Saturday, February 12, 2005

After Eason Jordan

Following up on this post, here are a few more thoughts on the frightening power of blogs.

Jib says the blogosphere is becoming scary-strong.

The pack mentality is extremely effective in justifiable cases, like Rathergate. After all, Rather broadcast a fraudulent story and stonewalled efforts to get at the truth. This Eason story was a little bit more on the borderline. I know the intellectual argument that can be made against me on this, and I'm not saying that I disagree with it. Yes, it is important to know that the head of a major news organization holds such crazy, paranoid views about the military. But the pleasure with which some blogs went after Eason, and the fact they could bring him down without the help of the MSM opens the door to the possibility of using this influence unjustly in the future. I think we all need to respect the power we collectively hold with these little blogs.

Sean worries about the mob mentality.

The blogosphere will get burned. It's not a question of if but when.

I felt a bad twinge while reading Captain Ed's attack on Brett Stephens. It seemed to me Ed was taking seeing a conspiracy when none existed.

A mob mentality is the opposite of conservative political philosophy and temperment. I'm reading Edmund Burke right now, so I'm riveted on the damage mobs can do. A mob destroys. Rarely does it create. Is it the intention of some in the blogosphere to destroy the MSM? If so, they should be clear about their mission to their readers. Or do they want better, more accurate news?

Doug says the alternative is worse.

[W]hile respecting the power, don't divorce it from the question of justice. And I firmly believe justice was done here. And further, I believe the only reason justice was done in this case is because the blogosphere forced the issue.

. . .

It is true that it is easier for something scandalous to get out, destroying reputations and careers at staggering speed in this new age. But the media have been in that same business for ages. Since Watergate, a heck of a lot of journalists consider that their primary mission.

What I consider a the more important lesson - and perhaps more important warning - is the removal of that power from the hands of a small elite, increasingly at odds with their fellow citizens' interests, and placing into the hands of everyone. Yes, such democratization carries danger. But in my opinion the alternative carries even more.


At 1:43 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"But the pleasure with which some blogs went after Eason, and the fact they could bring him down without the help of the MSM opens the door to the possibility of using this influence unjustly in the future."

That door isn't really open in my opinion, at least not very wide. While it may be true that many went after Eason with pleasure (and I don't doubt that they did), the power of blogs isn't that frightening. The blogs and MSM is apples and oranges when it comes to accountability and credibility.

First lets look at a journalist writing for a newspaper. When they write, they do so shielded from readers behind newsroom walls. They can write whatever they want, but they do not have to interact with anyone with an opposing point of view. If they embelish a story they are only accountable to their editor. They don't have to take calls from people who disagree with them or read their emails. There may be letters from readers but they don't have to read them, and if they do, they can cherry-pick which letters, if any, are published as responses.

On the other hand, most blogs include 'comments' where readers can voice their pro/con opinions on the stories and claims made by the blogger. If they make a claim that is unsubstantiated, or not sourced, they can and will be called on it. Unlike the news reporter or columnist sitting behind a wall where no one see their feed back (letters etc), the bloggers comments are out there for everyone to see professional and layman alike. The blogger has not protection from opposing points of view.

If Captain Ed and some of his readers overstep proper standards, and they may have, there is no way they will or likely want to bring down WSJ's Brett Stephens. We are all human and have bias'. Even if Captain Ed was to be unscrupled enough to print dirt that he knew wasn't there (and I don't beleive for a second that he would), his readers would start to turn on him. He isn't protected from direct criticism by a newsroom wall. There can not be a nose in the air eliteness about blogs and still keep a large following. There is not abundance of power in the hands of bloggers to the extent that they can stray far from the facts. Yes many do, but they either are not taken serious or have small followings.

If a blogger has enough readers to be a serious enough to bring someone like Eason down, they also have enough readers to point out any inconsistancies in the story doing the damage. You do not have that in a newsroom. The newsperson behind the wall only sees the counterpoints or rants from readers. The readers of a news reporter do not see each others point of view unless the person in the newsroom is kind enough to offer them in paper or electronic print which of course if they did they would cherry pick what they wanted to print. Blog readers see everyone elses input. Some change their opinions bases on other comments.

While the bloggers hold the MSM's feet to the fire, they also are having their own feet held to the fire. Not only from other bloggers but by their readers. Sure there is bias among the bloggers, and a bloggers following tends to be biased in favor of the blog they are following. But it is about credibility. Look at all the moonbat blogs on the left and right alike. Although some may have large followings, the ones that are taken seriously are more inclined to be fair and admit mistakes, not to mention the largest followings.


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