Wednesday, December 28, 2005

One Blog To Rule Them All and In the Darkness Bind Them

Kathleen Parker's latest article is entitled Lord of the Blogs. Unfortunately, it is not a take off of Lord of the Rings as I initially assumed. Rather it is a take off of William Golding's Lord of the Flies.

First of all let us note this astonishing paragraph on the news organs of the day from a conservative writer (and increasingly, a partisan of either stripe).
Say what you will about the so-called mainstream media, but no industry agonizes more about how to improve its product, police its own members and better serve its communities. Newspapers are filled with carpal-tunneled wretches, overworked and underpaid, who suffer near-pathological allegiance to getting it right.

That a Jayson Blair of The New York Times or a Jack Kelley of USA Today surfaces now and then as a plagiarist or a fabricator ultimately is testament to the high standards tens of thousands of others strive to uphold each day without recognition. Blair and Kelley are infamous, but they're also gone.
It is truly amazing that a conservative would admit that newspapers generally try to get it right. Maybe Ms. Parker needs to listen to Rush Limbaugh more to get an idea of how Journalists really work.

The rest of Ms. Parker's article is on Bloggers and how we are generally a bad thing.
What Golding demonstrated - and what we're witnessing as the Blogosphere's offspring multiply - is that people tend to abuse power when it is unearned and will bring down others to enhance themselves. Likewise, many bloggers seek the destruction of others for their own self-aggrandizement. When a mainstream journalist stumbles, they pile on like so many savages, hoisting his or her head on a bloody stick as Golding's children did the fly-covered head of a butchered sow.

. . . I mean no disrespect to the many brilliant people out there - professors, lawyers, doctors, philosophers, scientists and other journalists who also happen to blog. Again, they know who they are. But we should beware and resist the rest of the ego-gratifying rabble who contribute only snark, sass and destruction.

We can't silence them, but for civilization's sake - and the integrity of information by which we all live or die - we can and should ignore them.
I'm tempted to suggest that Ms. Parker means that Conservative Bloggers are ok and Liberal Bloggers are monsters; but the tone of her article is such that I really don't think that's what she is going for. Rather these are similar complaints to what Tom Tomorrow has brought up from time to time.

Blogs represent a democratization of the opinion page. In the old days, you got to write an op-ed piece because you had a reputation or had achieved a certain status or just wrote a damn good piece (or the editor was short a few inches and needed something). There was a filter in place to ensure that those who contributed to the national conversation had earned that right. Tom Tomorrow earned that right through laboring as a cartoonist (a very good cartoonist I must add) for many years. Kathleen Parker earned that right through writing talented columns that editors liked.

I have not earned that right, and nor have many of my fellow bloggers. Under the old system we would not participate in the national conversation except through letters to the editor or getting off of our behinds and becoming columnists ourselves.

So looked at a certain way, Blogging gives us something we don't deserve. It gives us a power we haven't earned. Ms. Parker is correct about that. She's also correct that many Bloggists don't display the most noble of characteristics. That said, I would argue that the national conversation isn't going to be that hurt by a few relatively low powered voices joining in. I would argue that the tendency to determine truth by lining it up against our partisan beliefs is probably a far more corrosive and destructive tendency, for example.

In other news, for those interested in Space Lobster's condition, we are unfortunately 99% sure he has passed on. Our Marine Biologist, Puke, has gone out to do some research at the university library; hopefully we will have confirmation shortly.

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