Carol Platt Liebau: On the Blogosphere

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

On the Blogosphere

Here, Howard Kurtz assembles a wide variety of opinions about the power of the blogosphere -- ranging from those who would attribute everything to their power (for good or ill) to those who tend to dismiss them as noisome pests, and everything in between.

For my part, I tend to come down somewhere in the middle. Blogs do not cause things to happen -- they can't. What they do do -- when the reporting is accurate -- is create the conditions under which the MSM is pressured to make things happen that otherwise wouldn't.

Absent the blogosphere, Dan Rather would still be anchoring the news indefinitely; Eason Jordan would still be holding court in Atlanta. But they are gone (or soon to be) . . . not because anyone in the blogosphere had the power to hold a gun to the heads of execs at CBS and CNN, but because there was finally a place for the public to learn what was actually going on, air its point of view, aggregate its opinion, and disseminate that opinion, without having to somehow gain access to the lofty reaches of large metropolitan daily newspapers or national broadcasting networks.

That's power, true, but of a distinctly derivative type. When the MSM starts vaporing about the "irresponsibility" of the blogs, its practicitioners ought to realize that situations like Rathergate / the Jordan affair can only occur when there are three factors: (1) The blogosphere is reporting the truth; (2) the MSM isn't reporting the truth/story; (3) the story matters to normal Americans if they get to hear it.

If the blogosphere doesn't have "the goods" on someone, nothing's going to happen to him/her. There has to be proof -- something bloggers sometimes seem to understand better than does, say, Mary Mapes or Peter Arnett. If the MSM is all over the story, then the blogs' power to drive a story is sharply reduced. And if the American people don't care about the story, then there will be no pressure on anyone at news organizations like CBS or CNN to make any personnel changes.

In the world of the blogosphere, is the discourse sometimes uncivil? Are the attacks sometimes sharp? Yes. Is that optimal? Probably not.

But now the air is filled with the laments of those who, for so long, have had exclusive powers through their status in the MSM to decide (1) what will be news and (2) what matters. And many of these people -- many of whom are fine people personally -- have taken to deploring the "new" incivility that's supposedly flowering with the birth of the blogosphere.

But what they don't realize that the incivility is only "new" to them. They are those who have enjoyed positions of power within the liberal elite, where they have been able either to level abuse, look away while their colleagues did it, or assume that everyone so fully accepted their own world view that abuse wasn't "incivility" -- it was just received wisdom (e.g. "Everyone knows Reagan's a warmonger").

Perhaps they're discovering now that it feels a little different when you're on the receiving end of the "incivility". But those who carry a torch for (among other things/people) the U.S. military, William Westmoreland, Whittaker Chambers, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Clarence Thomas or George W. Bush could have told them that, because they've been experiencing "incivility" from the press for some time now. And unlike the liberal media bigshots, the difference is that these "ordinary" people in the blogosphere never had a network or newspaper to fight back with as their ideals were trashed or disdained; they've been defenseless to state their claims and clear the names of their heroes -- or their own.

Now, they have the blogosophere. And it's about time.


Blogger Mark said...

Great post, Carol. It's fascinating watching the MSM seek to deal with something they've never encountered before, competition. I've linked your post as my main post today. I'm finding that I link more blog posts than MSM editorials these days. Another indication of the shifting paradigm, I guess.

8:57 AM  

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