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Bloggers Fume Over Princess Di Photos

With millions of sites floating through the blogosphere, who really has time to peek at even a fraction of them? Blogophile reads them for you and presents a weekly roundup of the buzz on must-read blogs. Blogophile appears new each Wednesday, and is written by CBSNews.com's Melissa P. McNamara.

Princess Diana is gone, but not forgotten, online where bloggers vent over a decision to release photos from her crash. Plus, is The Onion satire? One blogger misunderstood a parody, and he felt the wrath of the blogosphere. And, why is Homeland Security's cyber security position vacant? Bloggers offer some ideas.

Diana Lives Online

If you had any doubt over Princess Diana's ability to generate news eight years after her death, check out the blogosphere this week. After an Italian magazine published photos of Diana at the scene of her fatal car crash, bloggers pushed the princess to the top of the online charts, making her the most searched person and topic in the blogs.

Nearly 20,000 bloggers weighed in last weekend alone. And CBSNews.com's story about the photos has remained one of the site's top five stories days after it was posted, with hundreds of thousands of people searching the site for the Diana story as well.

The cyberspace clamor erupted when the Milan-based Chi magazine published on its cover a black-and-white photo showing the princess receiving oxygen in the wreckage of the car crash that killed her Aug. 31, 1997. The picture was excerpted from "Lady Diana: The Criminal Investigation," a new book by French author Jean-Michel Caradec'h.

Diana's sons, princes William and Harry, said in a statement Friday they were "deeply saddened." But that was nothing compared to the anger the photos drew online.

"It has been eight years since the tragic death of England's Princess Diana, but still there are some heartless little creeps out there who cherish the hope of squeezing a few extra bucks out of her," Kathy at Hollywood Highlights blogs.

Susan at Susan's Spa agrees. "Why anyone would want these photos to become public is beyond my comprehension, even though I realize that such photos sell for millions and, in turn, will sell millions of tabloid rags," she says. "As for me I prefer to remember her as she is in this photo...completely elegant...the embodiment of a true princess!"

"It is not in the interest of the public to know about Diana's private life, it doesn't matter what we know now anyway, but it is in the interest of the pockets of journalism as a business," Joe at the General blogs.

And Black Hippy Chick thinks the photo suggests the princess received questionable medical treatment on the scene of her accident. "I suppose what I wonder and possibly some of the world wonders is if they were able to give her oxygen at the scene why couldn't they save her life," Black Hippy Chick blogs. "This is a particular significant issue to me because as a small child I remember watching the wedding from beginning to end and it was just such a beautiful thing."

But not all bloggers are as outraged. Some question why the media should treat the photo of Diana's death any differently than other grim photos it publishes. After all, violent photos from bombings in Iraq often appear in print and online.

"How many images of death & destruction do we see in the daily news and why is Diana's death any different? If publishing photos of a dead or dying person is undignified and/or offensive to the memory of the deceased, shouldn't that standard apply to the rest of us?" Tania Siyam asks. "Does Princess Di somehow merit more privacy than Kennedy, King or any other prominent figure who has suffered a controversial death (and life) in the public eye?"

For Pete's Sake

Pete, blogging on March Together for Life, an anti-abortion rights site, was outraged over a 1999 opinion piece by columnist Caroline Webber, entitled "I'm Totally Psyched About This Abortion."

So he blogged his vitriol in a post, "Murder Without Conscience." He said he was especially infuriated by lines the columnist used, including "It wasn't until now that I was lucky enough to be pregnant with a child I had no means to support," and "I just know it's going to be the best non-anesthetized invasive uterine surgery ever!"

"Miss Weber, you have killed your child, which you admit is a baby/human being, intentionally. That does make you an admitted murderer," he wrote.

The problem? Caroline Webber is a fictional columnist and the column was published in the satirical newspaper (and online site) The Onion. The satire was intended to mock the idea that supporters of abortion rights think abortion is a good thing.

Days after his initial post, Pete acknowledged on his blog that he now understands that The Onion column had been a joke.

"Needless to say, a few people wanted to let me know that I was a dolt for thinking that her article was real," Pete wrote. But he stands by the sentiment. "As a matter of fact, call me a dolt, because in the beginning I really did think it was real. Why? Because I meet women like her in the field all the time. Anyway, I wrote the blog in a way that was meant to point out how psychotic the pro-abortion movement is."

