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Those who don’t read blogs tend to think that they’re extremist and weird. And those who pontificate on them are often staggeringly ill-informed. Alexander Cockburn, writing in CounterPunch, appears to think that moveon.org is a blog, and claims that the medium ruins writers:
“Talented people feel they have to produce 400 words of commentary every day and you can see the lethal consequences on their minds and style, both of which turn rapidly to slush," Cockburn writes. "They glance at the New York Times and rush to their laptops to rewrite what they just read. Hawsers to reality soon fray and they float off, drifting zeppelins of inanity.”
Huh? What's up with those slushy zeppelins? I’ll just refer him to Whiskey Bar and be done with it.
The egregious Lee Siegel of the flailing New Republic calls lefty bloggers “fascistic forces.” Even in today’s degraded and degrading media environment, this is silly. But Juan Cole thinks at least some antiblog nonsense has roots deeper than ignorance:
“For all the talk about freedom of speech and individual freedom in the United States, ours is actually a hierarchical society in which most people cannot afford to speak out unless they are themselves independently wealthy. . . . The very wealthy [not excluding the owner of the New Republic] are used to getting their way in U.S. politics and to dominating public discourse, since so much can be controlled at choke points. Journalists can just be fired, editors and other movers and shakers bought or intimidated. Look what happened to MSNBC reporter Ashleigh Banfield, who dared complain about the propaganda in the U.S. news media around the Iraq War. Phil Donohue, who presided over MSNBC's most popular talk show, was apparently fired before the war because General Electric and Microsoft knew he would be critical of it, and did not want to take the heat. Politicians who step out of line can just be unseated by giving their opponents funding (the Supreme Court just made it harder to restrict this sort of thing).
“A grassroots communication system such as cyberspace poses a profound challenge to the forces of hierarchy and hegemony in American society. . . . Kos and his community, in short, are at the center of a discourse revolution. Now persons making a few tens of thousands of dollars a year can be read by hundreds of thousands of readers with no mediation from media moguls. . . . The lack of choke points in cyberspace means that people like Kos can't just be fired. How then to shut them up? Why, you attempt to ruin their reputation, as a way of scaring off readers and supporters.”
This is clearly not the whole story, since none of the above deign to notice that there are plenty of conservative, libertarian, reactionary, and entirely apolitical blogs. If you've seen some intelligent commentary on the subject, link it up!
A nice addendum to this, from Scott McLemee: "There is still a tendency to think of bloggers, podcasters, etc as some distinct group that operates apart from the worlds of academia, publishing, or offline culture. To treat them, in effect, as ham-radio operators--people who possess a certain technical know-how, and who talk mainly to each other. The reality is very different." Read the whole thing.