Posted by: Jim | December 27, 2006

We’ve Only Just Hatched

Tommy Masterson forwarded this editorial to me. I feel compelled to respond.

The author is an Assistant Editorial Features Editor at the WSJ. Not being a journalist, I’m not sure if that is an impressive title, but he seems quite eager to be impressive. He used the words “vastation” and “logorrheic,” which I had to look up. Good words, both.

But his opinion reveals someone whose ideas will go gentle into that good night. He does not get it, and his access to print in the WSJ does not make him a visionary. He does not understand the internet, nor its current stage of growth. He says this about it:

“Every conceivable belief is on the scene, but the collective prose, by and large, is homogeneous: A tone of careless informality prevails; posts oscillate between the uselessly brief and the uselessly logorrheic; complexity and complication are eschewed; the humor is cringe-making, with irony present only in its conspicuous absence; arguments are solipsistic; writers traffic more in pronouncement than persuasion . . .”

The author’s implication is that the mainstream media is better. Yet the lack of complexity and complication in blogs is largely due to the lack of same spoon-fed to us by the mainstream media over the past 150 years. We have you to thank, Mr. Rago.

We, however, are just getting started.

I could say this and find lots of facts to back it up: “When newspapers first started, they were abysmal, short-sighted, lying rags with little or no dedication to fact, and a great deal of dedication to greed and self-service.” Although if I did that, it would mean I read only certain journalists. Likewise, it is apparent that Roge only reads certain blogs–blogs that ratify his theory that we’re a bunch of blithering morons. But the fact is, early journalism was not what it is today. Nor is today’s internet what it will be tomorrow. And while journalism had a painfully slow, generations-long method of maturation, the internet grows with quantum computing speed. It took years for Edward R. Murrow to stand up to McCarthyism. Today, the ideas ultimately expressed by Murrow would happen instantly on the internet. So the immediacy and impudence he dismisses in the internet is also its very nugget of value. Sure, 99.9% of blogs are crap, but at any given moment, the very thing that needs to be said, is being said–and it’s being said in a blog.

And … we’re just getting started.

“This cross-referential and interactive arrangement, in theory, should allow for some resolution to divisive issues, with the market sorting out the vagaries of individual analysis. Not in practice. The Internet is very good at connecting and isolating people who are in agreement, not so good at engaging those who aren’t. ”

This is very correct, but how does this differ from mainstream media? Furthermore, I find it inspiring that a lot of bloggers are coming to this conclusion (I could list several within my tiny blog circle alone.) And finally, our ability to solve this problem is vast. We have not even started to find ways of encouraging synthesis–mostly because we are still too new to even recognize that the problem existed. But we do now. Give us some time Mr. Rago, and that whooshing sound you hear will be us passing you by.

“Because political blogs are predictable, they are excruciatingly boring. More acutely, they promote intellectual disingenuousness, with every constituency hostage to its assumptions and the party line.”

And this differs from MSM how?

“Of course, once a technosocial force like the blog is loosed on the world, it does not go away because some find it undesirable. So grieving over the lost establishment is pointless, and kind of sad. But democracy does not work well, so to speak, without checks and balances. And in acceding so easily to the imperatives of the Internet, we’ve allowed decay to pass for progress.”

The only thing decaying is the old paradigm, Mr. Rago. I can understand why you mourn its loss. But I will follow the words of Christ in this case, and let the dead bury their dead.

Rest In Peace.

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Responses

  1. Well, one might certainly expect an old-school journalist such as Rago to mourn the passing of his ilk’s monopolistic (and oft-abused) control over reportage. However, as The Butcher astutely points out, the guy just doesn’t get it. It’s a bit like a blacksmith whining about the advent of the horseless carriage and the dwindling market for his horseshoes — while his young assistant hurriedly learns how to rebuild engines in his ever-increasing spare time.

    It might be true that 90% of blogs suck, but so do 90% of books, films, TV shows, magazines and, um, newspapers.

    I hate to break it to Rago, but last time I read an article in the WSJ, it was filled with misspellings, redundancies, inaccuracies and inexcusably poor grammar — so if there was a Golden Age of Journalism, it has already passed us by far in advance of any accelerated entropy the blogosphere might create. The credibility that used to separate Real News from the rumor and innuendo of the masses has been eroded FROM WITHIN, my friends. The fact that every newspaper and broadcast has become indistinguishable from the tabloids is the fault of corporate-owned so-called Professional Journalists, not the bloggers.

    And this trend toward tabloidization has been coinciding with another trend for a long time now: the overall democratization of reportage. After all, it wasn’t a journalist who filmed the Rodney King beating, nor a thousand other clips like it that go up on YouTube every day. When the real news was happening, the journalists were busy whipping up stories about heroic puppies and the sexual dalliances of sports figures. It took average schlubs with cheap cameras to capture the IMPORTANT events.

    There will always be a place for people who are willing to get up off their asses and go find news to report — the war correspondents who risk their lives to relay a reality check; the Real Reporters who dig up The Truth about a politician or other powerful interest and defy the dangers of getting it exposed. Those folks will always have a job, and no Joe Average Hack Blogger with an axe to grind will replace them (though some of the more intrepid and noteworthy bloggers might emerge AS them). The people who have to worry about their future as ‘journalists’ aren’t journalists at all — just regular folks with an opinion and a rarely-used style manual, who managed to get themselves a cushy job writing pablum for a system that was all about ratings and subscriptions, not news.

    So, Mister Rago, the sour grapes might be understandable from a ‘nobody wants to be obsolete’ perspective, but the fact remains that we all become obsolete eventually. That’s this here thing they call ‘progress’ — and you can whine about it all day, but you’re just going to be that whiny old guy with the overgrown yard that everybody makes fun of. You know the one: rumor has it that he used to be ‘somebody’ back in the day…

    * * *

  2. Update:
    Rago shucks and jives, and tries to explain him self to Hugh Hewitt at Townhall;

    http://hughhewitt.townhall.com/Transcript_Page.aspx?ContentGuid=b8341646-83f7-4165-bba6-5e3ce99849ab

  3. Shucking and jiving is right. I could only read half of it and couldn’t continue. He’s just a dilettant who needed a gimmick to get noticed.

  4. accuse me of being a pedant, but it is dilettante, not dillettant. great word, though.

  5. ha, i put two ‘l’s in my second rendering of dilettante there, no matter (just pointing this out to save the time of any other pedants who may pass this way).

  6. I had looked it up! At http://www.dictionary.com it says “dilettant” means: \Dil`et*tant”\, n. A dilettante.

  7. Just goes to show that there’s a fine line between ‘dilettant’ and ‘pedant’.

    🙂

    * * *

  8. I had noticed the mispelling of dilettant, however didn’t want to show myself to be too much of a ‘pedante’. 😉

  9. Oh blunder! The misspelling of Misspell was a typo. I’m going to shut up now..

  10. I need to dispell this pell mell dwelling upon my misspelling!

    Dilettant is spelled correctly according to webster’s revised unabridged.


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