Sunday, April 02, 2006

The Blogosphere and Jill Carroll

The predictable news that kidnapped journalist Jill Carroll's favorable statements about her captors, made just prior to her release, were coerced and not reflective of her actual views has created substantial lamentations all across the blogosphere. A number of right wing bloggers had reacted quickly after her statements were published, accusing Ms. Carroll of all sorts of crimes against America. On the other hand, some bloggers on the left managed to explain that expressed concerns about her mental state were abhorrent, and that indeed her captors were kind and her homeland repugnant. All of this has turned out to be not only wrong, but unspeakably cruel to a woman who has endured the unimaginable.

In light of these happenings, Jim Geraghty has opined, "Rip the MSM all you want, but I read this stuff and I begin to appreciate editors." Rick Moran questions, "Are we nothing more than a pack of digital yellow journalists writing pixelated scab sheets vying to see who we can lay low next?"

Well, some among us are.

All of this serves as a reminder that the blogosphere, like Churchill said of democracy, is a terrible form of information sharing. It has many advantages over other methods, and is arguably better than any of the alternatives, but it has many weaknesses as well.

A decade ago, I read two books around the same time. One was Intellectuals, historian Paul Johnson's saucy summary of the lives of several public intellectuals who aspired for leadership, in spite of the personal limitations outlined by Mr. Johnson that might be thought of as disqualifying. The underlying message: intellectual leaders do not necessarily offer any better judgment on public policy matters than anyone else. The second was The Defense of Elitism, the late journalist William A. Henry's lament on the glorification of the mediocre by both the American left and right. I profited from reading these two books at the same time, as in combination they aptly revealed the limitations of the classes of both the elitists and the rabble.

Every communication revolution since Gutenberg as expanded knowledge and influence beyond a given intelligentsia, with both positive and negative consequences. When Wycliffe translated the Bible into English, he took the Bible out of the hands of elitist priests who misused it, and put it into the hands of sometimes ignorant people who misused it in different ways. Similarly, the blogosphere has given voice to many good writers and people with expertise and analytical skills, opening up information channels outside those of a mainstream news culture that had become increasingly smug and decreasingly competent. However, it has also opened avenues of communication for intemperate people who's skills and judgment are largely figments of their own imaginations. Where will we find a Simon Cowell in the blogosphere, someone who can tell the tone deaf that they really have no business doing this?

Of course, there is not one, but we can only hope that this will all work itself out in the wash. The public at large will eventually learn that much public criticism comes from yapping, self-important dogs, while that which is worth reading rises from writers that really have something to say. All of this will be a mess for a while, and some of the background static will always be with us, but ultimately the responsible voices, we can hope, will be heard above the noise.

Hat Tip: Allahpundit

1 comment:

Donna Locke said...

Yes, many people in blogdom have shown themselves incapable of editing themselves. I call them blogopaths. Because of such folks, I foresee eventual court rulings that will establish some standards and controls. In the way that all of us continually lose freedom because of the irresponsible, the ignorant, and the criminal.