Some woman named Kathleen Parker,  writing in the Chicago Tribune today:

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’ve never really understood the mainstream media’s animus against bloggers,  especially when that animus couches itself in the argument:  If the mainstream media disappeared tomorrow,  most bloggers would be out of business.  All bloggers do is recycle and chew over the news,  people like Parker say.  

And I say,  yeah.  So what?  Why does this make you angry?  At least someone’s reading the fucking news,  and when bloggers connect their readers to news stories,  then more people are reading the fucking news. (It also makes people like Parker angry when bloggers use the word “fuck”–they wish they could do it themselves.)

What really drives this MSM animus against bloggers is part of Parker’s column too,  in a sideways fashion:

Say what you will about the so-called mainstream media, but no industry agonizes more about how to improve its product, police its own members and better serve its communities. Newspapers are filled with carpal-tunneled wretches, overworked and underpaid, who suffer near-pathological allegiance to getting it right.

Well,  say what you will about how hard newspapers work to get it right,  but if more newspapers really worked to get it right,  we might not be in Iraq today,  George W. Bush would probably not be the president today,  and there wouldn’t be nearly as many bloggers out there as there are today.

I do not know,  personally,  any other bloggers (although from the statistics,  I actually must know other bloggers–if ten million new blogs have appeared in the time it took me to type this sentence,  as we’re constantly being told,  then everyone I know must have a blog they’re not telling me about).  But I do read a lot of blogs,  and I feel like I know something about reading authorial intent and motivation by looking at the text.

Most bloggers,  I believe,  are not driven by the desire to–or the delusion that they can–make a living at this;  most are not driven by obsessive compulsion,  either (although for a writer who claims to denounce the blogosphere’s inherent snark,  that sure seems like a snarky comment for Parker to have made).  Most bloggers are certainly not thinking of themselves as journalists.

I think most people blog because they want to participate in discourse.  They (American bloggers,  anyway,  which is what I,  and Parker,  are talking about)  were brought up in a country where their civics teachers told them they were all guaranteed the right to participate in the country’s discourse.  So they went looking for places to do that,  and found . . .


They found discourse closed by the babble-loop of the mainstream media and the money-wall of serious politics,  and the way the babble-loop encircles the money-wall which supports the babble-loop which keeps people from getting to close to the truth about the money-wall,  etc., etc., etc.

And then they found the internet,  and soon after finding the internet,  they found that an awful lot of what they were being told about the public life of their country was,  well,  not necessarily always a lie,  exactly,  but very rarely anything like the whole truth.

And so they set out to tell that truth,  to fill in the gaps that the babble-loop left open,  to get in through the chinks in the money-wall,  and to participate in the discourse in the only way left open to average citizens in this country.

Speaking for myself,  I started blogging in the spring of 2005 because I couldn’t bear to let four more years of George W. Bush happen without being on record as saying something about it.  I’m blogging for my kids,  so when they read in their history books about the presidency that destroyed America,  I can bring them home and tell them,  look boys–it’s all right here.

Would I like to have a few more readers?  Absolutely–I assume that if I keep doing good work they’ll come,  because far and away the best thing about the blogs is that they allow people to seek out what they like,  to find their information where they want to,  and  (I believe fervently that blog-readers do this),  to decide for themselves,  critically and acutely,  whether or not that information matches the truth they’ve been missing from the culture their entire lives.

Parker’s most serious critique seems to be (and chalk one up for her originality) that bloggers function in a hyperlinked echo-chamber that supplants actual discourse in favor of intertextual shouting:

Spoiled and undisciplined, they have grabbed the mike and seized the stage, a privilege granted not by years in the trenches, but by virtue of a three-pronged plug and the miracle of WiFi. They play tag team with hyperlinks (“I’ll say you’re important if you’ll say I’m important”) and shriek “Gotcha!” when they catch some weary wage earner in a mistake or oversight. Plenty smart but lacking in wisdom, they possess the power of a forum, but neither the maturity nor humility that years of experience impose.

