Northern Valley Beacon

Information, observations, and analysis from the James River valley on the Northern Plains----- E-Mail: Enter 'Beacon' in subject box. Send to:

Wednesday, December 14, 2005


What's the matter with blogs?

The NVB took down its original web log when it became convinced that, whatever informing discussions take place on occasion, blogs generally serve the malevolent, the dishonest, the scurrilous, and the irrational. They are far too time-consuming for what little benefit they produce. We continue to wonder if blogging is worth the time and energy, and if we are not just providing the malignant forces the stuff on which they feed.

As much as the media have failings, they also have a system of editorial review that eliminates bad information, bad writing, and the interminable exhibitions of self-service. Despite the problems the newspaper industry is facing with declining readership and advertising revenues, we find that its system of editorial checks and balances, when actually enforced, produces a far superior, reliable, and useful source of information and commentary than blogs and much of the electronic media. Maintaining this web log and reading others are not activities we are convinced, as of yet, are worthwhile. We review these matters every day.

Terry Neal who has presided over the political commentary on WashingtonPost.Com is relinquishing his post to return to the print desk of his newspaper. His comments about blogging are illuminating and pertinent:

I've also learned that there are a lot of nasty, intemperate, judgmental people out there seeking to co-opt cyberspace for partisan and ideological purposes. There are some great, whip-smart and entertaining bloggers out there. And then there are a lot of hacks claiming to be independent, who have turned out to be nothing more than extensions of the public relations arms of the two major political parties.

The most joyous -- and nerve-wracking -- part of this job was probably the e-mail. I received more than 10,000 emails from readers during my time at the Web site. Most of the messages were intelligent, kind, generous in praise and spirit. Even much of the criticism was constructive and given in a spirit of mature collegiality.

But many were from hyperventilating, overcaffeinated, often hysterical people, who cursed, tossed epithets and threw hissy fits about anything that deviated from their world view. My intention when I began writing this column was to share with you some of the gems. But who wants to spend a whole day trolling through years of old e-mails for that stuff! (I did write a column about my e-mails on Aug. 21, 2001, a few months
after I started the job. Not much changed.) Suffice it to say, these e-mails reinforced to me how deeply ingrained thevictimization complex is on both ends of the ideological spectrum.

If I wrote a column critical of the war in Iraq or raising questions about the Bush administration's handling of the war, I'd get mounds of e-mails from vast-left wing conspiracy theorists ranting about the Post's liberal bias. Many people on the right have co-opted the tone of '60s and '70s-era liberals they so despise. They see themselves at the helm of an ideological war aimed at vanquishing said liberal baddies. The truly believe they are oppressed by Sean Penn, the French, and the New York Times editorial page. And they view disagreement not for what it is -- disagreement -- but as a personal attack.

One common theme from some conservative critics would be to complain that I was being unfair to Bush or the GOP in one breath while taking note of my race in the other and complaining that black people don't vote Republican. Many of these e-mailers wrote to tell me that I was stupid and only had my job because I was black or because of affirmative action. These e-mails where not a majority of those I received from conservatives -- the vast majority of which were thoughtful and intelligent. But it did come in often enough, and with enough ferocity, that it reinforced my understanding of how deep and complicated the racial divide is in this country and how much of politics is still really about race, just shrouded in code words. [Emphasis added.]

On the other hand, many on the ideological left are working hard to regain the upper hand in the victimization wars. They feel betrayed that the MSM, which they believe "let" George W. Bush be elected and reelected and "allowed" the war in Iraq to happen.

Anything I wrote smacking of criticism of a Democrat -- particularly if that Democrat was Howard Dean -- would lead to a torrent of nasty e-mails, usually promoted by some blogger's
exhortation to blast me. And some of the fiercest e-mails I ever received were from liberals complaining about a column I wrote earlier this year that refused to endorse the theory that Ohio -- and thus the presidency -- was stolen from John Kerry in a GOP conspiracy


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