Sunday, February 13, 2005
Many people and organizations involved with mass communication and our national government long for those lost golden days when one could count the stone-skippers wading in the pond of media on the fingers of a single hand.
Thanks to the World Wide Web, the placid, lightly rippling media pond of yore has become a foaming cauldron of whitecaps, its muddied shore teeming with a bell-curve of rock-toting opinionated humanity.
I find this sometime confusing swirl of babble rather beautiful but other more established opinion molders are fearful and increasingly turning toward the attack suras of America’s Mahdi of Political Manicheism, Karl Rove; techniques described by Progress the monthly magazine published by the party of Bush chum and ally Tony Blair:
The dark genius of Rove is to attack the opposition’s greatest strength as well as trying to increase their weaknesses…by creating pseudo-scandals…the right achieved maximum leverage.
An observable corollary to this Rovian sura has been noted by others too numerous to mention:
It is a typical Rovian strategy to take Bush’s own weaknesses and hammer his opponent on them first, as if Bush wasn’t vulnerable himself on the issue.
But it doesn’t take an evil political genius to see, in an opinion pool as muddied and storm-tossed as our modern one, that the stark, simple contrast would rule the rue-filled news cycle.
This bloody technique, as we have noted of late in the partial aftermath of GannonGate phase 1, seems to be aimed increasingly at bloggers or as I prefer to describe the majority of them, ordinary citizens.
Oh sure, as Frank Rich details in this morning’s New York Times, the residents of “Holly-weird” still make yummy cannon fodder for the easily kerflutzed and spongebobulated cannons of fundamentalist wingerdom:
The commissars of the right cooked up a new, if highly unlikely, grievance against "Holly-weird," as they so wittily call it…the campaign against Clint Eastwood, a former Republican officeholder…There hasn't been a Hollywood subversive this preposterous since the then 10-year-old Shirley Temple's name surfaced at a House Un-American Activities Committee hearing in 1938.
But, increasingly, it seems to be the blogosphere’s rank and file on the receiving end’s of big political and media’s hairy eyeball.
This morning’s Washington Post continues this new trend with the interesting reworking of Mahdi Karl’s “hammer your own weaknesses” sura in an article screamingly headlined, Cloak of Internet Propels Deceit, Sneak Attacks by the interestingly named Lena Sun.
As Howie Kurtz, this past week, feverishly tried to spin “Jeff Gannon’s” self-published nudie pic into some sort of leftist blogger privacy crime, this morning’s Post, as with previous articles on an RNC-sponsored anti Daschle blog, begins with a right wing stabbing then veers toward an subtle implication of left wing crime with the handy hand-cleansing tool of a think tank quotation:
When an aide to Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) went online to fuel damaging rumors about the Democratic mayor of Baltimore, he entered a world where public and private boundaries are treacherously blurred…"It's the era of drive-bys, where the Internet can be used for sneak attacks and dirty tricks," said Pew Project Director Lee Rainie.
Ooooh, it sounds so scary, doesn’t it?
Scarier when one realizes that the chief architects of drive bys, sneak attacks and dirty tricks, pre web ascendancy, are the very same political parties and major news organs whose tears, now, fall so hypocritically on, they hope, the partially attentive ears of your typical mid 40’s, Bush-supporting, un-read and born-again first time voter.
An associate of a major liberal blogger had this to say this morning:
It's amazing to listen to whores like Howie crying about liberal bloggers digging into Gannon's "personal life." You know, the "personal life" that he spread all over the internets. Sorry, Howie, but I read the Starr Report, and I sure don't remember the same outrage over that incursion into personal lives.
It seems that this latest tempest in a e-teapot is more a reflection of old media’s continuing inability to understand this fractal new medium of chatrooms and mostly remuneration-free self-publishing.
This morning’s “Cloak of Internet” Nancy Drew mystery reloads and fires another think tank Dum-dum:
In e-mail messages, chat rooms and instant messaging, "people take the gloves off much more quickly than they do in person," said John Palfrey, executive director of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School. “There is something about the remoteness of the medium, the speed of typing and reading, the ease of hitting 'send,' the instant gratification . . . that leads people to be less polite online than they might be in person”.
Jeez, anybody remember an attractive little feature of snail mail called privacy and the present general public’s misunderstanding of that privacy’s unlegislated and non adjudicated digital presumption?
As usual with the major organs, truths that obviate scary lead paragraphs are buried in the article:
But if the Internet encourages nastiness, the near-instant information it delivers also creates more transparency and accountability…Experts say Internet users should assume that anything typed is a permanent record.
As a former Prodigy member, I should make it clear that I’ve been a computing dabbler since the mid 1980’s.
I’ve not ever really been a fan of chat rooms or instant messages.
Perhaps it is my age or, more likely, the fact that I’ve always been somewhat of a non tower-sniping loner.
In the past I’ve politely smiled and nodded as friends proudly display their instant message capability.
Though I’d never be so rude as to criticize an aficionado, the endless sound effects and banal greetings from anyone even partially familiar with the user’s web identity presented no appeal to this proud individualist.
Only recently have I been a semi-regular reader/participant in certain blog comment areas.
I find their informational gestalt more interesting than particular comments, though, on many, even non-political occasions, certain individual comments have been razor-sharp and highly entertaining.
Additionally, it would be misleading in the extreme to pretend that the business and political titans of information technology, in zealous pursuit of market penetration, did not make pornography and false implied assurances of privacy a major factor in the home computing success story.
The crime in GannonGate is not “Jeff Gannon’s” old semi-nude and, what some have found, very attractive AOL profile or the wider publication of what the Post described as that "permanent record” by leftist bloggers.
George Will, Charles Krauthammer, Chris Matthews or Tim Russert should be so buff or so easily tossed aside.
The crimes in GannonGate, barring its disappearance down the memory hole, cannot, yet, be fully known but are likely to include his false color membership in the White House press corps as it relates to the Plame Affair and the ongoing paid pundit scandal to say nothing of the late 20th and early 21st century Republican leitmotif of male prostitution in and around the halls of gov'ment.
As of this morning I still feel free enough to say that blogdom, barring the cessation of electric power across the United States, will not allow big media to rovanize privacy and freedom of speech into a simplistically ignorant left/right cartoon death match.
Modified Image: C-SPAN