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Getting up the right noses

I cannot speak for other of course but, as far as I am concerned, if you’re not making enemies then you are not trying hard enough. Conciliation is for wimps.

With this is mind I must commend the blogosphere (well, certain sections of it anyway) for their admirable efforts as enemies are, indeed, beginning to nail their colours to the mast.

Case in point here is a certain Bill Thompson who wants the world to know that, while he loves blogging, he is very worried by actual bloggers:

Yet the blogeoisie and their acolytes dismiss ‘journalism’ and those who practice it, arguing that the direct reporting of events is the only thing needed. As Dave Winer says: ‘The typical news article consists of quotes from interviews and a little bit of connective stuff and some facts, or whatever. Mostly it’s quotes from people. If I can get the quotes with no middleman in between – what exactly did CNN add to all the pictures?’

This isn’t about not liking blogs. It’s about not liking unaccountable concentrations of influence, about believing it is still true that ‘the first duty of the press is to obtain the earliest and most correct intelligence of events of the time and instantly, by disclosing them, to make them the common property of the nation’ – and about noting that ‘most correct’ does not mean ‘what the blog says’.

Mr.Thompson names a few names in his diatribe (but rudely fails to mention the Samizdata) and ruminates darkly about ‘economic libertarians’ and their ‘voo-doo’. Looks like the large preponderance of libertarians in the blogosphere has not gone unnoticed in places where we sincerely hoped we would be noticed.

Given that Mr.Thompson appears to be a acolyte of the BBC/Guardian Axis, his animus is hardly surprising. Indeed, it is welcome. We cannot honestly argue that we have even reached base camp until we are well and truly getting up the noses of people like him.

And getting up his nose we most certainly are. Mr.Thompson makes not even a faint attempt at concealing his haughty indignation that this gathering moss-ball of independent voices does not include any (trumpet fanfare, please) ‘PROPER JOURNALISTS’. Yet, lacking in some such official stamp of professional approval, we spout off like men and women possessed, filling cyberspace with our dangerously ‘un-approved’ ideas.

I am going to hazard a guess that Mr.Thompson doesn’t quite get it. Perhaps it is simply beyond his ken that it is exactly his brand of arthritic leftist orthodoxy that we are aiming to disassemble. Or perhaps he does get it. Maybe he can see that the writing on the blogs is, as far as he an his ilk are concerned, the writing on the wall. Hence his complaint of us being ‘unaccountable’. To whom or what does he expect us to account to? The government? The BBC? A committee of appointed poo-bahs? Or ‘the people’, that abstract, meaningless totem on behalf of which guardianistas like Mr.Thompson love to crusade but which is, in fact, a euphamism for a committee of appointed poo-bahs?

It matters not. What matters is that Mr.Thompson is seething with resentment. He doesn’t like us and thinks we are far too wrong and far too influential. Good. All that says to me is that we are doing something right and that we must keep on doing it.

[My thanks to Steve Chapman for the link.]

36 comments to Getting up the right noses

  • Bill Thompson has disappeared up his own backside. Sounds like he’s running scared, but I don’t think anyone’s going to follow him up there.

  • Kevin L. Connors

    I was just today watching a couple of things on TV that tie right into this. The first was Mr Smith goes to Washington. It would be impossible for a modern-day Taylor to carry out his character assassination of Smith. With a news-cycle time that even TV can’t match, very little erronious crap survives on the blogosphere because, as soon as something is posted, 1000 people are fact-checking it.

    The other was an installment of the excellent PBS series Ethics in America wherein Mike Wallace was presented with the hypothethical situation of having “exclusive” footage of an American commander summarily executing a disobedient soldier. While not in so many words, he essentially said the tape would eventually be aired. But not until everybody had agreed what spin to put on it.

  • Dave F

    It’s interesting that the left is now starting to agitate about a medium that is out of big-media control. I’m a journalist and many other journalists are bloggers amd blog readers — some of them quite well known. And if Al Gore can have a blog, surely anyone can.

    Mr Thompson is not the first person to start whining about unexpected points of view being expressed after he and others who think like him had gone to such a lot of trouble to stigmatise plain speech in political terms, in order to suppress certain kinds of expression.

    He will have to start learning to live in this rude and non-PC world that has begun to flourish since the events of 9/11 — the day cold sanity once again dawned on most people.

    And he will have to learn to defend his opinions, something he and the rest of that tired old mob thought they would never need to do again. Their comfort zone is gone.

  • G Cooper

    Well said, Mr. Carr!

