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Belle Tolls

My interest was piqued by Clive James' encomium broadcast on BBC Radio 4 last Saturday. He compares her to Rommel and Martin Amis and acclaims her expertise in health informatics (he would know, right?)

Dr. Brooke Magnanti outed herself as the author of the infamous Belle de Jour blog just before the UK's tabloid press did it for her. Despite hyperbolic media speculation about her identity, it turns out she is a previously unremarkable UK healthcare research scientist with a qualification in health informatics.

I have never read the blog (honest!) though I knew about it and had seen the resulting books in Borders. OK, I was a bit envious that someone could make so much money out of blogging, but, I comforted myself, health IT does not have the same mass appeal as sex.

Back to Clive James: though I've read a couple of Martin Amis' novels, I did not enjoy them as much as his other writings and reviews; for example, take a look at War Against Cliche in which his feel for words and general erudition sparkle. No wonder he was named "Smarty Marty". So does Dr. M's writing really compare?

This article describing an autopsy was written under her real name. It describes man after the god has left the machine and even makes a couple of analogies with IT. The image of a cutting scalpel in a curved fist is one that sticks with me. She's good, not as good as Amis, but good.

But the events leading to the denoument form a subplot worthy of John le Carre. A fellow blogger guesses her identity and sets up an early warning Googlewhack on his website. Galumphing newshounds on the cyberscent trigger the alarm. The blogger tracks IP addresses back to Associated Newpapers: the game is up. Before being shoved, Dr. Magnanti steps out of the shadows. You can read all about this from
the blogger himself (under Me and Belle de Jour...).

The veil of Internet anonymity has been sliced open, what now? Well, placing your life (fact or fiction) into the public domain on the Internet can affect your health. No-one will regard you in the same way again.


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