The Fish
for 28 January 1999. Updated every WEEKDAY.
Suck Staff

Joey Anuff
Joey Anuff
Editor in Chief


Terry Colon
Terry Colon
Art Director


[the fixin' pixie... ]
Emily Hobson
Production Manager
and Rhythm Guitar


Heather Havrilesky
Heather Havrilesky
Senior Editor


[Ian Connelly]
Ian Connelly
Marketing Manager


[Copy Edit]
Copy Edit

Suck Alumni
Suck Alumni Text

Carl Steadman
Carl Steadman


Ana Marie Cox
Ana Marie Cox
Executive Editor


Sean (Duuuuude) Welch
Sean Welch


Owen Thomas
Owen Thomas
Copy Editor


T. Jay Fowler

Production Manager

& Ass Kicker


[yes, it's a plunger. i'll l
eave the rest up to your imagination ... ]
Erin Coull
Production Manager


Monte Goode
Monte Goode
Ghost in the Machine


Matt Beer
Matt Beer
Development Manager

Glass Houses

I'm pretty sure Ira Glass is
the antichrist Jerry Falwell
is looking for. You guys were
way prescient in awarding him
an EGG. There'll
be evil days next month
in Seattle when Glass comes
to town for a live

Rick Roth

Ira Glass is the Alan Alda of
the '90s.

Fish With Letter Icon

Feedback Loop

Hi Bartel:

In your column you say that,
generally, reader response
can be easily categorized
into four types: positive,
negative, insane, and milking
the conversation.

Well, I'd like to suggest
another method of categorization for
use when writing letters to
Suck, ordered by "Probability
of getting into the Fish"
from lowest (1) to highest (4):

Dear Suck:
1) You're dumb
2) Oh look at how smart you
3) Look at how smart you
are. Hey: Look at me - I can
be smart too!
4) No really, you're *wicked*
smart. I'll just shut up now.

Since making the Fish is just
good clean fun for everyone,
and it's been determined that
(4) offers the highest
probability, allow me to close
by saying: No really, Bartel,
you're *wicked* smart. I'll
just shut up now.

A highly rigorous
scientific test was done,
complete with a control group
and everything, to determine
this ordering (just so you

Tom Laramee


Actually, the ones that have
the highest probability of
getting into the Fish tend to
be things like:

"I hate my stepmom does she
understand the way her lime
green pants suit gives me
epilepsie? I din't think so
and now she's at it again ...
should i be scared of carrot
cake, because i am. don't let
her know about this. please


Fish With Letter Icon

Dear Sucksters,

May I suggest that next time
you deploy the whuppin'-stick
of journalistic integrity,
which you ordinarily do so
well, you get your news from
somewhere other than the New
York Post.
I was sorry to
read in today's Suck
("Feedback Loop," 12 January
1999) the following

"Brill's Content queered
its own launch with a scandal
in which editors anonymously
posted Brillmania-inducing
bulletin board messages."

The biggest problem with this
sentence is that it's not
true. It's a bizarre, false
story that originated in a 10
June 1998 New York Post
article and, much like the
life-giving oil of Hanukah,
has lasted much longer that
anybody expected.

What really happened is this:
A week before our AOL site
went public (which means that
only people who worked here
were likely to know the site
even existed), some reporters
and editors posted such
propaganda as "Religion is
always a tough topic. Who
covers it well?" The posts
were not anonymous, either.
Brill's Content staffers
didn't always identify
themselves by title, but as
the site was not officially
open to the public, it didn't
really occur to anyone to do
so (once the site went live,
all staffers identified
themselves properly).

Suck is certainly not the
first media outlet to repeat
the bogus Post story, just
the first in a while; Salon
had you folks beat by about
six months. All that aside, I
think you guys are doing a
swell job.


Ari D. Voukydis
Online Manager, Brill's Content

Dear Ari,

Point taken. It's easy enough
to believe that Paul Tharp,
who wrote the Post story,
decided how the story was
going to read before starting
out, then called around for
quotes to back up his version
of events. Uncharitable
people might consider that
malice aforethought; but the
Post without malice would be
like Cap'n Crunch that
doesn't tear up the roof of
your mouth.

