February 28, 2007

Eric Alterman contemplates whether he has "the typical liberal tendency toward fascism."

I inspired his reverie, not because I accused him of having a tendency toward fascism. I just quoted something he happened to say while rambling along in a Bloggingheads conversation:
"I think it would be valuable if we had... uh... I mean, there's some sense where blogs correct themselves if you read enough of them, but I still I think it would be good if we had some sort of, you know, blogging -- you know -- council, where we could condemn people. Sort of... responsible body. You could still blog if you want. Nobody's going to stop you. But we're going to... everybody's gonna know that you're not to be trusted... unless you can sort of apologize or answer for yourself."
I thought it was revealing, and I used the quote (cut down a bit) in my NYT column yesterday. (Free here.)

On the blog, I said I was "put off by the mindset he revealed" -- that desire to "blacklist" -- and in the NYT, I called it the "impulse to control."

Alterman is right to read my quoting and characterization as a very harsh accusation. I wouldn't call it "the typical liberal tendency toward fascism," as he does. If I was going to use the inflammatory word "fascism," I wouldn't say "the typical liberal tendency toward fascism," which makes no sense to me. At the very least, I'd replace "liberal" with "left-wing" or "illiberal."

The idea of fascism does come up in the comments. In the second comment, Jeff says: "The leftist will to power (and more importantly, control) rears its ugly head." A little further down, Mike just says: "Fascism - Oppressive or dictatorial control." And John takes a hard (but humorous) swipe:
Alterman is one of those pathetic little mediocrities who in another time and place would be a very dangerous person. Put him Weimar Germany, revolutionary France or early Soviet Russia and he would be full fledged rhetorical thug pushing the brown shirted masses to smash windows and heads. As it is, he is just fascist little prick whom you hope will disappear like a rash if properly ignored. I almost hope he would start such a council just so I can start blogging and get on the blacklist.
Later, Mike comes back with:
I don't think Eric Alterman is a fascist (though he is many other disagreeable things) but I find it amusing that it is his ilk who are prone to hurl that term, yet it is they who are the control freaks.
So Alterman is right to feel provoked and, really, embarrassed to have shown so much of an urge to repress and control. His own words were telling. It's not my habit to type out spoken word, and I don't monitor Bloggingheads episodes for stray quotes to use to make people look bad. That quote jumped out at me and demanded transcription. And I think Eric knows he was saying something bad. The pattern of the stammer, with the double "you know," is telling.

Let's work our way through Eric's reverie.
1) It was a conversation. I was just sort of musing.
Right! That's why it's so interesting. The things people say when they let their guard down...
But still, it's fair game.
Damn right.
2) I do actually believe what I said. Ever since the beginning of blogging-time, I have worried -- in public and on blogging panels -- about the loss of the media's gatekeeper function. Now, I believe I literally wrote the book on this topic -- and it's about to go out of print for the second time, so if you don't own it, hassle Cornell University Press -- and I am as aware as anyone on earth, I believe, of the dangers of the misuse of that function. Almost all of my books deal with this tension in one way or another. But the fact is, the function is absolutely necessary. A democracy of hundreds of millions of people is functionally impossible for reasons it requires an entire book to explain. Particularly when the media profess to strive toward objectivity, punditry/gatekeepers play a crucial role. My problem with the punditocracy has never been that they are pundits, but that they are so incompetent at the job they do.
There you have it. Controlling speech seems to be his mission in life. What's he really saying here? He writes books, and he's obsessed with speech, but he's none too articulate.

The "function" of "gatekeeping" is "absolutely necessary." And, speaking of functions, something is "functionally impossible." On a quick read, I thought he was saying that gatekeeping -- that function -- is functionally impossible. But no, what is functionally impossible is democracy. But you'll have to read his book to understand why. Here we see even more of the urge to control.

You can't have your democracy, and there are a lot of complex reasons why you can't, as elite, intellectual study shows. I own the truth. I write the books. If you can get your hands on the hard-to-find book and spend some good long time with it, you might come to understand what I already know. I am the gatekeeper of this information explaining why you can't have democracy. Trust me.

Notice that phrase "media's gatekeeper function." The media deliver information, but Alterman characterizes that as gatekeeping. The emphasis is on what they don't let out. Not having read his book, I'm not sure what he's driving at in point #1. I get the sense it's that voters are dependent on the media filtering the information well, and bloggers ought to improve that filtering, not bypass it. You don't want too much information, because it might be bad.
3) If bloggers are going to perform this function -- that is, helping busy and usually uninformed people make sense of the world -- we are going to have to employ some sort of standard with which to judge their reliability. If they are pathological liars, psychopaths, religious or ideological extremists who cannot be trusted to tell the truth, well then, it'd be useful to have them branded as such -- in order to keep them from further infecting the body politic with even more lies, ideological obsessions, and intellectual corruptions. True, the mainstream media do not do a great job of this themselves anymore, but many people inside it do try. In many cases, their brands and relationship to their peers depend on it.
Speech as disease! Some speakers are sick, and they may cause infection! He would justify quarantines. This man does not believe in free speech. He will not put his faith in the marketplace of ideas and the remedy of more speech.
4) Bloggers tend to argue that this problem will sort itself out over time.
That's scarcely some eccentric blogger thought. It's the core idea of American free speech.
I worry about the "over time" part. I also worry about all the damage that can be done in the interim.
This is the mindset of a censor. Of course, you mean well. You're here to save us from ourselves.
And so I raised it on Bloggingheads.tv and offered up a notion in response. Maybe it's a bad idea. It's not as if I gave it any thought before I said it.
Well, you did write those books. This is your area of expertise, isn't it? It's just that you let the words tumble out this time, and it showed more ugliness that you would have liked. If only you could control things more, control freak.
But I'm not convinced it is [a bad idea]. Or at least, I've yet to see a better one. After all, it's a panel of bloggers; it's the judgment of one's peers and it would enjoy no power whatever, save the influence it amasses by virtue of the quality of its judgments. Just what is so threatening about that?
I'm not threatened by your panel. I simply loathe your censorious frame of mind, your fear of speech as sickness, your urge to control and purify, and your belief in the beneficence of panels. I thank God that I live in a country where the institution you dream of would not be allowed to "enjoy power."

So now, instead of quivering in fear about what my supposed "peers" would like to do to me, I'll have another cup of coffee and a nice little giggle over the way you finally expressed some faith in the marketplace of ideas -- when it came time to talk about why your damned panel should be trusted.

I love a little irony in the morning.

187 comments:

MadisonMan said...

He didn't write the book. He literally wrote the book. I'm assuming in neat cursive longhand, on yellow paper.

The blogosphere censored by committee would be the most boring thing in the world. Trying to sift and winnow the truth out of what you read is part of the challenge that makes it a fun diversion from work.

SGT Ted said...

It not really irony Ann. This is how the left operates; by controlling language, the ideas and message. Alterman is just more honest about it than most. Indeed this isn't a liberal. This is a collectivist self appointed gatekeeper.

It's also the mindset of an elitist who thinks HIS judgment is better than a farmers or a truckdrivers, so therefore, HIS opinions should carry more weight, because of his "profession"; journalism. HE and those of his ilk alone, are the only ones able to see the Truth. All the rest of us are sheep to lead around by the nose, because we haven't been to the "correct" schools. This is dangerous thinking.

What a pompous ass.

George said...

All this communication stuff should have been stopped--and good--with that Gutenberg guy.

First, people get their own Bibles in their own languages.

Before you know it....Fox News, Beavis and Butthead, Ann Althouse...when will it end....

Sloanasaurus said...

It's the socialist impulse as well. Those in favor of Socialism, such as Alterman, realize intellectually that such a system is not possible in a free and democratic society - there are just too many special interests. To achieve equality and socialism you need control, especially control over speech.

Henry said...

If they are pathological liars, psychopaths, religious or ideological extremists who cannot be trusted to tell the truth

You mean like 1950s communist sympathizers?

* * *

Alterman's "gatekeeper" terminology is actually quite revealing, even as it evolves into the "panel" idea.

This is classic barrier-to-entry economics. When barbers want to eliminate competition, they ask the state to license barbers. Or they create an association of "good" barbers and certify themselves. It doesn't take too long before they've asked the state to grant them a monopoly. Instead of "barbers" think of the "bar."

The overarching idea of the blogosophere is that there is no barrier to entry. Alterman's idea is to protect blogs by destroying their habitat. Drain the swamp! Build a zoo!

Joan said...

Alterman fails to understand that the entire blogosphere operates as this mythical panel that he craves, by fact-checking, challenging opinions, and generally mocking people who make assertions they can't back up.

Alterman's problem, of course, is that the 'sphere itself is so large as to be beyond control.

kettle said...

Best damn post I've read in a long while. (I don't know who Alterman is, and that's not why.)

Steven said...

To be fair, he did say in his original comments that he was not talking about actually stopping anybody from blogging. He was just talking about labeling bloggers as "approved" or "not approved." So I'm not sure I would go so far as to say that it demonstrates the desire for control. While there is some of that present, I think it demonstrates more the liberal mindset that "I am smarter than you, and you should let me tell you how to think and how to live your life."

JohnK said...

Thanks for the compliment Ann. Alternman really is just a nasty guy who doesn't think anyone who disagrees with him should have a right to speak. Does anyone honestly believe that when Alterman says "My problem with the punditocracy has never been that they are pundits, but that they are so incompetent at the job they do" that by incompetent he just means "people who say things I don't like"?

Would Alterman silence some nutcase like KOS because he was an incompetent pundit, whatever that is? Ha. Give me a break. Alterman would silence anyone who didn't toe the party line.

What is most disturbing about Alterman is how arrogant and un-self aware he is. If someone offered me the opportunity to be the "gatekeeper of speech or the internet", I would turn it down; because I know good and well eventually the temptation to shut off some twit like Kos or Alterman for that matter would be overwhelming. I have enough humility to realize that absolute power would probably corrupt me no matter how well intentioned I was. Alterman is so arrogant and un-self aware that he honestly believes that the world would be wonderful if only he made the rules. That is what would make him such a dangerous person had he lived in a different time.

yetanotherjohn said...

I thought we already had this panel and that I was on it. Fear my back button. If your blogging is wrong in my peerless and untainted judgement, then I shall vote with my back button and dismiss you to the obscurity of the google cache. Repeated offenses will see your URL never darken my address panel again.

I am the all powerful censor (in my own little mind).

Fen said...

Pity. I wanted to read Alterman, but my gatekeepers wouldn't let him through. They think he should be silenced, as an object lesson to any other up-and-coming lefty fascists.

Jeff said...

SGT Ted is correct.

The leftist impulse towards speech control is a function of their general view of humanity, that people are easily manipulated and thought-controled by media and the "wrong" kind of governments. Their love of censorship and speech codes reveal not just a will to control; it reveals a fundamental disain towards the great unwashed and the ability of such to think for themselves.

This condescending elitism is manifest in many areas of leftist thought from Rousseau on down. It's nothing new.

The left constantly drones about media brainwashing and yet are ever eager to engage in it themselves. Too bad there are blogs that can fact check their asses.

bill said...

Maybe he could join forces with Tipper Gore and form a blog version of the PMRC. Blogs that the committee decides don't play well with others (pays attention to the committee) will be asked to voluntarily widgetize a sticker to their page.

Because there isn't enough finger-wagging and protestations of outrage, already.

To paraphrase famed FBI agent Angelo Pappas: Listen you snot-nose little shit, I was takin' shrapnel in usenet groups when you were crappin' in your hands and rubbin' it on your face.

Pogo said...

Alterman forgot to mention who exactly would define "truth" and then determine that it has been told, reliably. But I can guess. And who would police the policemen? And who would further police those?

The same impulse to control and limit choice is ascendant in the curretn reattempt at national health care, among other other socialist schemes. The main message is: We know what's good for you. We're going to take things away from you on behalf of the common good. Here, they'll take away your speech. In medicine, other choices. it's all the same desire for power.

"If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face - forever."
George Orwell

Zach said...

Interesting quote from Alterman's post immediately prior:

...love-hate relationship between The Washington Post and right-wing bloggers. The Post loves the bloggers, but the bloggers hate the Post. It's also time the Post ended this ill-conceived romance and for the Post to show influential liberal bloggers a little love.

The interesting question here is whether the hypothetical gatekeeper panel is allowed to "strive toward objectivity" and at the same time "show a little love" to ideological friends. They're not completely exclusive, are they? Everybody's human, everybody makes exceptions. As long as the panel consists of your friends, you could figure that nothing too terrible would happen.

His analysis isn't good enough, because he doesn't figure on natural perversity. That the panel might start out good, but get corrupted. That people might intentionally stack the deck to wring whatever tiny partisan advantage comes from stealing the "approved blogger" label.

Mike said...

I was wrong. He is a fascist. Thank God he doesn't have power.

