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June 25, 2003
WHEN BLOGGERS RULEBy Greyhawk
In the end I really don't care what I'm called, as long as it's not blogger. -MATT DRUDGE
And some shouldn't. Sadly some Bloggers are more willing then others to blindly accept anything they read as gospel, and then pass it on. And when the truth is revealed don't retract, just move to a new "story". I repeat myself:
Of course, never to my knowledge has anyone in the Blogosphere convinced another to shout "Eureka! I was wrong!" on any issue of any merit. Even in the post-Iraq-war light of day the doomsayers, the "quagmire crowd," the "prophets of jihad" and the "WWIII tin foil hat brigade" are still claiming they were right all along, that there never were any WMDs!
Case in point: The Whiskey Bar, a Blog that repeated the original Wolfowitz mis-quote on WMDs as conclusion to a collection of Bush administration WMD statements, the desired effect being to use the Wolfowitz statement as denouement exposing Presidential hypocrisy. Obviously the truth about this quote renders the entire piece pointless; but that truth is nowhere to be found on the site. No retraction can be found, nor can any of the Democratic, Clinton administration, or "world leader" quotes on the same subject. Even so this Blog garnered numerous links and kudos for this denial of truth. A "well written" Blog, assuredly. But one that heaps scorn upon (among others) the 101st Airborne. I don't pretend to know what percent of Americans consider Jimi Hendrix' old unit to be worthy of scorn or derision, but as long as the Blogosphere embraces the behavior it certainly can't expect to be embraced by mainstream America.
I came close to not mentioning this particular site in this post on the grounds that I recognize that the author is as much entitled to his free speech space on the internet as I am. Then I read his entry about watching a young girl he sees at his kid's elementary school graduation ceremonies who is dying of cancer. Her elementary school graduation too, and as she's wheeled on the stage to get her diploma, the author describes thinking how much braver she was then President Bush or the heroes of the Iraq war.
Has it come to this - a dying fifth grader fans the flames of an author's passionate hatred of the President and military - starts him wondering how he can use her in an anti-Bush post in his blog? Politicizing a little girl dying of cancer - in a blog? Are people actually so blinded by hate, or so driven by their own self interest that this is acceptable behavior? I hope it's just another fable from a website with a proven lack of integrity. Even if it's a fabricated story, it's easily the lowest thing I've ever seen in a Blog. Politicizing Paul Wellstone's funeral was tame compared to this - Wellstone was at least a politician. And of course the Palestinians gleefully danced in the streets of his comments section on this one.
I'm a real proponent of free speech. I defend the rights of any American to disagree with me. I state only that the this kind of hateful site, regardless of how well written, gives Blogs in general a bad name. When it's embraced by a significant number of other bloggers it certainly is not a good sign for possible future respectability of blogging as a whole.
But wait! There's more! Macaroni. I've discussed that site in another post . Once again, we are talking about a "good writer". An apparently intelligent person who has garnered support from lots of corners of the Blogosphere. On false pretenses, I hope. I don't believe any rational person would support this kind of activity. In this case, the Blogosphere (at least those who are victims of the author or aware of the behavior) recognizes and rebukes racism. However, the worst of the author's race baiting and general negativity occurs in the comments sections of other Blogs; perhaps leading those who are only familiar with her Blog to sympathize with an individual who is forced to spend an inordinate amount of space defending herself against accusers. A claim could be made that this is all done for the sake of notoriety and its impact on the hit counter. As such, that behavior may well be rewarded. Once again, this does not reflect positively on the Blogosphere. There's a difference between "exposure" and "exposed."
Blogs, have an intrinsic power to unite or divide. Even the briefest insight into the minutiae of an author's thoughts may be enough to start the process of erasing a lifetime of misunderstanding. (Or at least I'm naive enough to think so.) Many, including the two above, have chosen the divisive route. However, that which was meant for harm can be turned to good; even these can provide the insight into hatred that could help erase it. (Note, however, to up and coming Bloggers: If the sites above are your examples for how to be a rising star in the Blogosphere, enjoy your trip. I'll stay right here, thanks.)
POLICING THE SPHERE?
The Blogosphere tends to "police" itself; those who are good will thrive, those who are not will fade. But "good" is an undefined quantity; Soap Operas and "Celebrity" news shows draw more audience then C-Span. Some supermarket tabloids outsell the local papers. Much of that trend holds true on the internet; any Blogger can tell you the bizarre search engine requests that lead to visitors to their sites. They know what brings the readers in.
Certainly there's room for everyone, and all with the freedom to do so should be thankful they can post their thoughts and opinions without fear. Still, when integrity and truth take a back seat to agenda, when outrage and spite are used as drawing cards, then Blogs will never be considered any more reliable then tabloid journalism.
