Huffington, puffington

Lovely acerbic piece in The New Republic about the Huffpost’s proprietor. Sample:

Arianna Stassinopoulos is now Arianna Huffington, and she is best known as the proprietor of The Huffington Post, and as a personification of the hyperactive up-to-the-nanosecond news-and-opinion universe of the web. Her fame now approaches her immodest ambitions. And more than Huffington’s name has changed since she wrote those early premonitory words. She is now a steely–“bleeding heart” somehow does not fit–liberal, rather than a politically incorrect conservative. She has been, as Americans like to say, on a journey. Her historical timing has always been exquisite. If she is herself some sort of institution, she is an exceedingly adaptable one. (Click here for a slideshow that tracks Huffington’s many public makeovers.)

Now comes her twelfth book, lyrically entitled Right Is Wrong: How the Lunatic Fringe Hijacked America, Shredded the Constitution, and Made Us All Less Safe (And What You Need To Know To End The Madness). It is only the most recent example of Huffington’s tireless ability to inhabit different places on the political spectrum. In the early 1970s, she made herself a star by rubbing outrageously against the liberal grain. A well-turned-out young woman in articulate recoil from feminism, a woman disputing the reigning ideologies and dogmas of her day–or at least the reigning ideologies and dogmas of college and university students–was ideally suited for the role of right-wing contrarian. But that may have been the last time she moved against the wind. Now “progressivism” reigns supreme in cyberspace and in the Beltway, and noisily progressive she is. No courageous heterodoxy this time around. Now she is a “player.” A look at Huffington’s career reveals someone uncannily–no, cannily–adept at recognizing and navigating the social and political currents, a zeitgeist artist, even though she has written nothing that requires her to be taken seriously as a thinker.

Huffington’s work is not intellectually consistent, but there are two strains that run through much of what she has written. The first is her limp spirituality, which never moves beyond fatuities and banalities. (“Our purpose is to make religion a continuous living experience, to lead us toward a resurrection not of the dead but of the living who are dead to their own truth. “) The second is her frequent and caustic criticism of the Fourth Estate.

I remember her well. Our times as students in Cambridge overlapped. She was Arianna Stassinopolous then — a noisy, wealthy (daughter of a rich Greek family) and brass-necked hussy who became president of the Union (not to be confused with the — socialist — students’ union). Later she took up with Bernard Levin, who was once Britain’s best newspaper columnist, but went into sad decline for reasons unconnected with Ms S.