Is "The McDonald's of the Internet" Is "The McDonald's of the Internet"

When Mario Lavandeira, a.k.a. Perez Hilton, started his blog in 2004, he says he imagined that maybe a few of his friends would read his musings on tabloid gossip and celebrity culture. "When I started blogging ... I didn't know, or think, or even imagine that you could make a living just being a 'gossip blogger.'" But Hilton says that his blog stood out in those early days of blogging because it was actually about something other than the minutiae of the author's day-to-day life. Six years later, attracts (a self-reported) 10 million readers per day, and is among the 500 most trafficked sites on the Internet.

In his Big Think interview, Hilton speaks at length about his sometimes-contentious relationship with gay media outlets and advocacy groups. "I think GLAAD is a useless organization," he says of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. "I want to start my own gay non-profit called HAPPY: Homosexuals and Perverts Protecting You." He says that GLAAD is too politically correct and avoids talking about sex—which Hilton calls an important part of the gay experience.

Hilton, who has been slammed in the past for "outing" allegedly gay celebrities on his Web site, talks a bit about how he himself semi-officially "came out" to a friend at NYU, and says that the gay community would benefit greatly if people like CNN's Anderson Cooper and the actors Kevin Spacey and Jodie Foster would also be open about their sexuality. "Visibility is key," he says. "The more straight people see that there are gay folks out there, the easier it is for us to achieve change, the easier it will be for us to get marriage equality, the harder it is for people to hate."

Nonetheless, Hilton says he doesn't see himself as a "gay blogger" and doesn't claim to speak on his blog on behalf of the gay community—or, for that matter, on behalf of the Latino community, of which he is also a member.

"I like to think of my Web site as, like, the McDonald’s of the Internet," Hilton says, responding to a question about why people should care and the celebrity gossip he purveys. "A lot of people love to criticize McDonald’s, but yet it’s still really popular.  And I love the french fries." He also says that the shift among traditional news outlets toward increased celebrity coverage is simply a means to an end: "Mainstream news is just doing their job. If they weren’t making money, they wouldn’t be able to provide us with the news."

Hilton talks as well about his public persona, and the aftermath of his well-publicized feud with Carrie Prejean, the first runner-up in the 2009 Miss USA pageant. "Some people started to see me as a human being because I was talking about things that they didn’t necessarily associate with me.  And I started to really let that affect me, and that’s not a bad thing." And he also talks about how his celebrity friends have helped him advance the causes that are most important to him: equality and justice.

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