Sunday, September 19, 2004

Fakes, facts, and focus: Do blogs really tell us the whole truth?

Orcinus asks: "Have any bloggers actually yet proven definitively that the CBS documents are fake?"

No, and maybe they never will, but by raising serious questions they have shown that CBS went on national TV with documents it could not authenticate, and still can't. That's shoddy.

Note, though, the selective outrage of many self-appointed speakers of truth to power. From my column celebrating the fact-check-your-ass revolution: "Discrediting the memos doesn't disprove that Bush coasted on his service obligation, and the whole issue of his behavior (and that of John Kerry) during the Vietnam era remains far less important than the bloody mess he has made in Iraq."

The memo story has dominated the right half of the blogosphere for ten days. Rather and CBS deserve some of the blame, for going with documents they couldn't validate and then allowing the drama to drag out so long.

But the obsessive focus on Rather shows that some significant subset of the blogosphere lacks credibility as source of information on what is actually going on in the world -- or as a sole source. The freelance factcheckers of CBS are not in themselves a replacement for it.

Never has so much gone undiscussed by so many. The preponderance of memo-blogging serves Bush as well as anything Karl Rove could orchestrate. There is lots of bad news to ignore. The closer we get to November 2 without focusing on the bad news, the better for Bush.

No wonder they want to keep up the Rather blather, on a day when Republican Senators are saying "we're in deep trouble in Iraq" (Hagel); describing "serious mistakes" (McCain on troop strength);and talking about "the incompetence in the administration" (Lugar, noting that less than $1 billion has been spent of the $18.4 billion reconstruction budget  - you remember reconstruction, the good news the liberal media wasn't telling you? Never mind).

That bloggers cover what they want to cover is an essential of the medium. It is immutable and I woudn't change it if I could. But as personal media collectively flexes its new muscles, it's important to remember that no particular blog, or ad hoc blog network, may be telling you the whole truth.

To get the rest of the news, you need to read the rest of the blogs (or whatever constellation of blogs you filter into your reading regimen). There is power and wisdom in the blogosphere. But if you only follow the Rather story -- or only follow brilliant lefty blogs that say it's not a real story after all -- you are missing much of the revolution.

6:47:31 PM    comment []

As Republican Senators criticize Bush on the mess in Iraq, TopDog04 is going back to the beginning: "Bush's misguided focus on Iraq helped Bin Laden get away." He has a detailed timeline of events to make his case.

3:47:59 PM    comment []

Iraq, Al Qaeda, and Dr. Seuss -- a neocon fairy tale.

Gideon Rose, managing editor of Foreign Affairs, savages Stephen Hayes' book "The Connection" in today's NYT.

Hayes is the "most indefatigable proponent of the Iraq-Al Qaeda link outside the administration," says Rose.

Rose credits Hayes with solid research: "He presents evidence that Iraq and Al Qaeda were on speaking terms, and that knowledgeable officials in both the Clinton and the Bush administrations worried that the relationship might develop into something more serious."

Then he drops the hammer: "But just at the point where the discussion might have become interesting, Hayes suffers a sort of cognitive arrest, closing the book with some abrupt observations about how those worries were intolerable in a post-9/11 world, and how eliminating Hussein was therefore necessary and worthwhile. What Hayes ducks is the $130 billion question that should have been at the core of his book: whether a Hussein-bin Laden alliance was not merely conceivable, but so worrisome as to require a preventive war to stop it.

The failure to engage that question demonstrates a sort of prescientific thought process -- one that uses the tools of reason, but only to construct an unfalsifiable case for a foregone conclusion."

Rose concludes by comparing the Hayes book Dr. Seuss' ''McElligot's Pool,'' in which a "youthful protagonist refuses to accept that his favorite fishing hole contains no fish."

After going so far as to quote the Dr. Seuss book -- at which point the review would seem to be veering rather close to ridicule, Rose says: "Encouraging toddlers to dream is fine. But shouldn't decisions about war and peace rest on a somewhat stronger foundation?"

1:49:19 PM    comment []

Mr. Sun takes us on a tour of the Freud Museum gift shop.

12:55:28 PM    comment []

Blogs by City is a new directory site that lists local blogs.

For this to work, bloggers in a given locale (or more likely, a motivated blogger in a give locale) will have to add the relevant links.

Created by Greensboro is Talking author TheShu.

12:23:50 PM    comment []

Frank Rich: "CNN is hemorrhaging in quality and viewers so fast — for reasons that have more to do with its lugubriousness and identity crisis than politics...It's not just that Fox is so good at pandering to its core constituency but that its competition is so weak at providing the hard-hitting, trustworthy news that might draw an alternative crowd."

11:30:30 AM    comment []

Of limited interest, but semi-important to few of us: the N&R's interesting timeline of immigration to Guilford County (unposted) says the 19th Century influx of Jews was led by "Northern industrialists." The Cones, to whom this would seem to refer, were not "Northern industrialists" -- they came from Baltimore, a southern-facing mid-Atlantic city, and had roots in Tennessee, and until they got to Greensboro they were merchants, not industrialists.

As noted before, I am the product of two lost tribes of American Jews, neither of which followed the "normal" path through New York. One side went through Virginia to Tennessee in the 1840s, and the other settled in Missouri. No wonder we're so confused.

9:07:15 AM    comment []

"The wall over which the news used to be poured has been breached by citizens who have traded their pitchforks for keyboards."

My newspaper column is about weblogs and journalism, and the new conversation that has been forced upon traditional media. I cite the Rather/CBS story, but also the Muller/Malkin debunkage.

"The old wisdom was that you don't argue with people who buy ink by the barrel. That rule is no longer operative when blogs cost little or nothing to produce."

What a brutal week to be a Sunday columnist. I filed this baby on Tuesday, and watched the story get written about all week. It felt like a whole forest of dead trees could grow back in the interim.

Read the whole thing.


More from Jeff Jarvis in the NY Post: "Here’s what Dan Rather and CBS News should have done then: They should have said to the bloggers, 'Thank you — and welcome to journalism; we can use your help.'”

More Jarvis: "This isn’t a war, it’s not even a revolution. It’s a reformation."

Great line in the Post, as seen at Jarvis' site: "Little brother is watching."

8:49:45 AM    comment []