Defending the virtues of liberty, free markets, and civilization... plus some commentary on the passing scene.

Freedom's Fidelity

Monday, September 20, 2004

Media and Information (Peeling the Onion II)

When the Sunday Chicago Tribune runs a front page article on blogs it proves they now matter, even if the article itself proves that the Tribune still doesn't understand blogs:

AUSTIN, Texas -- Hundreds of thousands of readers know him simply as "Mike," the creator of, an Internet blog spearheading a petition drive demanding the resignation of CBS News anchor Dan Rather because of his alleged liberal biases.

But what the visitors to his blog did not know when he launched it early last week was that "Mike" is Mike Krempasky, a 29-year-old Republican political operative from suburban Washington, D.C., a detail some might have found relevant.

The conservative bloggers who ignited a frenzy this month over allegations that Rather relied on forged documents in a Sept. 8 "60 Minutes" broadcast questioning President Bush's Air National Guard service insist they are force-marching the nation's mainstream media into a new era of transparency and accountability.

They extol the virtues of millions of ordinary citizens using blogs, a kind of personal Internet diary, to collectively check, vet and comment on everything they read in newspapers or watch on TV.

But there's a catch: Some of the anonymous bloggers aren't so eager to endure the same scrutiny of their backgrounds and motives.
Ahhh a "Republican political operative" and we all know that we can't trust anything a Republican says. And what exactly is Dan Rather's, or any reporters, background and motives? Are we to assume that none of them lean either right or left? Or perhaps it is just that journalists are the only members of society capable of setting aside their biases for the higher cause of truth.

"Blogs are supremely transparent," Krempasky said in a telephone interview. "With a very few exceptions, bloggers are real people that can be reached and talked to and held up to the light."

Nowhere on Krempasky's site, however, did he disclose that he is the political director for American Target Advertising, a Virginia firm run by Richard Viguerie, the conservative strategist widely credited with inventing political direct mail and helping Ronald Reagan and numerous other Republicans get elected.
Once again the media falls victim to their own arrogance and attempts to make an argument from authority. Tribune writer Howard Witt makes nothing more than an ad hominem attack on Krempasky by questioning his credentials rather than the validity of his arguments. It doesn't matter who says a thing, it only matters if that thing is true - a liar can tell the truth, a smart person can sound dumb, an idiot can put forward a proper thought. Attacking the speaker, rather than what was spoken is nothing less than a dismissive intellectual shortcut. Because internet arguments are close to anonymous it is the facts that must be checked, and thanks to tools like Google it is relatively easy to do. Of course most of the media remains unconvinced.
Nevertheless, many leading newspaper editors and TV directors are generally disdainful of bloggers, who assume the mantle of the free press but operate outside of traditional journalistic rules that aspire to fairness, balance and rigorous editing and fact-checking. They remain unmoved by the mass e-mail and fax campaigns organized by and other conservative blogs demanding an end to what they consider liberal bias in the news media.

"While some of these individuals are making a serious and thoughtful contribution to our global dialogue, too many simply contribute to the sense that we're in the midst of an opinion-ridden free-for-all," New York Times Publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. told an audience at Kansas State University last week.

But that free-for-all is precisely the point, the bloggers reply. In their free marketplace of ideas, they say, good information eventually pushes out bad, and truth ends up trumping falsehood.

"I've seen some criticism that bloggers are not edited, and that's true--we don't have traditional editors," said [Charles] Johnson, (Little Green Footballs) the Los Angeles blogger. "But the more important point is that with a readership of several thousand at any moment, if I post something incorrect or debatable, I'll receive e-mail within minutes. I've actually got thousands of editors looking over my shoulder."
Much like the free market, where values and costs are efficiently communicated in the form of a price, the internet aggregates millions of pieces of information (and disinformation) from the market place of ideas. The blogosphere writ large (which anyone with an internet connection can be a part of) acts as editor, writer, and publisher. Such is the nature of this new information beast. The sooner legacy media recognizes this and makes the proper adaptations the better chance they have of saving their crediblity, earnings, and perhaps even authority. Power to the people indeed.


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