Friday, February 18, 2005

Do blogger's really need a Code of Ethics?

Apparently, some people think so.

How about, "If you get caught taking money to plug something other than what you believe, you're toast." The blogosphere is self-enforcing. Remember Kos' comment about the military contractors who were killed in Baghdad and their bodies hung on a bridge?

When blogs become profit centers, I suppose some will have to take the pledge, but if you're unethical enough to do the things mentioned in the code, you're not likely to mind lying on the pledge.

The last line is hilarious, "Just don�t call yourself a journalist when you�re cashing that check." Yeah, right. The whole journalism establishment is a shill for the Democrats. They feed off each other.

Still learning after all these years

I hate to admit this but I'm not an intellectual in the way that Gertrude Himmelfarb is. For one thing I was never a political radical and for another I have a tough time remembering "schools of thought" and referring to them in a single word. I think I understand libertarianism and conservatism, but there are all kinds of subclasses and nuances that I have trouble keeping straight.

This piece by Ms. Himmelfarb about Lionel Trilling showed me how far I am from being able to hold my own in a conversation with her. I'm not sure what she means by Trotsky-ite or T. S. Eliot's "religious politics." I've heard of Matthew Arnold and even read something by him, but his name doesn't have a set of associations for me the way, say, Charles Dickens does. This homage to Trilling, of whom I knew hardly anything, taught me how nuanced and subtle a lot of critical thinking and writing can be, and that we all have to be able to distinguish such things if we want to make sense of the world.

Himmelfarb focuses on an essay of Trilling's entitled "Elements That Are Wanted," in which "Trilling introduced his own radical friends, the readers of Partisan Review, to T.S. Eliot,. . ." and cautioned them to be mindful of their "pledge to the critical intellect." The title from a quote of Matthew Arnold "on the function of criticism: 'It must be apt to study and praise elements that for the fullness of spiritual perfection are wanted, even though they belong to a power which in the practical sphere may be maleficent.'" I'm not sure how to take that, but I think it means something like that critical minds must be able to recognize qualities that are worth seeking, even in people like Hitler or Stalin. I think Trilling was subtly telling them a lot of what Orwell wrote about in Animal Farm. He was suggesting that people shouldn't become so enamored to theory that they overlook evils results.
Marxism was not the only thing that Trilling (by way of Eliot) called into question. He challenged liberalism as well. Totalitarianism, Eliot had said, was inherently "pagan," for it recognized no authority or principle but that of the state. And liberalism, far from providing an alternative to paganism, actually contained within itself the seeds of paganism, in its materialism and relativism. Only Christianity, Eliot argued--the "Idea" of Christianity, not its pietistic or revivalist expressions--could resist totalitarianism, because only Christianity offered a view of man and society that promoted the ideal of "moral perfection" and "the good life." "I am inclined," Trilling quoted Eliot, "to approach public affairs from the point of view of the moralist."

Trilling hastened to qualify his endorsement of Eliot in "Elements That Are Wanted"; he did not believe morality was absolute or a "religious politics" desirable.
He was saying, if I get it, that society needs normative values to keep things from ranging so far that we forget what made us successful in the first place.
TRILLING WAS RESPONDING to the problem George Orwell had posed so dramatically in Nineteen Eighty-Four. Reviewing that book when it appeared in 1949, Trilling made clear that Orwell was not, as liberals liked to think, merely attacking Soviet communism. "He is saying, indeed, something no less comprehensive than this: that Russia, with its idealistic social revolution now developed into a police state, is but the image of the impending future and that the ultimate threat to human freedom may well come from a similar and even more massive development of the social idealism of our democratic culture." A few years later, reviewing another book by Orwell, Trilling repeated this theme: "Social idealism" is not the only thing that can be perverted into tyranny; so can any idea "unconditioned" by reality. "The essential point of Nineteen Eighty-Four is just this, the danger of the ultimate and absolute power which the mind can develop when it frees itself from conditions, from the bondage of things and history."
This is why conservatives believe in the value of religion even as we affirm that there should be no state church. Government power has a way of corrupting the most well-meaning people. This is an essential for us to remember as we grapple with issues like separation of church and state, gay marriage, socialism and entitlement programs. For example, nobody could object to the ideal of helping the poor, but whether eliminating poverty should be a goal of government.