    I’m far from sure just how wide or deep is the penetration of blogs yet, but if all that the freedom of expression they allow is achieving is the rattling of the media establishment’s cages, then that is fine. In fact, it’s an excellent start.

    In a sense, this thread has an interesting link with the discussion of the literary establishment’s contempt for ‘populist’ (they mean popular) fiction – and the same could be said of popular films and music too.

    Beneath the thin veneer of pretence that Leftists are the champions of the masses, lies a rotten, seething core of contempt for the common man.

    Listen to a Leftist media commentator sneering at the Sun and the Daily Mail. Usually, what they are really expressing is contempt for the tastes, beliefs and dreams of the readers of those publications. Similarly, when a Leftist film critic wades into a Hollywood movie.

    This contempt for the demotic also informs much of the Left’s hatred of the USA – a country where cultural popularism is regarded as a badge of success, rather than a bone to be tossed to the seething masses to shut them up, while their betters study French cinema.

    Much the same is true of blogs. Just when it had become virtually impossible to broadcast an opinion from the Right or Libertarian points of view – and damned hard to get one into print – along comes a means of expression which they cannot control. They will try, however – under the cloak of their manifestly bogus inventions such as ‘hate speech’ laws and the like, so we do need to be on our collective guard.

  • Frank Sensenbrenner

    This is odd. Stephen Pollard and Andrew Sullivan aren’t proper journalists. I wonder why their articles are in papers, then. Even so, if we’re not proper journalists, at least we’re up to the same standard as the BBC, and substantially more accurate.

  • S. Weasel

    Proper journalists, indeed. Jayson Blair, anyone?

  • Andy Duncan

    They really don’t like it up ’em, do they?! 🙂

    So, it’s not the rational, intelligent and thoughtful ideas of our leading bloggers, which attract their growing audiences of independent thinkers. Instead, it is an aristocratic monstrosity of Blogger Kings who oppress their mindless serfs via the voodoo mind-magic of a blogeoisie class of exploiters.

    This fallback to the hatred of Marxist invective is more revealing than Mr Thompson realises. His ENVY shines through like a Red Star. If only he were part of this Blogger magic circle!

    He would be, in a perfect society, you know. We’d all be made to read the thoughts of Chairman Thompson every morning, with our Guardian, coffee, and chocolate croissants, to set ourselves up for the day. Life is just so unfair. Boo hoo! 😉

    Andy “Toiling Peasant ” Duncan

    PS: My God, I never realised I was such a low-brow! 😎

    Favorite Books: Lord of the Rings, The Silmarillion, Asimov’s Foundation series, Frank Herbert’s Dune series, Any James Bond novel, Any Tom Clancy novel, Most Stephen King, Most Frederik Forsyth, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Smiley’s People, East of Eden, all of the Harry Potter novels. Add to this a dash of Robert Heinlein, and Ayn Rand, and there goes my job as Arts Critic for the Guardian! 🙂

    Idea of Hell: Being left on a desert island with nothing but Melvyn Bragg novels, polemics by Tariq Ali (and Bill Thompson), and James Joyce’s Ulysses. Still, if kept dry, with all the pages scrunched up into balls of paper, they’d make a great fire beacon! 😉

  • I guess, since I’ve sold some articles to mainstream magazines like Forbes and American Spectator, I could count as a “proper journalist”, and as far as I’m concerned, the more people who are writing, reading, thinking and discussing, the better.

    Of course, mediocrities and timeservers have most to fear from competition, as in any sector.

  • Power and control in the Blogsphere belong to the masses with no one dictating the party line. Freedom of Speech world wide and instantaneous!

  • I think Thomson was writing satire.

    That “unaccountable” thing was a riot. As if the BBC’s actually accountable to anyone!

  • Phil Bradley

    The Blogsphere is a market-place of ideas, where the cost of being a provider is almost zero – anyone with a PC and an internet connection can start their own blog.

    If the so called (Libertarian) Right seems to dominate its because they have more and better ideas and can articulate them in a more interesting ways.

    It also says something far more important, which is that consumers of ideas are overwhelmingly on the Libertarian Right or at least those who identify themselves as being on the Left perceive as being on the Right. Another way to look at this is that the Left is less interested in ideas and more interested in orthodoxy.

  • Blue Ken

    Jeez, get a grip: ‘we are far too wrong and far too influential’! Maybe one could say the first about the blogosphere (really, soo much rubbish out there), but the latter? Seriously, name one single solitary thing here in Britain that bloggers have influenced.

  • Mike G

    “It would be impossible for a modern-day Taylor to carry out his character assassination of Smith.”

