Fat Steve's Blatherings

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

How to make a fool of yourself dept.: Believe you're infallible

      Some weird stuff's been posted recently.

      Minneapolis Star-Tribune columnist Nick Coleman launched an attack on the Powerline bloggers that was pathetic in its weakness, errors, and downright stupidity.  The blogosphere stomped a mud hole in him (see here for a link roundup).

      But blogger named Henry Farrell defended Coleman, sort of.  Money quote:
Coleman’s effort to “fact-check” the factcheckers is rather weak, but his main point is hard to refute - it’s a bit rich for slavering right wing hacks to accuse the mainstream media of ideological bias and expect to get taken seriously.

      Now, first, tell me, what does "slavering right wing hacks" mean?  According to Dictionary.com, a hack is
One who undertakes unpleasant or distasteful tasks for money or reward; a hireling. A writer hired to produce routine or commercial writing.

      Since hardly anyone in the blogosphere has been hired to blog, including the Powerline authors, I have a hard time seeing what Farrell thinks he means.  He uses "hack" and "hackishness" further down.  They seem to be general terms of derision.  As for slavering, that's defined as
To behave in an obsequious manner; fawn.

      Referred to synonyms at fawn, we find
To seek favor or attention by flattery and obsequious behavior.

      Just whose favor are the Poweliners supposed to be seeking?

      Farrell then switches to the Blogfather, Glenn Reynolds.  Farrell claims
bloggers like Glenn Reynolds . . . seem to believe that blogs should radically change or replace the mainstream media.

      The problem as Farrell seems to see it is
If you think that blogs should replace the mainstream media, then you should be prepared yourself to live up to some minimal standards of scrupulosity, intellectual honesty, and willingness to deal fairly with facts that are uncomfortable for your own ideological position. You should be prepared to live up yourself to the standards that you demand of others.

      I have no problem with those standards, but note there's no link to anywhere that Reynolds says that he expects the blogosphere to replace the MSM (or, for that matter, to anywhere Reynolds laid down any standards for the MSM; the only person prescribing standards so far is Farrell).

      Reynolds replied to Farrell, saying he couldn't think what he might have written that would suggest he, Reynolds, believes that the blogosphere will replace the MSM.  Farrell responds with two links to Instapundit posts in which Reynolds said the MSM was
unraveling before our very eyes, which I think is the biggest story of the election so far

and approvingly quoting Peggy Noonan in the WSJ Online saying:
Who was the biggest loser of the 2004 election? It is easy to say Mr. Kerry: he was a poor candidate with a poor campaign. But I do think the biggest loser was the mainstream media, the famous MSM, the initials that became popular in this election cycle. Every time the big networks and big broadsheet national newspapers tried to pull off a bit of pro-liberal mischief--CBS and the fabricated Bush National Guard documents, the New York Times and bombgate, CBS's "60 Minutes" attempting to coordinate the breaking of bombgate on the Sunday before the election--the yeomen of the blogosphere and AM radio and the Internet took them down. It was to me a great historical development in the history of politics in America. It was Agincourt. It was the yeomen of King Harry taking down the French aristocracy with new technology and rough guts. God bless the pajama-clad yeomen of America. Some day, when America is hit again, and lines go down, and media are hard to get, these bloggers and site runners and independent Internetters of all sorts will find a way to file, and get their word out, and it will be part of the saving of our country.

      I don't see how you can stretch this into a belief that blogs
will replace newspapers and network news shows.

      Reynolds has written
Though webloggers do actual reporting from time to time, most of what they bring to the table is opinion and analysis - punditry, in short. (No surprise here - people have been sharing opinions forever, and may well have an inborn drive to do so. Plus, you can opine without leaving your computer, while reporting hard news is hard work.)

      Reynolds does go on to say that the MSM has
cut back on newsgathering, treating news as a commodity product to be obtained from wire services while eliminating foreign and regional bureaus. Instead, Big Media organizations decided some years ago that they would focus on "news analysis" and punditry. That's, well, because you can opine without leaving your computer, while reporting hard news is hard work. (And expensive).

      Reynolds then criticizes this as a bad business decision.  The web makes the barriers to entry for punditry very low, placing expensive institutions like newspapers at a competitive disadvantage with bloggers, while corporate restraints and groupthink produce bad punditry.