MM says "The blogosphere censored by committee would be the most boring thing in the world. Trying to sift and winnow the truth out of what you read is part of the challenge that makes it a fun diversion from work.". I'd go further. What's so valuable about the blogosphere is there is something to sift through. The output of the media is one sided. Sifting through it does not lead to greater insight.

Christy said...

Ann, you've done yourself and us proud! Ditto what other's have said.

Thank you for engaging this issue I find important - though I know you disdain the important over the interesting or amusing. Just saying.

JohnK said...

"His analysis isn't good enough, because he doesn't figure on natural perversity."

You don't get it. From Alterman's perspective there is no natural perversity on his side. Only people who disagree with him are subject to such things. The system would never be corrupted in his view because it would only allow his side to talk. Since his side is by definition incorrputable, there is no danger of that.

Internet Ronin said...

An outstanding short essay, Ann. My only wish is that this had been in the NYT. Definitely worthy of it - a clear (and fair) demonstration of the the mindest of people like Alterman and why they can be dangerous.

I simply loathe your censorious frame of mind, your fear of speech as sickness, your urge to control and purify, and your belief in the beneficence of panels. I thank God that I live in a country where the institution you dream of would not be allowed to "enjoy power."

Me, too. Let us hope it stays that way, although the trend is not our friend in that regard, I fear.

Richard Dolan said...

In his comment Herny suggests that Alterman's talk of a "gatekeeping function" smacks of barrier-to-entry economics. To me, Alterman's talk of a "gatekeeper function" sounds like he's trying to carry the Daubert rule into a context where it doesn't make sense. For the non-lawyers, Daubert is a Supreme Court case (1993) saying that judges must exercise a "gatekeeper function" to exclude unreliable experts from testifying in court. A whole string of cases, along with an amended rule of evidence (702) has been developed to apply those principles. The underlying concern was that juries were often swayed by junk science in rule of plaintiffs. The resulting verdicts were thought to have a severe chilling effect on socially important advances (e.g., the development of vaccines or new drugs, etc.).

All of that is fine, and in my view a huge improvement, in the courtroom context. Alterman apparently wants his panel to function in the role of a "judge" applying some bloggy version of the Daubert rule, but without any actual power to exclude. The problem with that idea is not that it is elitist -- it is, but elitism is not the problem here. After all, the basic point of the "marketplace of ideas" is that it is the least objectionable way of sifting the superior from the inferior -- no one doubts that there is a "superior-inferior" scale, nor is anyone really suggesting that all ideas are equally valid, or that all speakers are equally qualified to assess any particular issue. It's also why some people are professors, others students; why some are admitted to particular institutions, and many others are not (e.g., Bakke, Gruber) -- that's all elitism of the same sort, but hardly objectionable on that ground.

Alterman's proposal is nuts, and objectionably nutty, because the courtroom (and the classroom) are very poor models for a political or social forum. They're poor models because we cannot agree on who should fill the role of "judge" or "professor" outside the contexts where those roles make sense, nor is there any mechanism to choose them even if we could. Alterman isn't really proposing a system of control in any classically fascist sense. As far as I can tell, he's talking about some panel of self-appointed worthies, who would distribute praise and blame according to whatever standards they deem best. That doesn't really amount to a blacklist or censorship or control in any meaningful sense. Instead, it sounds like some weird combination of the movie rating system with the all-knowing tone of a book review (in his case, probably the NYRB or some other predictably lefty publication). Perhaps he wants it to function like the IPCC has done (at least in some quarters), where anyone who disagrees or has a different view is dismissed as a "denier" of obvious truth -- see, e.g.. McCibben's piece in the current NYRB.

So, Ann may be correct to detect a "mindset" that "desire[s] to blacklist," and an "impulse to control" here. But Alterman's actual proposal doesn't do any of that, and stripped of its silly rhetoric, sounds like pretty weak beer. While I don't see much in Alterman's suggestion that I find attractive or sensible, I don't see much there that merits all the angst and opproprium that's being directed against it (or him) here either.

Todd and in Charge said...

Alterman's idea is a dumb one, and he is obviously backtracking. But Ann's argument would have been much stronger without the ad hominem and the unconvincing effort to make a larger point out of what is at best a minor observation.

Mike said...

"...because we cannot agree on who should fill the role of "judge" or "professor" outside the contexts where those roles make sense, nor is there any mechanism to choose them even if we could."

Of course there's a mechanism to choose them. It's called "ask Eric".

"Alterman isn't really proposing a system of control in any classically fascist sense."

There is little doubt in my mind that he would if he could.

Pogo said...

Todd, I disagree. Alterman's sentiments are not minor. His proposal is a variant of the selfsame impulse to control common to leftists, and whenever it rears its horrible little head, it needs to smacked down with a mighty whack.

Althouse has done so, and Alterman deserved it.

Fen said...

effort to make a larger point out of what is at best a minor observation.

Oh I don't know. Alterman's "minor observation" is on par with lets have the Jews stitch stars on their clothes.

John Kindley said...

The upside of such a panel is that any blog blacklisted by it would likely see its readership go up rather than down as a result. Henry Miller's awful Tropic of Cancer profited by being "banned." I confess to spending a perverse hour or so on the website of that psycopathic anti-gay Kansas Baptist church whose "ministry" consists largely of protesting the funerals of dead soldiers (my motive being similar to that which leads people to watch documentaries promising a glimpse "inside the mind of a serial killer").

But what if that government-loving panel's blacklist led to the blog of an "ideological extremist" advocating a peaceful, anti-government anarchy along the lines of Thoreau's Civil Disobedience or Tolstoy's The Kingdom of God is Within You? People might be provoked to think deeply and question their assumptions thereby.

Blacklist away. Your enemies are probably my friends, and I always appreciate help in finding my friends.

Naked Lunch said...

You guys are going to have to decide if liberals are commies or fascists. Can't really both at the same time, I would think. But wouldn't Joe Lieberman and his fellow Republicans be fascists by calling Democrats the past 4 years - terrorist coddler's, traitors, and by verbally opposing the surge we are treasonous and subject to hanging? Would Ann be a fascist for taking pictures of protesters exercising their 1st Amendment rights to peaceably assemble? Hmmm, this is getting dicey. Would Ann be a fascist for deciding that feminist bloggers can't meet with with an ex President, and even deciding her wardrobe choice was unacceptable?

I'm not calling Ann a fascist. Just saying.

PatCA said...

Eric has it backwards, or upside down. The gatekeeper is the openness and accessibility of information itself. We don't need no stinkin' gatekeepers!

He bemoans the impossibility of "democracy" I bet because Gore supposedly won the popular vote but lost the election in 2000. Correct, we temper the ill effects of majority rule by certain rules codified into the U. S. Constitution, and the election was constitutionally proper.

The impulse to control comes from I believe an initially fine impulse to do good. But like all virtues taken to extreme, it soon becomes a vice, and thus the framers' concern for freedom from government. I would tell him to see "The Lives of Others" but he would not get it.

Ann Althouse said...

When did I say feminist bloggers can't meet with Clinton? I mocked them for meeting with Clinton. It's called more speech. You really don't understand what the marketplace of ideas is, naked guy.

Jeff said...

"You guys are going to have to decide if liberals are commies or fascists. Can't really both at the same time, I would think."

The fascists were socialists. The idea that they were the right-wing opposite of communists is a legacy of Hitlers' violation of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. It's nothing less than a perpetuation of the Stalinist airbrushing of history.

Commie, fascist, totalitarian- it's all the same in the end.

JohnAnnArbor said...

You guys are going to have to decide if liberals are commies or fascists. Can't really both at the same time, I would think.

"Fascism" as the urge to control is a feature of both communism and more traditional dictatorships. In other words, you can be both.

JohnAnnArbor said...

Would Ann be a fascist for taking pictures of protesters exercising their 1st Amendment rights to peaceably assemble?

Are you seriously saying that taking pictures in a public place is "fascist"?

Mortimer Brezny said...

If you can get your hands on the hard-to-find book and spend some good long time with it, you might come to understand what I already know.

But, isn't this in many cases, true? You aren't championing ignorance, are you, ann?

Internet Ronin said...

It is amazing many people don't understand the difference between criticism and suppression. They appear to value free speech only when it is their own. Anyone else exercising their right of free speech is by definition suppressing them (and should be itself suppressed). I guess I should be glad, because it reveals the true intent of their own actions.

Mortimer Brezny said...

I just think that poster got off on the idea of calling Ann fascist.

I mean, the shoes. And always wearing the black. That Ann.

johnstodder said...

Was Walter Duranty someone Alterman would have said (at the time) was a good "gatekeeper?"

I mean, there were lots of rumors out there about Stalin. You might even say Stalin was being "swiftboated." Was it a good thing that Duranty was there to put a lid on all these irresponsible comments?

(This is not an ideological dig at Alterman by the way. Duranty had many equivalents in the British press who kept the lid on Nazi excesses in order to support appeasement policies of the Conservative Party.)

johnstodder said...

You guys are going to have to decide if liberals are commies or fascists. Can't really both at the same time, I would think.

Oh my God. Naked Lunch, maybe you should change your handle to "Rip Van Winkle." The simple-minded idea that communists are over there on the left, and fascists are over there, on the right, is a high school civics lesson circa about 1960, long since discredited. Do you really see fascism as the ultimate end result of ... extreme libertarianism? The left generally attacks the right for agreeing with Reagan about "government isn't the solution, it's the problem." You keep going down that road and you find Hitler? Absurd.

Fen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Fen said...

The fascists were socialists. The idea that they were the right-wing opposite of communists is a legacy of Hitlers' violation of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. It's nothing less than a perpetuation of the Stalinist airbrushing of history.

What Jeff said.

naked lunch: But wouldn't Joe Lieberman and his fellow Republicans be fascists by calling Democrats the past 4 years - terrorist coddler's, traitors, and by verbally opposing the surge we are treasonous and subject to hanging?

Nope. Thats a strawman. We call you traitors because you deliberately hamstring our troops and their mission overseas for mere political gain. You care more about returning Democrats to power than the safety of our nation and the welfare of those fighting on your behalf.

MadisonMan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
MadisonMan said...

We call you traitors because you deliberately hamstring our troops and their mission overseas for mere political gain.

It wasn't Democrats who sent the troops over there to, um, search for WMD, liberate Iraq, kill Saddam, (you choose) without the manpower or equipment (or heck, leadership) to do the job we all know they're capable of. (BTW, your last sentence is equally valid if you replace Democrats with Republicans. But you knew that already.)

Henry said...

The only person who mentioned communism prior to Naked Lunch was me and I mentioned it solely as a "for instance":

If, for instance, you think it correct to brand "ideological extremists who cannot be trusted to tell the truth" then you've justified McCarthyism.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Naked Lunch,

But wouldn't Joe Lieberman and his fellow Republicans be fascists by calling Democrats the past 4 years - terrorist coddler's, traitors, and by verbally opposing the surge we are treasonous and subject to hanging?

This is what I hate about politics: Stop paying attention for an instant, and you miss all the good stuff, like Joe Lieberman calling for a good chunk of Congress to be hanged. Drat.

Would Ann be a fascist for taking pictures of protesters exercising their 1st Amendment rights to peaceably assemble?

I don't know why some people have difficulty understanding this. But the whole purpose of protesting in public is to be seen doing it. If Ann distributes images of people protesting, she is furthering their own obvious purpose, which is to express their opinion about a particular cause to as many people as possible.

Fen said...

It wasn't Democrats who sent the troops over there to, um, search for WMD, liberate Iraq, kill Saddam, (you choose) without the manpower or equipment (or heck, leadership) to do the job we all know they're capable of

Wrong again. How many Dems voted for Clinton's Iraqi Liberation Act? How many voted to authorize military action in Iraq for Bush?

They were not mislead. Your VP nominee, Edwards, even says he went back to Clinton administration officials to confirm that Saddam had a WMD program. They told him the same thing Bush did.

Joseph Hovsep said...

I think Joan above sums up best what Alterman's analysis is ultimately missing: "the entire blogosphere operates as this mythical panel that he craves, by fact-checking, challenging opinions, and generally mocking people who make assertions they can't back up."

I think his base concern seems to be about misinformation and lack of accountability in a world where people rely on this new medium to get their news and develop their political opinions. The MSM, whatever its weaknesses, has institutional accountability that individual bloggers don't have. I think its good to point out ways in which bloggers may be more prone to spread misinformation, intentionally or not. But those concerns need to be weighed against the role bloggers play as a check on the MSM which may not be always be inclined to check itself, and as a check on other bloggers. I'm inclined to believe the disaggregated blogger system ultimately promotes accurate reporting more than it distorts it. Or, at worst, bloggers are like talk radio, where outsized personalities sometimes play fast and loose with the facts, but there are lots of varieties to choose from and lots of alternative sources of news, and the bigger they get, the more accountable they become.

Dewave said...

