February 17, 2005

Hear Ye, Fast Zombies

Posted by Jeremy Brown

I am a Gullible Ass

To put it another way: I am still a daily reader of the New York Times. I tell myself I’ve learned to separate the wheat from the chaff and the chaff from the manure. But a few days ago I let one piece of manure slip by me.

The offending kaka missile emerged from that recent NYT piece on how we pajama-clad bloggers are tearing across the country – at high-speed, just like those fast zombies in Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead – forsaking our sheltered nests out in places like Kansas and Iowa to invade the streets of New York City and rip out the hearts of our betters, namely people like Dan Rather and Eason Jordan.

Yes, well that sort of view is basically fine. It’s fairly funny, really. But the article quotes Jeff Jarvis in a very misleading way:

But while the bloggers are feeling empowered, some in their ranks are openly questioning where they are headed. One was Jeff Jarvis, the head of the Internet arm of Advance Publications, who publishes a blog at buzzmachine.com. Mr. Jarvis said bloggers should keep their real target in mind. “I wish our goal were not taking off heads but digging up truth,” he cautioned.

To which Jeff responds on his blog:

And, of course, that makes it look as if I'm wringing my hands over the morals of my fellow bloggers when, in fact, I'm worried about precisely what The Times is doing here: using this episode to call us a lynch mob. Here's what I said after that line:

We don't want to be positioned as the news lynch mob — which is where a radio interview yesterday tried to go — but as the press of the people. Of course, big media can be a lynch mob, too. But that doesn't mean it's an example we should follow.

What a handy 'snip.'

My initial reaction after reading the Times article on Monday was to reaffirm my solidarity with the opinions of one Jeff Jarvis as against those of the Jeff Jarvis with whom I bitterly disagreed in the NYT article. But, it seems, the latter Jeff Jarvis was an invention of the NYT reporters. Anyway, I feel I owe the real JJ an apology for thinking that straw effigy was him. Sorry about that.

My take on the Eason Jordan affair is that it’s a simple matter of accountability. And in this regard we the blogs are just a kind of community coalition taking media accountability into our own hands, the same way traditional community groups have taken it upon themselves to police the police or to put a small flame to the buttocks of their political representatives, etc. We the citizens are the boss of the police, of the courts, of the government and, ultimately, of the press. We literally own the broadcast spectrum, for one thing, so why wouldn’t we feel free to make a noise when a high ranking executive of a TV news network makes a serious charge without evidence, one that his network has not reported. All we wanted was to know what the hell had happened, what the man really meant. I don’t recall many bloggers calling for Jordan’s head on a pike. But so what if some had?

It wasn’t bloggers, or readers who fired Eason Jordan. CNN fired Eason Jordan (or accepted his resignation, as the case may be). Why? We don’t know, do we, since they won’t tell us. CNN seems quite happy to hide behind the cover of this bloggers-as-lynch-mob idea. Do we really have the power to defenestrate journalists we happen not to care for? I almost wouldn’t mind if we did. Bang! There goes Dowd, pumping gas. Pow! There’s Krugman scooping ice cream. Kablamachunk! Chomsky’s long-windedly explaining the Tilt-a-Whirl’s height requirement to a dazed Belgian child at Euro Disney.

But alas, bloggers don’t actually have that kind of juice.

Brent Bozell (hat tip: Captain’s Quarters) sums this up well:

Amazingly, most of the major “news” media avoided this news — especially CNN. So when Jordan resigned, it made the blogs seem so powerful that liberals started attacking them for recklessly destroying Jordan's career, even using goofy terms like “cyber-McCarthyism” to denounce it. But what the bloggers did here was deliver information and accountability, the same things the major media purport to be providing — unless it's one of their own in the hot seat.

An interesting footnote, via Jeff Jarvis, is this change in the headline of the NYT article cited above. It was, when I read it, “Bloggers as News Media Trophy Hunters” but it was subsequently changed to, “Resignation at CNN Shows the Growing Influence of Blogs.”

Posted by Jeremy Brown at February 17, 2005 10:10 PM
Winner, The 2007 Weblog Awards, Best Middle East or Africa Blog

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