December 28, 2005


This is pretty silly stuff, but laughing at it is a way to while away a few idle minutes....

Lord of the blogs, by Kathleen Parker (Whose pieces I often enjoy)
...There's something frankly creepy about the explosion we now call the Blogosphere - the big-bang "electroniverse" where recently wired squatters set up new camps each day. As I write, the number of "blogs" (Web logs) and "bloggers"(those who blog) is estimated in the tens of millions worldwide.
And most of them are teenage girls writing for 6 friends.
Although I've been a blog fan since the beginning, and have written favorably about the value added to journalism and public knowledge thanks to the new "citizen journalist," I'm also wary of power untempered by restraint and accountability.
That describes the NYT much more than it does blogs, which are pummeled with comments if they get their facts wrong, and frequently correct stories within minutes...

Say what you will about the so-called mainstream media, but no industry agonizes more about how to improve its product, police its own members and better serve its communities. Newspapers are filled with carpal-tunneled wretches, overworked and underpaid, who suffer near-pathological allegiance to getting it right.

Actually what we see is near-pathological allegiance to getting it LEFT... Here's an example of how hard those wretches work. This ridiculous paragraph is a perfect example of the MSM's reaction to blogs...attacking the critics and heaping puff-praise on themselves.

That a Jayson Blair of The New York Times or a Jack Kelley of USA Today surfaces now and then as a plagiarist or a fabricator ultimately is testament to the high standards tens of thousands of others strive to uphold each day without recognition. Blair and Kelley are infamous, but they're also gone.

Red herring alert. It's not the fabrications of a Jason Blair that bloggers obsess over (actually we mostly felt sorry for Blair, and criticized the NYT newsroom culture that led him to destruction) but the daily bending and selection of facts to fit the Party Line.

Bloggers persist no matter their contributions or quality, though most would have little to occupy their time were the mainstream media to disappear tomorrow. Some bloggers do their own reporting, but most rely on mainstream reporters to do the heavy lifting. Some bloggers also offer superb commentary, but most babble, buzz and blurt like caffeinated adolescents competing for the Ritalin generation's inevitable senior superlative: Most Obsessive-Compulsive.

Red herring alert #2. Few bloggers are CLAIMING to be reporters or to have replaced the MSM. "Most babble, buzz and blurt." So what? For every WaPo or WSJ there are hundreds of trivial and trashy publications babbling and blurting, and no one's claiming that that discredits the reputable ones. It's just Sturgeon's Law at work.

Even so, they hold the same megaphone as the adults and enjoy perceived credibility owing to membership in the larger world of blog grown-ups. These effete and often clever baby "bloggies" are rich in time and toys, but bereft of adult supervision. Spoiled and undisciplined, they have grabbed the mike and seized the stage, a privilege granted not by years in the trenches, but by virtue of a three-pronged plug and the miracle of WiFi.

Nonsense. There's no stage or mike to be "grabbed." Visiting blogs is purely voluntary. The metaphor is a stupid relic of the old media-monopoly days, when a town might have two newspapers and 3 television channels. Back then a few people "had the mike," and others were silenced... (Also I, in blogging my opinions, have had decades "in the trenches" thinking about things.)

They play tag team with hyperlinks ("I'll say you're important if you'll say I'm important) and shriek "Gotcha!" when they catch some weary wage earner in a mistake or oversight. Plenty smart but lacking in wisdom, they possess the power of a forum, but neither the maturity nor humility that years of experience impose.

Oh my heart bleeds for the "weary wage earner." Or it would if those "mistakes" didn't always go in one direction...Actually it's the journalists who tend to lack wisdom, because most of them have never done anything themselves--they just watch from outside, and are often poorly educated in J schools. Whatever the subject, bloggers tend to out-perform journalists in analysis and understanding, because some of them--or their commenters--have actually worked in the field in question.

Each time I wander into blogdom, I'm reminded of the savage children stranded on an island in William Golding's "Lord of the Flies." Without adult supervision, they organize themselves into rival tribes, learn to hunt and kill, and eventually become murderous barbarians in the absence of a civilizing structure. What Golding demonstrated - and what we're witnessing as the Blogosphere's offspring multiply - is that people tend to abuse power when it is unearned and will bring down others to enhance themselves. Likewise, many bloggers seek the destruction of others for their own self-aggrandizement. When a mainstream journalist stumbles, they pile on like so many savages, hoisting his or her head on a bloody stick as Golding's children did the fly-covered head of a butchered sow.

Golding was writing FICTION. He "demonstrated" nothing. In fact, the influential blogs are usually very careful to be accurate, and often ask for and publish replies from those they criticize. They only really "pile on" the mainstream journalist when he refuses to correct mistakes. Which is...ahem...a Rather problem frequent.

Schadenfreude - pleasure in others' misfortunes - has become the new barbarity on an island called Blog. When someone trips, whether Dan Rather or Eason Jordan or Judith Miller, bloggers are the bloodthirsty masses slavering for a public flogging. Incivility is their weapon and humanity their victim.

None of those people "tripped up." They all performed deliberate public actions that could bear criticism. Rather and Jordan created malicious falsehoods (and retractions would have ended most criticism). And no Schadenfreude is so keen, no island so barbarous as the MSM when they think they have a scandal that could hurt the Bush Administration.

I mean no disrespect to the many brilliant people out there - professors, lawyers, doctors, philosophers, scientists and other journalists who also happen to blog. Again, they know who they are. But we should beware and resist the rest of the ego-gratifying rabble who contribute only snark, sass and destruction.

"Professors, lawyers, doctors, philosophers..." Yeah, I get it. People with union cards. They have license to speak. Us in the rabble don't.

We can't silence them, but for civilization's sake - and the integrity of information by which we all live or die - we can and should ignore them.
No we should ignore YOU, who are slandering people without bothering with facts.

Posted by John Weidner at December 28, 2005 3:57 PM
Weblog by John Weidner