July 24, 2010

I crack down on Newsbusters for saying "CNN Host Calls for Crackdown on 'Bloggers' in Wake of Sherrod Incident."

Newsbusters is getting a lot of attention for an article with that flashy headline, but the headline is completely unjustified by the video it purports to analyze. Let me walk you through the text and show you what I mean:
Anchors Kyra Phillips and John Roberts discussed the "mixed blessing of the internet," and agreed that there should be a crackdown on anonymous bloggers who disparage others on the internet.
Phillips and Roberts agreed that there should be a crackdown on anonymous bloggers who disparage others. Take note. You'll see that they don't. And what does that have to do with the "Sherrod Incident" referenced in the headline? Andrew Breitbart is the polar opposite of anonymous. He seems to love getting his name out there and all over everything. And the disparaging of Shirley Sherrod was done through her own image and words in a video clip.

Newsbusters quotes Roberts telling us what we know:  the short clip of Sherrod's speech made her seem a lot worse than the whole clip. But, as Roberts notes, we did go further and get the whole context.

Phillips brings in the the problem of anonymous bloggers:
"There's going to have be a point in time where these people have to be held accountable," Phillips said. "How about all these bloggers that blog anonymously? They say rotten things about people and they're actually given credibility, which is crazy. They're a bunch of cowards, they're just people seeking attention."
Roberts cites a conversation with Andrew Keen, author of "The Cult of the Amateur: How Today's Internet is Killing Our Culture":
"Well what Andrew talked about with me was this idea of a gatekeeper but there are huge first amendment rights that come into play here - freedom of speech and all that. And he said the people who need to be the gatekeepers are the media to check into these stories," said Roberts.
So, Roberts isn't saying there should be a government crackdown. He recognizes the First Amendment, and says Keen said he wanted the media to be the gatekeepers. Newsbusters says:
Phillips wanted to go even further, asking if "there's going to come a point where something's going to have to be done legally" about anonymous bloggers.
So... legally... does that imply a government crackdown or is Phillips only suggesting that there can be defamation lawsuits brought by individuals in which the identity of "anonymous" — really, the word should be pseudonymous — bloggers can be discovered?
"There has to be some point where there's some accountability. And companies, especially in the media have to stop giving these anonymous bloggers credit," she said.
So, Phillips ends up back at the idea that the media need to shift and winnow the material that comes up through the internet. Where's the crackdown?
"If you're in a place like Iran or North Korea or something like that, anonymous blogging is the only way you could ever get your point of view out without being searched down and thrown in jail or worse," said Roberts. "But when it comes to a society like ours, an open society, do there have to be some checks and balances, not national, but maybe website to website on who comments on things?"
Not national... I think that means he's saying the federal government should not be doing the checking and balancing. Roberts is saying that "website to website" something should be done — maybe just a rejection of anonymous comments. It's annoying that Roberts doesn't distinguish between pseudonymous bloggers and anonymous (or pseudonymous) commenters, but I don't see any place where he agrees even with Phillips's use of the word "legally," which was completely vague and most likely referred only to defamation lawsuits.
CNN's two regulation-happy reporters...
They never mentioned regulation! I think they were talking about the marketplace of ideas in which we are all the gatekeepers. In that marketplace of ideas, I'm cracking down on Newsbusters! This much-linked article is reeking crapola. And yet it is raking in traffic.
CNN's two regulation-happy reporters think the Sherrod situation can help bring attention to the "necessity" of blogging reform if she brings a defamation lawsuit against Andrew Breitbart.
What is the sentence with that word "necessity" in it? I went to the video, and I couldn't find it. I listened to the end of the segment 3 times, and it seems to me that the 2 reporters peter out with Roberts talking about how we all have to "be aware" and how he always tells young people not to put naked pictures of themselves on the internet.

"Regulation-happy"? "Blogging reform"? "Crackdown"? What nonsense!

