September 11, 2006

"Best not to pick a fight with people who have gigabytes of text at their disposal unless you are interested in a duel on equal footing."

Well, it's not as catchy as don't pick a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel, but that's what the NYT is saying ought to replace the old saying. The point is that MSM needs to catch on that blogs even out the fight:
Professional reputations and affiliations with mainstream institutions don’t offer any cover — not The New Republic, not CBS and not The New York Times. [Lee] Siegel was obviously driven slightly batty by the new medium, even calling it “blogofascism,” a term that brought much ridicule down on his head.

He has since calmed down and has his regrets.

“People of course have a right to question a critic’s judgment, but there’s a difference between doing that and merely insulting someone you disagree with,” he said in a phone call. “So I wildly created an over-the-top persona and adopted the tone of my attackers, when I should have just gone to the gym instead.”

41 comments:

Impacted Wisdom Truth said...

I would say, "never pick a fight with someone who buys bandwidth by the terabyte."

Ann Althouse said...

Buys? I get all I want for nothing.

John said...

How about: "Never pick a fight unless you can defend yourself with principles rather than emotion."?

That plays regardless of the medium.

SippicanCottage said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Simon Kenton said...

Don't you love the woundedness of it? All this time we've been able to duel from our lofty position above the hoi polloi, and now the damned upstarts are actually forcing an equal position on us.

Daily pedantry - Innocent II's proscription of the use of the art of the crossbow being used on Catholic or Christian gentlemen; it was just too damned effective. And, of course, the outrage of the (surviving) French at Crecy when they learned what peasants with longbows and bodkin-pointed arrows could do to armored knights. For all those centuries we could just ride through them, hacking til our arms grew weary, with their pathetic cudgels and pikes and hayrakes bouncing off us. Now, the condescension curdles and the journalists face the deluge.

Henry said...

Used to be the critics were writers and the monsters of self-pity were pop stars. Maybe Lee Siegel could chill with some Graham Parker:

Some people are in charge of pens
That shouldn't be in charge of brooms
They have the nerve to rip up a man's life
In a paragraph or two


Or Elvis Costello:

And I thought I heard "the Working Man's Blues"
I went to work last night and wasted my breath
Outside they're painting tar on somebody
It's the closest to a work of art that they will ever be.


So sad to be a misunderstood genius.

SippicanCottage said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
michael a litscher said...

As blogger Ken Layne said back in 2001, "We can fact-check your ass."

michael a litscher said...

A more complete quote: "This is the Internet: we can fact-check your ass!"

Fenrisulven said...

I'm trying to imagine just how much the media got away with before the blogosphere. Rather was the first victim, but the CBS foregeries and stonewall were very sloppy.

Why is that so important? Cheaters are usually caught because they get sloppy - like the cheating husband who stops bothering to check his collar for lipstick or shower after an enounter - they simply tire of investing energy into their deception.

And that tells me they've been cheating us for a very long time.

Slocum said...

Siegel should have adopted Brad DeLong's approach to dealing with troublesome hoi polloi -- the 'sock assassin' is much more effective than the 'sock puppet'. Don't argue with your critics, just silently delete their comments (and if anybody else complains, delete the complaints too). A few traces of the deleted comments may remain in the thread in the form of responses to non-existent entries, but that serves pour dencourager les autres.

Sock puppetry gets you fired, but sock assassination seems to not to arouse much comment.

knoxgirl said...

For so long, the MSM were all conveniently insulated from criticism. The worst they could possibly face was an irate letter to the editor, easily shrugged off. But now, when bloggers expose them to the harsh light they so mercilessly shine on others (and heartily patted themselves on the back for), they freak.

Puts me in mind of other recent events...

knoxgirl said...

apologies in advance for any double-posting, blogger's not showing my comments when I refresh.

Balfegor said...

