Monday, January 10, 2005

Is blogging a political act?

So here are the thoughts of someone who I think is accusing me of liberal bias (me?!). But what is interesting is that he offers much more detailed history of the 61st Minute than the Time piece. So I'll check that out and revise and isn't that blogosphere in action. So regarding reporting vs. journalism, we can use an open source metaphor I think. I put something out there, collect both praise and criticism, revise accordingly (applying my editorial agenda). I actually don't think the journalism piece is quite here but as Dan laid it out in the bottom of my piece, it's quite simple to envision.

Anyway, here's the rebuttal posted on the O'Reilly thread.

(1) Koman suggests that Powerline did not engage or fuel "reporting or investigation" on CBS' fraudulent memos. Not true. The initial reporting started with a comment by one guy named "Buckethead" at who opined that the type used in 60 Minutes' alleged memos could not exist in 197x. picked up the story, and that blog's Charles Johnson provided evidence (as in evidence) that the memos were indeed created using Microsoft Word. Powerline Blog gave the story momentum by spreading word, and citing typography experts (as in experts) who without doubt proved (as in prove) that CBS' documents were forgery (as in forgery). If this is not "reporting or investigation" then I wonder what "reporting or investigation" means to Koman.

So what I said was: "there was no reporting or investigation to the original post -- just a bit of reasoning and reasonable suspicion. It was the flood of posts from readers that created a virtuous circle of other people's ideas, documentary evidence, and widespread dissemination. It is this ecology of facts, opinions and linking that is best described by the term"blogosphere."

Here is Buckethead's original post (source): "Every single one of these memos to file is in a proportionally spaced font, probably Palatino or Times New Roman. In 1972 people used typewriters for this sort of thing, and typewriters used monospaced fonts. The use of proportionally spaced fonts did not come into common use for office memos until the introduction of laser printers, word processing software, and personal computers. They were not widespread until the mid to late 90's. Before then, you needed typesetting equipment, and that wasn't used for personal memos to file. Even the Wang systems that were dominant in the mid 80's used monospaced fonts. I am saying these documents are forgeries, run through a copier for 15 generations to make them look old. This should be pursued aggressively."

Obviously, that's good thinking, but it's not reporting nor investigation. "This should be pursued aggressively" is something an editor says to a reporter. And here's the thing. It was. By the conservative blogosphere. That's why it's the new journalism -- because bloggers are not journalists, don't live within the Beltway, don't have friendships with the media, don't fear retribution, aren't impressed with Hill receptions. "Let's investigate" and there's hundreds of people looking for leads (maybe only a few good reporters among the stamping dittoheads, but a few is all you need.)

To recap, my point is not that there is not good reporting here, just that the initial post was not an expose but rather a suspicion.

(2) TalkingPointsMemo is mentioned two times in the post, each time with a proper link. However, Koman fails to mention that more often than not TPM is simply sticking to (a) the Democrats party line, and (b) the drift of each days New York Times articles. I agree that if you were to believe that FCN mind-controls a majority of Americans you'd believe TPM were an outpost of resistance, however, given circulation numbers and market share, TPM is simply a shill for the very same ideas which are put forth by news outlets such as CBS and NYT each and every day.

Don't know what FCN is. But I am arguing that TPM is not merely parroting NYT but is a agitating force in pushing their coverage and of the sense in Washington that popular sentiment was moving against Lott and DeLay.

(3) Koman further suggests that it's mainly Republicans who have to fear the power of blogs. Not true. All real-world surveys (as in surveys) put out in 2004 show that it was Democrats, major papers like NYT and WaPo, and liberal network anchors who lost credibility due to relentless scrutiny as was on display by your hated "right-leaning blogs". You may wish to ride that deLay horse dead, but time will show again and again that it's the liberals who are getting nervous about the rise of blogs, not Republican politicians and partygoers. But then, it's almost a given fact that Koman and friends will spin that very same fact as "evidence" that right-wingers control US media, and that it were for that reason that we hear so little about Republican scandals exposed on hard-left blogs.

In the case of the DeLay rule, yes, the party in power that is trying to make rules in secret to protect their leader has something to fear. OTOH, Dan Rather certainly has something to fear, and in many other cases the Dems too. Blogs are not about partisanship but about citizen (or perhaps community)-based factfinding and exposure. I would suspect that the right will understand and exploit this paradigm faster and beter than the left. After all, they understood talk radio, cable tv, the removal of the Fairness Doctrine better. (And btw, check out podcasting: churches are all over podcasting.) Sigh. (but you say "right-leaning" as if it were a dirty word ;-))

(4) If you need further proof for the latter fact take a look at the Howard Dean bubble. From broadband to dial-up. Dean and his followers in the blogosphere did nothing to help the Democrats cause via blogs because it's not a winning turf for the left. I've still to encounter a fresh story in leftist blogs that's not been covered on A1 in NYT, WaPo, LAT, and assorted papers. However, you may want to visit Instapundit any time of the day, and you'll most certainly find a fresh angle that you did not see reported in any mainstream media. That's the very reason why the Deaniacs failed. They've been told in the beginning that they're alone in America, sole voices of resistance, but found out that the whole editorial staff at NYT and friends agreed with them (not to speak of seriously deranged Paul Krugman or Mrs. Dowd), and that it's pretty uncool to keep company with "corporate media". Soon the Deaniacs' movement collapsed, giving less than single-digit gains to John Kerry from that base. However, there is a resisting base, the real base, and these people find their anchor not at TPM, not in Dean's movement, not in the Gray Lady, but in the large corner of the 'sphere Mr Koman so greenly ignored. And, no, these are not die-hard Republicans as suggested by Mr Koman, but swing-voters, democrats (as in democrat), libertarians (as in libertarian), people who seek information, not repetition of propaganda. The former they won't find at TPM, just as a majority of voters did not find confidence in Mr Kerry.

I think the point is that the real action in political blogs is happening on "right-leaning" blogs? Only they're not right-leaning, they're mainstream? (interesting battle over language, but any commentator who is rabidly pro-Bush I'll call right-leaning). I'll have to leave the rebuttal on that to someone else. I do wonder how the blogosphere stacks politically to the election tally, which was something like 52-48, right?