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Interesting observations on bloggers

By Michael Fumento

In his Washington Post article "Blog Rage," Jim Brady (no relation to "Diamond Jim") makes interesting observations that bloggers are unfortunately not the counterweight to the MSM that some would like to think. Actually, you merely need to know that some of the best-read blogs are Daily Kos and Huffington's site to realize that blogs can be far worse than any MSM publication. These blogs employ expensive software that automatically seeks out and destroys any truth that might creep into any blogger's post.

But Brady's complaint seems to cover the political spectrum of blogs, even though it strongly appears his main complaint is with right-wing ones. One problem he found generally:

Why are people so angry? [We at the Washington Post made] a mistake, it was corrected. Part of the explanation may be the extremely partisan times we live in. For all the good things it has brought our society, the Web has also fostered ideological hermits, who only talk to folks who believe exactly what they do. This creates an echo chamber that only further convinces people that they are right, and everyone else is not only wrong, but an idiot or worse. So when an incident like this one arises, it's not enough to point out an error; they must prove that the error had nefarious origins. In some places on the Web, everything happens on a grassy knoll. Another culprit in Web rage: the Internet's anonymity. It seems to flick off the inhibition switch that stops people from saying certain things in person. During the [Washington Post] flap, many of the e-mails I received that called me gutless, a coward or both were unsigned. Maybe this level of anger has been out there for a long time, waiting to be enabled by technology. Forget about writing a letter, getting a stamp and mailing it in. Anger now has an easy and immediate outlet. How did it feel to be mugged by the blogosphere?

Brady makes an interesting observation on the "blogosphere" per se, as well:

Personally, I don't believe there's any such thing as "the blogosphere" as opposed to "the mainstream media." It's silly to assign organizations to one category or the other, pretend that there's uniformity in either grouping, or imagine a battle between the two. According to Technorati, a search engine that tracks the blogosphere, there are 27.6 million blogs on the Web, and they cover countless topics. Blogs are at odds with each other just as often as they're at odds with the media. Similarly, there are thousands of traditional media organizations in this country -- newspapers, TV stations, radio stations and magazines, most with their own Web sites. And anyone who has ever worked at one of them can testify that the media is not one big happy family. We're extremely opinionated about what our fellow journalists do. And it's impossible to say that either blogs or the mainstream media share one philosophy. Even if you could define the blogosphere and the media as discrete entities, I've never understood why they'd be viewed as competitors. If you want to be positive, you could say blogs and the traditional media have a symbiotic relationship; if you want to be more negative, call it parasitic. Either way, they're connected. They co-exist like this: The media writes articles or files reports, then blogs use them as starting points for discussions. When the blogs do this, they almost always provide links back to media Web sites, and there isn't a news media site on the Web that doesn't receive a good chunk of its traffic from blogs. Each entity has an important yet distinct role in this potentially virtuous circle. Blogs don't have big media's capacity for expensive, coordinated news-gathering from Baghdad to Biloxi; newspapers and TV networks, even when they dive into the Web, can't match the (sometimes irresponsible) feistiness and flexibility of the blogs.

I have to disagree somewhat on his remarks on the MSM. They are actually amazing uniform, to the extent I find I'm often the only writer in the country taking a position that later proves correct. But Brady is right in that blogs have tremendous capacity to do harm just as the MSM does, even though he grants they've played "a crucial role in the national conversation" and in breaking important stories such as Rathergate.

Bottom line to me: Always be skeptical. Believe it or not, most of what the New York Times writes is true and some of what your favorite bloggers write is not true. You can put all your faith in God, but do not put all your faith in a human being.

February 12, 2006 05:08 PM  ·  Media