Apr 29 2006

Blogs Are Modern Pamphleteers

Published by at 11:03 pm under All General Discussions

Howard Kurtz has an interesting piece on blogging out, at least it was interesting until he started quoting others. Howard needs to let himself out more and do less repeating of what others have to say – at least if he wants to understand blogging! The title of the article is “Blogs, Good or Evil?”. And of course the answer is ‘yes’ because blogs are not standardized or controlled or managed. The Blogs are simply the voices of Americans amplified by way of the Internet.

In our earliest days of discontent we Americans had the Pamphleteers. Those rowdy individuals who felt they had to say something because times were ‘not right’. The reason I and others blog do what we do is we know the times are ‘not right’. We are just simply debating what to do! And with all these large scale debates we get the good, the bad and the ugly. But it is pure Americana! In Europe it is not really considered proper to debate and challenge each other in public – especially superiors. So the debate is not as furious and probing as it is here in the US.

At our nations conception, the street corner speech was amplified by the Pamphlet – a paper that allowed people far and wide to engage in the debate, even if just to listen in. As the times became tumultuous, the Pamphleteers grew in number. Soon newspapers were doing news and opinion.

Modern voices were amplified by radio and TV in the last century. That is when the Murrows and the Rathers held sway. Their voices were the loudest as the medium constricted the broader voice of America. The newspapers that criss-crossed this nation became echoes to the voices on TV and a few larger outlets like the NY Times.

Then came three letters which changed the world as we know it: www. Growing up on the internet has been an experience, I assure you. I was on the internet in the 1980′s when only a few of us knew what it was (and that includes one Senator Gore). The Internet had to come of age with websites and ISPs and tools so that ordinary people like myself could spend a few minutes a day pontificating. But it changed the world because no longer did the news media corporations control the debate. The Internet amplifies my voice world wide (and I see this in the locations of people reading this site). It is stunning to experience.

So Howard had a great subject to discuss, but sort of lost track. He did have some good moments, like this one:

I write again today about blogging because I believe it has become the most vibrant, innovative and controversial form of information delivery in the media world today.

Blogs are controversial because so many people can voice their opinions. It is vibrant and controversial to have opinions of high and low caliber available to the readers. But it also allows for dynamic and shifting alliances. Well known bloggers rally on one matter and erupt into open warfare on others – showing we are not monolithic thinkers (basically sheep at the knees of information masters).

The internet has forced the antique media (because it is rapidly losing its main stream status) to recognize the diversity of reality:

Why are the best blogs sometimes more compelling than the “Senator Jones said yesterday” style of too much newswriting? Because the bloggers have a voice and emotions and are speaking directly to you. Because they’re up front about their biases. Newspaper stories often seem like straitjackets, incremental, dulled-down, written in a sort of insider’s code. Plus, blogs are faster…

The blogs challenge the conventional thinking of reporters, who do little more than glance at a life’s work and attempt to pass judgement. Blogs allow experts in fields or those with experience to point to the flaws and fallacies of the journalists who barely grasp matters they try and report on. The facade has been ripped from reporting, and some are not happy. Take this comment in the Kurtz piece from the Weekly Standard’s Jonathan Last:

“Blogs can be a real force for good when they act as supra fact-checkers. They can add serious value when they quickly elevate experts in obscure topics to the fore of public discussion (see, for example, the Bush ‘National Guard memo’ fracas). And they have enormous potential to enable on-the-ground reporting when news happens suddenly or in remote locations. We’ve seen some of this potential realized, as in sites such as Iraq the Model, but not nearly so much as one might have hoped.

“Balanced against these goods are the pernicious effects of blogs: They elevate analysis over news-gathering; they value speed over judiciousness; and they encourage the practice of journalism to turn in on itself, to tend ever more toward navel-gazing.

Emphasis mine. I am reminded of why the Weekly Standard has the potential to be overtaken in this new medium. All topics are ‘obscure’ to those who do not make a career out of them. Try fixing your car without a competent mechanic. The insult here is only the Weekly Standard can know what there is to know in the non-obscure. Good luck trying!

The second blunder is analysis over ‘facts’. Anyone naive enough to assume what is printed in newspapers, spoken on TV or presented in the Weekly Standard are facts, and all the facts one needs to understand any subject, is a fool. Analysis is the essence of higher thought. I will toss out some Biological “news gathering” to demonstrate my point.

Reflex actions are responses to stimuli – stimuli being the act of our senses gathering information (news). Response to simple stimuli without analysis and thought is a reflex. Analsysis of facts and development of a measured response or reaction is called ‘thinking’. I can think of many insulting examples of people reacting to news without thinking.  The idea that thinking is wrong is ludicrous.
The marriage between the blogosphere and the reporter is now one where we bloggers are now the editors and challengers. We come in and say “did it ever occur to you Joe Wilson was working for the Kerry Campaign when he lashed out about Bush using known forgeries to go to war?” We challenge the reporters to dig farther, think beyond their blinders.  We are not trying to bug them, but do this  because it is so obvious they missed a lot of information which totally changes the story. Some can complain about this role – but it works. Reporters who grasp the concept will become better guardians of ‘facts’ than those that run from the challenges.