    Yeah, that’s why all the stories about Whitewater were immediately refuted and you never heard from Jeff Gertz again.

  • Molly

    well they have influenced me, blue ken, and i’m in britain. i had no idea people even thought such things let alone wrote them in ways i can relate to. i think the people who dismiss blogs are going to look pretty stupid looking back 10 years from now.

  • “What the hell are blogs?”
    – Trent Lott

  • I think Mr. Bradley has hit on an important point, one of which Mr. Thompson is entirely unaware: Bloggers are accountable. And we know it. Our blogs are wispy pamphlets snapping in the wind. There are millions to chose from and the only thing we have going for us is the credibility we establish with our readers. If we frequently make errors and never post corrections, we won’t have much (cf., Agonist, Hesiod, Atrios).

    Formal structures around people’s writing provide no guarantee of legitimacy. Jayson Blair isn’t the only example of the failure of editors, merely the most prominent recent one. Mr. Carr has it exactly right; Ken may not be able to trace any substantive changes directly to bloggers, but the entrenched media know that, collectively, we represent a threat to their dominance. Rapid, widely distributed fact-checking alone ensures that will continue to be the case.

    What bugs me is that these Lefties are supposed to be the ones who want the “voices of the people” to ring out and shake the halls of power. Authentic, grassroots democracy is supposed to be their favourite thing. But when such voices refuse to repeat the party line they balk. Theory and practice often diverge, I suppose.

  • T. Hartin

    Say, Mike – when the Whitewater stories hit the papers in the early ’90s, there were no blogs. Although, come to think of it, I don’t think I have heard from Gertz lately.

    However, character assassination is alive and well. The Dems will never stop peddling their fables about W. being AWOL from the Air National Guard, even though this story has been pretty conclusively refuted in the blogosphere and elsewhere.

  • S. Weasel

    Well, there was certainly an alt.current-events.clinton.whitewater (much of the membership of which was ultimately folded into freerepublic.com).

    I’m not sure I see that blogs are much of an improvement over web discussion forums in the BBS style, or Usenet newsgroups. Just the latest incarnation, I guess.

  • Here’s some stuff I had to say on this topic over the weekend.

    Oh, and it’s really too bad that it’s completely impossible to comment on the blog mainstream. It’s a shame it’s so damned hard and expensive to start a blog. It’s even worse how it’s almost impossible to start active discussions in the blogosphere. And the kicker is that if anyone ever does criticize the mainstream nobody will link them and thus nobody will ever read them! It’s a damned shame.

  • Scott Cattanach

    Did George W. Bush go AWOL during his time in the National Guard?

    …Here’s the story as generally agreed upon: In January 1968, with the Vietnam war in full swing, Bush was due to graduate from Yale. Knowing he’d soon be eligible for the draft, he took an air force officers’ test hoping to secure a billet with the Texas Air National Guard, which would allow him to do his military service at home. Bush didn’t do particularly well on the test–on the pilot aptitude section, he scored in the 25th percentile, the lowest possible passing grade. But Bush’s father, George H.W., was then a U.S. congressman from Houston, and strings were pulled. The younger Bush vaulted to the head of a long waiting list–a year and a half long, by some estimates–and in May of ’68 he was inducted into the guard.

    By all accounts Bush was an excellent pilot, but apparently his enthusiasm cooled. In 1972, four years into his six-year guard commitment, he was asked to work for the campaign of Bush family friend Winton Blount, who was running for the U.S. Senate in Alabama. In May Bush requested a transfer to an Alabama Air National Guard unit with no planes and minimal duties. Bush’s immediate superiors approved the transfer, but higher-ups said no. The matter was delayed for months. In August Bush missed his annual flight physical and was grounded. (Some have speculated that he was worried about failing a drug test–the Pentagon had instituted random screening in April.) In September he was ordered to report to a different unit of the Alabama guard, the 187th Tactical Reconnaissance Group in Montgomery. Bush says he did so, but his nominal superiors say they never saw the guy, there’s no documentation he ever showed up, and not one of the six or seven hundred soldiers then in the unit has stepped forward to corroborate Bush’s story.

    After the November election Bush returned to Texas, but apparently didn’t notify his old Texas guard unit for quite a while, if ever. The Boston Globe initially reported that he started putting in some serious duty time in May, June, and July of 1973 to make up for what he’d missed. But according to a piece in the New Republic, there’s no evidence Bush did even that. Whatever the case, even though his superiors knew he’d blown off his duties, they never disciplined him. (No one’s ever been shot at dawn for missing a weekend guard drill, but policy at the time was to put shirkers on active duty.) Indeed, when Bush decided to go to business school at Harvard in the fall of 1973, he requested and got an honorable discharge–eight months before his service was scheduled to end.