Each time I wander into blogdom, I’m reminded of the savage children stranded on an island in William Golding’s “Lord of the Flies.” Without adult supervision, they organize themselves into rival tribes, learn to hunt and kill, and eventually become murderous barbarians in the absence of a civilizing structure.

To quote David Foster Wallace, “This is so stupid it practically drools.”  And I wouldn’t even get into it,  except it’s a slow news day (take a moment to chuckle at that one before I continue).

First,  again just speaking for myself,  I’m not sure by what I’m supposed to be particularly “spoiled.”  By the mere ability to send my words out into public?  By my vast readership (currently clicking along at about 100 folks a day worldwide)?  By the way that other bloggers so habitually link to my brilliance (just google “moquol” and see how many times that’s happened in five months of blogging).  I’m a lot of things,  but spoiled ain’t one of them.

How about “undisciplined?”  How about Judy Miller?  How about Bob Woodward?  How about Bill Keller?  How about Matt Cooper?  How about the fact that,  for most of the mainstream media,  the place they go for their discipline is 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue?

Give me undisciplined any day,  if “undisciplined” means unafraid.  Of course,  for Parker,  it doesn’t–it simply means “unedited.”

And that’s only a problem when bloggers are irresponsible.  And are there irresponsible bloggers out there?  Yes,  there are,  but there are also a hell of a lot of irresponsible journalists. To wit:

It was irresponsible for journalists to allow an obvious partisan hack with no credentials to join them in the White House Briefing Room every morning without saying anything about it.  Who said something about Jeff Gannon?  The blogs.

It was irresponsible not to report on major revelations from the British government that the US had manipulated pre-war intelligence.  Who told the world about the Downing Street Memo?  The blogs.

It was irresponsible not to call out the country’s “paper of record” when it was publishing stories that other journalists knew were not true,  stories that were written by a “reporter” who other journalists knew was actually an intelligence operative.  Who took apart the Judy Miller story and put it in words the mainstream media could understand and then report on?  The blogs.

It is irresponsible to pay absolutely no attention at all to a woman who has taken a courageous stand against the White House’s lies and barbarity,  and not cover her story at all until you are forced to by,  the blogs.

It is irresponsible to go to a nursing home in Florida,  tighten the lens on the camera,  and spend months on end reporting about the “thousands” of people who have come to protest the “murder” of Terri Schiavo,  to cover this story as a medical debate when there was no medical debate to be had,  and then to resort to covering it as an ethical debate after Republicans made fools of themselves by diagnosing the woman over videotape.  Who called bullshit on the Terri Schiavo story?  The blogs.

It is irresponsible to devote hours and hours and hours of coverage to a missing teenager at a time when the US death toll in an unwinnable war is spiraling and the president is hiding out at his ranch avoiding the woman who has taken the courageous stand that you’re ignoring.  Who called the mainstream media on their own obsession/compulsion with Natalee Holloway?  The blogs.

It is irresponsible to cover a president’s efforts to dismantle the most successful social program in history by taking dictation from the president and reporting his assertions about the dubious future of that program as if they were true statements,  when they were in fact partisan bullshit.  Who stopped the gutting of social security?  The blogs.

It is irresponsible to kill or sit on stories just because they might be damaging to the president’s reelection campaign.  Who did that?  Did the blogs do that?

I could go on,  but I think the point is made.  If the blogs organize themselves into rival tribes,  I say that’s far better than allowing yourself to be co-opted by the government to which you’re supposed to stand as a needed corrective.  I’d a lot rather see warring tribes than one big cocktail party.

The ultimate answer to Parker’s utterly unoriginal complaint is this:  if the mainstream media did their fucking job,  if mainstream journalism wasn’t afraid to get a little red on its tooth and claw,  then the world wouldn’t need a billion blogs.  If the newspapers and TV networks hadn’t aided and abetted a criminal war,  the repeated stealing of the presidency,  and graft and corruption of the highest order (who broke the Randy Cunningham story? who first complained about Texas redistricting?),  then I wouldn’t have to sit here spending hours and hours doing this.

But they did aid and abet these things,  and so I am compelled,  and so I am obsessed.

The MOQUOL–I Can Save You, America!

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