S.R. Sidarth is 22 years old and sounds it: He is genuinely weirded out by the fact that he brought down a possible President of the United States. "I've, uh, talked about this to… a number of reporters," he says, and his re-telling of the Macaca story is rather dry and serious. The only thing I learned was that before the actual Macaca moment Sidarth introduced himself to Allen and was next to him during a short ride Allen took on a horse at a parade. "He said something… unintelligible" Sidarth said. "But I realized later that he that was the first time he said "Macaca."
Sidarth was less interesting in whacking the mainstream media than his co-panelists. Lane Hudson, the "Stop Sex Predators" blogger who broke the Mark Foley story, recounted how he sent IMs and rumors to reporters but none of them chased the stories down. "I handed them the biggest media story on a silver platter but most of them said 'Eh, not enough.'" He plugged the Michael Copps speech: "If we elect a Democratic president, will probably be elected FCC commissioner and be able to keep the FCC's power in check."
Mike Stark was actually the most controversial panelist, and proud of it. He was the guy tackled by George Allen's security detail for shouting questions about whether he spit on his wife; last week he went to Bill O'Reilly's house and posted signs about his sexual harrassment case until O'Reilly himself came outside. Stark's theme was that the mainstream media writes stories "for Homer Simpson"—for stupid people—and activists can do the job they won't do, asking uncomfortable questions about Republicans' scandals. On the question that got him wrestled to the ground: "The only thing I regret was that was instead of saying 'Sen. Allen, did you ever spit on your wife,' I should have shouted 'Sen. Allen, tell us about your arrest records."
Jonathan Caplan, a reporter from The Hill newspaper, challenged Stark's idea of what the media does. He pointed out that Ryan Lizza of The New Republic exposed Allen's scandals before bloggers did, and Stark agreed.
"But you're acting like The New Republic is the mainstream media," Stark said. "They're not."
"Tell that to them!" Kaplan said. He was talking over loud applause for Stark.
Kaplan and Stark clashed over the limits that journalists use when quizzing people like Allen. "You're suggesting that you ask a sitting senator, 'Did you do this? Is this rumor true?'"
"Yes," Stark said. The audience murmured in agreement. "What did reporters ask Bill Clinton?" someone barked.
More Stark: "Everybody in the media is bright enough to know that Bill O'Reilly is not a journalist. He is a ranting propagandist. They are not talking about that, and I am going to expose that."