I hope I got the point. If I did, it's extremely important, and is mostly lost on modern liberalism of Barbara Boxer, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and Ted Kennedy.

Post Facto Justification?

Norm Geras has a great post pointing out that those claiming that those who advocated the war in Iraq argued only in terms of WMDs and attacking terrorism are wrong. They have their own rhetoric confused with reality. They have repeated the "Bush Lied!" mantra so often they can't see anything else.

Noemie Emery has an excellent piece this week in The Weekly Standard about the disarray of the Democrats:
[A] small diehard clique of old-line insurgents hiding out in the depths of the U.S. Senate decided to make confirmation hearings for Condoleezza Rice the venue of a bomb-throwing session, on the basis of two cherished liberal theories: one, that the war in Iraq is an utter catastrophe; and two, that while criticism of liberal nonwhites and women is always racist and sexist in nature, nonwhites and women who are right-wing or centrist are less than "authentic," and therefore deserve what they get. Thus, Margaret Carlson in the Los Angeles Times found nothing amiss in Boxer's calling Rice a liar and a lackey,
but insisted Boxer's critics were somehow attacking all women.
And that's just the beginning.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

If this is true . . .

Jimmy Carter is a traitor, plain and simple. Not only is this treasonous, it's hypocritical and petty. He reminds me of Bill Moyers and Walter Cronkite with their mild and avuncular manners while they hold the majority of their fellow Americans in contempt.

One of the things that has always puzzled me is the naive belief on the left that if we just disarm, our enemies will see our good faith and drop theirs. They remind me of Saddam Hussein's two late sons-in-law. Can such people be given any input into the foreign policy of this country?

Saw this on Brit Hume's Grapevine

Apparently Ian Williams who covers the U.N. for The Nation Magazine is also employed by the U.N. Ian is no relation I could see to Armstrong Williams.

Why bloggers from the left aren't worrying the MSM

What's the deal with this Gannon/Guckert guy? Apparently not much, but a lot of lefties seem to be hyperventilating over him. When did they start getting qualms about gay prostitutes?

Fighting Back

I suspect that a lot of people loved this story about a bunch of GreenPeaceniks getting more than they bargained for when they tried to storm the International Petroleum Exchange and got beaten up by the traders. These jerks are used to being obnoxious with impunity, but not this time. One thing the French really did right was to sink GreenPeace's ship, the Rainbow Warrior, when it tried to interfere with nuclear tests in the South Pacific.

Donald Rumsfeld apparently had enough of being sniped at by members of the House Armed Services Committee. He announced that he would be taking a break and then going to another hearing, "At 12:54, he announced that at 1 p.m. he would be taking a break and then going to another hearing in the Senate. 'We're going to have to get out and get lunch and get over there,' he said. When the questioning continued for four more minutes, Rumsfeld picked up his briefcase and began to pack up his papers. I saw a clip of him being questioned by Loretta Sanchez and it reminded me of an old bulldog being barked at by a puppy. It was pretty obvious that he was being asked the same questions he had already answered over and over and that Sanchez was preening. Good for him.

Update: Here' an hilarious excerpt from the exchange with Sanchez.

Eason gone, but not forgotten

Peggy Noonan doesn't seem to agree with the infamous WSJ editorial chastising bloggers for "hounding" Eason Jordan.

Bret Stephens appeared on Hugh Hewitt's program to discuss the editorial, the Jordan "kerfuffle" and his own snarky remarks about bloggers.

Having read the bloggers and Mr. Stephens' Opinion Journals piece, I can't really see any reason for the touchiness of the WSJ. The story about Jordan's assertion would have been off the blogs by now if he had answered it and released the video, but he fell into the Nixon trap, trying to stonewall the people asking questions. Bret Stephens has shown a pretty thin skin and a touch of paranoia on the whole thing. What I don't understand is why he or CNN feels so threatened by blogs? I sense more than a little irrational fear in his email to Hugh Hewitt:
But you and I both are in this media business, and you and I both are liable to have our every word scrutinized, and potentially distorted. And one day, it won't be the Eason Jordans of the world the blogosphere comes after; it will be the Hugh Hewitts and Bret Stephens's. It's at that point that we'll be very grateful indeed for the better standards and decent instincts of civilized, serious journalism.
It seems to me that Stephens' big complaint is that he was falsely accused of writing the editorial dismissing bloggers efforts to find out what Jordan really thinks and said. That brought out some criticism of him that, in my opinion, he should get used to if he wants to stay in high-profile job where he supervises the work of others. I'm not really interested in gossip about him, but I think it's pretty weak to dismiss serious questions and a serious story with "you're not real journalists, so shut up."