But bloggers, especially those on the left, have been unforgiving, and unrelenting, in letting Pete know how they felt about his mistake and in some cases, his views. He received thousands of e-mails from bloggers, as well as more than a few angry calls to his home, he says.

"The hate mail continues to flow in like water," he writes on his blog.

Perhaps in response to all the hate e-mails, he also backtracked a bit in one posting, suggesting his article was intended as a joke: "My article was a joke, which obviously thousands of you didn't get, all the while accusing me of being the stupidest person on the planet," Pete wrote.

Truthdig says he's the "laughingstock of the blogosphere." "One might start to feel sorry for the guy if he didn't keep attempting to treat the Onion article as serious," ArchPundit writes. Rachel has no sympathy, declaring, "I'm totally psyched about this humiliation!"

"Pete, I have a suggestion for you. Next time you see an article about abortion or contraception that makes you so incensed that you feel you must write about it, ask someone else to read the article and tell you if it was meant as satire or not. It might save you a lot of embarrassment," Can't Keep Quiet blogs.

But some bloggers ask if it is fair game to publish Pete's personal information. Many say it's not. "For the record, I don't really buy his second take on this. I think he got taken in and is simply embarrassed about it. Nevertheless, that's no excuse for publishing his contact info and encouraging people to make harassing phone calls, as several of his commenters apparently did," Verum Serum writes.

Robert Toombs agrees bloggers have crossed the line. "The guy made a mistake, and he happens to be on the other side of the ideological line; but I'm telling you, it's awful tough to take the moral high ground on things when you're calling some guy's house just to abuse him," he blogs on Bobblog

Have They Tried Craigslist?

Last year, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said, to much fanfare, that it had created an assistant secretary post to coordinate U.S. government efforts to counter attacks on the country's technological infrastructure. One year later, the position has remained unfilled as the agency searches for a candidate.

A DHS official told the Washington Post that the agency is "in the final stretch" of approving a candidate. But in the meantime, as the newspaper reports, critics fear the vacancy leaves the administration unable to respond to a major cyber attack, leaving the country's power grids, economy and telecom networks vulnerable.

The Post attributes part of the vacancy to plain ol' bureaucratic politics. Administration officials relegated the position to a lower hierarchical one, in which daily access to DHS top decision-makers would not be granted. Three different cyber security officials resigned, two of them complaining publicly of their lack of authority.

Bloggers were unrelenting in their criticism of a vacancy in a position they say is critical.

"The failure to find someone to fill this job leaves me shaking my head in bewilderment," Christian Beckner blogs at Homeland Security Watch.

And The Internet Examiner adds, "The article should serve as a warning to every business that depends on the Internet to conduct business. It's just that serious."

The Garlic offers a top 10 list of reasons why no one wants the job, including "It's on hold, until after the August Connecticut Primary — Joe Lieberman indicated that if he loses, he's going to put in papers for it" and "Still pouring through MySpace.Com to get some really good candidates."

But Edward Copeland says DHS is to blame. "Don't dismantle FEMA — dismantle DHS," he recommends at Institute for Lower Learning.

Tim Saler agrees. "I can't help but think that the Department of Homeland Security simply doesn't understand how devastating a cyber-terrorist attack can be on our country's infrastructure," Tim blogs. "If they do understand but still can't or won't allocate the necessary attention to the problem, then that might be even worse."

Jim Horning simply asks cynically, "What will be the Katrina in Cyberspace?"

Did You Know?

A study by iMedia, a site geared toward marketers, found some notable statistics about blogs and the people who visit them. The analysis finds that blogs "are redefining how people experience the web and, in many ways, have helped precipitate the shift towards user-generated content on the Internet." Some of their findings include:

  • "Visitation to blogs continues to grow rapidly," with a 56 percent increase during the past year to 58.7 million visitors.
  • People between the ages of 12 and 17 are 21 percent more likely than average to visit blogs, while those 18 to 34 are 14 percent more likely to do so.
  • Blog visitation also shows slight skews to higher income households. Households with incomes of at least $75,000 are 8 percent more likely than average to frequent blogs.
  • The top blog network is Google-owned Blogger, garnering 20.8 million visitors in May 2006. MySpace Blogs ranked second with 14.4 million visitors (up 115 percent), while MSN Spaces ranked third with 9.6 million visitors (up 205 percent).

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    By Melissa McNamara