But in fairness to Mr. Tharp,
his story quotes Content
executive editor Amy
Bernstein as saying, "You're
absolutely right. We should
have identified ourselves,
and we will - from now on we
will be identifying
ourselves. It will be
absolutely clear that we are
Brill's Content staffers."
She also characterized the
posts as efforts to spark
conversation. Though
"Brillmania" may be a strong
word, this does constitute an
effort to generate buzz where
buzz was not a naturally
occurring phenomenon.

Steven Brill was quoted in
the same article as saying
the unidentified posts were
the result of a technical

Unless you're saying Tharp
made up those quotes, there's
not much ground to say that
the story is "false." If you
are saying he made the quotes
up, that would seem to fall
into the area of
libel, which would be
worth an investigation by
Content, to say the least.

Anyway, even with the most
unfavorable interpretation of
events, the bulletin board
scandal would be pretty minor
stuff, and our article made
that clear. I don't think I
need to explain why everybody
was in a hurry to pass around
a Brill's
story. We included it as a
relevant example from recent
history, and we like
Content, even if everybody
else pretends not to.


Fish With Letter Icon
Feedback Loop

Dear Bartel:

That was pretty funny, but I
bet Alan Kornheiser could
have said the same thing both
more briefly and with greater
stinging wit.

Not the Doctor

Dear Alan,

That's funny, but this is

Re: Feedback Loop - "but the sad
truth is we've never made up
reader mail...." Right, and
we're supposed to believe
that Alan S. Kornheiser
really exists?

Douglas Heath


As perhaps the only Suckster
who has met Kornheiser in the
flesh, I can attest not only
that he exists, but that he's
the cat that won't cop out
when there's danger all


Fish With Letter Icon


Cute piece on 12 January
1999. But how could you say
that much about manufactured
letters without acknowledging
the great, inspired "Letters
from the Editors" section of
the Original National

My fave was one from around
'78, which said simply:

Whoops! I went to
Jean Paul Sartre"

Enjoy the millennium!

Rob Seulowitz

Dr. Robert,

Originally, I tried writing
the whole piece in the form
of a "Penthouse Forum" letter:
"I've never written to you
before, but this was so hot I
just had to tell somebody,"
etc. Now there was a
writerly conceit that went
nowhere in a hurry!

I also intended to mention
the NatLamp letters, my
personal favorite of which

Dear Sirs,

Isn't it true that you often
make up for a lame letter by
signing a funny name?


E. Normous Penis
Fallen Trousers, Illinois

And there were many others.
I'm surprised nobody has
resurrected that letters
column in some more permanent


Fish With Letter Icon

Contrary to the claim in
"Feedback Loop" - "If anybody
really wants to find out,
and we must never
underestimate the zeal of our
enemies, he will" - it is
possible to be effectively
anonymous, except under
extreme threat models - by
using a nym server via a
chain of anonymous remailers.

Even if the CIA, NSA, and XXX or
their non-US equivalents are
after you, using a nym server
in another country and
anonymous remailers in two or
three other countries imposes
a requirement for complex
multinational efforts. And in
any case, many nym servers
and anonymous remailers don't
keep log files - and so
network analysis (requiring
ENIGMA-like resources) would
be necessary.

A good (if out-of-date)
summary of these issues is at
Anonymity and Privacy on the


Jim Cook

Dear Jim,

And I'm supposed to go to all
this trouble just so I can
send Highlights for Children,
a pseudonymous letter, saying:

"Bartel d'Arcy's story, 'What
to Do When Your Sister Is
Being a Pain' made me laugh,
cry, and learn. Please
publish his work in every

I'll stick with the brick
through the window.


Fish With Letter Icon


Of course faking support is
not limited to individuals;
big corps love to do it too.
One example I'm particularly
fond of is the DVD vs. Divx.
Until fairly recently Divx
had no support whatsoever on
the Net until a strangely
professional site popped
up. After looking a little
deeper it was found that the
domain is registered to an
address not four blocks from a
Circuit City in Richmond.
Gotta love that stock


Stuart Horner


Suck's co-founder wrote a
detailed defense of Divx in
another publication long
before it was cool to like
Divx. I'd be lying if I said
I understood his argument,
but it sounded really
intelligent and all. So it's
incorrect to say there was
never any support for Divx.
And don't forget Microsoft's
very similar "astroturf"
campaign, to which I proudly


Fish With Letter Icon

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