      Reynolds concludes:
So as I see it, the economic upshot is that big publications like the New York Times will feel competitive pressure to do more of what they do best: reporting actual news from around the world. Meanwhile the buzzing, humming, done-for-love-and-not-for-money Blogosphere will provide an increasing share of the analysis and criticism. The result will be a kind of symbiosis that may leave both sides better off.

      Maybe this is what Farrell refers to?  'In the future, newspapers will drop almost all analysis and opinion, and concentrate on hard news.'  That would be a change, but since bloggers like Reynolds and Powerline would still be 'punditing,' I don't see how their partisanship would be an issue, assuming that they are partisan.

      In a reply to Reynold's reply, Farrell then says that even if he accepts Reynolds's contention that he, Reynolds, doesn't believe blogs will replace the MSM,
bloggers like Reynolds are being hypocritical - they don’t and won’t practice what they preach
.  But Farrell never identifies what it is Reynolds is supposedly preaching.

      Finally, after a further reply by Reynolds, Farrell starts presenting some specifics.  He links to blogger Mark Kleiman:
Mark has documented over time Reynolds’ resort to bizarre conspiracy theories, vicious slurs without evidence and unwarranted attacks on the patriotism of those who disagree with him

      If you now follow those links, the "bizarre conspiracy theory" turns out to be Reynolds linking to a story that quotes a member of the European Union Parliament.  This woman, Ilka Schroeder, said
The Europeans . . . supported the Palestinian Authority with the aim of becoming its main sponsor, and through this, challenge the U.S. and present themselves as the future global power. Therefore, the Al-Aksa Intifada should be understood as a proxy war between Europe and the United States.

It is an open secret within the European Parliament that EU aid to the Palestinian Authority has not been spent correctly. . . The European Parliament does not intend to verify whether European taxpayers' money could have been used to finance anti-Semitic murderous attacks. Unfortunately, this fits well with European policy in this area."

      Apparently, Farrell and Kleiman think that if you believe that the EU would give money to the Palestinian Authority and look the other way when it's used to finance terrorism is "bizarre."  Argument?  None.  You're just supposed to ass/u/me it, and if an EU MP says differently, ignore her.  What was that about "intellectual honesty, and willingness to deal fairly with facts that are uncomfortable for your own ideological position"? 

      The stuff about "slurs without evidence?"  Well, in February of 2004, rumors circulated that Kerry had an affair with a former AP intern.  The rumors apparently started with the Clark campaign, and Drudge said that said rumors were under investigation by "TIME magazine, ABC NEWS, the WASHINGTON POST, THE HILL and the ASSOCIATED PRESS."  The U.S. press sat on the story, which caused Reynolds to note a double standard (they'd printed rumors about Bush 41 having an affair).  Then British newspapers The Sun and The Daily Mail printed a stories naming the alleged lover, and saying she'd taped an interview admitting everything.  Reynolds linked to bloggers who'd linked to those stories.  Finally, the woman and her family denied everything, and Reynolds (brace yourself) PRINTED HER NAME WHILE LINKING TO A STORY THAT ALSO NAMED HER WHILE CARRIED THE DENIALS!  Even worse, Reynolds linked to a story of Monica Lewinsky's affidavit in which she declared "under the penalty of perjury" that she'd never had a sexual relationship with President Penis, satirically implying that the denial in the Kerry case might possibly also be false.  Kleiman characterized this as
continuing to retail baseless rumors about Sen. Kerry's sex life, with the name of the woman falsely accused, even after they had been thoroughly discredited

      And the attacks on the patriotism of those who disagree with him?  Well, on the anniversary of That Day, Glenn Reynolds wrote a column about the war on terrorism.  In it, Reynolds refers to Jonathan Schell, who wants us to lose the war in Iraq.  Reynolds thinks this is identical to wanting us to lose the war against terrorists.

      Kleiman makes a sharp distinction between the war against terrorists and the war in Iraq.  Reynolds thinks they're the same war.  Either position is arguable (I side with Reynolds, but that's a different post).  Regardless of whether the two conflicts are one or not, Schell regards the country as being at war, and he wants this country to lose.

      Reynolds doesn't call this unpatriotic.  He doesn't have to.  He just notes Schell's opinion.  This gives Kleiman conniptions.

      Farrell seems to have three problems.  The first is that he hates "right" opinion so much, he can't understand plain words.  The second is that when someone points out his errors, he can't take seriously the possibility he was wrong.  The third is that he can't write clearly.  No wonder Farrell's defending the MSM.  Psychologically, he's a member.



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