You guys are going to have to decide if liberals are commies or fascists. Can't really both at the same time, I would think.

Did you even go to highschool? The facists were socialists, as were the commies. They were both forms of the totalitarian government tyrannies beloved by lefties who think that government should control and direct every facet of the lives of private citizens, who can't be trusted to manage their own affairs.

The fact that you haven't made this connection yet, despite the fact that the Nazi Party in Germany was called the
National Socialist German Workers' Party is revealing. It also shows you must have read approximately zero of the actual speeches and writings of the Nazi Party leadership.

Totalitarianism, class warfare, state property, state run labor organizations, hatred of Jews & Christians & Capitalists, strict gun control policies...looks to me like the Nazis measure up pretty well to the Soviet Communists. The only real area in which the Nazi's fall short is that they only managed to murder about 21 million people, compared to the Soviets 62 million. Still, that's not an inconsiderable death toll to lay the Socialism's door.

MadisonMan said...

fen: Is the President Commander in Chief, or isn't he? Is he leading the Republican Party, or isn't he?

Hazy Dave said...

I'll nominate Dan Rather to join Tipper Gore on the Blog Approval Panel. It's important to have a Trained Journalist with a Proven Track Record and Instinct for Truthiness on board to properly balance the Mommy Influence.

Some advisors from the Motion Picture Industry could probably help develop the kind of self-regulating rating system beloved of leftists and libertarians alike. And, I'm sure the RIAA would be happy to supply some suits to help ensure that copyright laws are respected and proper payments are made to trade groups representing the rights of the artists' feudal lords.

johnstodder said...

It wasn't Democrats who sent the troops over there to, um, search for WMD,

I hereby call for a moratorium on the supercilious "um." It's become like nails on chalkboard. I think the point of the supercilious "um," is to make people who disagree with you feel chastised for their stupidity or for ignoring the obvious evidence that supports your bias. Well, I don't feel chastised. A lot of people, every intelligence agency in the world, believed Saddam Hussein's boasts about WMDs. Democrats believed it, too, when Clinton was in office.

When I see an "um" nowadays, I prepare myself for the writer to spew a bunch of received wisdom that they don't really know one way or the other if it's true.

A better way to go? The Mickey Kaus "oh wait," which always leads to a link. I always check an "oh wait."

Internet Ronin said...

It appears that this conversation is deteriorating beyond the point of no return:

Communists and fascists are leftists.

Who cares? They're totalitarians -that part isn't debatable.

You are traitors.

Who? Partisan Democrats? Oh, please.

It wasn't Democrats who sent the troops over there...

Well, yes it was them, too. (See Senate vote in 2002). As for the rest of it, it is hard to understand how anyone can actually believe that those responsible would intentionally send troops into battle "without the manpower or equipment (heck, leadership) to do the job they we all know they are capable of."

Surely, Godwins law is about to be invoked, if it hasn't been already.

Seven Machos said...

It is really amazing how quickly a posting on the substance of which everyone agrees -- Eric Alterman is a petty tyrant -- can devolve into an argument over whether Republicans or Democrats are fascists.

Neither Republicans nor Democrats are fascist. In this country, we enjoy generally healthy and vibrant political and economic speech. And when people try to take it away, or even suggest taking it away, they are criticized and ridiculed.

Having said all this, petty tyrant Eric Alterman is a firm, respected fixture of the left. And the left has to deal with it.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Joseph Hovsep,

I think [Alterman's] base concern seems to be about misinformation and lack of accountability in a world where people rely on this new medium to get their news and develop their political opinions.

It's the last bit that concerns him, I think. There are excellent checks in the blogosphere on provably false information — certainly much faster (and probably better) ones than there are in print media. But what you make of the information is another matter.

I think Alterman's main worry is about blogs that pick up stories from publications with "naturally" small readerships and give them wider distribution. The reason that people are furious with Glenn Reynolds, for example, can't possibly be what he writes on Instapundit; it's that he links a lot of stuff, has a particular set of political interests that feed into what he selects, and has a ton of readers.

Dewave said...

Eric Alterman is a petty tyrant

Certainly. I found his follow up much more disturbing than the original comment, since it reveals his innate distrust of voters, citizens, and free speech in general, and earnestly desires some elite cabal of media people to be the gatekeepers for information and dole out carefully selected & slanted bits of news to 'the masses' as they deem fit.

No thanks: I'll take democratic free speech and exchange of ideas over censorship and thought police.

Mike said...

Michelle spoke of "The reason that people are furious with Glenn Reynolds, for example, ..."

Frankly, I am baffled by the anger at Reynolds.

Joe Baby said...

Is it fascism, or the paternalism of the elite + snobby variety?

Anyway...Alterman's like a guy who is getting beaten badly in a race, but can't stop complaining about the rules and the size of the track.

Fen said...

Madison Man: Is the President Commander in Chief, or isn't he? Is he leading the Republican Party, or isn't he?

Yes to both. Thats why I said "how many [Dems] voted to authorize military action in Iraq for Bush?

My point was that its disingenuous to claim Dems didn't have a hand in sending us to Iraq - because they voted for Clinton's plan to liberate Iraq, and the act to authorize military action [Bush].

I'll let Bill Clinton speak for me [emph added]:

==

“Earlier today, I ordered America's armed forces to strike military and security targets in Iraq. They are joined by British forces. Their mission is to attack Iraq's nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programs and its military capacity to threaten its neighbors.

Their purpose is to protect the national interest of the United States, and indeed the interests of people throughout the Middle East and around the world.

Saddam Hussein must not be allowed to threaten his neighbors or the world with nuclear arms, poison gas or biological weapons.

I want to explain why I have decided, with the unanimous recommendation of my national security team, to use force in Iraq; why we have acted now; and what we aim to accomplish…..

Other countries possess weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles. With Saddam, there is one big difference: He has used them. Not once, but repeatedly. Unleashing chemical weapons against Iranian troops during a decade-long war. Not only against soldiers, but against civilians, firing Scud missiles at the citizens of Israel, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Iran. And not only against a foreign enemy, but even against his own people, gassing Kurdish civilians in Northern Iraq.

The international community had little doubt then, and I have no doubt today, that left unchecked, Saddam Hussein will use these terrible weapons again.

I made it very clear at that time what unconditional cooperation meant, based on existing UN resolutions and Iraq's own commitments. And along with Prime Minister Blair of Great Britain, I made it equally clear that if Saddam failed to cooperate fully, we would be prepared to act without delay, diplomacy or warning.

So Iraq has abused its final chance.

In short, the (U.N.) inspectors are saying that even if they could stay in Iraq, their work would be a sham.

This situation presents a clear and present danger to the stability of the Persian Gulf and the safety of people everywhere. The international community gave Saddam one last chance to resume cooperation with the weapons inspectors. Saddam has failed to seize the chance.

And so we had to act and act now.

Let me explain why.

First, without a strong inspection system, Iraq would be free to retain and begin to rebuild its chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programs in months, not years.

Second, if Saddam can crippled the weapons inspection system and get away with it, he would conclude that the international community -- led by the United States -- has simply lost its will. He will surmise that he has free rein to rebuild his arsenal of destruction, and someday -- make no mistake -- he will use it again as he has in the past.

Third, in halting our air strikes in November, I gave Saddam a chance, not a license. If we turn our backs on his defiance, the credibility of U.S. power as a check against Saddam will be destroyed. We will not only have allowed Saddam to shatter the inspection system that controls his weapons of mass destruction program; we also will have fatally undercut the fear of force that stops Saddam from acting to gain domination in the region."

- President Clinton, 12-16-98

John Kindley said...

According to Alterman, "A democracy of hundreds of millions of people is functionally impossible for reasons it requires an entire book to explain."

We don't have to read Alterman's book to get this idea. It's the basic justification, made by Thomas Paine et al, for a representative democracy as opposed to the pure democracy that presumably was only feasible in states much smaller than the U.S., such as ancient Athens.

I question whether our elected representatives, especially in our modern society with its hugely expensive political campaigns that are bought and paid for by the ultra-wealthy and by well-funded special interests, really do what Thomas Paine thought they would do -- i.e. carry out the will of the people and somehow rule with the consent of the governed (a majority vote in a pure democracy wouldn't even really accomplish this).

But it sounds like Alterman is fallaciously implying that this alleged infeasibility of pure democracy in actual government (where arguably representation may indeed be the best we can do) applies analogously to the blogosphere. He pines for the good old days when the network news anchors, the New York Times and its editorial page, and other associated gatekeepers acted as our (unelected) "representatives" in the court of public opinion.

To the contrary, the blogosphere has opened a new and VIABLE avenue for real democracy. Although not pure, it's far purer than the scheme of democracy by representation. Virtually any blog with good ideas that appeal to lots of people, whatever the credentials or connections of its author (though I think those still help), can rise to the top and influence public opinion, and even us lowly commenters can put in our two cents with a chance of being heard.

Too bad that public opinion still matters much less to our government representatives than cold hard cash.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Mike,

Frankly, I am baffled by the anger at Reynolds.

I am, too. What's up with all the "right-wing hack" stuff? I think it's just what I wrote above: He links things that wouldn't ordinarily have wide distribution, and lots of people read them. This is irritating to some people, because the things he links aren't the things they would link, but he's the one with the readership. The two obvious explanations at this point are "the people are stupid" or "Instapundit is evilly brainwashing the people," and generally you get those in tandem.

Naked Lunch said...

Oh my God. Naked Lunch, maybe you should change your handle to "Rip Van Winkle." The simple-minded idea that communists are over there on the left, and fascists are over there, on the right, is a high school civics lesson circa about 1960, long since discredited.

Then, why does almost every thread here end up as exactly that - that liberals are commies? And now fascists. Did you read the title of this thread? Of course Ann isn't fascist, or any of the things I described. That's what makes this all so remarkably fucking stupid. And I hope she was mildly offended.

But why in the "marketplace of ideas", do liberals end up as terrorist coddlers, traitors, and guilty of treason for merely publicly opposing a policy? Who suggests we should poison justices and news editors, hang them, or put them in detention camps? If you're looking for eliminationist rhetoric, where you suppose you would find it? I can give you literally dozens of cites, and the only reason it would remotely concern me is that media picks up these memes like showing democracy in action is somehow emboldening our enemies. Or debate = Treason. Who's supressing who?

Smilin' Jack said...

"the typical liberal tendency toward fascism" is fortunately counterbalanced by the typical liberal tendency toward fecklessness. So I wouldn't worry too much about Alterman's council...it would rule the blogosphere in the same sense that the UN rules the world.

Fen said...

But why in the "marketplace of ideas", do liberals end up as terrorist coddlers, traitors, and guilty of treason for merely publicly opposing a policy?

Because thats not what they do. They deliberately attempt to handicap our mission in Iraq so that we will lose and Bush/GOP will take the hit. For them, Party trumps Nation. Just look at what Murtha tried to do ["slow bleed"] - he even admits his bill is designed to handicap our troops.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

. If they are pathological liars, psychopaths, religious or ideological extremists who cannot be trusted to tell the truth, well then, it'd be useful to have them branded as such -- in order to keep them from further infecting the body politic with even more lies, ideological obsessions, and intellectual corruptions

This is really scary. Should we brand the people who don't agree with us with ....say....oh I don't know....a yellow Star of David?

By all means, let's pigeon hole and brand people who are "bad", (meaning they are not just like you), and keep them from being heard or seen.

I know!!! a separate camp for retraining or force them into segregated areas.

Seven Machos said...

1. Eric Alterman styles himself a liberal and he is obviously a fascist.

2. Who has ever said "debate = treason"? Please name names. The conservative argument with regard to the war is: "losing = world of shit."

3. Who has been found guilty of treason? I love that the left is always saying: "You are accusing me of treason! You are questioning my patriotism!" Well, not really. But you sure are mighty concerned about bearing guilt on those two issues.

4. The only people I see up in arms about treason are people on the left at Kos and goofier websites like Democrats Underground. And the treasoners are always George Bush, or Dick Cheney, or Donald Rumsfeld, or Scooter Libby, or the Right in general. Note that this doesn't bother me.

PatCA said...

"Then, why does almost every thread here end up as exactly that - that liberals are commies? And now fascists."

Actually, Alterman brought up the discussion of fascism. I commend him for that. It shows a degree of self-awareness lacking in so many others.

And "Almost every thread"? Quit pouting, man!

Mike said...

Michelle, you may be right. It's consistent with Alterman's sense of loss over he and his buddies losing control of the gate; and his desire for a "council" to retake it.

And it fits with John's observation: "He [Alterman] pines for the good old days when the network news anchors, the New York Times and its editorial page, and other associated gatekeepers acted as our (unelected) "representatives" in the court of public opinion. To the contrary, the blogosphere has opened a new and VIABLE avenue for real democracy."

And that's why he fears the blogosphere. And why I love it.

JohnAnnArbor said...

Did you read the title of this thread?

