Thursday, December 29, 2005

Kathleen Parker and "Lord of the Blogs"

Syndicated columnist Kathleen Parker posted an article today entitled, “Lord of the Blogs.” She has some critical things to say about blogging in general but some polite recognition for the skills and accuracy of others.

Her general thesis is nothing new: Blogging gives uninformed, unskilled and unaccountable journalist-wanna-bes the freedom to write all sorts of useless junk, most of which is stuff criticizing others for their mistakes. She compares this corner of the blogosphere with the anti-nomian descent into barbarism that William Golding so graphically depicted in his book, “Lord of the Flies.”

I must confess that there is some truth to this thesis. Many blogs are tediously imitative of the big blogs, mindlessly aping their proclamations, endorsing their opinions and joining in their battles with little concern for accuracy or self-control.
Bloggers persist no matter their contributions or quality, though most would have little to occupy their time were the mainstream media to disappear tomorrow. Some bloggers do their own reporting, but most rely on mainstream reporters to do the heavy lifting. Some bloggers also offer superb commentary, but most babble, buzz and blurt like caffeinated adolescents competing for the Ritalin generation's inevitable senior superlative: Most Obsessive-Compulsive.
I would say that this is a fairly accurate description of far too many blogs floating around in cyber-space these days. But, when Parker gets specific she reveals that her main concern is to protect the professional hard work and unbiased of those who labor in the mainstream media.
…Many bloggers seek the destruction of others for their own self-aggrandizement. When a mainstream journalist stumbles, they pile on like so many savages, hoisting his or her head on a bloody stick as Golding's children did the fly-covered head of a butchered sow.

…When someone trips, whether Dan Rather or Eason Jordan or Judith Miller, bloggers are the bloodthirsty masses slavering for a public flogging. Incivility is their weapon and humanity their victim.

What Parker fails to note, however, is that, if the mainstream media types would print accurate, unbiased news for the American public to read, digest and debate, there would be no need for the “public flogging” of folks like Rather, Jordan or Miller.

The biased, arrogant abuse of power that each of these has shown was neither corrected nor denounced by the media for whom they worked. It was right and good that their errors and outright lies were caught, exposed and debated in the blogosphere.

Parker also fails to note that those she criticizes, especially on the conservitive right, are largely fighting what is essentially a defensive struggle against the very media that Parker glorifies.

Conservative bloggers attack the media because it is the members of the MSM who, all too often, are the ones who “seek the destruction of others for their own self-aggrandizement.”

The head of President George W. Bush and the heads of members of his Administration and Party are daily hoisted aloft like trophy’s by the New York Times, Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times. Bloggers fight back because there is no one else to do so.

Still another point that Parker fails to note is that the blogosphere is the epitome of a free-market economy. Good stuff sells. Bad products do not. Inaccurate and bloviating blogs quickly become marginalized by any serious reader. The “Adults,” as Parker calls them, are like the cream in the milk bottle: They have risen above the rest by virtue of their quality and taste.

She asks her readers to “ignore” the “ego-gratifying rabble who contribute only snark, sass and destruction.” . There is no need for her to say this since bad blogs, whether expressing opinions on the political right or on the political left will be ignored by just about everyone looking for honest and accurate news, information and commentary.

To her credit, Parker does express her respect for the "Adults" who write and post on the internet:

. . . I've been a blog fan since the beginning, and have written favorably about the value added to journalism and public knowledge thanks to the new "citizen journalist" . . .

I mean no disrespect to the many brilliant people out there - professors, lawyers, doctors, philosophers, scientists and other journalists who also happen to blog . . .they know who they are.

Once again, however Parker misses the point as she fails to note that the blogosphere never was, is not and never will be a replacement for the MSM. The business of blogging is something entirely different. For her to criticize bloggers for not following the same journalistic methodology of newspapers, magazines and television is to miss the point of the blogosphere entirely. It is something different. She could just as easily slam the hardback book industry for failing to be as "current" as the morning edition of the Wall Street Journal. Anyone with any knowledge of the book publishing industry would know that such a comparison is silly. Those who blog will no doubt come to the same conclusion after reading Kathleen Parker's article.

In the end, it is ironic that the media Parker defends is fast-sinking into a black hole full of cancelled subscriptions while the leading blogs are not only holding their own in “readership” but are even drawing advertising revenue away from the MSM.

Financial capital always follows where the people are putting their money. Lately, that place is the blogosphere.

Whether Kathleen Parker likes it or not.