Di vs the Net The tragic death of Diana, Princess of Wales, a few months ago coincided with perhaps the gravest crisis the Internet has yet seen. The volume of email suddenly skyrocketed in that week and servers around the world choked on the massive surge in communication. I myself had to jack up the RAM allocation on my copy of Eudora Light to cope with the deluge flooding my inbox. What caused this email frenzy? Millions of Diana jokes, multiplying and scuttling around the globe like roaches on a kitchen bench top. Some of these were clearly in very poor taste, like the one about the six paparazzi who died in a Paris tunnel trying to escape from Dannii Minogue. Dannii has to work bloody hard to get all those magazine covers without actually having any career to speak of. It's a huge effort and she deserves more goddamn respect. Some of the other Diana jokes were little better, for instance: what's Diana getting for Christmas? The Queen Mother. The flood of these jokes via email was clearly as big a media phenomenon as Diana's funeral. At the height of it I was getting twenty to thirty of these quips a day. Yet on TV there was a ghostly silence. No Princess Di jokes whatsoever. Instead we got all those retrospectives on Diana's life, with slo-mo, vaselined images, assembled for a tearful public who cried on the way children do when they hug their favorite puppy to death. And then there was the painful voice-over commentary during the funeral. Measuring every word so carefully, the commentators stumbled through each tortured sentence, desperate not to say anything that could be construed as offensive or disrespectful. You could well imagine the beads of swear forming on their brows as the mental gears of self censorship worked in opposition to the need to keep talking. It was like an exercise in bomb disposal. "Careful chaps, one accidental double entendre and the whole bloody thing will blow up in our faces!" Later it was revealed that a TV presenter from a small network in the south west of England was sacked because of comments he made while one of those soft focus retrospectives was playing. Thinking her was off-mike, he made some crude and vulgar observations about the size of Diana's "knockers" to get a laugh out of the studio crew. It went on air and the doofus was sacked on the spot. He was lucky his severed head wasn't impaled on a spike outside the city limits by an outraged populace. Yet the emailed Diana jokes that I received (and passed on) were vastly more obscene than this idiot's offence and were passed around without objection. On TV people are expected to be on their best behavior. But online, you hear the disrespectful filth that's really going on in everyone's minds and in day to day conversations. For better or worse. The last email I received on Princess Diana revealed that a Volvo dealer in Macau lost his franchise after running an ad with the image of Diana and the tagline, "She'd still be alive if she was in a Volvo." Which just goes to show that even in Macau, Volvo owners are smarmy bastards. If only the dealer had put the ad online instead of on TV, he might still be in business today. bert.com.au One thing I love about the Web is that it encourages a certain kind of geekish exhibitionism through personal homepages: people presenting themselves, their lives, their pets, their terrible poetry, unfiltered by slick, overly professional design skills. Your average doofus on TV has a small army of producers, makeup artists, wardrobe specialists, wet nurses and toilet trainers to make sure that the said doofus is presented in the best possible light (although no matter how hip Daryl Somer's designer clothes are, it still looks like he picked it up from the specials bin at Target). These experts are employed to lend an air of dubious authority to the overpaid ponce who's reading from the autocue. Although the ponce may well seem charming and completely together, minutes ago he was probably having a tanty in his dressing room because someone forgot to dab some wasabe on his sushi. If Kerri-Anne Kennerly created a personal Web site on her own, what would it look like? How about Bert Newton? The very concept boggles the mind. One can only certain it would be very beige and have a lot of links to hair care products. Our political leaders are surrounded with a similar coterie of advisors to filter their self-presentation. Just imagine what our beloved Prime Minister's Web site would look like if he were left to do it entirely off his own bat: it wouldn't be the slick, wood paneled version at http://www.pm.gov.au. John Howard is a pretty astute bloke who could pick up a bit of HTML for fun while on his holidays. Toss in some Photoshop skills and he's be off and away. For a start you'd have the homepage with the picture of himself, looking relaxed and comfortable in an open necked Pelaco shirt with some faintly visible sweat stains around the armpits, sporting that sexy, devilish grin we've come to know and love. The font would be Times, of course: classy, but not too wild, and you'd have spooky banner ads for products from the 1950s that don't actually exist anymore: Tarax softdrinks, EH Holdens and Guest's Butternut Snaps. The beauty of democratic media like the Web is that average slobs can put a site together all by themselves, allowing them to make all kinds of 'uninformed' choices about design and self presentation so that we can see them in all their savage unfiltered dagginess. There are degrees of exhibitionism on a homepage of course. A personal touch can be revealed simply by the wacky font that someone stuck on the bevel edged, drop shadowed button that leads you to their fave pictures of Lorenzo Lamas. Others go further by posting their diaries or snaps of themselves kissing their domestic pets. But special mention must be given to the real risk takers: the champions who are compelled to expose their naked splendor on their own Web site. These brave home blokes and home girls who deserve nothing but respect and admiration from a grateful public. Many of these sites are clearly a labour of love from some anonymous soul determined to be recognised as the exquisite, fascinating things that they know they truly are. Looking at some of the sites, you marvel at these people who by day work as dental receptionists, cab drivers or young mums. It's like they hold a huge secret that they've just got to share. The secret is, to their minds, themselves. Their 'specialness' is blindingly obvious to them. They feel they should, by all rights, be major stars and it's a crime that they've been overlooked all these years. And they're absolutely right. And John Howard should make his own nude Web site now! What has he got to hide? Be proud! Do it now, John! For all of us.