Sunday, June 25, 2006

A Looming Threat

As many people have pointed out, it is more than a little ironic that so many established journalists are currently publishing attacks on the blogosphere on the theory that it is under the control of puppet masters like Marcos, the founder of the Daily Kos. After all, the pundit counter-offensive appears to be far more coordinated than the normal activities of the anarchistic net. Indeed, when the Op-ed writers aren’t calling the bloggers on their groupthink, they are complaining about net-based opinion precisely because it is uncontrollable. Nothing on the net corresponds to the editorial section of the New York Times. There is no permanent high ground. Anybody is liable to say anything, including, for example, pointing out that the defining feature of American elite journalism is its startling lack of talent.

Like most people who actually blog, I doubt if blogging is going to bring the millennium or even turn out to be politically important except at the margins. Indeed, the greatest the new modality’s most significant impact may be to accelerate the tempo of serious debate in academic and scientific disciplines. Participation in the electronic conversation is rather too strenuous to attract mass participation, which partly explains why so many bloggers are in their 50s and 60s. There just aren’t that many younger people who are willing or able to write paragraphs in the dead of night. But I doubt if the Swift Boating of the bloggers is motivated as much by the realistic political threat they represent to conservative and liberal orthodoxy as by the pundits’ anger at the recognition of their own increasing marginalization. The New York Times, the Washington Post, the New Republic, and the rest are steadily losing readers and credibility. The blogosphere—as opposed to the Internet as a whole—may have little to do with the downfall of the traditional media and the declining status of the talking heads; but it is a convenient scapegoat. As usual, the defense of privilege is more fervent than the defense of principle.

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