Much ado has been made lately about how important Blogs have been in bringing down people in the public eye; Trent Lott, Howell Raines, on and on. There's probably some truth to that. And whoever looses the next Presidential election I'm sure Bloggers will take credit for that too. People do read Blogs, after all. Perhaps not as many as watch Bill O'Reilly, but a growing number. But it's interesting isn't it, that negative results are the yardstick by which we choose to measure the success of our medium?
And what of Mr. O'Reilly? His recent comments, once the initial furious response subsides, should also be considered and addressed. His remarks are open to interpretation and should be clarified. Offhand dismissal of critics is not a good practice for any business, organization, group, or individual. In the O'reilly/Internet case, this is a two-way street as each party feels slighted by the other. The response of a Blog community in search of some respectability should be moral high ground; to demand that clarification, and not to assign meaning to his somewhat blurry commentary.
Mr O'Reilly, in launching a vague attack against unspecified foes, has cast a wide net. Clarify and specify, Bill: exactly who is libeling you? Is it the same crowd that was out to get Perot in '96? Is it Glenn Reynolds, Britneyfan95, ...or both?
And is there any conclusion to be drawn from the fact that O'Reilly's comments drew more heated criticism from more Blogs then Orrin Hatch's ill-considered remarks? Once again, the Celebrity outdraws the Senator, the difference being that one can whine about perceived injustice while the other can actually perpetrate it on the American people. O'Reilly, however, received a barrage of contempt and promises to turn the channel. Hatch was commented on briefly and dismissed. Interesting priorities indeed. I would speculate that within six months only one's statements will be remembered by Bloggers, becoming forever a part of internet lore.
And what discussion of the down side of Blogs could be complete without mention of the wonderful sophomoric Blogfights that rear up now and then? When someone says something about someone else, a third party repeats it, and suddenly everyone is linking everyone as an apparent feud erupts. All involved get to relive their days as middle-schoolers; except these days the links mean swapping readers and driving each other up the ecosystem ladder to their own amusement as they cry in public for the world to see. Should have millions flocking to those Blogs in no time. Soap Opera fans have to do something in the evenings don't they?
Small wonder then, that Drudge made his "anything but blogger" comment?
Where is the blogospheric outrage at that comment? There was none of O'Reilly's ambiguity in it; to Drudge a blogger is the lowest. Was the outraged backlash stifled by a paralyzing fear of Drudge? Or is he respected to the point that whatever he says must be accepted?
Actually, Drudge's comments, like O'Reilly's, should provoke a thoughtful discusion of why? As with O'Reilly, offhand dismissal of critics is not a good practice for any business, organization, group, or individual.
The Wild Wild West Redux
So amongst all this aforementioned "negative" success, maybe some positive emphasis wouldn't hurt? I've made small positive contributions - from raising awareness of The Fallen Heroes Fund to the Senator Craig hostage fiasco to a minor part in the Boycott Hollywood story.
Until a few months ago, I was like 279 million other Americans, ignorant of the word Blog. Once I started blogging the first feedback I got from non-blogging people who were familiar with the concept was generally negative. "Ohhh, one of those 'flame sites'?" Was a common question.
Two hundred people may read this post each of the first three days it is up. If for some reason one of the bigger Blogs in this world links it you can triple that. A link from a really big Blog (not likely- let's face it, this is not glowing with Blog love) means ten to twenty times that number. Five thousand in one day at the most.
In large American cities, infomercials and public access cable reach more people.
So yes, the top Bloggers are approaching the "power and influence" of a good editorial writer in a local paper in a mid-sized city. And Bloggers as a group should be certainly be noticed by anyone concerned with public opinion. And yes, growth can be expected. And yes, the Blogging segment of the American population will likely be comprised of a subset of the segment of the population called "voters", and thus have even more sway.
But we have a long way to go on the road to respectability.
Perhaps not the ten to twenty years it took talk radio to really explode; the world moves faster now, and the highway beckons.
It's the Wild Wild West. And likely to stay that way, for a little while at least. But the survivors, those who stick around, are in for something...
Probably a time when they'll miss the good ol' days of the Wild Wild West...
Posted by Greyhawk / June 25, 2003 8:28 PM | Permalink
November 26, 2010
I think anyone who's ever pondered the "comment" option - once only available on blogs and bulletin boards, now ubiquitous on almost any web site - will appreciate this:
The so-called faculty of writing is not so much a faculty of writing as it is a faculty of thinking. When a man says, "I have an idea but I can't express it"; that man hasn't an idea but merely a vague feeling. If a man has a feeling of that kind, and will sit down for a half an hour and persistently try to put into writing what he feels, the probabilities are at least 90 percent that he will either be able to record it, or else realize that he has no idea at all. In either case, he will do himself a benefit.
