Man About Town

Let’s have a look at those rude, remarkable renegade Web sites many of you have bookmarked as favorites. If you still haven’t mastered surfing the Web, it’s at your own peril. There’s some spooky shit out there. Some sites are hilarious. Others are terrifying.

With an opener like that, you can bet I’m gonna lead with the laughs.

Ever hear of thesmokinggun. com? It’s a scream. And terribly, terribly wrong. It had Tom and Nicole’s actual divorce petition up within hours of their announcement. Creepy. I prefer its more innocuous postings, like Christina Aguilera’s contract stipulating how many Flintstones Chewables she needs in her dressing room. Still, every time I take a peek I think, “Can they really do that?”

One that hits a little closer to home is adweak.com. To avoid confusion with a certain publication, I pronounce it with three syllables, and the accent on the last (rhyming with yak): “ad-we-ak.”

Adweak.com is the brainchild of a frightfully funny phantom—one who each week exhibits his industry “know-what” as well as his “know-how,” all behind a veil of anonymity.

For the last few months, the site has brutally lampooned some of the most topical stories in our business, and also included, for example, some ruthless “memos”—from client to agency president, creative director to staff. And so on.

Is any of it “true”? In this post-Clinton era, I suppose it still depends what your definition of “is” is.

I asked Bob Kuperman, a recent target of expletive-laced adweak.com hilarity, what he thought about receiving such a public roasting upon his move from TBWA\Chiat\Day to DDB.

“I thought it was great,” he said. “We need stuff like this. Too many of us take ourselves too seriously.” I asked if it helped that the piece was funny. “Of course!” he barked. Laughing, he added, “I mean, there’s a difference between using wit and intelligence and just saying someone’s a stupid bastard.”

Ah, Kupe. You can always count on him to get right to the point.

On the other hand, there are some sites that are just as brazen, but with a decided lack of wit.

Thevault.com seems to be a pretty straightforward job-hunting ground. Bubbling beneath the surface, however, are some pretty nasty message boards about a lot of companies. Maybe even yours. Ai-yi-yi-yi-yi.

But the prize has to go to “Pud,” founder and architect of Fucked Company (yes, a reference to yet another respected business publication). To research this piece, I boldly subscribed to Pud’s e-newsletter and, uh … Omigod. Promptly unsubscribed. This is where that line between laughter and hate is not so much erased as demolished.

There’s a lot of righteous indignation on fuckedcompany.com, and some of it may be justified. But the manner and tone of much of it? Oh no. Frankly, the site is dripping with venom—something close to a virtual white-collar militia. This is real, raw anger, and no good will come from ignoring it. Rather than dismiss it out of hand, perhaps we could (hellooooo?) learn from some of it?

In the meantime, a friend of mine (an IT director at a company with a very busy message board on fuckedcompany.com) has been rattled to the core by 1) the nature of the postings, 2) the speed with which confidential information is posted (in its original form) and 3) the threatening e-mails he has received from co-workers since putting up a firewall between his company and the site.

No matter how angry employees are, there’s a point when a complaint becomes akin to screaming “Fire!” in a crowded theater.

There’s a common thread to the funny and the not-so-funny sites that gives me pause. They’re both the work of unknowns. Anonymity is a mask and one used, at best, to hide. At worst? To deceive. The Internet seems to be held hostage by a great many people with an awful lot to say—few of whom dare to use their names in the process.

Last week’s e-pisode of adweak. com found its would-be-fearless leader pondering whether to step from behind his curtain. Well, I say he’s had a helluva good ride and might actu ally benefit from doing so. To him, and to all the other faceless writers with a joke to tell or a bone to pick, I say, “Come out, come out, who ever you are.”

What’s good for the goose oughta be good for the gander, don’tcha think?