RSS plays a little joke on its readers.

26 Apr

I have to stray into the field of overt and pointed media criticism for just a moment.  I see, an online magazine I (used to) read every morning, has a new format.  Very hard on the eyes, but bold.  Loud.  Brassy, even.  And in their own iconic fashion, they have managed to screw up the comments sections even worse than they were after the last “new salon” make-over.  One can’t make heads or tails of the way the comments are supposed to run, since they seem to be merely tossed in a pot, stirred vigorously, and then printed without regard to time sequence – some pages of comments are merely repeats of a prior page.  Very strange work output from a paid staff.  One might think that Talbot was deliberately sabotaging his online magazine in order to have a loss leader; a tax write-off, just in case salon made him an actual reportable profit for the year.  There is simply no other way to explain taking a pleasant readable publication and making it worse, not just once, but twice, in less than a year.

According to the magazine’s article, “Notice Anything Different?”, written to celebrate the change in their look, a globetrotting blond (their words – I couldn’t give a hoot about her zesty living or hair color) web designer named Kelly Frankeny was hired to design a news tabloid “as imagined by Coco Chanel”.  As a “sassy blond Texan, she has created a new Salon as big as her personality. And yes, while invoking the brassy urgency of a news tabloid, the new design also conveys the elegance of the House of Chanel. Both Frankeny and the new Salon know how to use red lipstick and a simple black dress for maximum effect.”  Well, okay, I’ll pass on the chance to remark about the sexism in that statement, while only wondering aloud why a magazine would want to have its readers imagine it as a brassy female in red lipstick and a black dress.

More interesting is the choice of Coco Chanel as the choice of imaginary designer for a supposed liberal/progressive publication.  Chanel was an active Nazi informant and collaborator.

Archival documents verify that Chanel herself was a Nazi spy, committing herself to the German cause as early as 1941, when she became a paid agent of General Walter Schellenberg, chief of SS intelligence. Her clandestine identity was Abwehr Agent 7124, code name “Westminster”. At war’s end, Schellenberg was tried by the Nuremberg Military Tribunal, and sentenced to six years imprisonment for war crimes. He was released in 1951 due to incurable liver disease, and took refuge in Italy. Chanel paid for Schellenberg’s medical care and living expenses for himself, wife and family until his death in 1952.

In 1943, Chanel traveled to Berlin with Dinklage to meet with SS Reichsführer, Heinrich Himmler to formulate strategy. In late 1943 or early 1944, Chanel and her SS master, Schellenberg, devised a plan to press England to end hostilities with Germany. When interrogated by British intelligence at war’s end, Schellenberg maintained that Chanel was “a person who knew Churchill sufficiently to undertake political negotiations with him.”  For this mission, named “Operation Modellhut,” (“Model Hat”) they recruited Vera Lombardi. Count Joseph von Ledebur-Wicheln, a Nazi agent, who defected to the British Secret Service in 1944, recalled a meeting he had with Dinklage in early 1943. Dinklage proposed an inducement that would tantalize Chanel. He informed von Ledebur that Chanel’s participation in the operation would be ensured if Lombardi was included: “The Abwehr had first to bring to France a young Italian woman [Lombardi] Coco Chanel was attached to because of her lesbian vices…”

Unaware of the machinations of Schellenberg and her old friend Chanel, Lombardi played the part of their unwitting dupe, led to believe that the forthcoming journey to Spain would be a business trip exploring the possibilities of establishing the Chanel couture in Madrid. Lombardi’s role was to act as intermediary, delivering a letter penned by Chanel to Winston Churchill, and forwarded to him via the British embassy in Madrid.  Schellenberg’s SS laison officer, Captain Walter Kutcschmann, acted as bagman, “told to deliver a large sum of money to Chanel in Madrid.”  Ultimately, the mission proved a failure. British intelligence files reveal that all collapsed, as Lombardi, on arrival, proceeded to denounce Chanel and others as Nazi spies.

In September 1944, Chanel was called in to be interrogated by the Free French Purge Committee, the épuration. The committee, which had no documented evidence of her collaboration activity, was obliged to release her. According to Chanel’s grand-niece, Gabrielle Palasse Labrunie, when Chanel returned home she said, “Churchill had me freed”.

The extent of Winston Churchill’s intervention can only be speculated upon. However, Chanel’s escape from prosecution certainly speaks of layers of conspiracy, protection at the highest levels. It was feared that if Chanel were ever made to testify at trial, the pro-Nazi sympathies and activities of top-level British officials, members of the society elite and those of the royal family itself would be exposed. It is believed that Churchill instructed Duff Cooper, British ambassador to the French provisional government, to “protect Chanel”.

In keeping with the Nazi-as-inspiration theme, the new salon designer, Kelly Frankeny, has chosen the colors of the Nazi flag: red, black and white.

“After the North German League in 1867 (and after 1871, the new German Empire) was formed, the Prussian government’s dislike for the black-red-gold flag resulted in the adoption of a new black-white-red tricolor. After the German defeat in World War One, the new republic adopted the black-red-gold tricolor earlier used in 1848 — and now again the German flag. As a result, the right wing parties urged the re-adoption of the black-white-red. The colors of the Nazi flag was thus a form of right wing allegiance and signified opposition to democracy. The original (1867) meaning was apparently a merger of the Prussian black-white and the red and white colors common among German maritime states (allegedly inspired by the medieval Hanseatic League).”
– Norman Martin, 2 June 2000

I sure wish David Talbot, the owner of, had done some simple research before he allowed this make-over to proceed.  Unless, of course, there is some inside joke that he himself is in on being played on his readers.  If it is meant to be some sort of subtle irony, it is so well hidden and subtle as to be completely invisible.