She's quoting Alterman there, 20-watt.

Fen said...

I know!!! a separate camp for retraining or force them into segregated areas.

Already done. They call it "college". You will be indoctrinated with PCBS! Resistence is futile!

Although to be fair, most of us just ignored the moonbat rants of our professors so we could get that so-important piece of paper.

Hazy Dave said...

fen, thanks for the interesting quotation. Unfortunately, quoting Bill Clinton saying something doesn't prove it isn't a lie. ;->

Hazy Dave said...

I guess the Dems implicitly acknowledge that, and use that as the basis of assuming everything Bush says is a lie.

Dewave said...

But why in the "marketplace of ideas", do liberals end up as terrorist coddlers, traitors, and guilty of treason for merely publicly opposing a policy?

Do you think people should be prohibited from calling liberals these mean names?

Simon said...

JohnK -
"If someone offered me the opportunity to be the "gatekeeper of speech or the internet", I would turn it down; because I know good and well eventually the temptation to shut off some twit like Kos or Alterman for that matter would be overwhelming. I have enough humility to realize that absolute power would probably corrupt me no matter how well intentioned I was."

I would far rather such a power did not exist, but if it was created and offered to me, I tend to think it'd be stupid not to take the gig if it were offered to me. Not because I don't get that such a power would corrupt the incumbent, but precisely because knowing that the power will corrupt whoever holds it, I'd rather it be held by someone I by-and-large agree with. ;)

It wouldn't be the end of the leftosphere, but it'd be the end of rabid anti-Althousiana, I'll tell you that much. ;)

Simon said...

Seven Machos said...
"I love that the left is always saying: 'You are accusing me of treason! You are questioning my patriotism!' Well, not really."

I can't give you names and dates, but I have seen plenty of folks on my side of the aisle in the blogosphere questioning the patriotism of the anti-war lobby, and accusing them of treason. And not even in nut houses like Free Republic, either. There's a serious undercurrent that does question not only the wisdom, but the patriotism of opposing the war, and which regards the idea of pulling the plug as basically treasonous. And in terms of the GWOT rather than just Iraq, didn't Dinesh D'Souza just write a book-length indictment? It isn't just the left that turns the rhetoric up to 11.

Fen said...

Unfortunately, quoting Bill Clinton saying something doesn't prove it isn't a lie. ;->

Heh.

Damn. Foiled again! :P

John Kindley said...

"If they are pathological liars, psychopaths, religious or ideological extremists who cannot be trusted to tell the truth, well then, it'd be useful to have them branded as such -- in order to keep them from further infecting the body politic with even more lies, ideological obsessions, and intellectual corruptions."

If somebody is a "pathological liar," and their lies could be proved, I agree it would be very useful to have their deceptions widely publicized. But the blogosphere already does this fact-checking admirably (e.g. Dan Rather with his fabricated documents). If you want to set up a panel to prove and publicize such actual lies even more effectively, sounds like a good idea to me.

But if a blogger is truly a "psychopath" or "religious or ideological extremist," wouldn't this be evident just by reading their posts?

On another thread I said that Mrs. Bill Clinton was running for Cuckold-in-Chief (or better yet, Doormat-in-Chief). Not the deepest or most charitable thing I've ever said, and a reasonable person could take exception to that statement. But if perchance I say something more sensible on another post, the more sensible thing should be taken at face value. Enough with relying on ad hominem arguments and the authority of gatekeepers. A good person can occasionally express a bad thought, and a bad person can occasionally express a good thought. Readers will sort out the good from the bad on their own. Branding anyone serves no purpose.

The more I think about it, the nuttier Alterman's idea seems. If anyone should be branded, it should be him.

Fen said...

I can't give you names and dates, but I have seen plenty of folks on my side of the aisle in the blogosphere questioning the patriotism of the anti-war lobby, and accusing them of treason.

[raises hand] <--- Case in point.

But there's a difference between opposing the war and exploiting it for political gain.

There is a significant portion of the Left that opposes the war because of BDS, because they want us to lose [they admit its to bloody our nose and limit our "imperial arrogance"].

There are even some, like Keller at NYTs, who deliberately print legal & classified methods to hamstring our efforts. Even the CIA has a faction that is more interested in sabatoging the White House than analyzing intelligence.

But I no longer question their patriotism.

Robert Burnham said...

Alterman's original comment is what used to be called a Freudian slip, and it is highly illuminating of the leftist mindset. Speaking freely, he told us how lefties view free speech.

For reasons that nothing to do with current politics, I've been reading lately numerous memoirs of experiences from China's Cultural Revolution (1966-76) and the earlier Hundred-Flowers/Anti-Rightist (1957) campaign.

These books describe in great detail the party's thought reform process (which is by no means dead and gone today, just somewhat less obvious).

The rhetorical tone of those periods -- scatology included -- is eerily echoed by the left side of the blogosphere today. I have to wonder if they know how such a tone of sustained hysteria plays with the American public.

Anyway, in the Chinese case (this also held for the Sovierts too) the purpose of the control of information was to make improper thoughts unthinkable. The goal of control was to eliminate un-leftist thinking.

I'm glad things like this reach the surface from time to time because it's a reminder of how deeply undemocratic the left is.

Related to that, what are the chances that a university speech-code case would reach the US Supreme Court?

Robert Burnham said...

I forgot to mention that "gatekeeper" is just a synonym for "prison guard."

Keep that in mind when Alterman and others try to tell you how valuable gatekeepers are.

James Kabala said...

I don't agree with Alterman's idea, but (assuming the body would be genuinely non-partisan, not a cover for Alterman and his liberal friends), how is this really different from college accreditation agencies, generally not regarded as fascist bodies?

C.C. said...

That is simply a staggering admission on his part. I find it hard to believe that anyone that lives in the Republic in the 21st Century could harbor such stupid beliefs.

Just utterly stunning.

Pogo said...

I wish the Fahrenheit 911 crowd would read Fahrenheit 451.

"There is more than one way to burn a book. And the world is full of people running about with lit matches. "
Ray Bradbury

TrustworthyBlogger said...

While Alterman is still contemplating the creation of his "star chamber of unapproved bloggers" I decided to do something about it and begin the list.

It's here:

http:\\untrustworthybloggers.blogspot.com\

So submit names of untrustworthy, psychopathic bloggers, email:

untrustworthybloggers@hotmail.com

Please don't submit Alterman. He's of course, the founding Untrustworthy Blogger.

Jim said...

On the one hand, a "Consumer Reports" for blogs is not a bad idea, but I think it already exists in the form of Pajamas Media. As such, that's a legitimate expression of free-market division-of-labor; there is far more information out and about than an individual can manage (we do have day jobs, after all) and having someone of like mind filter it, isolating the info that is most likely to be good or useful, is a fine idea on its own. He is right that the MSM originally evolved to do that.

Where he goes off the rails is calling that a "gatekeeper" role. PJM is like a newsstand that selects which publications are worth selling; you can go to another newsstand, or subscribe direct to magazines. But a "gatekeeper" *controls* access; PJM does not.

And the LGF-Digg fiasco, as well as Google NEws' well-documented bias, leaves no illusions concerning how Alterman likely envisions his "panel" working.

Bill Peschel said...

Let's play compare and contrast, shall we?

Alterman: "Particularly when the media profess to strive toward objectivity, punditry/gatekeepers play a crucial role."

Evan Thomas, Newsweek's assistant managing editor (as quoted by Instapundit): The media “wants Kerry to win” and so “they’re going to portray Kerry and Edwards as being young and dynamic and optimistic” and “there’s going to be this glow about” them, Evan Thomas, the Assistant Managing Editor of Newsweek, admitted on Inside Washington over the weekend.

Thomas is still working at Newsweek.

Steve Donohue said...

I say we take it easy on the "Alterman is a fascist" talk. I know, I know, the idea of the blogger panel is a positively horrible one, and even my have fascist tendencies in the strictest sense. But this is another example of using "fascist" to say "policies I don't like" (and I know Alterman used the term first, but we're the bigger men and women here.)

Let's reserve fascist for eugenics and the like, not for petty garbage like this. Lord knows the shoe is on the other foot 99% of the tim.

RogerA said...

Quoting bill clinton... True enough, but it does help establishing the chronology of the "lie."

Evan M. Thomas said...

It’s illegal to be fat
Unless you’re in need
There’s camera’s to catch you
When you speed
Gotta know who to trust
When you tell a joke
Don’t want to offend
Then end up broke
Use to be a free county
Fight tooth, nail and bone
Now we got committees
And a free speech zone

Naked Lunch said...

Do you think people should be prohibited from calling liberals these mean names?

No, but the Right has a howling credibility problem accusing anyone of trying to stifle free speech, when our airwaves are filled daily with the most hate filled deranged rhetoric towards anyone that opposes their worldview.

Here's a few from Melanie Morgan that are all to commonplace:

* Morgan on Keller and other Times editors: "Hang 'em." (6/27/06)

* More Morgan on Keller: "I would have no problem with him being sent to the gas chamber" if he was convicted of treason. (San Francisco Chronicle, 6/29/06)

* Morgan on the proper punishment for those who "publish[] classified information": "Fry 'em." (7/10/06)

* Morgan on her co-host's suggestion that an arsonist responsible for a forest fire be burned to death: "Hog tie 'em first. That would be good." (10/27/06)

* Morgan on Pelosi: "We've got a bull's-eye painted on her big, wide laughing eyes." (11/14/06)

* Morgan on environmentalist Rachel Carson, author of Silent Spring: "[D]ig [her] up and kill her all over again." (12/1/06)

Revenant said...

No, but the Right has a howling credibility problem accusing anyone of trying to stifle free speech, when our airwaves are filled daily with the most hate filled deranged rhetoric towards anyone that opposes their worldview.

Does the fact that my local adult video store is chock full o' porn and HBO is wall-to-wall titties similarly prove that the Right isn't trying to censor sexual content?

Or do both of these things just prove that neither the Left NOR the Right has been very *successful* in promoting their preferred forms of censorship?

M. Simon said...

Let us stick with calling the anti-war folk Copperheads.

It has a long and historical association with Democrats. Pro slavery Democrats.

What could be better?

Or perhaps we could call them anti-feminists. Since a jihadi win would be devastating to the secular women of Iraq.

We are lucky in this war in our choice of enemies. Even if we give up they will not.

Steve Donohue said...

Who the hell is Melanie Morgan?

Fen said...

No, but the Right has a howling credibility problem accusing anyone of trying to stifle free speech

calling you a treacherous moonbat does not stifle your free speech.

when our airwaves are filled daily with the most hate filled deranged rhetoric towards anyone that opposes their worldview.

Ironic. The reason AM Talk Radio flourished was because the MSM stifled our free speech - so thoroughly that we had to set up a parallel venue in a weaker format [radio] just to exercise our freedom of speech.

Short version - talk radio wouldn't exist if the Left hadn't stifled the Right's freedoms.

the most hate filled deranged rhetoric

Ah, tsk tsk. You left out "racist". Please remember your talking points - denounce all opposing POVs as racist hateful deranged rhetoric

M. Simon said...

Who is Melanie Morgan?

M. Simon said...

Steve,

It is obvious I need to type faster.

LOL.

Mike said...

Melanie Morgan? Where do you find these people, Lunch?

Dewave said...

No, but the Right has a howling credibility problem accusing anyone of trying to stifle free speech, when our airwaves are filled daily with the most hate filled deranged rhetoric towards anyone that opposes their worldview.

I don't think you understand how the 'marketplace of ideas' works.

Saying mean things about people with an opposing worldview is not stifling free speech. If you are not free to lambaste people with an idiotic worldview, there is no free speech.

Here's the difference:

The Right says that people with an opposing world view are wrong.
The Alterman-Left says that people with an opposing world view shouldn't be allowed to present that world view.

FYI, I have never, ever, even heard of Melanie Morgan.

Der Hahn said...

Who the hell is Melanie Morgan?

conva2olar said...

Personally, I benefit from book criticism and blog criticism that situate primary sources in historical and philosophical context. I don't think that means I'm hostile to uninhibited, robust, and wide-open discourse, or that I don't believe the marketplace of ideas is valuable. To me, it simply suggests that, as survey evidence confirms, people, including me, are capable of forming beliefs based on incomplete information or false assertions gathered in the mass media. When these beliefs concern matters of public interest, the consequences in a democratic system obviously include the risk of bad policymaking. So to espouse media criticism does not preclude debate; it aims to inform and improve it. Ann and commenters are certainly right that a blogging panel would be subject to possible bias no less than individual bloggers are, but the explicit focus on process is still worthwhile -- maybe collegially competing blogger panels could maintain it while correcting one another's bias, thereby helping people approach debates in a more informed way.