IN THE COMMENTS: Old Dad said...
CNN's real problem is cablecasting boring and pedestrian filler.
Exactly. Newsbusters, ironically, is making them seem exciting. I think Roberts knew they were being pointless and tedious. That's why went all naked teenagers!!!!! in the end.

43 comments:

El Pollo Real said...

Boy CNN is getting all angry about their loss of influence aren't they?

rhhardin said...

Blessed are the gatekeepers.

New Political Analyst said...

Ann, bloggers are in a bad shape. For instance, No one -yes, no one- connected with Journ"o"list will ever get a Pulitzer price. [Ezra, you will never win. Matt Y., you will never win one.]

I love it. I really hate democrats who play dirty. These guys are dirty.

I want to win a style. This was the reason I campaigned in Madison for the Obama/Biden.

I wonder what Paglia thinks of Journ"o"list? I wonder what she thinks about their coordinated comments about Palin.

I should say that shame on Andy Sully too for protecting his friends in Journ"o"list.

N.B.: It will still not matter. GOP has no leaders. So, no problems for us till Jan. 2016.

deborah said...

"Ann, bloggers are in a bad shape. For instance, No one -yes, no one- connected with Journ"o"list will ever get a Pulitzer price. [Ezra, you will never win. Matt Y., you will never win one.]"

You can't predict this; they're in their twenties, for crissake. Besides, the Pulitzers are politcal.

AJ Lynch said...

Dang I must have watched a different video. I swear they were all angsty about bloggers and others having the ability to express an opinion without it being pre-screened by some Death Panel in Charge of Thoughts & Ideas.

Tyrone Slothrop said...

Obviously Newsbusters needs to be regulated to prevent it from publishing such misleading headlines.

GMay said...

With me not being a lawyer and all, doesn't a lawsuit or legal action imply that the government is involved in some way, shape, or form?

I see phrases like "these people have to be held accountable" and i start to wonder exactly what they're talking about here.

I'll agree that "crackdown" seems a bit overwrought, but you don't have to look deep for an undercurrent of "someone needs to step in here".

I'm not convinced Phillips is thinking media-to-media.

Old Dad said...

CNN's real problem is cablecasting boring and pedestrian filler.

Ann Althouse said...

decision to take action. Lawsuits are passively received by the courts and processed. These lawsuits can be filed by government or by private individuals. We speak of private actions when we talk about lawsuits filed by individuals. The courts are, however, also part of the government. But they don't "crack down." They do their duty under the law, decide who wins, and determine remedies. It's not a "government crackdown" when a court decides, in a tort case (like defamation), that the plaintiff wins and is entitled to damages.

traditionalguy said...

Over the last 5 years the internet has bred a new use for news stories from the alphabets and the big city newspapers. The new Blogs do an analysis in depth including expert fact checks that is blowing away the appearance of power to successfully set opinions. the irresistible force of Mind Control has met a greater force of Blogs and U-tube videos exposing truth The last hurrah for mind controllers was the death spiral of CO2 Caused Global Warming Doctrine. They are licking their wounds now. They cannot risk spending 17 years and billions of dollars setting up a Sting that empowers government to rob all banks everywhere just to have bloggers point out that their tunnel being dug under the vault is hogwash. What will they try to do next? Disable the Blogs.

somefeller said...

It's not a "government crackdown" when a court decides, in a tort case (like defamation), that the plaintiff wins and is entitled to damages.

Exactly. Pointing out that anonymous/pseudonymous commenters and bloggers aren't immune to existing defamation or libel laws isn't tantamount to calling for government censorship.

The fact that there haven't been more lawsuits in such matters is probably because potential plaintiffs figure that (a) anonymous/pseudonymous commenters and bloggers in many cases aren't taken seriously enough for there to be real damages worth suing over or (b) anonymous/pseudonymous commenters and bloggers in many cases are too poor to be worth suing. (The latter example is what lawyers euphemistically refer to as being "judgment proof".)

Flexo said...

The courts are, however, also part of the government. But they don't "crack down."

Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha.