That's wisdom from the past, captured for posterity at the US Naval Institute, shared via the web on the institute's 137th anniversary.
From their about page:
"The Naval Institute has three core activities," among them, History and Preservation:
The Naval Institute also has recently introduced Americans at War, a living history of Americans at war in their own words and from their own experiences. These 90-second vignettes convey powerful stories of inspiration, pride, and patriotism.
Take a look at the collection, and you'll see it's not limited to accounts from those who served on ships at sea, members of the other branches are well-represented.
I'm fortunate to have met USNI's Mary Ripley, she's responsible for the institute's oral history program (and she's the daughter of the late John Ripley, whose story is told here). She also deserves much credit for their blog. ("We're not the Navy nor any government agency. Blog and comment freely.") We met at a milblog conference - Mary knew (and I would come to realize) that milbloggers are the 21st-century version of exactly what the US Naval Institute is all about. Once that light bulb came on in my head, I mentioned a vague idea for a project to her - milblogs as the 21st century oral history that they are.
"Put that in writing," she said (of course - see first paragraph above!) - and here's part of the result.
Shortly after the first tent was pitched by the American military in Iraq a wire was connected to a computer therein, and the internet was available to a generation of Americans at war - many of whom had grown up online. From that point on, at any given moment, somewhere in Iraq a Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine was at a keyboard sharing the events of his or her day with the folks back home. While most would simply fire off an email, others took advantage of the (then) relatively new online blogging platforms to post their thoughts and experiences for the entire world to see. The milblog was born - and from that moment to this stories detailing everything from the most mundane aspects of camp life to intense combat action (often described within hours of the event) have been available on the web...
And et cetera - but since you're reading this on a milblog, you probably knew that. And you know that milblogs aren't just blogs written by troops at war, that many friends, family members, and supporters likewise documented their story of America at war online in near-real time, as those stories developed.
The diversity in membership of that group is broad, the one thing we all have in common is the impulse to make sense of the seemingly senseless, and communicate the tale - for each of us that impulse was strong enough to overcome whatever barriers prevent the vast majority of people from doing the same. Everyone at some point has some vague idea they believe should be shared - we were the people who, from some combination of internal and external urging, found and spent those many half hours persistently trying to write it down.
But where will all that be in another 137 years? Or five or ten, for that matter. That's something I've asked myself since at least 2004 - when I wrote this:
Membership in the ghost battalion has grown in the years since, and an ever growing majority of those abandoned-but-still-standing sites are vanishing. Have you checked out Lt Smash's site lately? How about Sgt Hook's? If you're a long-time milblog reader you know the first widely-read milblog from Operation Iraq Freedom and the first widely-read milblog from Afghanistan are both gone from the web. If you're a relative newcomer to this world you may never even have heard of them - or the dozens upon dozens of others who carried forth the standard they set down.
If you have a vague notion that something should be done about that, (a notion I've heard expressed more than once...) then you and I and the good folks at the US Naval Institute are in agreement. Preserving the history documented by the milbloggers is just one of the goals of the milblog project, the once-vague idea that we're now making real.
And it's a big idea, if I say so myself - too big to explain in one simple blog post, so stand by for more. Likewise, it's too big a task to be accomplished by just one person. So if you're a milblogger (and exactly what is a milblogger? is a topic for much further discussion on its own) I'm asking for your help. All I'll really need is just a little bit (maybe just one or two of those half hours...) of your time, and your willingness to tell the tale.
We've already made history, it's time to save it.
(More to follow...)
The Mudville Gazette is the on-line voice of an American warrior and his wife who stands by him. They prefer to see peaceful change render force of arms unnecessary. Until that day they stand fast with those who struggle for freedom, strike for reason, and pray for a better tomorrow.
Furthermore, I will occasionally use satire or parody herein. The bottom line: it's my house.
I like having visitors to my house. I hope you are entertained. I fight for your right to free speech, and am thrilled when you exercise said rights here. Comments and e-mails are welcome, but all such communication is to be assumed to be 1)the original work of any who initiate said communication and 2)the property of the Mudville Gazette, with free use granted thereto for publication in electronic or written form. If you do NOT wish to have your message posted, write "CONFIDENTIAL" in the subject line of your email.
Original content copyright © 2003 - 2011 by Greyhawk. Fair, not-for-profit use of said material by others is encouraged, as long as acknowledgement and credit is given, to include the url of the original source post. Other arrangements can be made as needed.
Contact: greyhawk at mudvillegazette dot com