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Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Changing Media

Okay, here's my first official post on the new and (hopefully) improved blog. I thought it appropriate to make it about blogging. We bloggers are so funny that way.

The New Yorker's George Packer is/was on The Connection today:

Some say 2004 is the year of the Blog, those online journals that pepper political debate with a little news, and lots of opinion. Writer George Packer is not among them. He says blogs are bad, for you and for democracy.

That sounds pretty lame, but perhaps overstated by the blurb writer.

This is what Packer said in the latest Mother Jones:

First, a confession: I hate blogs. I'm also addicted to them. Hours dissolve into nothing when I suit up and dematerialize into the political blogosphere, first visiting one of the larger, nearer online opinion diaries — talkingpointsmemo.com, andrewsullivan.com, kausfiles.com — then beaming myself outward along rays of pixelated light to dozens of satellites and lesser stars, Calpundit, InstaPundit, OxBlog, [ed. note: for some reason Dohiyi Mir was not mentioned anywhere] each one radiant with links to other galaxies — online newspapers and magazines with deep, deep archives, think-tank websites, hundred-page electronic reports in PDF — until I'm light-years from the point of departure and can rescue myself only by summoning the will to disconnect from the whole artificial universe. With a jolt, I land in front of my computer. Before long I'll venture forth again to see what's new out there — because the blogosphere changes from instant to instant.
[I]f blogs are "a new way of doing politics," there is also something peculiarly stale and tired about them — not the form, but the content...Especially during the Clinton years, with the Cold War over and the economy flush, politics grew more and more into a spectacle of personalities and gossip-mongering, a trend both reflected and furthered by the political journalism of those years. Until recently, Frank Rich, a former drama critic, wrote an op-ed column for the Times largely devoted to reviewing politics as entertainment.

Campaign coverage in 2004 still belongs to that era — nowhere more than in the blogosphere, where the claustrophobic effect of the echo chamber and the hall of mirrors is at its most intense, where the reverberations of trivialities last far longer than in print or on TV. This new pillar of the republic turns out to be an inadequate mode for capturing a real election.

Well, okay, maybe blogging in its current incarnation hasn't been able to capture a "real election", but clearly it's not a threat to democracy. I'm not going to have a chance to listen to The Connection until the archive becomes available online, but I have a sneaking suspicion that Packer won't be claiming that blogs are bad. Perhaps that's just a little inflammatory marketing on WBUR's part to get people to tune in. Or maybe not. Heck, we bloggers often weigh in with our opinions without knowing the full facts, so I might as well!

No matter what Packer and The Connection claim, I see the blogoverse, which is still really in its infancy, as having an important counterweight role to the traditional media. Speaking of which, here's what David Brock thinks about media today:

The right-wing drive for media power must also be understood as an overturning of the First Amendment, which posits that good information will drive out bad information given diversity in the marketplace of ideas. As I will show, the Right's premeditated undermining of the media as a public trust in favor of crass commercial values, its coordinated attacks on noncommercial media, and the Republican-led drive for greater consolidation of media ownership have all but wiped out liberal and left-wing views and voices in entire sectors of the American media. Perhaps most ominous, right-wing verbal brownshirts of late have used their mighty media platforms to chill the free speech of their political adversaries and to neuter aggressive journalistic fact-finding that threatens Republican power.

My view is that unchecked right-wing media power means that in the United States today, no issue can be honestly debated and no election can be fairly decided. If California voters recall their governor in the belief that the state budget deficit is four times higher than it actually is, if Americans think Saddam Hussein was behind September 11 before hearing any evidence, if 19 percent of the public thinks it is in the top 1 percent tax bracket, if Americans view criticism of the government's national security policies as tantamount to treason -- thank the right-wing media and those who abet it.

I concur with Brock 100%. I also agree with Alexander Hamilton, who said in Federalist 84 that "[the liberty of the press] must altogether depend on public opinion, and on the general spirit of the people..."

For a long time, the general spirit of the people has been to allow the media to frame our reality with myths and lies, undermine our national discourse, and distract us with Bill Clinton's penis, Al Gore's wardrobe, and Janet Jackson's boob. Now the power of the blog allows us to set the agenda ourselves, and fight back against the consolidated, rightwing, commercial disinformation outlets. Blogging is a small but important democratizing element, and I think their influence is going to continue growing.

But I could be wrong. And that's what is so cool about blogging.


[Update: Kevin has a substantially more thoughtful piece about this over at Washington Monthly. I guess that's why he gets paid to blog, and I don't.]

May 11, 2004 | Permalink


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» What are Blogs Good For? from Modulator
Kevin Drum provides a few bullets deserving of at least a link (see 3rd bullet). On the other length NTODD and Mark Madsen have more too say and expecially about the initial subject of Kevin's post.... [Read More]

Tracked on May 11, 2004 4:40:12 PM


Good post.

Posted by: TheaLogie | May 11, 2004 8:33:39 AM

Yes! I evolved from choking with fury at the fake news blathering from the tvs to reading these blog sites. Empowerment comes from grabbing on to the truth and not being shaken off by the crap thrown out to distract. No longer will the SCLM decide what I will focus on. I am indifferent to the Jackson boobs, reality tv, pseudo scandals.
I do my research on the news media I do read, to know whether they tell the truth or not. I do admit that reading these sites eats up time, but it is fascinating and illuminating.
I am reassured there are intelligent, thoughtful people in the United States. I am able to feel that patriotism is still vital and liberals love democracy in the truest sense of the word.

Posted by: ellroon | May 11, 2004 9:22:48 AM

TheaLogie - thanks.

Ellroon - that's a great statement of empowerment and hope.

Posted by: NTodd | May 11, 2004 1:24:37 PM

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