By contrast, individual bloggers are understandably more interested in commenting on the issues of the moment or on their evolving concerns than on justifying or debating old material at length, and so may tend not to notice or correct mistaken factual assumptions or fallacies embedded in their writing about some complex issue. Blogging panels could attend to these needs, filling a distinct niche in the market, and of course they too could benefit from criticism.

kwo said...

What would Alterman have wanted his proposed panel to do with Marcotte and McEwan? Or with Reynold's post on assassination? How do you judge some else's judgement and stay in the realm of truth and fact? This contradiction adds weight to the argument that Alterman does in fact want to control, and not just judge.

Pogo said...

Melanie Morgan?
Sounds like a stag film 'actress' from the 1950s.
Or a 'girl reporter' from a B-movie of the late 1930s.
Or maybe that 'lay down lay down' folk singer from the sixties.

Am I right?

Jami Hussein said...

A committee to control speech on the internet. Eric is taking his lessons from China.

becket03 said...

Cass Sunstein of the University of Chicago also made suggesstions along the same lines as Alterman in his book Republic.com (or was it FreeRepublic.com?).

He wanted all websites (bloggers didn't exist at the time the book was published) to be forced by law to include links to opposing points of view for each ideological or political position taken. It would have been an ungovernable nightmare, of course, and the idea was quickly laughed out of existence.

In my review of Sunstein's book (yes, I reviewed a book whose name I've forgotten!) on Amazon, in those early days of the web, I actually mentioned the loss of the "gatekeeper" function of the MSM by the invention of the internet. At least one other reviewer scoffed.

I'd say I've been proven correct, much to the chagrin of the Sunsteins and Altermans of the world.

beckett

Big D said...

I can't wait for the draft!

I wonder how young people are going to react to folks like you when they are asked to go and die in Iraq for nothing, and I mean nothing.

Hope you shit up a storm thinking about that honey.

Let's see how proud and arrogant you are regarding your vote for Mr. Bush when America's young people realize what old rightwing crackpots like you have done to them and your country. Can't wait.

Comeuppance is a bitch. Enjoy, you've earned it.

Steve Donohue said...

Oh, that's so cute, Big D! You get a juicebox and a gold star!

conva2olar said...

Just after my previous offering (and also at 3:17), kwo asked how the Alterman scheme would handle messy, controversial questions like the Marcotte-McEwan and Reynolds controversies -- suggesting, I think, that such quandaries prove the unworkability of the proposal. These examples raise important concerns, yet rather than invalidating the idea, they (to me) suggest the benefit of confining the scope of the panels mostly to questions of fact and context, rather than to asking the panels to render vast, intricate, highly contestable pronouncements about matters of opinion. But the debate would likely improve if a more modest panelling system came into the dialogue, because all sides would receive corrective feedback from sources that were not themselves primarily engaged in the debate as partisans.

Simon said...

"BigD":
"I can't wait for the draft!"

Liberals have been rattling that canard since day one, but the fact is that the only people who have actively tried to set up a draft are Democrats - specifically, Charles Rangell - and no draft could take place without the consent of Congress, which of course is now run by the Democrats. So if there is a draft, there's only one party you'll be able to pin it on, and it won't be mine.

Cedarford said...

Todd and in Charge said...

Alterman's idea is a dumb one, and he is obviously backtracking. But Ann's argument would have been much stronger without the ad hominem and the unconvincing effort to make a larger point out of what is at best a minor observation.

Disagree that Althouse's observation was a minor one. Alterman inadvertently showed himself to be in good standing with his Bolshevik ancestors.

Gatekeepers, Council, authorized to condemn???

In the best traditions of panels that scrutinized all Soviet publications for incorrect, anti-Soviet thought.

Alterman's pals already tried it here with campus speech codes - the worst of which also had panels of ernest Lefties (drawn from activist faculty, students, administrators) with the impulse to control - defining what was allowed speech, what circumstances could bring an offender before the speech code council, and what "corrective" measures could be imposed in transgressors.
As the angry backlash against the Codes and the people trying to set themselves up as authorized PC enforcers - said at the time:

"Stalinist to the core".

****************************
Naked Lunch - But wouldn't Joe Lieberman and his fellow Republicans be fascists by calling Democrats the past 4 years - terrorist coddler's

Well, you go to talk about perception of Democrats as traitors, but if we just focus on your 1st charge, it is not pro-American Democrats like Pryor, Salazar, Nelson, Harmon, and Liberman that coddle terrorists. It's you guys on the Far Left that are the cancer within the Democratic Party.

There isn't a single captured terrorist that lacks a long line of Leftys seeking to defend them, lobby for more rights, and lobby for other nations to stop cooperating with the evil Bush-Hitler.

You weep for more terrorist rights while you demand our troops fight to "a morally obligated higher standard" and accept the burden of all rules the Islamoids reject - or you will cheer as any US soldier or interrogator who doesn't is slapped in irons.
The only enemy you wish us to fight is just one Islamoid among the 10s of thousands seeking our deaths, bin Laden, simply because he is hiding in the hinterlands of a critical country that we would pay a huge price in lives and treasure to invade and look for the guy.

You only bring up Binnie because you see failure to get him as a useful tool for facilitating Bush hatred. If we caught him, Lefty lawyers would be clawing one another's eyeballs out to get on the planeful of legal counsel going to Camel Land seeking to advise him.

(And you Lefties only show your love of US troops when they are dead and you can use their corpses as tools to show "how much you care" and how nothing is "worth the life of a single US soldier in a civil war"...all while you demand we intervene in the Sudanese Civil War)

Fen said...

True. And the only reason that Dems like Rangel support the draft is because they hope to terrify young voters in opposing the war.

If their cause is just, why the need for deception?

Having served, I oppose the draft. Our NCOs do not have the time to babysit spoiled brats who don't want to be there.

OTH, a draft would drive the parasitic weasels into Canada... hmmm.

Bruce Hayden said...

Naked Lunch,

There really wasn't a whole lot of difference between Fascism, Naziism, and Communism. All were socialist and totalitarian. All brutally suppressed free speech.

Totalitarianism is inevitably required to impose socialism. After all, humans are greedy, and without being forced to, why should we share?

The theory is that everyone is equal, but inevitably, some groups are more equal than others. Ignoring the leadership, the difference between these is that under Russian Communism, the proletariat are the most equal, under Chinese Communism, it is the peasants, and under Naziism and Fascism, it is the small businessman, the shop keepers, etc. Other than that, they are pretty much indistinguishable, esp. as compared to democracy and capitalism.

To another poster who decried the use of "fascist" here, the reason that the terminology is not totally inappropriate is that fascism is totalitarian and requires suppression of free speech to survive.

I think I do see Ann's complaint though with tying Altman's desire to limit speech with "liberalism", because classic liberalism is just the opposite. The problem is that leftists have appropriated the term "liberal", while being anything but "liberal" in its classic sense. "Progressive" might be a bit better (but what is so progressive about socialist totalitarianism?), but realistically "fascist", etc. is probably a more accurate descriptions of current leftist ideology.

conva2olar said...

becket03, I too found Sunstein's proposal noxious at the time. (The title was Republic.com.) One distinction -- Alterman's scheme is a "more speech" proposal (it adds speech to the dialogue while leaving existing speech and speakers unmolested -- at worst, criticized), and thus is to that extent speech-friendly, while Sunstein's was, in a sense, a "how-you-may-speak" proposal, which is more akin to censorship.

Pogo said...

Big D said

... awww, who gives a damn what Big D said? What a tough guy, slinging the word 'bitch' around like a real manly man among men, entering a non seuitur about the draft, and generally sounding like a paranoid Alzheimers patient who wandered away from the nursing home.

Folks like Big D leave me in awe of how truly magnificent the human mind is in its ability to construct entire cities of bullshit in the mind. And Big D lives atop his citadel of radiant fury, his head about to explode in righteousness.

There's a certain pathos in such idiocy.

Bruce Hayden said...

Gatekeepers, Council, authorized to condemn???

In the best traditions of panels that scrutinized all Soviet publications for incorrect, anti-Soviet thought.


It should be remembered though that it was the Nazis that had massive book burnings.

Bruce Hayden said...

conva2olar

I am not sure how you reconcile Alterman's gatekeeper with more speech. A gatekeeper, by definition, is there to limit speech.

Big D said...

There won't be a choice when the draft comes, it will come as a direct result of people like you who voted for an unqualified corporate shill.

Good luck trying to blame your republican war of choice and republican foreign policy on dems. Is that how you sleep at night? That may be the funniest thing I've heard yet. Your already petrified, I love that. Be afraid, be very afraid.

You seem to have deluded yourself into thinking you got away with this stuff, but the public will make sure that you get away with nothing.

You will be held accountable by the people of these United States. Can't wait!

A good alternative for people like you is suicide, think about it.

JohnAnnArbor said...

A good alternative for people like you is suicide, think about it.

I'll bet you're a lot of fun at parties.

Fen said...

Big D, who are you responding too?

I think you're lost. Kos is over that way -->

Fen said...

BigD: You seem to have deluded yourself into thinking you got away with this stuff

Ah but we did. Rove Mothership Delta is already in the system. Soon we will.. RULE THE WORLD! Bwhahaha.

Pogo said...

Seriously "big" D (and I suspect the size marker refers neither to intellect nor useful anatomical parts, but adiposity and general fatuousness), what's the point of pissing all over the sidewalk here? Not enough love over at Kos or Greenwald? Googling yourself left you lonely? Attempting to achieve a trifecta of boring plus arrogant plus malodorous?

Steve Donohue said...

There won't be a choice when the draft comes, it will come as a direct result of people like you who voted for an unqualified corporate shill.

Good luck trying to blame your republican war of choice and republican foreign policy on dems. Is that how you sleep at night? That may be the funniest thing I've heard yet. Your already petrified, I love that. Be afraid, be very afraid.

You seem to have deluded yourself into thinking you got away with this stuff, but the public will make sure that you get away with nothing.

You will be held accountable by the people of these United States. Can't wait!

A good alternative for people like you is suicide, think about it


I think I know who Big D reminds me of:

THIS IS THE PHONEY CRACKER-CREEPS! THE SPIDER-CREEPS PUT IT ON THE PLATES!! THAT'S BECAUSE I WAS STANDING ON THE SANDWICHES!! THE CREEPS ARE TRYING TO EAT THE SANDWICHES!!

THE GIGANTIC SANDWICH-STACKERS BELONG TO COWBOY WRANGLER-GOOSE!! HE BOUGHT THEM AT THE STORES!!
SEE YOU LATER, CREEPS!! ULTRA-BEAN WILL HIDE THE SANDWICHES!!! HE CALLED THE BIRDS ON THE PHONES!!!

Seven Machos said...

conva2olar:

1. If you want to start a council, start a council.

2. I have found that people who use overly long paragraphs and write opaquely are generally trying to hide the fact that they are shallow hacks who can't write clearly.

3. You suggest that the debate would most likely improve. What's wrong with the debate right now? It's awesome. You are even participating.

4. [A]ll sides would receive corrective feedback from sources that were not themselves primarily engaged in the debate as partisans. Huh? What? Why are certain people credentialed to give corrective feedback and how are they not partisans?

Big D:

1. Exactly who or what are you responding to or talking about?

2. The only people who are talking about instituting a draft are far-left Democrats like sponsor Charles Rangel. I assume this is the an unqualified corporate shill you speak of.

3. I haven't seen a loon like you here since Boobgate. The fact that your howling has nothing to do with anything is either ironic, or hilarious, or both.

conva2olar said...

Bruce Hayden, good question. To answer you, I would say Alterman shouldn't have used the misleading word "gatekeeper". Despite its connotations, the context of his remarks makes clear he does not favor literally suppresssing anyone's speech. He wants a blogger panel to be able discredit speech (and sometimes speakers) by providing reasoned criticisms of other bloggers, which I think fits the "more speech" paradigm perfectly, and is a very different procedure from suppressing or censoring speech. Ann herself, after all, is criticizing (perhaps trying to discredit) Alterman by doing the same thing, for instance.

It also occurs to me that the idea of an "official" panel is intimidating to many of us, and of course this panel shouldn't be a government entity (as I argued above, there should be more than one such panel).

Seven Machos said...

DUDE. QUIT YAKKING AND START YOUR STUPID PANEL.

Fen said...

He wants a blogger panel to be able discredit speech (and sometimes speakers) by providing reasoned criticisms of other bloggers, which I think fits the "more speech" paradigm perfectly

But he can already do that. Simply form up an Instapundit-like site and link to counter-points.

What he wants is a mantle of authority to determine who should be ignored. I'll bet LittleGreenFootballs is at the top of his list.

MadisonMan said...

(as I argued above, there should be more than one such panel).

There should probably be a panel to make sure the panels don't go overboard, too. Blogreaucracy.

Seven Machos said...

Exactly, Madison Man. But you've got to keep an eye on the panel that is making sure the panel does not go overboard. Ultimately, we are going to need a Supreme Leader-type Panel to keep the watchers of the blogwatchers in check.

