Will Weblogging Change Human Nature?

by John Adams

Related link: http://maxspeak.org/mt/archives/001293.html

Update:Eric Borchert at Salon has a nice story and summary: "Citizen journalists"? Try partisan hacks (subscription required, or watch a short video for a day pass). Here's a sample:
Nonetheless, dealt a weak hand in the Schiavo case, bloggers all went in on a bluff. And now they refuse to pay up. In fact, they're actually congratulating themselves for helping "get to the bottom" of the story. But the meltdown has exposed their often mindless naiveté.

Elsewhere in O'Reilly Weblogs, François Joseph de Kermadec says "Another article on how blogging will change society as we know it just was too much for poor little FJ to bear." Me, too, as my comments on that item show.

For example, over at the excellent Max Speak, You Listen!, Max Sawicky points to a well-known weblog which specializes in media criticism. Turns out that the weblog might itself need some media criticism brought to bear on itself.

Listen up, people:

Partisan hacks with weblogs are still partisan hacks. A statesman with a weblog is still a statesman. Ethical journalists with weblogs are still ethical journalists. Gossipmongers with weblogs are still, well, Matt Drudge.

Most importantly, a liar with a weblog is another damned liar. The mystique and hype around weblogging just makes that liar more credible, the partisan hack more effective, the gossipmonger more venomous. Is that a net gain?

Until it's seen as just another tool for communication, weblogging will be used as (among other things) cover for every slimy aspect of human nature. Weblogging will still be used as a way of disguising vice as virtue after weblogging is seen in more perspective, but it'll be less effective in doing so. A more realistic view of weblogging will make it a more powerful tool for advancing virtue and shining a light on vice.

P.S. I'm all for technical partisan hacks, and I'm not really against political partisan hacks (the traditional sense of the word). I just understand political partisan hackery to be what it is, not what I might wish it were.

Do I condemn myself? Very well, then, I condemn myself. I am vast--I contradict multitudes. (Okay, maybe I'm half-vast, and only contradict a bunch of folks.)


2005-04-07 12:32:44
Who are these ethical journalist you speak of? Ethical journalists? That must qualify as what they call a "staticstically improbable phrase" over at Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/gp/search-inside/sipshelp.html).

(I'm thinking here of former CNN executive Eason Jordan's "2003 New York Times op-ed in which he admitted that CNN had remained silent about Saddam's atrocities in order to maintain its access in Baghdad." -- http://www.opinionjournal.com/editorial/feature.html?id=110006289)

2005-04-07 13:02:34
Generalizing from a sample of one
Remind me not to hire you for any sort of statistical analysis.
2005-04-10 01:47:01
Therefore, Ray Charles is god?
Reminder to adamsj: don't hire me for any sort of statistical analysis.

I could of course supply you with further examples of unethical journalism, or you could have shared that Shangri-La of the Internet, the ethical journalist's blog site. But we probably disagree on what an ethical journalist is in the first place (your being a contrarian and all).

Foremost, I would expect an ethical journalist to be objective. A unethical journalist suppresses information that doesn't support the desired conclusion, and emphasizes what does.

Sure, the blogs contain any number of gossip mongers, partisans hacks and liars. But so does the mainstream media. The difference is that in the blogosphere there is direct feedback. Not the handful of cherry-picked letters to the editor that paint those who disagree as crazies. Unrestrained comment that can hop from blog to blog. And the poster had better have their facts straight.

I guess I prefer this imperfect but self-regulating system to the monolithic and largely unaccountable MSM.

P.S.: The Drudge Report is not a blog. It is a news digest. And gossip monger or not, he was right about the blue dress, wasn't he?