Daily pedantry - Innocent II's proscription of the use of the art of the crossbow being used on Catholic or Christian gentlemen; it was just too damned effective. And, of course, the outrage of the (surviving) French at Crecy when they learned what peasants with longbows and bodkin-pointed arrows could do to armored knights. For all those centuries we could just ride through them, hacking til our arms grew weary, with their pathetic cudgels and pikes and hayrakes bouncing off us.

Journalism subjected to popular criticism/mockery = good in my book.

Cavalry => Longbows => crossbows => cannons, rifles => machine guns => tanks => mustard gas => nerve gas => ballistic missiles => nuclear weapons => anthrax . . . not so much.

I'm not so keen on the escalation of warmaking technologies. It's all very well to crow about how many noblemen the lowly peasant can kill, but I am not sure that the path of improving efficiencies in man-butchery is a particularly happy one. And of course, on this day of all days, we should remember that the modern equivalent of the lowly peasant using his crossbow to stick it to the haughty mounted knight is a small band of Mahometan terrorists seizing control of a jet airliner and piloting it into a Manhattan skyscaper.

Not the most felicitous metaphor.

Seven Machos said...

I'm not so keen on the escalation of warmaking technologies.

What are you gonna do about it?

Balfegor said...

What are you gonna do about it?

Nothing. I have still not resigned myself to the collapse of European civilisation in 1914. If only! If only! It would be so much better dealing with the Sultan, and even lesser potentates like the Khedive too.

Doyle said...

I can't help but get the feeling that Ann has a bit of a soft spot for Siegel/Sprezzatura; that she knows what it's like to get savaged for writing terrible blog posts, and has maybe even been tempted to "go to the sock drawer."

..but maybe I'm reading too much into this excerpt.

Fenrisulven said...

Not the most felicitous metaphor.

Most of the hijackers came from middle-class backgrounds. They were not peasants in any sense of the word.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0060584696

Before the crossbow, wasn't coup counted by how many peasants the Knight's slaughtered? Two armies would face off, sending their knights to attack the other's peasant foot-soldiers? My only recollection comes from T.H. White's "Once and Future King", which is fiction, but borrows heavily from Mallory. Just curious.

AJ Lynch said...

Think about all the really interesting stuff the MSM could be writing about if it did not abhor the internet and bloggers.

Do you think the MSM newspapers will ever have an "internet section" comparable to the TV section they have had for 30-40 years?

Let's face it- the internet is where a lotta readers go for entertainment so why not report on those places the readers may like to learn about- you know like Althouse.

bearbee said...

who is Lee Siegel?

altoids1306 said...

Siegel should have adopted Brad DeLong's approach to dealing with troublesome hoi polloi -- the 'sock assassin' is much more effective than the 'sock puppet'. Don't argue with your critics, just silently delete their comments (and if anybody else complains, delete the complaints too).

I think bloggers have a right to delete comments if they want, even if the comments are not offensive, and simply expressing a view contrary to the blogger. Not a terribly honest thing to do, but it is their blog, and there's no reason why they must allow others to use their pedestal to express their opinions.

Balfegor said...

Most of the hijackers came from middle-class backgrounds. They were not peasants in any sense of the word.

You miss my point -- the Third World was, up until 9-11, essentially powerless in the face of our arms. Arguably, this changed with the French debacles in Algeria and Vietnam, etc, but 9-11 was the first large-scale, effective, offensive projection of power by a nonindustrialised community or organisation. The fact that Bin Laden is/was rich as a Bond villain doesn't really have any bearing on this.

Before the crossbow, wasn't coup counted by how many peasants the Knight's slaughtered? Two armies would face off, sending their knights to attack the other's peasant foot-soldiers? My only recollection comes from T.H. White's "Once and Future King", which is fiction, but borrows heavily from Mallory. Just curious.