The bloggers are simply America’s voices, sometimes screaming in solo but many times in the harmony of a choir, letting the media and the pols know they missed something big. And analysis is our argument to our point. Get used to it – we are here to stay.

10 responses so far

10 Responses to “Blogs Are Modern Pamphleteers”

  1. wickedpinto says:

    he’s wrong.

    Blogs are conversations, when you don’t know if anyone will respond.

    and you never know if those who do mean what they say.

    Blogs are free speech in a VERY pure form, they are a soap box on the corner, only the person speaking never knows just who it is that hears.

    Blogs are speech, shotgun opinion, vapor thought, and the whistle of the winds that blow.

    Thats why they MUST be regulated by those who hate speach.

  2. MerlinOS2 says:

    Yup and when we had three tv networks and newspapers to be the majority sources , the only thing you could do is accept or reject their position. The only way you had to counter is the local editorial page or letters to your representatives. Both being less than effective and capable of being ignored.

    Now with the one two punch of Talk Radio and the Blogger environment the sloppy deadline meeting and/or agenda toting MSM is getting hammered.

    How many stories have been driven off a cliff at just the NYT in the last year?

  3. MerlinOS2 says:

    Aj I am pushing 60 now and predate your experience with the www

    My first exposure to computers was when I lived on a dairy farm in NY and the man who leased out half of the rather large house there took me to work with him one day to show me what he did at IBM. I still remember the impression of seeing that computer and getting a chance to actually walk around INSIDE it. Yup it filled a whole room.

    I started with an Altair computer and Byte Magazine and progressed from there

    My wife and I both ran BBS (Bullentin Board) systems on Fidonet, it is how we met. Fidonet was a parallel to the early www for the techies who couldn’t get access to the www.

    Our central hub controled and published a fidonet nodelist, equal to a once a week updated DNS system of today. Communication was mainly via Echoconferences which paralled the www newsgroup environment. Yup this was in the days of 2400 baud dialup.

    When I first got access to the net and logged on, there were less than 100 nodes in existence and I daily interacted with or just sat back and learned from postings of phd’s at motorola and such.

    Now I sit here each day in front of my computer and daytrade stocks, actually more correctly swing trade. I have multiple computers in the house on a local area network, including one that has four dual core opteron processors that serves only to scan the entire market feed in real time for patterns matching various models I have tuned it for. Also it is huristic and it learns and refines it’s recommendations to me.

    This machine I am on is based on a computer that the company builds to address the gaming market and I have ten 19 inch LCD monitors hooked to it for when I am trading. So now I can have multiple news sources,blogs, notepads and whatever else open at the same time and it makes a cut and paste wonderment. I have gone from 2400 baud dialup to now having seven 6meg dsl lines hooking up to a router that shares them all to my local area network.

    My how things have changed

  4. patch says:

    AJ,

    Allow me to blow my own horn. Here’s my website description:

    “During colonial times in America, if you wanted to convince or inform people about some issue that you considered important, you went to the local printer and got some pamphlets printed. You then handed them out, read them to anybody that was interested, nailed them to the town bulletin board, or the nearest tree. The first amendment was specifically written to protect this type of activity and the writers or “pamphleteers”.”

    My website has been on blospot since 2002, but I had another verison on Netscape for a short period of time staring in 2000.

    Glad to see the world is catching up with me. I’m very sad to see that Senator McCain and other members of the political class want to restrict this inalienable right.

  5. AJStrata says:

    Patch,

    I know your site very well! I have always been a bit jealous you were able to get such a great domain name. Then again, I would have to add the right person did get it!

  6. AJStrata says:

    Geez Merlin,

    You obviously have done well. I programmed initially on punch cards in Fortran, and my father worked on integrating the first dual processor IBM machines to support NASA. I use to ‘browse’ the early BBS’s back in the day.

    I have lots of computers and internal networks at home (and we run some websites), but nothing on your scale! Impressive.

  7. MerlinOS2 says:

    My first programming job was on an old Honeywell punchcard input system.

    The computer was about the size of a chest freezer and had a massive 8K of memory. There were 6 refrigerator size tape drives and two washmachine size 5mb hard disks

    Mostly wrote in RPG

  8. MerlinOS2 says:

    But there ya go.. I have always been a puter junkie

    The logic behind my screen handle tells it all
    Merlin was the prerelease code name for the project I worked on at IBM for the OS/2 operating system.

    The Altair was donated to a museum but I still have kicking around the house an old computer of mine that still works to this day.

    It is a rack mount Ohio Scientific C-3, which has onboard a z80, 6502 and 6800 processors that were software selectable to which was running, it has a 14 inch 74meg hard drive and a NEC Spinwriter printer and a Televideo Intertube smart serial terminal console.

  9. Snapple says:

    Here is my blog.

    I have a joke on it today about Ward Churchill. It is like those Matercard “Priceless” commercials.

    http://www.legendofpineridge.blogspot.com

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