Monica Lewinsky's life may be in shambles, but that hasn't stopped the news media and everyone else in cyberspace from trying to make a buck off of her name. Like CNN and the Gulf War, like Court TV and the O.J. Simpson trial, the Internet, and especially America Online, came of age as a news conduit during the White House sex scandal.
Of course, AOL is not a news organization, and the Internet is not even an organization. But both carry news from many media outlets, including Newsweek magazine <www.newsweek.com>, whose reporter, Michael Isikoff, was the first to have the story of an alleged affair between President Clinton and Monica Lewinsky.
Actually, the first to report Lewinsky's name and many of the
aspects of the alleged presidential dalliance was Internet gadfly Matt
Drudge in his online "Drudge
keyword: "Drudge"). Depending on whose version you believe, Drudge got
his scoop when Newsweek editors either got cold feet or in a fit of
responsibility delayed publishing Isikoff's story.
In Newsweek's expose, "Diary of a Scandal," the magazine claims editors held the story so as not to interfere with Whitewater prosecutor Kenneth Starr's investigation, and "because Lewinsky's name had not surfaced, Newsweek's editors felt there was insufficient hard evidence to drag her into the media maelstrom." Then someone leaked details of Newsweek's story to Drudge. It was certainly just a matter of time, but once Drudge revealed Lewinsky's name on the Internet Jan. 19, it provided all the fig leaf the "legitimate" media needed to unleash its "feeding frenzy."
Three weeks ago few people had ever heard of Monica Lewinsky. Today hundreds of websites exploit her name. But the explosion of Monica sites is less a vast right-wing conspiracy than an effort by porno hucksters and small Internet providers to sell ads and lure lookyloos to their home pages. And just like many news outlets are getting higher ratings and more circulation, many of the Monica sites are reporting a lot of traffic.
According to the e-journal "Exopa Terra," Lewinsky has drawn as many people as Princess Diana and the Super Bowl to major media websites like the Washington Post, AP News and CNN. New Monica sites had their traffic zoom from zero to more than 15,000 daily hits within hours, while existing sites reported traffic jumping from 10,000 hits to 100,000 hits a day. And the "Drudge Report," which was averaging 55,000 hits a day, skyrocketed to more than 300,000 daily hits.
Meanwhile, porno sites have also been trying to cash in. Typical is "Monica Lewinsky Pictures," which has no Monica Lewinsky pictures, but if you pay $15 and promise you are an adult you can see "Bizarre Sex, Teens, Lesbians, Amateurs, Voyeurs, Bondage, Rape, Indian Girls, Oriental, Spice Girls and Much More."
Because many of the webmasters are less right-wing idealogues than non-political or perhaps anti-political computer nerds, many of the sites use pictures, video, sound bites, message boards, chat rooms, animation, and other fun technology. Thus, "The Lewinsky Files" <www.ccr.net/jawz/clinton> has what it claims are "exclusive photos of the Clinton-Lewinsky kids," which are morphs of pictures of Clinton and Lewinsky.
"Zippergate" <www.btlarkin.com/monica>, created by Internet consultant Brad Larkin, is a repository for an ever-growing list of hundreds of scandal jokes. And the "Monica Lewinsky sexy pictures fun and links page" <www.geocities.com/TelevisionCity/Studio/1047/lewinsky1.html> has Lewinsky's face atop svelte bodies clad in slinky outfits. If you look closely, there is also a link to a site selling fake photo ID cards.
Copies of Lewinsky's alleged AOL Web page can be found at numerous sites, including "The Un-Making of the President 1998?" <www.safari.net/~nicks/ml>, whose author theorizes that "the immunity that Ms. Lewinsky's attorney is trying to obtain for his client is immunity from prosecution for stalking the President of the United States," and that the only reason the president can't come out and explain this is because with Lewinsky's political connections, Clinton "risks alienating major donors."
Finally, there are a smattering of so-called "fan club" websites, although most treat her about like Jay Leno does. As close to empathy as any of these sites gets may be the "Monica Lewinsky Online Fan Club" <www.tarpleyweb.com/monifan>:
"This is the place for all of us smitten by this capitol hill
to talk about all things Monica and offer our support in what are sure
to be some trying times in the coming weeks," asserts its creator, who
designs websites for a living. "Whether you plead the fifth or tell it
all, we're behind you, hon! Don't worry about the blown job with
when this is over book and movie deals will make you rich, rich, rich!"