I'm pretty bored with this story now, except for the curious fallout. Why did Jordan really resign? Do bloggers really have that kind of power? And what is it with journalists who think that they're the only ones qualified to decide what news the public is allowed access to? This snotty "professionalism" bit ill becomes anybody who claims to believe in the people's right to know.

One blogger has suggested that the Valentine's Day editorial was written by Best of the Web's James Taranto. Taranto's response sounds like an admission and a follow-up tweak:
Isn't this a perfect example of how bloggers are amateurs (amateur: "one who engages in a pursuit, study, science, or sport as a pastime rather than as a profession")? If David enjoys puzzling over the authorship of newspaper editorials, more power to him--but it's hard to imagine anyone making a living that way.

There's also something sweet in how the bloggers have taken such offense at the editorial. Rather than bask in their victory, they are focused on letting the world know how much they crave the approval of the big boys at the Journal.
Anybody who reads Best of the Web knows that Taranto likes to twist noses, but this reaction strikes me as pretty arrogant. The Eason Jordan remark at Davos wasn't the first time he had made such outrageous statements, and the fact that he was in a position with a lot of power over a major news organization makes it a story that deserved more attention. I don't know why the WSJ wants to shield him, but it suggests that the "Good Ole Boy" syndrome extends even to big conservative papers.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Future Echos

Some experiments suggest that there may be a physical phenomenon which signals events before they happen. I keep seeing articles that say time is not real, and that there is no reason why time shouldn't run in reverse, but I can't get my mind around what this means.

Finally, I concluded that perhaps time is just the way we experience our lives, but seen from another dimension, the whole of time is like an historical mural. A person who was in the mural would experience it the way we experience time, but those outside who view the mural can see the past and the future of persons in it. How would those inside the "mural" world see those outside? As gods, maybe.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

If bloggers are vigilantes, are journalists the sheriff?

Note this statement by David Gergen on The Newshour:
. . . [I]n this particular instance there were not only those who were pressing I think not unfairly for a release but there were those who were out for his scalp. And there was a vigilante justice kind of quality here of people who were going after Eason Jordan not because of what he said but because of what he represented,
Now reread it, but substitute George Bush for Eason Jordan and change the context to Bush's National Guard record. Does this logic apply to what Dan Rather and 60 Minutes II did?

The key is the term "vigilante" which refers to a bunch of people acting without authority who take the law into their own hands. Does Gergen imply that you have to have some kind of government authority to be allowed to write about such matters?

Update: Eugene Volokh makes a similar point. Lynch mobs kill people. Bloggers only criticize them. Nobody from the blogosphere forced Jordan to resign, they don't have that power. If the people who wrap themselves in the First Amendment don't understand the difference, they shouldn't be claiming the banner of a free press.

And Instapundit illustrates that the blogosphere has the clearest points about this:
Well, everybody does screw up, and there's nothing unforgivable about screwing up. What's unforgivable is either deliberately misleading, or following a screwup with denials and stonewalls. The defensiveness with which a lot of Big Media folks are responding to this topic suggest to me that either they're unable to imagine a swift and open correction, or that their work is even worse than we think . . . .

Another Blow for Journalism

The mythical constitutional privilege of journalists to protect their sources, has been dealt a hammer blow today in the Valerie Plame leak case. The DC Circuit Court has held that there is no such privilege in the Constitution. To me, the reporters in this case were accomplices of the leaker, and if he/she was guilty of violating the law (a conclusion I'm not convinced of), so were they.

Blog Brother

The blogosphere is free speech and free press made real. So much is said about a monolithic crowd called "bloggers" and "the blogosphere," that one would think it was as regimented and uniform as the MSM. The thing is, that's like saying "the people" are some ominous, dangerous power that shouldn't be trusted. The election was won by a narrow margin. A lot of people, including a lot of bloggers, hate George Bush.