    Bush’s enemies say all this proves he was a cowardly deserter. Nonsense. He was a pampered rich kid who took advantage. Why wasn’t he called on it in a serious way during the 2000 election? Probably because Democrats figured they’d get Clinton’s draft-dodging thing thrown back at them. …

  • Kevin L. Connors

    I’m not sure I see that blogs are much of an improvement over web discussion forums in the BBS style, or Usenet newsgroups. Just the latest incarnation, I guess.

    In fact, a blog with attached comments threads is the same as a BBS with a limited number of members authorized to start threads. I look for the two technologies to merge shortly.

  • There is a downside to this unaccountable blogosphere I suppose. It allows people like Scott Cattanach to assail everyone with his interminable hobbyhorses.

  • S. Weasel

    Ah, David, that is where Usenet shines: newsreading software supports bozo filters. Lacking the same for web browsing software, I have invented The Bozo Filter of the Mind.

    Patents pending.

  • If we frequently make errors and never post corrections, we won’t have much (cf., Agonist, Hesiod, Atrios).

    This example doesn’t support your point, because these blogs have tons of readers. Unfortunately.

  • Tim

    Hmm, Bush was training to be a fighter pilot – something that you don’t learn in a few weeks or even months. He put in his required time and even joined the unit that had JUST BEEN SENT TO VIETNAM. Of course still being a pilot in TRAINING he didn’t go.

    How is that being a spoiled rich kid? If anything he was cut slack for being a politician.

  • Scott Cattanach

    It allows people like Scott Cattanach to assail everyone with his interminable hobbyhorses.

    I was just responding to an earlier post on this thread about Bush’s service.

  • veryretired

    The internet blogs are doing to mainstream print media what the cable and satellite options are doing to network news and sitcoms—offering choices which cannot be contolled by the FCC or any particular corporate entity. It is reminiscent of the pamphleteers of the 18th century or the many, many newspapers of the 19th. As the media have concentrated, they have opened themselves up to the competative forces which naturally arise when limited outlets are suddenly multiplied by a new technology. While I find the continuous bickering between left and right to be tedious, the diversity of opinion, and the chance to read ideas and news from other countries is very rewarding. I used to take a magazine called the “Atlas of the World Press”, which quoted various news stories and editorials from a cross section of the print media. The varied content of the blogs fulfills a similar function by allowing someone to follow various topics across national and cultural lines.

  • G Cooper

    Kevin L. Connors writes:

    “In fact, a blog with attached comments threads is the same as a BBS with a limited number of members authorized to start threads. I look for the two technologies to merge shortly.”

    Yes, this is clearly overdue. Great as Samizdata is (last week’s withdrawal symptoms weren’t enjoyable), there are too many occasions when I find myself hopping from foot to foot as some statist crime or other goes unremarked and I’m unable to either comment or discuss it with people whose ideas and opinions interest me.

    The BBC’s boards were useful, until (predictably) the Corporation’s censors decided to reinforce that long-held belief that freedom of speech applies only to the Left.

  • Kevin L. Connors

    If you haven’t seen a topic you’re interested in covered by your favorite blogs, G Cooper, I’ve always found Perry and the folks here to be more than willing to post worthy guest articles. The down-side, however, is that you have to e-mail it and wait for somebody to get to it.

  • Eye Opener

    “From two ranks amongst mankind hath power been seized… kings and ecclesiastics.”
    “I have given POWER TO THE PEOPLE.”

    If, as these indicate, we the people now have the power to make informed decisions, even collectively, on what policies we want to pursue or change or abandon… then availing ourselves of blogs is ONE legitimate way of making informed, intelligent decisions.

    Those who see themselves as elite, special, better-than… those are the one’s FROM whom power was wrested, and the ordinary humans who learn to read, write and THINK for themselves? These are the ones TO WHOM power was given.

    The Founding Fathers had it right… TRUST the people of your nation, from the trainable retarded all the way to the intelligent, with all their attendant problems…

    Blogs threaten the ‘I’ll control them and their thoughts’ crowd… as do computers, libraries, newspapers and civic discussion/consultation groups… the unfettered flow of thoughtful speech…

    How many among us recall that ‘dia-‘ means ‘through’ and ‘logos’ means ‘knowledge’?
    Dialogue is knowledge, coming through shared speech. All who engage in ‘dialogue’ may acquire real ‘knowledge’.