And who better to lead such a Supreme Board than Eric Alterman?

Fen said...

I call dibbs on the Human Resources Panel of the Panels.

Fen said...

My first dictat regards dress codes for hotties...

conva2olar said...

Steven Machos,
1. I never said I wanted to start a blogger review council. I'm discussing the merits of the idea.
2. I'll try to write more briefly. I don't think I was unclear, and I don't think I was noticeably more shallow than all the other commenters, since we're discussing the same issue. I may be a hack, however.
3. Important question. To be fair, I have to acknowledge, most of the things that bother me about online debate right now are not things that blogger panels could resolve. But some gross problems could be lessened. In particular, when policy opinions and character assassinations are rooted in false beliefs, there's room for a corrective voice. When some left- or right-wing bloggers I read correct opponents or major media outlets, their feedback often gets unjustly ignored, sometimes on the overly general assumption that it simply represents partisanship (mere opinion), or because it never got noticed in the first place. There should be some places, in other words, where a common currency of fact and context can be available to clarify where disagreement actually rests.
4. I wasn't talking about credentialing, per se -- merely that the panel in question wouldn't take positions of its own on (for instance) the Iraq war or universal health insurance.

conva2olar said...

Make that Seven, not Steven ... sorry (obviously I spent too long in front of the computer today),

Seven Machos said...

So you want to talk about how great a council would be, but you don't want to have one. That makes no sense to me.

The thing to understand is that politics ain't beanbag. Politics is the arena in which society makes its complex and perpetual trade offs. It is full of invective, clever attack, and character assassination. It is mere opinion. Every plumber down at #1401 understands this. It takes years of useless liberal education to suggest otherwise.

Also, everybody takes positions on (for instance) the Iraq war or universal health insurance. To suggest that someone can pretend otherwise goes utterly against human nature.

Mellow-Drama said...

Everyone responding to Naked Lunch is missing something, I think. When Ann said, "When did I say feminist bloggers can't meet with Clinton? I mocked them for meeting with Clinton. It's called more speech. You really don't understand what the marketplace of ideas is, naked guy." I think that was slightly hypocritical. What is Alterman's hypothetical panel, if not more speech?

The original post was about the control-freak impulse, and how we don't like it. We do not like it from the left, we do not like it from the right. (We do not like it here or there, we do not like it anywhere.) That, I can get behind - the impulse to control speech is ugly, no matter whence it springs. The blog panel evokes a blacklist, which provides a sort of hypocritical irony in that the lefties are always screaming about McCarthy, but frequently support this kind of thing. That by no means indicates that the Right doesn't attempt to do the same!

Naked Lunch said...

Cedarford said...
There isn't a single captured terrorist that lacks a long line of Leftys seeking to defend them, lobby for more rights, and lobby for other nations to stop cooperating with the evil Bush-Hitler.

So Colin Powell is a terrorist coddler too? He is against this administration's torture and rendition policy, along with many people IN the military. Gitmo has 750 people total that entered, 250 released, and 250 more to be released, and only a dozen or so to be charged with anything. As with this and everything else, Bush has failed miserably. How many terrorist convictions since 2001? Hmm?

Surprise surprise Cedarford - our allies don't like their citizens snatched and sent to gulags, tortured, and dumped off in E Europe. What a bunch of fucking babies huh?

Were Democrats calling Republicans unpatriotic back in the 1990's over a 78 day war with no American casualties? See here. Blow it out your ass.

Mellow-Drama said...

On further consideration, what's so annoying about Alterman's idea is that he wants a big circle jerk echo chamber, which is what a lot of blogs already are, but he wants HIS particular echo chamber to be the "official" one. Sort of like fen's idea of a "mantle of authority."

Seven Machos said...

Well Mellow, if some people on the Right (who exactly?) attempt to do the same, that makes what Alterman wants just dandy then.

When I was a kid, I used to steal tobacco and baseball cards and beer. I guess since I did it, I can't go around now and tell people it's wrong. And stuff.

Seven Machos said...

Upon further consideration, Mellow, exactly. Alterman and you and I can do what he wants done, and even claim that mantle of authority for ourselves. But people would laugh at us. Just as everyone laughs at his foolishness.

The thing is: Alterman is serious. He wants there to be a gatekeeper, and he wants it to be him, with his opinions and his fascist impulses.

SGT Ted said...

Melanie Morgan is a west coast talk show co-host. She is a former liberal who is an activist as well. She was a leader in the recall of Gov. Gray Davis back in 2002. She also formed MoveAmericaForward, which is a non-profit that support the troops with goodies and donations. The quotes are recycled out of context quotes from her radio show used in order to try and get her fired from her radio show. It didn't work.

She's a scream, actually. I listen every morning. The show is unabashedly conservative broadcast from the belly of the beast in San Francisco. Her co-host, Lee Rogers, is a class A curmudgeon. A very down to earth fellow.

* Morgan on Keller and other Times editors: "Hang 'em." (6/27/06) In response to the NYTs publishing of leaked classified programs in a time of war.

* More Morgan on Keller: "I would have no problem with him being sent to the gas chamber" if he was convicted of treason. (San Francisco Chronicle, 6/29/06) Same as above. I agree; anyone convicted of treason for publishing wartime secrets that harm national security or put the Armed Forces at risk should be put to death. Alot of Americans think the same way.

* Morgan on the proper punishment for those who "publish[] classified information": "Fry 'em." (7/10/06) See above two.

* Morgan on her co-host's suggestion that an arsonist responsible for a forest fire be burned to death: "Hog tie 'em first. That would be good." (10/27/06)

At least she is calling for the death of an actual criminal as opposed to someone who's politics they don't like.

* Morgan on Pelosi: "We've got a bull's-eye painted on her big, wide laughing eyes." (11/14/06) She went on to say that the targeting was political, not physical.

* Morgan on environmentalist Rachel Carson, author of Silent Spring: "[D]ig [her] up and kill her all over again." (12/1/06) In response to the fact that the banning of DDT brought about by Carsons BS book "silent spring" has resulted in the death of millions of Africans due to malaria.

Internet Ronin said...

To Someone Above: Eric Alterman is many things but he is NOT a fascist.

Anyone who makes such an absurdly stupid statement with a straight face has surely lost all sense of proportion and decency.

conva2olar said...

Seven, here's what I had in mind. A blogger panel comprised of liberals and libertarians and conservatives and others, who presumably disagree on policy questions like Iraq and healthcare, that did not discuss the substance of these issues with each other but confined their collective work to the procedural questions ("Is blogger X representing the administrative costs of the UK's National Health Service accurately?") could provide valuable information to all sides and would usually be more broadly trusted than the corrections made by a blogger who was herself participating in the substantive policy debate.

As for the question of starting a panel, I was simply saying I myself didn't necessarily want personally to start one (time constraints, etc.). I agree, no one is stopping a motivated participant in this discussion from starting one and trying to earn credibility across the blogosphere. And I do think it would be good to have more of this sort of thing, with its purposes constrained along the lines I have been describing. A modest conception of such panels could serve to protect democracy, and would themselves be engaging in free speech, not suppressing it. Of course such panels could fail. But I think ruling out the idea in advance expresses complacency about a lot of longstanding problems with public debate.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

conva20lar,

It seems to me that if you allow for more than one blogging panel/review council/whatever, you lose whatever dubious benefits Alterman anticipated from the idea in the first place. You could pick your blog-rankers pretty much the same way you can currently pick your blogs.

There is nothing multiple panels could do that isn't already being done with infinitely less fuss and mess by other bloggers and their readers. What Alterman wants is something only a single panel could provide: a straight "this blog is approved/this blog is disapproved" label. Make it multiple panels and before you know it Alterman and his pals at The Nation will have one, the Freepers will have another one, there'll be one for Christian homeschoolers, one (OK, three or four) for libertarians, &c., and after the dust settles, no one will know anything they didn't already, except perhaps that this is One More Bad Idea.

Alterman, I think, wants something like a Bloggers' Seal of Approval, something you couldn't avoid knowing about, in contradistinction to the current world where people can just run around the Internet reading only the bits they want. That, IIRC, was also the gravamen of Sunstein's book: Suddenly we have this important space where people go to talk and read and buy stuff, and yet there's no way for competing voices to station themselves right in front of the door the way they can at your local Safeway. Someone has to do something! Like produce (I hope I am misremembering this, because it's ghastly even in retrospect) a sort of virtual public space that you would have to (virtually) wade through to get to whatever you actually wanted — just like real life!

Peter Palladas said...

I thought we already had this panel and that I was on it.

Speaking as its CEO you are. We all are. If you don't like what you read then you don't read it. Bit like the TV 'off' button.

The worrying thing is that as this idea is so ludicrous, senseless - shameful even - it's probably already happening. ('Minority Report' with Woody Allen arresting himself for a putative thought crime.)

I demand the right to be 'named and shamed'. I missed McCarthy by a country mile. But I've always yearned to be blacklisted. Ma woulda expected nothing less.

BTW...where is Victoria. She is missed.

And also, now I'm here in Altland I hope someone is going to be able to explain to me what the 'Alt Gr' key on my laptop means. I've wanted to know for years, but never dared ask. Prof please - a solution. It must be something to do with you.

[This post has just about been passed by the Supreme Galactic Blogging Council. Just mind you. Be warned.]

Nihil Obstat The dude who drives off the cliff in 'Rebel'

Imprimatur Captain 'Never Get Out Of The Boat' Willard

conva2olar said...

Michelle,
While a single "official" blogger panel would be a bad idea, I think there's a distinction between having multiple correction-focused blogger panels that would stay disengaged from argument and having bloggers fact-check each other. (The latter is fine as far as it goes, but the import of a correction is often lost if it was embedded in a larger set of opinions from someone with whom one disagrees.)

Here's why multiple panels could be a good thing. Panels with the narrow function of promoting accuracy presumably would not, in fact, disagree with each other very often, even when nominally associated with opposing philosophies, although in my hypothetical the ones I'm proposing wouldn't carry such alignments. And if, say, four nonpartisan panels (nonpartisan because composed of politically diverse members) agreed on an empirical claim and one allegedly nonpartisan panel disagreed, the public is well served by knowing that ratio. Of course, a good argument by the minority panel or a minority-view blogger could be right and could win the day, and properly so, but it's good to have a sense of what the factual consensus is when you as a news consumer may not have the time or interest to study every issue and argument in optimal detail or to undertake investigations of your own.

PatCA said...

"I don't think that means I'm hostile to uninhibited, robust, and wide-open discourse, or that I don't believe the marketplace of ideas is valuable."

That's exactly what it means!

You are proposing some kind of academia-inspired peer review council that will tell the rubes what the bloggers really mean, because you don't agree with what they actually said -- and you distinguish these panels from ordinary posters like yourself...how? By some self-conferred authority from the media or academia, maybe?

Speak up if you don't agree! Fact check if someone is wrong! Please do not propose some authoritarian kangaroo court. These types of panels, IMO, are equivalent to snakes on a plane: they appear totally benign until they smell their prey.

That's exactly what it means.

Seven Machos said...

conva2olar -- The world is a blog panel and people vote with their mouses. Truth tends to rise to the top. Take, for instance, Rathergate.

Anyway, I don't think you are convincing anyone of the need for this thing.

Fen said...

where is Victoria. She is missed

I'm sorry. There is no "Victoria". At least not one approved by The Panel. Perhaps she is out there amoung the squawkers?

Also, I can't help but note your status as squawker. Your request for activation has not yet been approved by The Panel of Registration and Authorization? If you would like to upgrade your status to "Commenter", please submit the proper paperwork along with authenticating referrals from Approved Bloggers.

Be advised, asking after squawkers [like this supposed "Victoria"] is frowned upon by the Panel of Registration and Authorization and may considerably delay your approval into the Community of Commenters.

Fen
Director
Human Resources Panel of Panels

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

conva20lar,

I think there's a distinction between having multiple correction-focused blogger panels that would stay disengaged from argument and having bloggers fact-check each other.

Well, maybe, but I'm not sure the distinction runs the way you think. Your carefully-constructed nonpartisan blogger panels, however many of them you end up with, are going to end in dithering, because (1) these people have day gigs; and (2) even when they are blogging, they'd rather be blogging about something of their own choice, not whether so-and-so on such-and-such blog did or didn't misrepresent X.

The beauty of the current (non)system is that the people doing the fact-checking are actually interested in the answer and know something about the subject. That doesn't mean that there isn't rampant mendacity here, but it does mean that someone making stuff up is going to be called on it by someone else who's equally invested in the subject, but honest. Whereas your basic fact-checker in the system you propose will be either (1) completely uninvested in the subject; (2) passionate about the subject to the extent that fact-checking goes out the window; or (3) (2) with some sanity and honesty added. You really can't bank on all your fact-checkers being (3), especially if you are not paying them.

Stephen said...