Yet, critics from the world of journalism keep insisting that bloggers must be unreliable because we are "unedited" and comparing us to a lynch mob, a crowd of drooling morons. If they really believe in the First Amendment, and that news reporting is a search for truth, why are they so anxious to rid themselves of these meddlesome amateurs?

I have been impressed by the difference between today's press and that of the time the Bill of Rights was enacted. Papers in those days were a lot like bloggers. They attacked politicians and each other with gusto. The readers were required to read the news with some skepticism and consider a range of arguments. That atmosphere disappeared some time ago. and Bloggers aren't going away, and the writhing of journalists really proves how sorely they have needed someone to hold them accountable.

Heroes or villains?

The Washington Times names names.

More on Eason Jordan

Duane Patterson fisks this handwringer by James D. Miller on Tech Central Station entitled "Will Blogs Produce a Chilling Effect?"

I also thought Miller's article was fatuous. The claim that bloggers "brought down" a number of prominent figures is itself overstated. If bloggers are so ignorant, such salivating morons and such lynch mob of Lilliputians, why did anybody pay attention to them? Where's the courage, if Jordan thought he was right? He tried to back away from his remarks, but he had too much of a history of saying stupid things. His problem was that too many people familiar with his previous remarks saw this "targeting journalists" assertion as less a misstatement than a Freudian slip, exposing his true feelings.

Bloggers only have the power that comes from being read. The complaints of Jordan's friends about him being lynched, don't make sense. The credibility of certain bloggers and the loss of credibility of the MSM aren't due to some vast right wing conspiracy. They're due to the fact that the former have a track record of making sense and the latter are reacting to criticism like powerful people have always done.
I tend to agree with Jay Rosen:
I don't think he should have resigned. I don't know why he did. Neither the public overlooking this sad event, nor the participants in it know why Eason Jordan quit. No reasons have been given, beyond saving CNN the trouble of a controversy.

That's not a reason. If CNN is a real news network, why shouldn't it have the trouble of a controversy now and then? I think anyone interested in serious journalism would agree that what are called news values come out during times when the network is criticized, called to defend itself, attacked by political interests, or otherwise under pressure. No executive can succeed in news who is not nimble in public controversy. Eason Jordan knows that.
So who's to blame for this fiasco? What do the media say when some politician blames them for covering some scandal?

Is there a "chilling effect" by blogs? Does it threaten free speech? I'm reminded of this prophecy delivered on November 1, 1831:
For verily the voice of the Lord is unto all men, and there is none to escape; and there is no eye that shall not see, neither ear that shall not hear, neither heart that shall not be penetrated.

And the rebellious shall be pierced with much sorrow; for their iniquities shall be spoken upon the housetops, and their secret acts shall be revealed.
That's pretty chilling, but it's being fulfilled in our time. And I don't think there is any way to roll it back. But note that only those with something to hide need worry. As is frequently noted, it's the stonewalling and attempts at covering up that do the real damage.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Who lost Jordan?

I'm getting tired of the meme that bloggers "brought down" Eason Jordan. Bloggers aren't headhunters, but they don't ignore big stories that land in front of them and raise a lot of obvious questions.

I think this post via TKS speaks for me:
I think what I really wanted was the truth to come out. I wanted the tape to be released so that everyone could be as revolted as I was and that by consensus EVERYONE (CNN shareholders, CNN viewers, journalists, bloggers, conservatives, etc) would want him to step down.
I didn't really care what happened to Eason Jordan. I didn't watch CNN anyway, but I knew Jordan from his earlier confession in the NYTimes, and this incident just confirmed my feeling that CNN doesn't have a clue.

There isn't a pack of baying hounds out in the blogosphere looking for journalists to bring down, but when you go surfing with a bleeding wound, don't blame the sharks when they gather.

The other big story . . .

is that the Shiites won the Iragi elections. It's being played by the media as a victory for Iran, which is run by a junta of Shiite mullahs. I don't know if that is true or not. Iraqi Shiites are not too likely to favor grabbing absolute government power, as the Ayatollahs of Iran have. Time will tell.

Update: Well, that didn't take long. Pejman Yousefzadeh has already reacted to the WaPo story linked above, and is linking others' comments.

Ain't the blogosphere wonderful?