Someone really needs to get out of the fantasy land of academia and out into the real world.

Hagar said...

Could Ted Turner buy CNN back and do some "cracking down" around their newsroom? It is surely needed.

GMay said...

Professor,

Thanks for the response. Your explanation wasn't hard and was something I should have been able to grasp. Oh well.

Like I said, I'll agree that "crackdown" is a bit much, but Phillips' comment to the effect of "someone has to hold these people accountable" just plain reeks.

Flexo said...

isn't tantamount to calling for government censorship

(1) The issue is the restraint of speech. Who does the restraining is not all that relevant.

(2) And those calling for "private" action aren't really talking about defamation lawsuits, they are talking about gatekeeper thuggery. The are talking about shutting people up.

They are talking about the established media getting together and colluding to shape stories, drown out opposing voices, restrain the news trade, monopolize the news industry, and distort the news that is presented to the public.

Flexo said...

"There's going to have be a point in time where anonymous sources have to be held accountable. How about all these reporters that report stories given to them anonymously? They say rotten things about people and they're actually given credibility, which is crazy. They're a bunch of cowards, they're just people seeking attention."

Phillips wanted to go even further, asking if "there's going to come a point where something's going to have to be done legally" about anonymous sources for news stories.

"There has to be some point where there's some accountability. And companies, especially in the media have to stop giving these anonymous sources credit," she said.

Flexo said...

Let's be clear.

MSM "gatekeeping" is not only suppression of free speech in its own right, it is a gross violation of antitrust law.

Brian said...

Any legal professionals reading this may elaborate, but I don't think you need the real name of the anonymous poster to file a defamation suit. One can file suit against "John Doe" or whoever, then use the coercive power of discovery to subpoena the ISP, the individual running the blog, etc., to reveal the identity of the poster.

The RIAA tried something like this against anonymous file-sharers, but at the moment....I seem to remember it had mixed results; now I vaguely recall a court decision AGAINST compelling an ISP to reveal the identity of a file-sharer.

Maybe I should do more research before posting, but I am, after all...just an anonymous poster.

AJ Lynch said...

I have learned more by reading the comments to MSM news stories than I generally learn from the actual news story [which is usually based on a govt press release].

Just yesterday, I learned that Joe Biden's economic adviser, Jared Bernstein, has degrees in music, socialogy, philosophy and social work but none in economics [per Wikipedia].

And CNN's Business Reporter, Ali Velshi, has a degree in religious studies but none in business.

I wonder what training Kyra Phillips and John Roberts have to be information gatekeepers?

edutcher said...

The ACLU & co. love to invoke 'slippery slopes'. Granted, CNN didn't call for it now, but the Lefties, sooner or later, always seem to end up getting something like this in front of a friendly appellate court judge or Congressman (Chuckie Schumer, Ed Maakey), so it's not a bad idea for Newsbusters to start mentioning this. The idea of an 'internet gatekeeper' sounds rather governmental to me.

Ann's point about the article is still valid. They're taking a lot for granted.

Ann Althouse said...

That's why went all naked teenagers!!!!! in the end.

Did I miss something?

Brian said...

Ann Althouse,

As you know, and likely teach, courts' treatment of defamation cases may not be a government crackdown - because individuals initiate the cases - but it is state action, which is why Times v. Sullivan, etc. applies the 1st Amendment to regulate court conduct in defamation cases.

If the rules of federal civil procedure were altered to make it easier for courts to accept suits against anonymous commenters, that's a crackdown, at least indirectly. Just as private attorney general statutes that open the floodgates of private litigants against businesses is kind of indirect crackdown.

MayBee said...

I do find hilarious the hand wringing from the network that went all-in on the Mel Gibson tapes.

Anonymous sources! Airing tapes! That may be edited! Smearing people!

newton said...

"They are talking about the established media getting together and colluding to shape stories, drown out opposing voices, restrain the news trade, monopolize the news industry, and distort the news that is presented to the public. "

Done already. It was called the "JournoList".