I am . . . fairly certain that Mallory (Le Morte d'Arthur) is just as fictional as The Once and Future King. In any event, the period Arthur is supposed to describe would have to be between the collapse of Imperial authority in Britain (ca. 400) and Alfred the Great (end of 9th century). The ban on crossbows, if it occurred, comes in the 11th or 12th century, considerably after.

I am certainly not an expert in mediaeval war, but I do not think the power differential between mounted knights and infantry formations was quite as disparate as you portray it. After all, in the Battle of Tours (732, Charles Martel halts the Muslim advance), Christian infantry successfully resists (and basically routs) the Muslim cavalry. It's exceptional, perhaps, but infantry certainly wasn't nothing back then.

SteveR said...

I know for me to a large degree, the MSM media and how they deal with bloggers and the internet is a non issue, I get what I want from whichever source is better and more convenient.

I haven't held the MSM in high esteem for a long time, it was easy (for me) to assume they were wrong or slanted about many things.

Fenrisulven said...

I am . . . fairly certain that Mallory (Le Morte d'Arthur) is just as fictional as The Once and Future King.

Right, but I thought he peppered his fiction with historically accurate day-to-day routines.

Regardless, I am woefully off-topic and Ann is about to smite me :)

Thanks for the short history lesson. Very interesting.

Simon Kenton said...

Balfegor -

"You miss my point -- the Third World was, up until 9-11, essentially powerless in the face of our arms. Arguably, this changed with the French debacles in Algeria and Vietnam, etc, but 9-11 was the first large-scale, effective, offensive projection of power by a nonindustrialised community or organisation. The fact that Bin Laden is/was rich as a Bond villain doesn't really have any bearing on this."

I'd argue this is precisely the point. I'm inclined to write that there is no Muslim technology that is not derivative or directly purchased. I don't have enough knowledge to say that for certain, but I bet even the Althouse commenters will have to go back to 0 and algebra to instance any. At any rate, what is the source of their weapons and their weapons programs? In small arms, AK-47s and Rugers and M16s; can you name a muslim-designed, muslim-manufactured rifle or pistol? Or for the matter of that, a muslim advance in nuclear technology? Have they any missles they haven't derived from Chinese Russian and North Korean technology (which in turn has come from ill-advised technology transfers in the 1992 - 1999 period, and from industrial espionage). They can fight with what they can buy, and they can buy with the money we have paid them for oil or gifted them for 'aid.' They attack us with tools and weapons their intellectual climate does not permit them to invent or manufacture.

Elizabeth, remind you of Milo Minderbender?

Fenrisulven said...

I haven't held the MSM in high esteem for a long time, it was easy (for me) to assume they were wrong or slanted about many things.

Likewise, but I had always assumed they were intelligent. The blogosphere stripped that away from them. I am constantly amazed at the stupid remarks and defenses coming from "esteemed" writers and editors who are "considered brilliant by their peers" [Mapes].

Has anyone read her book? I have a copy as a trophy. Its an astonishing read. How could anyone like her wind up at the top of CBS?

Balfegor said...

I'd argue this is precisely the point. I'm inclined to write that there is no Muslim technology that is not derivative or directly purchased.

So? I rather doubt that European peasants developed crossbows themselves. They borrowed the technology from China, which had been using crossbows for a thousand years at that point.

Tying this back to the analogy, bloggers did not develop the internet (Al Gore did! Haha). Or even, in most cases, develop blogging technology. True, as Ann notes above, they're not paying for anything (Google or someone is picking up the tab, here), but all the same -- whether the technology is borrowed or native doesn't really have an effect on the shift in power relations it brings about.

Or, in the case of warmaking technologies, on how many people it kills.

Fenrisulven said...

Or how wmany if defends.

I'm sure the peasants were thrilled to have crossbows.

Pogo said...

Balfegor: "whether the technology is borrowed or native doesn't really have an effect on the shift in power relations it brings about"

You're quite wrong, I think. VD Hanson (among others) has hashed this out at length elsewhere, so I won't reattempt it. Civilizations that lack innovation, especially those that actively condemn it in their own culture, tend to lose.