If Dr. Strangelove were about the Acadamy-Mass Media Complex

I can no longer sit back and allow Communist infiltration, Communist indoctrination, Communist subversion and the international Communist conspiracy to sap and impurify all of our precious bodily fluids.

"I think it would be valuable if we had... uh... I mean, there's some sense where blogs correct themselves if you read enough of them, but I still I think it would be good if we had some sort of, you know, blogging -- you know -- council, where we could condemn people. Sort of... responsible body. You could still blog if you want. Nobody's going to stop you. But we're going to... everybody's gonna know that you're not to be trusted... unless you can sort of apologize or answer for yourself."

conva2olar said...

Patca, I'm not saying authority should be handed down "from the media or academia," as if we all are supposed to be subservient to some higher entity wielding arbitrary authority. My point is that a widely trusted fact-checking source would help curb the distortions of all sides of debates, sometimes more effectively than relying on the participants themselves. How such panels acquired that trust would be a very unmysterious process -- simply by proving themselves accurate over time with the public, just as individual bloggers sometimes do.

Seven, Truth sometimes rises to the top and sometimes doesn't. It was reported just this week that large numbers of people think just ten thousand Iraqis have died in the conflict there. Many people apparently exaggerate the effect of small class size on educational outcomes. Blogging is one level of fact-checking, and panels could be another. Of course blogging has enormous virtues, and some bloggers are very responsible. When talking about problematic trends in the media and public debate and what to do about them, it's good to look at multiple solutions.

Michelle,
Although you're right that many accuracy panelists would be lazy or ideologically skewed or both, just like many bloggers are, I already acknowledged as much and compensated for this fact by pointing out the value of judging their output in the aggregate. I think that nonpartisan panelists could arrive at an accurate consensus about factual claims more easily than large numbers of movement-aligned bloggers, and what's more, could better publicize such facts than the agenda-driven bloggers who in some cases will be less apt to prominently acknowledge their errors and to carefully adjust their arguments accordingly.

MadisonMan said...

The problem with fact-checking blogs: eventually they will tilt unfactually one way or another. Some politico(s) with axes to grind will volunteer to do the drudge work of digging up facts and suddenly all the facts aren't quite right because Hey! they're getting their "facts" from a blog that's wrong!

Consensus is all well and good until a paradigm shifts, by the way. Then conventional wisdom is left in the dust.

And what's wrong with debates that aren't all factual, anyway? Isn't that the way real life works? I like a life-like blog, not a boring collection of facts -- that's called an Encyclopedia, and I stopped reading those in 3rd grade.

Ernie Fazio said...

Whew, l'Althouse, pretty cheap comments about a very interesting thinker. I listened to the Blogginheads with Eric and Mark Schmitt, and you had to go to the last throwaway segment to get your ammunition, didn't you. You made a cheap ad hominem shot about a guy you best not debate on Bloggingheads.

This blogging thing has consumed you. It has taken over your life and your judgment. I wish for your sake you could go back to the non-political, popular culture, Kim Stanley and the Goddess with a dash of practical feminism thrown in gal from Madison, and leave the cheap shot diva world of one notes and off hand gibes at political thinkers.

Query, don't you consider Eric Alterman's political credentials above the norm? If not, why not? And, remember the big bad left juggernaut doesn't make any of them rich while you are only a couple of more ad hominem blogs away from real Schaif or Olin Foundation dollars. Are you ripe for an American Enterprise Institute or Hoover Institution fellowship, maybe an endowed position at the Heritage Foundation? Keep up the "good" work.

Steve Donohue said...

I dunno, I think Ann's going to have to try a lot harder to get Olin foundation money...

Revenant said...

It was reported just this week that large numbers of people think just ten thousand Iraqis have died in the conflict there.

That particular fact is a powerful argument that the "gatekeepers" are completely incompetent as informers of the public -- after all, virtually everyone gets their information on the war via the MSM. You're arguing against alternate information sources by citing the fact that the one information source you DO favor sucks. That's interesting, but not very sensible.

Personally I'm not surprised that people would think hardly any Iraqis have died, given that the MSM focuses exclusively on our troops getting killed. People who read warblogs regularly, on the other hand, have a better grasp of the true body counts and kill ratios. Watching the evening news you'd think that every day consisted of Americans getting butchered without ever managing to fight back.

Anyway, this whole debate is beyond pointless. There are already self-appointed Blog Police happily wanking away in their little corners of the blogosphere, and Alterman's welcome to join one if he wants to. Why anyone would ever take him seriously for doing so -- well, that's an unanswered question.

Seven Machos said...

I consider Eric Alterman's political credentials well below the norm because I hate Marxey, authoritarian leftists who use whatever mechanisms they can flail at to suppress political discourse and try vainly to control economics.

My group of esteemed gatekeepers has condemned Alterman and ordered him to cease all journalistic and blogging and professional writing operations. It has been written.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

conva2olar,

Although you're right that many accuracy panelists would be lazy or ideologically skewed or both, just
like many bloggers are[,]


"Lazy"? I did not say that. I said that bloggers are generally people making a living at something else. If you are blogging in the spare time your work allows you, possibly you'd prefer to use the time, well, blogging about things you want to write about, not fact-checking other bloggers on subjects that hold no interest for you.

But now that you mention it, there's another problem with the blog-council idea, which is that the people eager to do this sort of work are exactly the people who ought to be forcibly prevented from getting near it. I think it was George Will who said that some jobs ought to be barred to people who want to do them — like, say, "sex educator," or "Ambassador to the United Nations."

Seriously, a blog council would very rapidly be populated entirely by people who have a lot of time on their hands and like spitting on people. I mean, who else would have the time or incentive to bother? Whereas the blogosphere fact-checking we have now is done by people who actually care about a question, corrected by other people who also care about it. What's not to like?

conva2olar said...

Revenant,
You mistakenly assume I'm arguing against the blogosphere's important accountability function vis-a-vis the MSM, as though one has to be either "for" blogs or "for" the traditional media -- but in fact, I'm for the best of both and for fixing the flaws of each as best we can, not for reifying either medium as an absolute authority. Blogger panels, sensibly organized, would be another layer of accountability for their blogging peers and at times for the print and broadcast media as well. In turn, the panels would correct each other and would be corrected by fellow bloggers and by other journalists.

To reiterate, in my mind, panels of media-process bloggers could exemplify the value of "more speech" as the remedy for "bad speech" and their explicitly narrow process focus could help exclude bias (for the reasons I've indicated in previous posts), especially when their work was viewed in the aggregate, and to prioritize fact-checking in overall discussion more than often happens today.

Seven Machos said...

I thought John Rawls was dead but apparently he has found Althouse and is posting as conva2olar.

Seneca the Younger said...

Hear, hear.

Gahrie said...

What Alterman, and many of the posters, have either forgotten or ignored is that a major reason that people blog is to circumvent gatekeepers.

kcom said...

"Big D, who are you responding too?
I think you're lost. Kos is over that way -->"


Hey, Fen, didn't you mean:

"<-- Kos is over that way."

Ernst Blofeld said...

I don't think Alterman is a Fascist. He's just a very naughty boy.

The idea of "panels" of bloggers is a non-starter. It implies some sort of organization, leadership, and membership criteria for the panels, because otherwise there's no quality control. And that means excluding some people, because it's no fun to have a club if you can't keep the wrong sorts of people out.

The fact checking of the panel would itself become the subject of fact checking. There would be endless fights about its bias, just like today with the MSM. There would be angry words over what it chose to fact check and what it didn't. My guess is that The Panel would eventually become liberal, in accordance with O'Sullivan's Law: "any organization that is not explicitly conservative becomes liberal over time. "

What's more, what are the dangerous ideas and fallacious arguments out there right now that need to be shamed into non-existence by The Panel? I don't think the 9/11 truthers are going to be persuaded by any findings of The Panel. They'd just use it as evidence of how deep the conspiracy goes. Ditto for all the other conspiracy theories. Is The Panel supposed to give a definitive finding on whether universal health care is a wise policy? Uh, good luck with that.

So in the end, what does The Panel wind up being? Something of disputed objectivity that depends on its reputation. You can cut to the chase by just using one or more of the current bloggers of your choice to accomplish the same thing. No organization needed, no secret handshake, no tedious staff meetings. And they're already out there, just a click away.

Revenant said...

Blogger panels, sensibly organized, would be another layer of accountability for their blogging peers and at times for the print and broadcast media as well

No, they wouldn't, for the same reason that nobody's accountable to a "blogger panel". What are they going to do -- kick you out of the blogosphere? Fire you from a job you're voluntarily doing for free? Of course not. All they can do is talk smack about you and/or point out why you're wrong, and that's no different from what blogs do to each other today.

conva2olar said...

Michelle
Many of those who would want to correct other bloggers would not be badly motivated. Enjoying fact-checking and research hardly demands rabid partisanship. On the other hand, some would be badly motivated and as I have argued, distortions in their work could be compensated for by viewing the work of accuracy panels in the aggregate -- the partisans will tend to be drowned out by those who are shooting straight.

Revenant,
Bloggers do correct each other and conscientious corrected bloggers acknowledge their mistakes. All to the good. I'm not denying that there's a measure of self-correction in the natural blogospheric dynamic. The reason panels could be a value added innovation is that corrections by bloggers often don't get the attention they should among Internet users or more broadly in the mass media. Panels narrowly devoted to fact issues would have an easier time, I suspect, rationalizing partisan distortions in public understanding, because they would be less easily dismissed as mere political operatives, provided of course that they earned their credibility over time (that is to say, in my scheme such panels would not have any natural "official" status, which would be a frightening thing, but could earn a reputation for fairness that would leave them better situated to widely publicize and clarify errors than bloggers often manage to do.

Left and right bloggers, after all, are themselves hardly satisfied with the state of the MSM or with the factual predicates and narratives that underlie their opponents' writing. Just look at, say, the Plame-Novak-Wilson-Libby imbroglio for evidence of partisan dissatisfaction with the status quo.)

LetMeSpellItOutForYou said...

To be fair, he did say in his original comments that he was not talking about actually stopping anybody from blogging. Strikes me as a pointless distinction, since the point of such a panel would be to discourage people from reading what you've blogged.

Dewave said...

There won't be a choice when the draft comes, it will come as a direct result of people like you who voted for an unqualified corporate shill

Ouch. Big D really doesn't like Charlie Rangel.

But back on topic: it's irrelevent whether a properly constructed 'panel of bloggers' would be a good idea, a bad idea, or a pointless idea because no one would listen to what they said anyway.

The real issue is what the desire for such a panel is coming from: Alterman's wish to control what speech is permitted and what speech is not. He does not trust free speech. He does not trust people to make up their own minds. He wants to control what information the masses are given and thus control what they may think and believe.

Thus while some sort of carefully impartial blogging panel to pass judgement on various bloggers who 'step out of line' may not be bad in and of itself, it must be vigorously opposed because people like Alterman will try to hijack it and use it as stepping stones to greater and greater levels of censorship.

Revenant said...

conva,

If it was possible to form a panel which most of the blogosphere would trust to check facts (which it isn't), and if it was possible for a panel to keep up with the activities of the thousands of blogs that have significant readership (which it isn't), and if that panel could be trusted to remain free from bias and partisan bickering (which it can't), then yes, it might have some use.

And if I could fly and had super strength, I'd be Superman. Yay, imagination is fun!

conva2olar said...

Let Me Spell It Out for You,
I don't think the distinction between censorship and media criticism is pointless. Not only are they opposite in spirit or intention, but it doesn't necessarily so much discourage reading blogs being criticized as encourage taking a particular piece or writer with a grain of salt -- with cognizance of their past record with regard to factual accuracy on a given issue. Reputation is, after all, a libertarian substitute for regulation.

dewave,
I would venture to say most political blogging, by your definition, also "does not trust people to make up their own minds" because it involves commenting critically on the work of other writers. If everyone is supposed to do the research and analysis criticism entails on their own, then blogging itself is virtually delegitimized. The advantage of blog-criticism panels, narrowly tailored to the purpose of correcting inaccuracies and misleading statements, is that versions of such panels that proved themselves trustworthy (say by correcting right- and left-wing errors alike over a long period of time) could become a reliable tool in keeping debate accurate. Bloggers' criticism of each other, while helpful in some cases, often does not garner adequate attention among the parties to a dispute or in the broader media marketplace to serve as an adequate corrective. But in principle, such panels (there needn't be just one, in some absurd pretension to official arbiter of truth, but rather collegial and competing panels, helping each other improve the debate) are not different from much of bloggers' own work, which isn't censorship but analysis.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

conva2olar,

Many of those who would want to correct other bloggers would not be badly motivated. Enjoying fact-checking and research hardly demands rabid partisanship.

