Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Blogs and their value

Time magazine runs this piece on blogs. It is, unsurprisingly, a bit snobbish, but I thought it’s worth bringing to your attention. This passes for deep thought at Time: "We may be in the golden age of blogging, a quirky Camelot moment in Internet history when some guy in his underwear with too much free time can take down a Washington politician. It will be interesting to see what role blogs play in the upcoming election. Blogs can be a great way of communicating, but they can keep people apart too. If I read only those of my choice, precisely tuned to my political biases and you read only yours, we could end up a nation of political solipsists, vacuum sealed in our private feedback loops, never exposed to new arguments, never having to listen to a single word we disagree with."

Here is an example of a very useful blog, Chronicallybiased, out of Houston. It is "devoted to keeping an eye on the biases and errors of Houston’s only major daily newspaper.

We believe that the Houston Chronicle suffers from both partisan bias and from poor journalistic practices. We believe that news coverage is often slanted to reflect the liberal biases of editorial staff, and we believe that the editors are more concerned about promoting a political agenda than fairly covering the news important to Houstonians and Texans." Go to it!

Discussions - 3 Comments

"If I read only those of my choice, precisely tuned to my political biases and you read only yours, we could end up a nation of political solipsists, vacuum sealed in our private feedback loops, never exposed to new arguments, never having to listen to a single word we disagree with."-I think we are already somewhat in this situation.

But, I think that the NY Times exageration lies in the assumtion that people fall into Democrat/Moderate/Republican Conservative/Liberal, but the truth is that people can have interests and views that fall into both camps and therefore feel disgusted when the news source they relly upon covers an issue they care about in what they perceive is a biased or uncorrect perspective.

But this an interesting point/issue. Call it political geography. With democrats living primarily in cities and Republicans largely living in suburbia and rural areas. Isn’t it easier than ever to only associate with those you agree with? But then again aren’t friends largely vacumm sealed private feedback? Friends good or bad? Don’t jocks hang out with jocks, soilders with soilders marines with marines, blacks with blacks, whites with whites, baptists with baptists, catholics with catholics, jews with jews...ext... The internet does make it easier to meet people who share your particular interests, but then again it also makes possible finding more interests. So at least we can increase the number of our private feedback systems. The defense against stagnation and never hearing new arguments lies in the fact that the more new interests or groups that you are involved in the more people you can meet, the more people you come into contact with the more likely that you are to be exposed to different views and perspectives at least on some issues.

The Time article’s warning about people only reading web pages which conform to their own views is just a watered down version of Cass Sunstein’s ridiculous arguments from his book Sunstein went so far as to argue that there should be government labels on web pages to warn simple-minded readers that the page is "liberal" or "conservative." He feared that the web would lead us away from the pre-web diversity in news opinion. But Cass, like Time, fails to recognize that what they cite as unbiased or mainstream news is not so diverse. Indeed, anyone who gets their news from the NYT and Peter Jennings has secured an ideology-affirming loop just as effective as any selective web browser. Liberals seem very concerned about the web, presumably because they maintain a position of relative dominance in the print and broadcast media (outside of say, Fox), but do not appear to have any such stranglehold on the blogosphere.

Aside from failing to take into account the fact that most readers I know scan a reasonable variety of weblogs from the left and the right, the Time/Sunstein article also fails to take into account the news aggregation function of blogs. On any given day, readers of this page will see articles from a wide variety of publications linked which they otherwise may not have seen. The articles may be from left, right, or moderate publications or writers. This news aggregator function is common to blogs, and I believe contributes to the popularity of blogs as a news medium.

I still remember the 90s (post-communist) media complain (especially in europe) that political parties wouldn’t differ enough from each other to provide a real choice for voters, and that you only had the choice between policy 1d (type ’d’ capitalist democracy) and 1c (type ’c’ capitalist democracy).

now they seem to have found enough partisan spirit among internet users, to be worried that all of the less appropriate informed will soon either live in world 0 (the ’warmongersphere’) or in world 1 (the (’indy’)media-world).

from a Marxian point of view: would that be an improvement or a decline?

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