Yes, they can learn to use modern weapons. No, they can't get to the next level and surpass their foe. They are always one step behind.

P. Froward said...

Pogo, learning to use modern weapons is actually problematic for non-modern societies. Modern weapon systems usually require a lot of technology and education to maintain and use them effectively. Ours do, anyway. AK-47s and RPGs don't, and not by accident. But you can only make a certain degree of complexity peasant-friendly: I'm not sure you can clean a Sukhoi by urinating in it.

Wickedpinto said...

The US has APR, 1.4 active military.

Our 1.4 can SLAUGHTER the 100 mil that China always expresses.

Numbers are insignificant, GREATNESS, is important.

Theres a difference, but I don't trust academics to understand that.

Not MUCH offense madam ann.

Kirk Parker said...

Belfegor,

"I have still not resigned myself to the collapse of European civilisation in 1914."

Admittedly it was a big mess. But surely you don't think there was a force anywhere in the universe strong enough to prop up the Hapsburgs much longer, do you?

"How could anyone like [Mapes] wind up at the top of CBS?"

Well, a nasty thought occurs to me, but as it is purely conjecture I probably shouldn't venture to say anything--except that it's gotta be so intellectually if nothing more.

J. Peden said...

Perhaps the MSM hopes the Endangered Species Act will protect it?

Slocum said...

I think bloggers have a right to delete comments if they want, even if the comments are not offensive, and simply expressing a view contrary to the blogger. Not a terribly honest thing to do, but it is their blog, and there's no reason why they must allow others to use their pedestal to express their opinions.

That illustrates my point exactly -- tailoring the conversation by deleting comments you don't like is considered perhaps mildly dishonest but acceptable ("it's their blog, after all") whereas tailoring the conversation by adding sock-puppet comments is considered shameful enough that firing may result (the "it's their blog after all" argument falls flat).

Given those constraints, why ever engage in 'heavy handed' sock puppetry on your blog when deleting comments you don't like is so much easier and more effective?

The inconvenient comments just disappear, and, even better, those whose contributions tend to get nuked either: a) go away and don't come back, or b) learn to self-sensor. After a while the 'commentariat' that remains consists of those who were pliable in the first place and/or who also learned to self-sensor by seeing the example of comments that 'went over the line' disappear.

The result is that, after a while, the body of commenters is shaped and brought to heel and less and less comment deletion is required. The threads still *appear* to be open and free-wheeling but it's an illusion.

Pogo said...

Re: "The threads still *appear* to be open and free-wheeling but it's an illusion."

Not at all; and your characterization implies there's a level of dishonesty present in doing so. A blog with comments get a reputation for the acceptability of content, and there is no illusion of total freedom, except for the foolish.

Instead, bloggers dictate varying degrees of civility for their comments as part of their style. Sometimes it's explicit, sometimes it's ad hoc. But it's not hidden.

And I'm not so clear what's superior about 'free-wheeling' anyway. Usually that means someone wants to act like a toddler without consequences, then complains when they're not allowed to draw on the walls and break stuff.

Fenrisulven said...

I think bloggers have a right to delete comments if they want, even if the comments are not offensive, and simply expressing a view contrary to the blogger. Not a terribly honest thing to do, but it is their blog, and there's no reason why they must allow others to use their pedestal to express their opinions.

I disagree. If Ann started deleting Lefty comments [I'm on the Right] simply because they were contrary, I would lose all interest in her blog. If you are going to throw an opinion out to the public, then they have every right to respond. Otherwise its just talking points like DU or KOS.


OTH, obvious trolls should be dealt with harshly. Deleted the first time with a warning, banned the second.

Goesh said...

