UPDATE: Kos says some things I like quite a lot:
Bloggers of all stripes are realizing that we, as a medium, are facing an attack from the media establishment -- from the newsrooms to the J-schools. They hoped we would go away after the election but we're still around causing all kinds of trouble, so they will use every hook to try and discredit the blogosphere.
Precisely. Plus he also closes with the idea of "As for the academic weenies... I've given them a middle finger," which is the right sort of attitude for a wild practitioner to take. I had more written about this, but I lost it somewhere. Damn. Anyway, back to the original post...
Since someone asked me in an email and I know most of the principles, I figured I might as well drop my opinions on the Zephyr/Kos/MyDD hullabaloo. For those of you who haven't followed politrix online -- the political "blogosphere" in particular -- I'm not going to try and go over all the details. It's all hopelessly cliquish and inside-baseball, attributes of this whole scene that I'm finding more and more exhausting in 2005.
We've come a long way down in a year, you know? We were going to take over the world, really change the game; it wasn't just about stopping Bush's disastrous momentum, it was about totally changing the whole fucking system. It was about making the words "freedom," "responsibility," truth" and "justice" really mean something again. It was about making civic life a real thing, awakening the slumbering Public and really getting down to business in terms of fixing this filthy, fucked-up, unfair world we live in. I don't say this out of any particular nostalgia, but rather to observe just how petty shit will get when you loose.
This kills me because we're playing their game, it seems. Dancing before the mesmerizing flicker of CNN. I can see the argument that Now Is Not The Time to have this debate -- and to her credit Zephyr admits to being "criminally stupid" in the political timing of all this -- but at the same time I really wish someone with authority would have the gumption and chutzpah to say, "fuck this shit." Because that's what it is.
For the record, I'm inclined to believe Zephyr on substance and to understand what Trippi, Matt Gross and others have said as technically-accurate covers put up for the benefit of the media attention. I also don't think anyone did anything wrong.
Which is why I find the inability to resist the aura of scandal to be so fucking depressing. It reminds me of what Billmon said when he went on hiatus:
But the passion and energy that made blogging such a potent alternative to the corporate-owned media are in danger of being lost, or driven back to the outer fringes of the Internet... As blogs commercialize, they are tied ever closer to the mainstream media and its increasingly frivolous news agenda. The political blogosphere already has a bad habit of chasing the scandal du jour.
The internet (and by extension blogs) is an information medium. Its value as a tool for reform is contingent upon its ability to break free of the negative patterns which plague our existing media institutions, patterns which contribute mightily to the problems we face as a nation. Zephyr is attempting to explore one facet of this: the reality that in politics (and in advertising) people will try to buy you for who you know. This is worthy topic to discuss within the grand discussion of setting up a more positive information ecology. However, the sour irony is that in a few inches of newsprint, the Wall St Journal revealed how fragile and under-developed that new ecology remains, how abject and complete the political-blogging establishment's dependency on traditional media.
And now thanks to the personal inability of people to say "The Wall Street Journal can go to hell," the blogosphere is officially subject and author of scandal; the cannibal orgy is under way. Somewhere in a dark corner in Manhattan, John Stewart is shaking his head ruefully, staring into another watery glass of scotch. Many of us are part of the machine now, and the machine dictates that bloodletting is in order. Dan Rather has taken his licks; now it is your turn -- and lookie here we found someone from the loosing team to strap up. Don't act all surprised now. Burn blogosphere, burn.
Is There A Point, Koenig?
I hate to end on a nihilistic note, so here's this. Until we get our own lines of information, until we stop giving a shit what's on TV, we're going to keep loosing. The traditional media landscape is unlikely to change significantly in the next four years. Consolidation will not reverse itself as a trend; there will be no "Liberal Noise Machine" to match the conservative Wurlitzer that's been built up over 30 years with billions of dollars. In short, bullshit will continue to parade.
Let me repeat that in clearer language: if we play their game, we will not win. We have to compete in the common "marketplace of ideas" -- lopsided and corrupt as it may be -- but we have to do it on our own terms if we want to succeed. In that respect, this whole mess exemplifies how not to handle an attack.
And an attack this is, without question. There are more dimensions at work than simple left/right, republican/democrat in today's political arena. Bill O'Reilly is an egomaniac, but he's not entirely wrong to suggest that he's one of the more powerful men in America. As a combine, the Gang of 500 constitute a political power of immense proportions, on par with congress. I shit you not. The only means most public servants have of communicating rapidly with large portions of their constituency is by placing the Gang in the middle; any comprehensive analysis of power inevitably concludes the real Juice is with the middlemen.
Moreover, the Gang is enduring and unelected. Presidents come and go, but Wolf Blitzer remains. This president has succeeded largely because the press let him, and because his staff was able to flip the access equation back onto the corps when things got choppy: give us the coverage we want, or face the prospect of no coverage at all. Sometime down the line -- assuming we don't go fascist or otherwise regress -- some bright soul will write a history of the Bush administration, showing how their deft manipulation of the media was the cornerstone of their power, and how starving the press for information (part of their overall manner of overt secrecy) was critical in maintaining it.
But I digress. This is the situation we are faced with for four more years. If we don't get our shit together it will be eight, twelve, and then too fucking late to really do much more about than move to the mountains, gated-community or EU. 21st Century Politics is Information Warfare, and partisans for things like "freedom," "responsibility," truth" and "justice" face opponents in the political establishment and media establishment as well.
And so to me it seems like we've got to go all out; but then I've been hanging out in Portland guzzling schnapps and beer and whiskey and wine for the past two days, so take it for what its worth. But don't underestimate the stakes. It's life we're talking about. Strap on your courage, man.