AllenS said...

I'll bet that Kyra Phillips and John Roberts didn't think it was a good idea to crackdown on anyone when Bush was president.

HDHouse said...

Flexo said...
"MSM "gatekeeping" is not only suppression of free speech in its own right, it is a gross violation of antitrust law."


hahahahhahahhahahhahahhahhah oh man!

vet66 said...

Makes you wonder who is going to be left to 'gatekeep' the so-called gatekeepers? Seems the journo-list folks weren't timid about not only cherry-picking stories but also not adverse to hurling false charges in order to divert attention from worrisome facts that worked against their narrative.

Did it ever occur to CNN and others of their ilk that, anonymous or otherwise, credibility is the determing factor? Arguably the left has far more egregiously violated the journalistic creed than those they accuse of promoting inconvenient truths.

What we are witnessing, besides the death throes of MSM, is the inevitable conflict between propaganda and objective inquiry.

Rich said...

This raises a question in my mind about why people choose to blog and comment anonymously. I realize there are certainly reasons and I have heard them described, but I'd be interested in hearing from people who choose to comment or blog anonymously (or pseudonymously) what is behind that choice for them individually.

Personally I made a firm decision when I first started down this road to just use my real actual name, all the time. I tend not to say things I don't wish to stand behind, as a rule, and I believe it enhances one's credibility to be willing to attach one's actual name to one's comments. Plus it seems to me it just increases the quantum of information conveyed when commenting. I don't mind people knowing about my background and such when considering what I have to say; indeed I think if I want any comments of mine to be considered then it is only fair to give people a chance to know something of my background, should they care to find out.

I surmise one reason for pseudonymous commenting is a desire to emulate Publius of Federalist Papers fame, to write from behind a screen and allow the force of reason to carry the day instead of any weight reputation
may add.

But I must say that mere bomb-throwing from behind a fake name strikes me as a bit cowardly.

Richard said...

MSM "gatekeeping" is not only suppression of free speech in its own right, it is a gross violation of antitrust law.

But it's the media's role to screen out the BS, to gather the facts before allowing cheap smears to clog its news reports. So gatekeeping is exactly what the media are there for. They are there to separate fact from fiction. Do they succeed? Not always. But having lived in an authoritarian country for seven years I've developed more respect for the "MSM" in America. The Sherrod catastrophe was a huge wake up call, reminding the media that hey DO have a role as gatekeeper, and that they let the country down when they parroted Breitbart's BS. Go see Anderson Cooper's coverage of Sherrod. That is what excellent journalism is (and I am no CNN fan): exposing BS and putting the confusing facts into clear perspective.

I agree with every word of Althouse's post.

traditionalguy said...

The economic power of an Andrew Breitbart to stand up to coordinated baseless litigation (slap suits) is one thing. But that is a rare circumstance. Intelligent men and women are the driving force behind Blog policing of the Alphabets and the big city papers. You will lose most of them once slap suits threaten legal defense fees...it was the weapon of choice to hamstring a certain Governor of Alaska.

Maguro said...

The Sherrod catastrophe was a huge wake up call, reminding the media that hey DO have a role as gatekeeper, and that they let the country down when they parroted Breitbart's BS.

Please. Who parroted Breitbart? If you just got your news from the MSM and didn't visit sites like this one, the first thing you would've heard about Shirley Sherrod was that she got fired by the Obama administration for racist remarks. Are the "gatekeepers" supposed to ignore that story? Filter it out?Really?

tim maguire said...

I originally read the article and watched the video and didn't notice the inconsistencies you mention. So I went back and reread the article and rewatched the video specifically looking for the inconsistencies you talk about.

And you know what? I STILL didn't see them.

Here's the headline: CNN Host Calls for Crackdown on 'Bloggers' in Wake of Sherrod Incident: 'Something’s Going to Have to be Done Legally'"

Which part of that is untrue? You can't possibly think the timing is a coincidence, so the "in the wake of" language is both factually accurate and not misleading.