"I think bloggers have a right to delete comments if they want,.." (Altoids1306)

Darn right they do! I don't let people in my home that are unwashed or intoxicated. Once people are in my home, I don't tolerate profanity, racism or gross ignorance either and I won't tolerate anyone coming to my home simply to argue, even politely, with me. There are many places where I have to tolerate some of this, but not in my home. If I had a blog, it would be like my home.

Fenrisulven said...

/related: MSM incompetence & corruption

Is the Guardian really this incompetent, that neither its reporter nor its editors pay attention to their own stories, or is something else going on? In 2003, the Guardian says Bush "admits", then three years later does the same thing, in neither case saying when Bush made the claim. Any suspicions that the Guardian is a newspaper rather than a tiresome propoganda rag are once again eliminated.

http://www.atlanticblog.com/archives/002211.html

Icepick said...

Belfegor wrote: I have still not resigned myself to the collapse of European civilisation in 1914.

To which Kirk Parker replied: Admittedly it was a big mess. But surely you don't think there was a force anywhere in the universe strong enough to prop up the Hapsburgs much longer, do you?

To speak out of turn (especially since I'm sure Balfegor would express it better), I don't believe he refers the Hapsburgs, Hohenzoellerns or Romanovs loosing power.

WWI represented a crushing blow to the old order, including the constitutional monarchies (eg Britain) and the Republics (eg France) of Europe, as well as to the absolute (to varying degrees) monarchies and the system of international relations that had evolved since the end of the Napoleanic wars. People lost faith in the old forms of government and culture. To satisfy their needs the peoples of Europe often turned to newer ways such as Fascism, Communism and Nazism.

The Europeans also lost faith in colonialism, and gradually withdrew from the world stage, mostly leaving governmental incompetence and badly damaged cultures in their wake. (This was also partly a function of demographics, as First World medical and farming practices led to huge population growth that the Third World could have never accomplished by its own resources.)

The last 90+ years of history can be seen as reaction to the events of 1914.

(There is more than that, of course. The growth of science and technology in that period has been astonishing. The hard sciences are the last playground of the old European Enlightenment, so even there Europe still dominates recent world history....)

Slocum said...

Instead, bloggers dictate varying degrees of civility for their comments as part of their style. Sometimes it's explicit, sometimes it's ad hoc. But it's not hidden.

I'm not talking about civility / abusive language or troll posts, I'm talking about deleting civil, on-topic posts in order to shape the discussion and tune the message. And sometimes it is hidden in the sense that some bloggers delete comments without comment, without any 'comment deleted by moderator' placeholder or any declaration of any kind of policy.

I mentioned DeLong because he seems especially bad on this (and because he thrashed Siegel for his sock puppetry quite thoroughly):

http://delong.typepad.com/sdj/2006/09/franklin_foer_a.html

But at the same time, he was in the middle of a series of posts claiming that the problem with income inequality is that it allows the rich to spitefully lord it over the rest of us with their conspicuous consumption, and in support of this thesis he linked to a item showing how the word 'exclusive' is so often used in advertising.

I wrote a post pointing out that exclusivity is critical to the appeal of elite universities -- including Berkely (where Delong teaches). A big part of the joy of being admitted to Harvard or Berkeley is the status boost (you measured up when so many others didn't -- success is sweet because so many others fell short). And I further pointed out that while wealth and poverty may be fleeting, a Harvard degree often confers lifelong feelings of superiority.

The post was nuked almost immediately -- why? Pretty obvious, I think. It certainly wasn't either abusive or off-topic, but it was off message.

Let's say that DeLong is trying to build political support for redistributive tax policies (as he apparently is). Is it OK for him to arbitrarily delete posts that would weaken his case and interfere with this purpose?

Fenrisulven said...

Let's say that DeLong is trying to build political support for redistributive tax policies (as he apparently is). Is it OK for him to arbitrarily delete posts that would weaken his case and interfere with this purpose?

No its not okay. It also weakens his credibility. As a third party, if I catch him doing it, his arguments are automatically suspect. If they can't withstand scrutiny then they are worthless.