    And that IS an eye opener!

  • Kevin L. Connors

    No. From the Greek, dia is two, and logue is speech.




  • Blue Ken

    Okey dokie, so the answer to the question, ‘what have blogs managed to influence Here In Britain?’ is . . . nowt. Seriously blogs = writing letters (that other people can see). It’s electronic post. It ain’t literature, it ain’t journalism, and it ain’t important. Any why should it be? It’s a harmless distraction. Drop the pomposity people.

  • Blue Ken,

    I think you should write to Mr.Thompson and let him know that this ‘blogeoisie’ thing is merely a figment of his overheated imagination and that he has nothing to worry about.

  • The Whitewater group in Usenet certainly attracted the attention of the White Noise House after Jane Sherburne’s internal memo asserting that The Lying Bastard was “roadkill on the information superhighway”. It was subject to determined, professional, channel-jamming throughout the campaign year of 1996, and the pros disappeared within a week of the election. We know that Lynn Cutler and Ann Lewis’ “Back To Business Committee” was setting up “internet internships”, and at least $25,000 was traced to the BTB from John Huang.

    “Connecting the dots” has become something of a vogue since September 11, but there was a hell of a lot more of it going on back in the day. And; it’s not as if “the mainstream media” didn’t know about it: either. I was personally taken for bon mots, that I posted to the group, by The Washington Post and The New Yorker Magazine. Never with attribution, of course, but that’s not the point. The point is that they were always watching: they knew where the real action was, even if they never had the nerve or industry to conduct the analytic work that we were doing on all the various case material.

    “Free Republic”? Don’t make me laugh. Those people were — and are — waterheads by comparison to all the best contributors, who went to Ray Heizer’s CAS (“Clinton Administration Scandals”) mailing list by the end of 1996. Yes, Michael Rivero carved out an audience among the Freepers (one-liner squeeze-toys), but he was, by then, out of the game. I call him one of the “Lost Veterans of the Psychic Wars”. He couldn’t hang when, for instance, the Mena data-state developed to the point where it could no longer possibly support the allegations. Suddenly I, among others, became a “CIA plant”.

    What’s the point?

    Well, it’s that Thompson is an old, boring, story. It’s well-known to all: Don’t Step Out Of Line Where The Big Dogs Go, or they’ll start barking at you.

    There is nothing seriously new, here, except the tactical layout: they’ll have to bark a lot more furiously at the decentralized and distributed net.scape of blogs, but the impulse goes all the way back to Martin Luther.

    Ain’t no big deal. Press on.

  • Blue Ken

    To David Carr:

    So that’s a ‘no’ then? ‘No, bloggers here in Britain haven’t influenced anything, and that’s why I’m, er, talking as if someone had suggested the Blogatelle doesn’t actually exist’? O how I sometimes wish . . .

  • Reginleif the Valkyrie

    G. Cooper wrote: Beneath the thin veneer of pretence that Leftists are the champions of the masses, lies a rotten, seething core of contempt for the common man.

    What he said. I’ve seen so much commentary, online and on dead trees, that pretended to “compassion” and “tolerance” and all the usual buzzwords, but turned absolutely vitriolic when it came to ordinary Americans. Not primarily because of any political threat they may or may not present. Because … they’re so pleasant, not given to off-the-cuff sarcasms masquerading as “irony.” So unalarmed by modern society, not convinced it’s an evil and alienating and unnatural and a plot by “Corporate Amerikkka.” So easy to please, happy to eat a TV dinner a few times a week instead of demanding gourmet/vegan/free-range/gluten-free product on their plate at every meal. Or happy to buy a shirt of synthetic material from their local chain department store, rather than insisting on natural fibers picked and woven by “womyn of color” in Central Pretentioustan who belong to a “Fair Trade” organization. So uncaring as to what Coastal America thinks of them. So … tacky.

    And tackiness, as we know, is a much greater social crime than taking the side of murderers, tyrants, thieves, pork-barrel politicians, purveyors of social snobbery, bone-headed professors and others educated above their intelligences, and arrant bullshit artists. None of them mutually exclusive categories. All of them well-represented in the pantheon before which such writers usually prostrate themselves.

    I recently described myself as a “misanthropic libertarian.” I think people should be free to like, say, or do anything that doesn’t harm the person or property of others who pose no clear and present danger to them. On the other hand, I don’t have any illusions about human nature: all of us are reprehensible in one form or another, although some of us work harder at it than others.

    Call me negative, if you like, but don’t call me bigoted. I distrust everyone equally.