Attack of the Blogs Dumb Journalists

1114Daniel Lyon heaves a big ole rock at a hornet’s nest in the upcoming Forbes, opening fire at Bloggers in a column called Attack of the Blogs.

Allow me to open and close nominations for what is a surefire winner for the dumbest dead tree cover story ever written award:

Lyon’s article is stunningly errant in its lack of understanding of oh so many things, one does not even know where to begin. Its simply dumb in too many ways to count.

But what the hell, lets give it the old college try:

Let’s start with the basic principle that bloggers are but a drop in the ocean in an enormous mainstream media sea. 99% of blogs get almost no traffic. Even this blog, which is (just barely) in the Truth Laid Bare Top 100, gets less than 10,000 hits per day.

Compare that with the circulation of major newspapers, magazines, TV stations, radio, etc. The blogosphere is totally dwarfed by mainstream media. It makes one wonder about the foolish strategic error of elevating the "enemy" to one’s own level. Why give free press to your opponent, most especially if he is much smaller than you? There’s a reason established candidates with double digit poll leads don’t debate their lesser challengers.

Of course, if the Mainstream Media were doing their jobs better, the blogosphere might not have any clout at all; bloggers merely stepped in to fill the huge void developed when the Press stopped doing what they were supposed to do.

The anti-bloggers might consider this in more detail: the Fourth Estate has utterly failed its charge to be the vigorous watchdog and counter-weight to government and corporate interests this countries founders  envisioned it to be. This has been increasingly so over the past 10 years. Budget cuts have sliced funding for hard hitting investigative journalism; the focus on ratings has mostly neutered television news; the obsessive focus on sensationalism (think OJ or Lacie Peterson or Michael Jackson trials) is an outgrowth of the cult of superficial celebrity worship. The FCC has allowed the Public airwaves to stay in the hands of those whose appreciation and understanding of the privilege seems to be ever decreasing.

That’s before we even get to the sheer hypocrisy — this coming from Forbes, who has been running an ongoing "Best of the Blogs" section for several years now. It even makes one suspect that the purposefully irritant story is a corporate gadfly attack designed to generate some controversy, buzz and sales in the style of the  shrill blonde harpy.

As to that hornet’s nest, criticism has already begun coming from too many places to count. boing boing, Doc  Searls, techdirt, Micro Persuasion, live journal, Infectious Greed, et. al. all criticize how poorly tohught out and argued the column was. Even BusinessWeek was compelled to note how bad the advice given in a related Forbes sidebar (Fighting Back).

But without a doubt the best response was a clever bit of satire by Kurt Opsahl, an EFF attorney. He parallels the Forbes drivel in a brilliant send up titled Attack of the Printing Press! Substituting the words "Printing Press" and "pamphleteers" for "Blogs," he places the entire debate in the setting of the US revolution with devastating effectiveness:

Printing presses are the prized platform of a public lynch mob spouting liberty but spewing lies, libel and invective. Their potent allies in this pursuit include Ben Franklin and John Hancock.

Take the tea tax. Revenue was coming, providing much needed funding to help with his Majesty’s benevolent aims in the colonies.

Then the pamphleteers attacked. A supposed crusading journalist launched a broadsheet long on invective and wobbly on facts, posting articles with his printing press calling your King "deceitful,""unethical,""incredibly stupid" and "a pathological liar" who had misled the colonists. The author claimed to be “Silence Dogood,” a middle-aged widow who started a one-woman "watchdog" pamphlet, to expose alleged regal excess…

Printing presses started being used a few years ago as a simple way for people to publish bibles. Suddenly they are the ultimate vehicle for insulting His Majesty, personal attacks, political extremism and smear campaigns. It’s not easy to fight back: Often a bashing victim can’t even figure out who his attacker is. No target is too mighty, or too obscure, for this new and virulent strain of oratory. King George has been hammered by pamphleteers; so have the Penn family, King Louis XIV, two research boutiques that criticized separatist colonials, the maker of scotch whiskey, a Virginia governor outed as a homosexual and dozens of other victims—even a right-wing pamphleteer who dared defend a printing press-mob scapegoat.

"Pamphleteers are more of a threat than people realize, and they are only going to get more toxic. This is the new reality," says the Governor of New York, "There is bad information out there in the pamphlets, and you have only hours to get ahead of it and cut it off, especially if it’s juicy."

Read the entire piece.

If it wasn’t for that pesky First Amendment . . .

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Sources:
Attack of the Printing Press!   
Kurt Opsahl
Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), October 28, 2005
http://www.eff.org/deeplinks/archives/004105.php

Attack of the Blogs
Daniel Lyons, 11.14.05
On The Cover/Top Stories
http://www.forbes.com/business/forbes/2005/1114/128.html

THE UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION
http://www.house.gov/Constitution/Constitution.html

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