Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Mirror Mirror on the Web

The blog world is feeling its oats these days; especially those on the right who see themselves as watchdogs of the media, now known as either the MSM or the "legacy media." They got a terrific boost a couple of months back when, Power Line uncovered CBS's reliance on a forged document to indict the president for failing to perform his required service in the National Guard.
But just because a blogger claims to have debunked something doesn't mean it is debunked. Hugh Hewitt writes at the Weekly Standard website about how low the big media has sunk. "IF OLD MEDIA--the 'legacy media' of the big papers and old networks plus the newsweeklies--was a city and not simply a set of gasping institutions, it would look like Stalingrad circa 1944. Parts of most of the virtual buildings are still standing, but the devastation is pretty complete." I can't help but note that he can't scrounge up a more recent example of an urbarn warfare debacle. Say . . . Fallujah, perhaps? But he also seems to think that just because a blog has attacked a big media source, that the blog must be correct. He say that the Belmont Club "scissor[ed]" the Associated Press's credibility and links to a post that is a confusing mess of accusations based in part on a letter sent by some guy to the aformentioned Power Line. The gist of the argument is that the AP is in cahoots with terrorists in order to be able to get pictures of their murders. If the anonymous blogger who goes by "Wretchard" has any solid evidence for this theory, I am not smart enough to glean it from his post.
I see this sort of thing frequently--a blogger claiming to have slain a giant when his stone actually bounced off Goliath harmlessly. The criticism also flows in only one direction--against stories threatening to the Bush administration and the Republican party. A few months back, before I started a blog, I saw an opportunity to have two rightwing sights correct an error that they had amplified. Back in May, Jonah Goldberg and Glenn Reynolds linked to a Boston Herald editorial critical of Al Gore. The problem was that the Herald took a quote and abriged it to such a degree that it was almost certainly the result of intentional dishonesty or extreme ideological blindness. the Herald said, "How dare Gore say that Americans have an 'innate vulnerability to use power to abuse others.' And that our own 'internal system of checks and balances cannot be relied upon' to curb such abuse. Here is is actual quote:

Our founders were insightful students of human nature.
They feared the abuse of power because they understood
that every human being has not only "better angels" in
his nature, but also an innate vulnerability to
temptation -- especially the temptation to abuse power
over others.Our founders understood full well that a
system of checks and balances is needed in our constitution
because every human being lives with an internal system of
checks and balances that cannot be relied upon to produce
virtue if they are allowed to attain an unhealthy degree of
power over their fellow citizens.

I naively thought it would be a simple matter to get Goldberg and Reynolds to admit that they had errantly publicized such an egregious howler. Alas the did not respond to my emails. Fortunately, I have friends in high places. I sent the links to Jesse Walker, and he put it all up on Reason's Hit & Run. Both bloggers ignored Walker's post and refused to correct their errant links to the Boston Herald editorial, although, I know that Reynolds makes occasional references to Reason's blog and to Walker's contributions to that blog.
I think blogs are swell. Heck, I even started one myself. But a few bloggers have a long way to go before they measure up to their inflated self-images.


Glaivester said...

I recall a posting in September on the BelmontClub blog (the one that caused me to sign up on Blogspot so I could post a response, leading to my own blog).
In this posting, Wretchard was quoting some newspaper article where a person had expressed doubt about the progress of the war. He zeroed in on a part where the person had said "despite the fact that casualties are lower than in April" and pointed out that "but, as he said, they ARE lower than in April."
The implication, of course, was that this showed that things were getting better.
In reality, of course, April had an unusually high casualty count, and taking a longer view, every month since April has had a higher total coalition hostile fatality count than any month before April except for November 2003 and the two months before the end of major combat operations on May 1, 2003.
In short, Wretchard's frequent use of statistics may give his postings more weight than they deserve.

Cletus said...

Mr. Stooksbury:

I've enjoyed your writings in LIBERTY---glad to see you're blogging!


Cletus Nelson

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