They call for legal consequences to bloggers they don't like, so the "something's going to have to be done legally" is an accurate excerpt.

It's nice that they mentioned the first amendment, but did you notice the "and all that" part? That phrase construction that signals that it's not that important to them. And of course it isn't. This is typical, "I feel strongly about the first amendment, but only for speech I support" wording.

Jack said...

Looks like honest conservatives are starting to recognize and call out the liars in their midst. Keep up the good work.

Almost Ali said...

"I" am pseudonymous.

"They" are anonymous.

First vs. third person.

Methadras said...

Crackdown? What the fuck is this communist China?

Alex said...

N.B.: It will still not matter. GOP has no leaders. So, no problems for us till Jan. 2016.

Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, Chris Christie, Michelle Bachman....

campy said...

N.B.: It will still not matter. GOP has no leaders. So, no problems for us till Jan. 2016.

Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, Chris Christie, Michelle Bachman....

Okay, no problems until Jan. 2024.

Beck said...

Pardon the interruption, but I only came here as I was lead to believe there were pictures of naked teenagers...?

Phelps said...

"If you're in a place like Iran or North Korea or something like that, anonymous blogging is the only way you could ever get your point of view out without being searched down and thrown in jail or worse,"

Anyone who thinks that America is a place where a blogger won't get "searched down and thrown in jail or worse" is whistling past the graveyards. Court have already had to shut down several attempts by local governments to uncover the identities of pseudonymous bloggers. It's only a matter of time until they get to a court that is compliant.

Synova said...

I think it's pretty hard to read it as suggesting informal "civilian" checks and balances or to view "legally" as referring to something other than passing laws. Bringing up Iran where anonymous blogging is *necessary* seems to obviously imply that this is an exception to the situation in the US where anonymous blogging is *not* necessary.

Mostly though, it all seems like a hodgepodge of babbling un-thought. So who's to say what it meant. That would imply that it actually had meaning someplace in the noise.

Synova said...

Richard: "But it's the media's role to screen out the BS, to gather the facts before allowing cheap smears to clog its news reports."

Absolutely. And it is their role to find out what the truth is and report who is actually right and who is wrong on their facts instead of reporting that "so and so is worried about the email saying that the Bush Admin is going to start drafting their college students."

"So gatekeeping is exactly what the media are there for."

This isn't what I picture in my mind when I hear "gatekeeper."

A gatekeeper doesn't only decide who to let *in*, a gatekeeper decides who to keep *out*. The MSM can not gatekeep for other people. It can not gatekeep for bloggers, anonymous or not.

"They are there to separate fact from fiction. Do they succeed? Not always."

They'd succeed more often if they bothered to try.

Synova said...

"...but I'd be interested in hearing from people who choose to comment or blog anonymously (or pseudonymously) what is behind that choice for them individually."

I posted on usenet under my real name, back when.

But I choose to blog/comment with a pseudonym because I choose to write and publish (in the future) under my real name as opposed to using a pseudonym for that. No one really thinks twice about a person using a pseudonym in publishing, but I like my name and would rather not use a fake one.

Before the Internet people modified their public behavior all the time. It's not a lie to avoid politics or religion at family gatherings or in the workplace. But in *this* place you can't look around and see who is in the room before you express yourself.

So it seems polite to me to allow people the courtesy of non-political, civil, conversation by using two names that are both me. And if someone really cares they could easily find my name anyway, but if they don't want to go there, that choice is their own.

I know that I have been burned by authors who I wanted to follow who spent more time thoughtlessly insulting me than talking about their books and I've had to drop their blogs or drop their books. One or the other.

I think that's rude and I don't want to be that person.

Almost Ali said...

No one really thinks twice about a person using a pseudonym in publishing...

Pseudonyms bestow certain advantages, such as the suspension of ego.

Richard Fagin said...

We used to have effective gatekeepers. They were called state courts and they used to have the power to find public figures had been libeled. That power was effectively taken away in 1964. The results are plain to see.