Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Bad blogs

This WSJ editorial makes the case against blogs. In a nutshell:

The right now is partially a function of technology, which makes instantaneity possible, and also a function of a culture that valorizes the up-to-the-minute above all else. But there is no inherent virtue to instantaneity. Traditional daily reporting--the news--already rushes ahead at a pretty good clip, breakneck even, and suffers for it. On the Internet all this is accelerated.

The blogs must be timely if they are to influence politics. This element--here’s my opinion--is necessarily modified and partly determined by the right now. Instant response, with not even a day of delay, impairs rigor. It is also a coagulant for orthodoxies. We rarely encounter sustained or systematic blog thought--instead, panics and manias; endless rehearsings of arguments put forward elsewhere; and a tendency to substitute ideology for cognition. The participatory Internet, in combination with the hyperlink, which allows sites to interrelate, appears to encourage mobs and mob behavior.

In other words, blogs are worse, even, than the network news, which at least has editors. While I’d love to return to a time when the only people writing on "current events" were Thucydides and Xenophon, I’ll take blogs for what they are--in some cases, a more or less thoughtful reaction to the day’s news, keeping those who report it a little more on their toes. Some bloggers are like editors themselves, calling our attention to and commenting on an array of stories and opinion pieces. There is, of course, a lot of junk out there, but anyone can ignore it, as most ignore this.

Discussions - 3 Comments

Sorry, but -- like the WSJ itself -- I’m not buying it. Most of human creative expression is amateurish and pointless, and blogging is no exception. Once this used to be fine with people, back before fame and ego-gratification constituted a civic religion. So perhaps blogs aggravate the typical condition of social life. Few bloggers provide "sustained and systemic" thought, but then again few bloggers are the sorts of intellectuals with the spare time and the attention span to keep up a prolonged investigation of certain themes regarding the architecture of American culture, for instance, as some of us try to do. This is because what’s true about bloggers is generally true about people in general. And people in general are probably just fine with that. But the idea that blogging entrenches orthodoxy by the nature of its medium is preposterous on its face -- there’s nothing easier than instant, unaccountable criticism (and little more entertaining).

How many newspapers, from the New York Times and Washington Post, right down to my hometown blatt, provide "sustained and systemic" thought? How many academics do that?

What separates the WaPo and NYT from the hometown blatt is a) the hometown blatt doesn’t parade its moral vanity across every page and b) it has the scores from yesterday’s high school volleyball games and probably even spells the players’ names correctly on a good day. The MSM media would be doing a better job of it if they’d devote more energies to "just the facts ma’am". As newspapers get more "bloggy" (like those insipid "news analysis" pieces in the WaPo) it’s hard to see why I shouldn’t get my political news from a blog like Powerline and forego paying for the daily fish wrapper. Read for a while and you get to know the Powerline contributors and their viewpoints pretty well. I think that’s healthier than the largely behind-the-scenes way in which the WaPo gets put together every day, by unseen editors, with discernable biases.

I gave up reading newspapers regualrly when the majority of their reporting began with lines like these: "The Mayor felt fear in the pit of his stomach as he climbed the courthouse steps." (I always wondered how a reporter knew this bit of personal explicit information). Anyone who studied journalism’s history in America knows that unbiased journalism only occured in the J Schools imaginations. Until the national press began to strut its own self importance, most newspapers were full of slander, bile, gossip, and unmitigated falsehoods. Yellow Journalism was the face of journalism. The little known secret is that it still is. The New York Time’s hatred for all things conservative is so obvious, that they don’t even try to hide thier animous. Ditto for the Wa Po.

Despite plunging subscription rates and attendant advertising revenues, the self importance of the MSM remains. Their standards are no different then the bloggers whom they ridicule. The news cycle is now measured in hours and not days, and they cannot do anything about it.

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