Posted by on April 26, 2012 in Uncategorized


10 responses to “ plays a little joke on its readers.

  1. nuf said

    April 26, 2012 at 12:07 pm

    More interesting is the choice of Coco Chanel as the choice of imaginary designer for a supposed liberal/progressive publication. Chanel was an active Nazi informant and collaborator.
    SALON is an active Obama supporter so the NAZI theme is right on target. The ‘lesbian vices’ of Coco Chanel sealed that deal …
    i can’t even see comments at SALON now.
    Glenn Greenwald needs a new home!


    • Teri

      April 26, 2012 at 12:40 pm

      Hi, nuf!

      Yeah, Greenwald should move on. Every day at that place is decreasing the number of people who will bother showing up. However, he does have a contract….I had a swell time for a year or two commenting at UT; the sense of community was wonderful and the discourse good. Since last year’s “improvement”, I only read GG on salon and maybe skim a few pages of comments on his articles. So many intelligent readers gone, and replaced with goofy nothingness. I don’t know what it is about the way the comments are formatted, but there are no real conversations there any more. Shame. And at some point, you gotta wonder if someone is destroying the place on purpose. Certainly no site owner would continue to employ such an miserable IT team.

      The whole Coco Chanel thing is just bizarre. I’m not the only one who already knew her history. I took a quick look at the comments attached to the “Notice Anything Different?” article, and I would guess at least 5 or 6 people brought up her Nazi ties just in the few pages I skimmed through. Pretty awful choice as “inspiration”.

      I’m sure they will get right on the “minor issues” with the comments sections – look what a fine job they did the last time – they fixed it right up into what it is today. Heh.

      Hope all is well with you!



  2. Kitt

    April 26, 2012 at 2:38 pm

    The new roll out is off the map crappy. It’s jaw-droppingly crappy. I would like to have a face to face conversation with Talbot, just out of curiosity, in order to hear him explain what the hell the deal is. I can’t understand how it was possible for that mess to have passed anyone’s ‘okie-dokie, puterup’ preview test. If the ‘Notice anything different’ introduction to it had been snark instead of for real it would have been one of the best snark posts ever published on Salon.


    • Teri

      April 26, 2012 at 3:18 pm

      Yeah, it’s pretty amazingly shitty for a professional magazine. But I do wonder if there is some inside joke going on. It’s just too crappy to be for real. I mean, you fire an IT team that mishandles an assignment so badly. (And this is their second try, even though the issues on the first “roll-out” were never fixed.) But Talbott must be making some cashola from google and facebook for herding everyone through those portals, which maybe makes him feel that it’s worth overlooking the continuing head-aches to the readership.

      While I miss some of the people in the UT community, I’m glad I quit posting last fall. For those of you still trying to communicate over the growing-ever-higher fence, it must be frustrating as hell. Just trying to read an article and its comments is a pain in the ass now.



  3. nuf said

    April 26, 2012 at 6:39 pm

    Hi Teri,
    The single biggest drawback to the new and twice improved comments beside the fact that I can’t currently display comments is the lack of chronological format. Simple acknowledgement of a particular comment is not guaranteed at a site that prides itself on conversation; bizarre.
    But then of course Joan MSNBC Walsh can’t get beyond the utter “decency” of Obama so perhaps it is time for them to fall on their sword.


  4. Teri

    April 26, 2012 at 8:22 pm

    I guess it could have been worse; the “brassy designer” could have changed salon’s logo to be spelled with the Runic lightening bolt symbols like the Waffen SS insignia, as in:
    (Darn, can’t get the actual symbols to copy correctly.)


  5. paxhonu

    April 27, 2012 at 2:32 pm

    Okay, I couldn’t resist revisiting Salon to see for myself (having basically abandoned the dump after its last “must destroy the UT community” makeover; and also having grown a bit tired of GG’s constant and never-ground-breaking poaching of the low hanging fruit of mainstream media idiocies). Which may indicate “nurture” over “nature” in the way of his gradually devolving into the product of his environment there at Salon.

    Well, it’s just as bad as you’ve indicated. But I did find an even uglier and less functional site, if you can believe it.

    Full on black black on black with nearly illegible bright white typeface and replete with non-functioning links (try clicking on either the “kelly frankensteiny, er, frankeny” or the “View my complete profile” links – you’ll get – nothing – which is perhaps the point? And the single scroll running down the left side shows the layouts of the many publications she’s “designed”. And surprise, surprise, they all look exactly the same. Yep, she’s apparently cornered the market on cheap nazi tabloid stylings. Which to Talbot may be cheese to the rat. Loco for Coco indeed!


  6. teri

    April 28, 2012 at 1:38 pm

    And (to no-one in particular) what the hell is up with the scrolling on salon? You can’t scroll down the page with any speed at all. And when you go to read the next page on comments, it takes forever to load the next page, which, once it is loaded, jumps down a few comments instead of placing you at the top of the next page.
    Designed by an elementary school class – “My Introduction to Computer Web Designing” (or “Mommy, I Want to be a Web Designer When I Grow Up”).


  7. NajafVisitor

    July 21, 2012 at 7:03 am

    I used to be a regular reader of Salon, and I used to comment on articles, also. But I have almost given up – it is just too hard to negotiate the site. The pages are very slow to load, and frequently freeze my browser. The comments section is often inaccesible.

    Such a pity! But I don’t understand why the owners of the site dont fix these issues.


  8. Olga L.

    July 26, 2012 at 2:51 pm

    I cannot see (open) comments! I was hoping to find a way to fix it. Well…



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