Of course not. OTOH, people who do fact-checking and research on their own time, without pay, are generally interested in the subject they're researching. I do a whole lot of poking around my own resources for various people in my own field (classical music), because I know how, I have a lot of books and scores and recordings here, and it's fun. But if it were another subject, (a) I wouldn't be able to make the time; and (b) no one would ask me anyway, having other sources to hand with more expertise than I.

On the other hand, some would be badly motivated and as I have argued, distortions in their work could be compensated for by viewing the work of accuracy panels in the aggregate -- the partisans will tend to be drowned out by those who are shooting straight.

But, see, we already have that. Any blog with a large readership is ferociously fact-checked. The only difficulty, as you say, is that sometimes the fact-checking itself is not where a casual or sporadic reader will find it. But it's guaranteed to be a lot better than anything a bunch of bloggers, however excellent, could do covering the whole bloody blogosphere, because it is pretty well by definition done by people interested in the subject.

Have you given any thought at all to where these multiple panels would reside, by the way? I mean, would their ratings be actually attached to blogs (and how the hell would that be enforced?), or would you have to go search for them? If the latter, I really don't see the point.

Dewave said...

I would venture to say most political blogging, by your definition, also "does not trust people to make up their own minds" because it involves commenting critically on the work of other writers.

Not at all. And you fundamentally misunderstand what not trusting people to make up their own minds means.

Vigorously arguing your position while criticizing an opposing one and then letting the people decide on the merits of each position is the essence of free speech and democracy.

Deciding that your position is correct and that this other position is incorrect and thus will not make it past your 'media gatekeepers' is Alterman's position, and censorship. He doesn't trust the public to arrive at the 'correct' conclusion so he is going to present only one side of the story.

To the extent that this 'panel' had no power to silence 'inaccurate' bloggers, it would fill no function that isn't already filled by bloggers: blogs fact-check each other all the time.

To the extent that this 'panel' had the power to shut down bloggers it disagreed with, it's just another form of censorship.

I see no reason for it's existence and the desire to control others speech and thought that prompts Alterman to propose it is dangerous.

Fen said...

Once you create The Panel, would you please give me its 6 digit grid?

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

conva2olar,

But in principle, such panels (there needn't be just one, in some absurd pretension to official arbiter of truth, but rather collegial and competing panels, helping each other improve the debate) are not different from much of bloggers' own work, which isn't censorship but analysis.

"Collegial and competing panels"? How on earth are they to compete? You just finished explaining that ordinary blog-readers have no convenient means to judge a blog's accuracy, so obviously you can't mean that the readers are going to judge competing panels on their accuracy track record. I suppose they could compete in terms of number of blogs rated, or left/right percentage, as you suggest. But I can see some rather obvious quality control issues coming up with both those measures, can't you?

It is not flat-out impossible to do this sort of thing (I do miss SpinSanity), but it's very difficult to do it well, and it is impossible to do it without being accused of naked partisanship for covering X and not covering Y.

conva2olar said...

Dewave,
I agree with you that any panel that had the ability to shut down so-called bad blogs would be engaging in censorship -- there's no question about that. As I argued upthread, however, I think Alterman does not want that, his use of the misleading word "gatekeeper" notwithstanding; and as I've said, certainly in my formulation at least, blogger accuracy panels simply would not censor speech ever; they would exclusively engage in blog criticism, which means they are adding speech to the blogosphere, not subtracting speech.

An analogy: Consumer Reports and Car & Driver magazines do not interfere with Hyundai's ability to bring a new product to market, but they provide busy consumers with information based on research that can be useful in their own decision-making. Obviously, anyone who wants to go to the Hyundai dealership for a test drive and to kick the tires is free to do so. Anyone can still read a blog a panel has criticized and formulate her own opinion who cares to take the time.

The potential benefit of broadly trusted panels would be that in disseminating corrections and providing context, they would be more broadly providing a factual predicate for debate than the corrections of bloggers themselves tend to do (because bloggers who are themselves contestants in debate tend to be mistrusted by opponents even when they make good points, and often are unjustly ignored by the MSM because they are put in a conceptual box of being "on the left" or "on the right" and therefore merely the embodiment of an agenda).

conva2olar said...

Michelle,
No question -- this sort of thing is hard to do well. But I don't think it's inherently unworkable. I didn't mean by "competition" that the public would be expected to acquire and apply expert knowledge to distinguish among panels' claims, rather that, in the manner of scholarly journals, peers can correct one another's work as well as draw on it to progressively build a more accurate model of the data pertaining to a particular issue (that was the "collegial" part).

The very fact that such panels would themselves be subjected to all manner of criticism almost guarantees that those who manage to build a good reputation and come to be cited widely will have done so either by refuting criticism, learning from it and making necessary adjustments in their claims and techniques, or both.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

conva2olar,

The very fact that such panels would themselves be subjected to all manner of criticism almost guarantees that those who manage to build a good reputation and come to be cited widely will have done so either by refuting criticism, learning from it and making necessary adjustments in their claims and techniques, or both.

Substitute "blogs" for "panels" in the above, and you have the status quo, yes?

conva2olar said...

Michelle,
Indeed ... as I've stressed, many bloggers correct their colleagues' errors beautifully.

But that doesn't mean the two formats are equally effective in disseminating corrections widely to blog readers or to the MSM journalists who report online happenings to the broader public. Politically aligned bloggers are too often relegated unjustly to the margins of debate -- dismissed as mere partisans ("that's just the right-wing base trying to get theirs"; "that's just the rantings of the antiwar left"), even when their corrections of others' work are accurate and important. So more power to their efforts, by all means. But accuracy checkers filling a kind of "meta" role -- writers who operate from the sidelines of debate rather than from within the fray -- sometimes are more able to set the record straight in a way that will achieve appropriately wide circulation.

Or you might say, "sometimes good bloggers remain stuck with a bad reputation because they're known to be on a particular side."

Revenant said...

An analogy: Consumer Reports and Car & Driver magazines do not interfere with Hyundai's ability to bring a new product to market, but they provide busy consumers with information based on research that can be useful in their own decision-making.

That's a lousy analogy, because both Consumer Reports and Car & Driver ratings are the work of paid professionals, available to subscribers.

Obviously you can HIRE somebody to give you an expert opinion on a subject you know little about. What everyone's laughing at is your belief that a bunch of self-appointed volunteer "experts" who call themselves "a panel" will be any more useful than the self-appointed volunteer "experts" who already make up the blogosphere.

LetMeSpellItOutForYou said...

Another analogy would be to Annenburg's factcheck.org, except directed towards bloggers rather than politicans. And it would probably be just as irrelevant to overall discourse. Note that factcheck's stated goal is to keep politicans accountable for their lies. So how's that coming along, guys?

conva2olar said...

Revenant,
I have addressed this point at least three times already -- the difference between bloggers and a nonpartisan panel that focuses exclusively on accuracy issues comes from two components: the "nonpartisan" part and the "exclusively" part (which are two ways of saying the same thing). My post above to Michelle is on point. As I said, many worthwhile corrections and criticisms among bloggers do not receive the circulation in the mass media they deserve because their points, along with the entire debate they are engaged in, is segregated into the misleading category of a partisan squabble, and the outsider, including the MSM, tends to think, "I'm not going to go to bloggers for truth, at least not to bloggers who are judging their own case."

By contrast, someone outside the fray of debate (including many people who are indeed experts to varying degrees) can be a valuable clarifying voice, and can be judged as credible enough to get their corrections disseminated widely. There are models of such blogs in existence already -- sites that refrain from participating in the substance of debates, but focus on addressing inaccuracies on all sides -- and these sites (e.g., Michelle mentioned the now-defunct spinsanity.com) tend to build up a better reputation as a fact-checking resource than many other sites. It's unfair that partisan bloggers often don't get their own criticisms taken seriously except by their own allies, but it is, I think, also demonstrably true.

Revenant said...

I have addressed this point at least three times already

I'm well aware of it. You've just never addressed it using an argument that actually made sense.

Ernst Blofeld said...

Again, specifically what ideas do think these panels would address?

And why would any panel be accepted as non-partisan? I can think of very few organizations today that are universally regarded as non-partisan, particularly anything in the political arena. If the non-partisanship can't be achieved in existing institutions, why should we believe it would be achieved in another context?

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Ernst Blofeld is right: There's no way in hell any panel of bloggers, however carefully put together, is going to be seen as "non-partisan" once it takes it upon itself to call out a partisan blogger of any stripe. At SpinSanity (it was .org, not .com, btw) the comments went berserk over any perceived mis-emphasis.

Seven Machos said...

Political and cultural nonpartisanship is impossible.

Revenant said...

Political and cultural nonpartisanship is impossible.

It doesn't even matter if it is impossible or not, because partisans typically perceive non-partisans as being partisans for the other side. So even if it was possible to avoid partisanship, it is impossible to avoid the perception of partisanship.

Seven Machos said...

The appearance of political and cultural nonpartisanship is impossible.

conva2olar said...

Revenant,
Saying my reasoning doesn't make sense is not an argument; it's an assertion. Why doesn't it, is the relevant question. Your conclusions may be self-evident to you but not necessarily to others. On the other hand, I think you're right at least that some people will always perceive corrections through a partisan lens. But others will be persuaded, I think, by a blogger who stays out of arguments and criticizes errors on all sides.

Michelle,
Thanks for the correction (.org). There is no way to prove a negative -- if someone is determined to assume partisan motivation and to discount inconvenient facts when they're pointed out, they're obviously free to do so. But I think we should try to construct some relatively nonpartisan spaces focusing on accuracy. They could be helpful to the many people who are open to changing false beliefs when given better information.

LetMeSpellItOutForYou said...

conva2olar: Your argument makes sense, but I find the counter-arguments far more convincing.

There's little reason to think such a panel would be effective at what it pretends to do or that it would be any more "authoritative" than a garden-variety group blog (as Michelle pointed out). To the extent it is effective, it would be easily corruptible and attract mediocrities and/or those with the worst sort of impulses. To that point, note that while your Panel would supposedly restrict itself narrowly to factual assertions (as factcheck.org already does in a different context), Alterman's original proposal was for a "council where we could condemn people" [my emphasis], which strikes me as a far more mischeivous agenda.

I'd add that it would not be nearly as effective at countering falsehoods as you may think. Suppose a couple of prominent bloggers are hurling insults at each other and making a bunch of contradictory assertions. Someone demands a ruling from The Panel. Unfortunately, The Panel is already in the midst of examining a bazillion other bitch-slappings by those who hope to have their opponent's ratings lowered, and it'll take at least a month to get around to it. After all, what makes one controversy more important than another? Does the Panel restrict itself to strictly political questions, or does it get into arguments between climatologists as well? In arguments about taxation, would it take forecasts from the Congressional Budget Office at face value, or would it subject them to the same sort of scrutiny it devotes to bloggers? All of this takes enormous amounts of time and expertise, along with endless taffee-pull discussions to formulate policy. In the meantime, intelligent people read a bunch of rapidly emerging commentary on whatever the altercation is about, form their own opinions and move on. The people who follow the Panel's ruling will be not as interested in the point of fact as whether their least favvorite blogger gets condemned.

conva2olar said...

Spell It Out,
You make reasonable points. There's no guarantee that a panel system would work. But -- re: attracting mediocrities, as I've said, my proposal would be for multiple panels that could check each other and in the aggregate could likely yield a reasonable consensus about many contested facts. Like you, though, I don't think a focus on "condemning" people is likely to be helpful. As to your second point, there's no reason to think panels couldn't specialize in various fields, thus avoiding much of the backlog you suggest would be likely. Sure one could tune out such meticulous bureaucratic procedures, insofar as they still took too long, but their conclusions could be picked up by other outlets and at least put corrections back into the news cycle more effectively than complaining bloggers (no matter how legit the complaints) often manage to do. The accuracy panel system need not work perfectly to be valuable.

LetMeSpellItOutForYou said...

I see no reason to think the backlog problem would be reduced with more specialized panels. Suppose there's a blogger who makes an assertion I passionately disagree with. Without the panel, I post a response in my own podunk blog, which people read if it has merit and if I'm energetic in popularizing it. But along with the panel's obligation to resolve such disputes, I'm given an additional sounding board to popularize my own blog, one that doesn't require quite so much energy or merit. That's a perverse incentive that I think would result in an increasing number of disputes, the more the Panel is used as a sort of portal to what's happening in the blogosphere. The Panel itself would quickly become a source of noise that would require its own filter.

Kirk said...

Mike,

"Frankly, I am baffled by the anger at Reynolds."

You don't think sheer envy at Reynolds' prominence, coupled with a few flagrantly non-left positions like Self Defense/Gun Rights as a Human Right, or being a serious advocate of nanotech development, aren't enough to explain this?

Kirk said...

Regarding Instandit's true political leanings, can anyone who reads his recent piece on his home-podcast-studio redecorating fail to miss the implication that he's a closet Communist? :-)

Kirk said...

Fen,

"Kos is over that way -->"

Shouldn't your arrow be pointing to the left?
:-)