the star of the piece is emerging as musician Dan Bull, whose Letter to Lily Allen (162,895 views so far) would surely make Christmas number 1, if only EMI would license the backing track.

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