by Linda Holmes
Sometimes, you just get a feeling.
I've been around the Internet for a long time, and I know its terrifying tendency to reveal unpleasant swaths of humanity, and I've seen plenty -- plenty -- that's worse than the Dating A Banker Anonymous site that's recently been a hot topic of discussion in mainstream news outlets like The New York Times (under, I should add, the truly revolting headline "It's The Economy, Girlfriend") and online communities like Metafilter.
I've seen little that's been more instantly famous, mind you, but lots that's much, much worse.
And I had one question.
Isn't it totally obvious that this is a put-on? Isn't it totally obvious that the "support group" reported on in the Times doesn't exist, that these are three women -- two writers and an attorney -- who figured out how to tap our deep societal hatred of the recession and hatred of privileged women who get away with everything, and to combine it into a big giant phenomenon that would produce so much instant vitriol that they would absolutely, definitely get a book deal?
Why I'm so suspicious, after the jump...
I want to say first that I don't know that this isn't real. If it is, then...I despair for us all, but that's a different issue. But let me tell you what's bothering me about it.
• The "DABA Girls" blog lives at www.dabagirls.com, a domain that was apparently registered on January 16, even though it has entries dated as far back as September. January 16 is a little more than a week before they showed up in the New York Times. Of course, it's possible that they could have moved the blog from a free address at a service like Blogger or Wordpress; it's not killer evidence. But they're pretty amazingly lucky if they ran this site for, as they claim, four or five months (the "It All Started When" entry is dated September 25, 2008) and then magically got themselves a shiny new URL eleven days before their publicity explosion.
• Why would you call the first blog entry you ever put on your site "It All Started When..."? Doesn't that sound more like...you know, something written after the fact to make it sound like you wrote it in September when, in fact, you wrote it in January as part of your elaborate hoax/prank/stunt? Who starts a new web site and thinks she needs an entry called "It All Started When..."?
• Why does the Times story make it sound like there's more going on in the blog than there is? Check out this bit:
Financial news is conveyed via a color-coded daily warning system: red, when the Dow fell 300 points on Oct. 6 ("Good night to have dinner with your girlfriends and do laundry"); yellow, when Warren Buffet invested $3 billion in General Electric ("Good night to hang out with your F.B.F."); green on Jan. 21, in honor of President Obama's hope.
Here's the thing: That "color-coded daily warning system"? By my count, the times cited in the piece are three out of the four times, prior to January 26, the day before the article ran, that it had ever been used on the blog. A "daily warning system"? Certainly not. There was one example each for green and orange (handy, if you want the paper to explain how you have different levels), and there were two examples for red. I assumed, reading the article, that it was some kind of regular feature. It is not.
• Where are their users? I can't find a comment on the blog anywhere that dates to before Monday. The Timesarticle says that about 30 women regularly post to the site; if that's true, they're invisible to the naked eye. Okay, so maybe they moved the blog on January 16 and didn't bring the comments over.
But look, for instance, at this entry, dated January 23, four days before the NYT made them famous. It's a story in which a girl allegedly whines and whines about her married boyfriend not supporting her anymore. It's a fantastically offensive, morally vacuous post if it's coming from an actual human, and there's not one comment on it from the period between January 23 and January 27. If there are 30 people kicking around on the site, and there's not one who would have anything to say about this? It's a support group, allegedly, for crying out loud. They don't talk to each other?
Similarly, look at this, their entry that was at the top of the site when the NYT story hit and their fame exploded. Eighty-nine comments, many from people who hate their guts. Some from people who think they might be joking; some from people who don't think they're joking and think they're funny anyway.
None -- not one -- from anybody saying, "I go to the meetings." Or "Stop putting us down." Or "we're just having fun; you don't need to call us idiots."
I hate to say this, but there's no group of thirty people on the internet where nobody gets defensive.
Don't get me wrong; I love a good Andy Kaufman stunt. My guess is that the women are setting themselves up for a kind of reality-show Confessions Of A Shopaholic book, real-but-not-real, and...whatever, they're not hurting anyone. Judged as satire, I think the blog is pretty weak and clichéd, but far be it from me to stop anyone from trying to be funny in dark times. And maybe it's real; maybe the Times asked all these questions and got perfectly good answers they just didn't print.
But this phenomenon hasn't been reported with a particularly robust degree of skepticism, probably because it's such a deliciously awful story. Spoiled, awful, hateful gold-diggers feeling sorry for themselves...there's an eagerness to buy into this tale, to believe that people are like this -- that women are like this -- that's disappointing. Because yes, it might be a tale of spiteful gold-diggers, but it might also be a far more interesting tale of women who know exactly what buttons to press, and what stereotypes to feed, in order to get themselves a lot of attention. And if that's what it is, then the boat's been badly missed.