Arianna Huffington Sued by Freelancer Who Bemoans 'Slaves' on HuffPo 'Plantation'

April 12th, 2011 5:57 PM

A freelance blogger on Tuesday filed a class action lawsuit against Arianna Huffington for $105 million. The suit alleges that the Huffington Post's legion of unpaid bloggers are entitled to one third of the revenue from the site's sale to AOL in February.

Jonathan Tasini, who filed the lawsuit, compared Huffington to a "robber baron" in a blog post on Tuesday, and called her site a "blogger plantation - where her slaves work to build her fortune."

Tasini's hard-left perspective came through in his complaint (students of Marx will no doubt recognize his labor theory of value):

We live in a time of unrelenting class warfare. We are the richest nation on earth—yet that wealth is flowing into the hands of the few. The greatest stage for that class warfare is in the workplace: CEOs and their top executives believe that they are the most important part of the company and that they should reap an obscene portion of the value created by WORKERS.

The Huffington Post was, is and will never be, anything without the thousands of people who create the content. Ms. Huffington is acting like every Robber Baron CEO—from Lloyd Blankfein to the Waltons—who believes that they, and only they, should pocket huge riches, while the rest of the peons struggle to survive. Ms. Huffington stance has been clear: only she deserves the fruits of the labor of the people who work for her.

Actually, Arianna Huffington is worse than the CEOs of the banks, the Walton family of Wal-mart. At least, they pay their workers something—even if those wages aren’t enough to make ends meet.

Huffington pays zero. Nothing. Nada. [more below the fold]

Arianna Huffington is a hypocrite. While reaping money and building her "brand" based on books and speeches decrying the growing divide between rich and poor (I am not linking to those books in order to avoid giving her even more cash to pocket), Ms. Huffington is precisely acting to impoverish bloggers and create a blogger-plantation--where her slaves work to build her fortune.

The plantation line is absurd on its face. The Washington Examiner's Timothy Carney summed up everything wrong with the claim in a short headline: "Like slavery, only voluntary".

Hot Air's Ed Morrissey elaborated on the vacuity - and potential danger - of the claim:

The idea that Huffington was a slave-driver on a plantation is not just ridiculous, but insulting to those who suffered from actual slavery, past and present. No one forced writers and bloggers to publish for free at HuffPo. The fact that so many contributed without pay means that they must have felt that other factors compensated for their effort, such as exposure, taking part in the community, or just the satisfaction of seeing their work on line. They could just as easily have chosen not to contribute, a choice that actual slaves do not have. These writers understood the terms of the relationship when it started, and could have ended it at any time if they were not satisfied with it.

Now Tasini wants to change the terms ex post facto to get a chunk of compensation never promised to him or his colleagues. That runs a far greater moral and practical risk than Arianna’s arguable exploitation. It assumes that people cannot comprehend for themselves the agreements into which they enter, a direction that would undermine the entire basis of contractual and non-contractual business relationships. Huffington had every right, moral and legal, to rely on those agreements to explicit terms of publication, as did AOL in their purchase. It’s ludicrous to claim a third of the sale value of an asset from which contributors waived compensation from the start.

What are your thoughts on the suit? Do you find yourself siding with - gasp! - Arianna Huffington, or do you sympathize with her detractors?


Lee Doren discusses the lawsuit in his latest "How the World Works" video, below, and touches on one angle I didn't mention here, and which I'll phrase as a question: is Huffington, a leftist "workers' rights" advocate, being hypocritical by not paying all of her bloggers? Let us know in the comments (and if you like the video, make sure you subscribe to Lee's YouTube channel).