September 21, 2004

Blogs, Gatekeepers, Truth, Media (CBS Memos vs Internment Defense)

Last week Daniel Kreiss had a post quoting me (accurately). The subject was commenting within blogs, but the ideas have even more relevant as blogs are being touted so much in the wake of the CBS Memos scandal. (my emphasis added below)

The second problem I have with Winer's comments is something that I have long encountered in the blogosphere: the idea that everybody can participate equally. Perhaps Winer, who no doubt has enjoyed the fruits of heavy traffic to his "publication" for years, cannot relate to what the less visible among us actually experience when we blog. Our words tend to slip into an ether of random google searches and stay confined to a loyal readership among family and friends.

There is no problem with this, but for Winer to suggest that somehow starting your own blog to comment on other blogs is miraculously going to provide for anything but one-sided conversation (coming from the "A" listers) is disingenuous at worst, naive at best. Seth Finkelstein put it best when in an interview with me he said:

"It's a big big mistake thinking that gatekeepers are gone. The reason people say this, those people saying it are those who have overcome all the barriers except for the production barrier. They have the connections, the paying job, all the barriers except for the editorial publishing barrier are removed. When it shifts they think they have Christmas everyday. That barrier is replaced by a noise barrier. The barrier is exactly the same, one gatekeeper has become another. Shift in one place, but there is a corresponding loss in another space."

Seth is getting at an important point, namely that you cannot read everybody in the blog world. ... The underlying fact is that unless you are well-established at this point, you are not going to be that well read; breaking into the market is successively harder as more and more people come on-line.

Which is why perhaps, outside of a select few, the marquee bloggers are white men, probably somewhere between 35-40. Certainly at the DNC this was true. And events like BloggerCon tend to look like the white men who sit in Congress, or sit in the media booths. All of which tends to remind me of the myth in America that everyone can make it, everyone can participate, there is no need for affirmative action, etc... If all this is true, why is the on-line and off-line world still white like Casper. But do not look for discussions of "race" on the blogs; we are a color-blind blogosphere.

Ain't it funny how big bloggers become big media?

Now connect this to Professor Eric Muller's recent remarks:

Take, for example, the guys at Powerline. They have (rightly) been bragging about the holes they punched in the CBS memos. Yet back in mid-August, they heaped praise on [Michelle] Malkin's book ["In Defense Of Internment"] without so much as noting that the blogosphere was tearing the book to pieces. (Any comments, Powerline guys, about Malkin's failure to drive a few miles to the National Archives to look at the file that contained the truth about the man she compares to Mohammad Atta in her book? Does that remind them at all of the lame research done by a certain network news program?) Now, they did note (as though this were something only marginally relevant) that they found the book's thesis unpersuasive. But that didn't stop them from giving the book a rave, or from giving Malkin a book promo spot on their Northern Alliance radio show, where they report that they found her "delightful."


I know a double standard when I see one.

So folks, these heady days of blogospheric triumphalism are not really about the victory of truth; they're about partisanship. Before the blogosphere's "truth squads" can tell you whether a claim about history is false, fraudulent, and deserving of condemnation, first they need to know whose team the claim's proponent is on. (And this is undoubtedly true as you approach both political poles of the blogosphere.)

Big bloggers == Big Media.

But this post will merely vanish into the ether too. Sigh ...

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in cyberblather | on September 21, 2004 11:59 PM (Infothought permalink) | Followups
Seth Finkelstein's Infothought blog (Wikipedia, Google, censorware, and an inside view of net-politics) - Syndicate site (subscribe, RSS)

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Seth, don't despair entirely. Some of us read your words...

At Corante, you wrote:

>Naively, one might expect Buckhead'd be willing to say "Sure, I called everyone I knew,...But that makes it less of spontaneous-uprising, less of a new-media blah blah ... story-hook.

Which ties into your point here. I agree. OLD has become NEW!! BAD has become GOOD!! These are sentiments that rarely express the reality we experience in our own lives. Usually more a comment on the author than on the subject.

We trade in old problems for new ones, and if the new seem more agreeable (or less-disagreeable), then that's progress. I'd say that's certainly the case here, with the dream of "a printing press in every pot" closer to being realized than at any time in human history.

I remember numerous times, getting ticked off by something in the paper and writing a letter to the editor--an articulate, witty, wise letter, every time--and waiting for it to appear. Sometimes one did...but not usually. I suspect that you have had similar experiences.

Well, now we can write those letters. Problem solved...or supplanted.


Posted by: AMac at September 23, 2004 10:40 AM