Sunday, February 12, 2006

In the Left's crosshairs

There was quite a bit of commentary running around a few weeks ago when the Washinton Post got a first-hand experience in what it's like to be the target of the Left's ire. Seems the Post's Deborah Howell made a bit of an error in being a little overly inclusive when she wrote about the Abramoff scandal currently ongoing. At the time, she said that Abramoff had given money to members of both parties, albeit more to Republicans (which makes sense, as I'll explain in a moment.) The Left side of the blogosphere went barking moonbat on her and started filling up the Post's blog comments with one vulgar ad hominem attack after another. The torrent of abuse became too much for the Post's people to clear from the comments section and, in an effort to keep the paper's blog from turning into the Democratic Underground, editor Jim Brady made the decision to shut down the comments section. This merely enraged the already lunatic Left and they responded as they always do: they heaped invective on Brady by the bucketload.

Such... (ahem) discourse is nothing new to those of us on the Right. Michelle Malkin puts up with a stream of commentary and behavior from the Left so unhinged that she wrote a book on the subject. The Post didn't exactly sit back and flip these people the bird, either, as they should have. They listened to the complaint, which amounted to a vehement denial that Abramoff had ever given a dime to a Democrat. You'll hear that fact touted loud and clear by the Dems in Congress and Howard Dean if you listen for about 30 seconds. It's hair-splitting at its finest - the scandal doesn't involve Abramoff's personal donations, it's the donations he directed his clients to give which did go to both parties, including Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid - but the complaint is, in fact, correct. When the phrase is interpretted narrowly, it is absolute fact that Abramoff never donated a dime of his own money to a Democrat. The Left hopes that by saying that loudly, often, and quickly enough to not let you get a word in edgewise, it will become the only part of the scandal discussed.

Brady noted that Howell's language could have been more clear and, in good journalistic behavior, issued a correction. Brady apparently thought that should have been the end of it, but if he did then he's not paying attention to whom he is dealing with. His correction actually increased the rate and vitrol in the comments and that's when he closed it down.

Today, Brady is talking about the topic in an opinion piece in the Outlook section of the paper. It opens with a pretty catchy summation of the comments directed his way:

::::::::I am a twit without a functioning brain.

I also do not have any [ censored ].

Despite 10 years spent in online media, I really don't understand the Internet.

I am a dangerous ideologue , an enemy of democracy .

At least, that's what I've been told -- in much stronger language -- by dozens of people who have never met me.
::::::::

Welcome to our world, Jim. Now, we need to get something up front and understood perfectly well, here. This is an opinion piece, not a news story. Brady is under no obligation to be 100% objective here, or to refrain from injecting his personal perspectives into the story as he should be with a news item. I recognize these facts.

I'm a bit perplexed, however, that in all of this he declined to identify even one of the bloggers (he says it was a "handfull" so it should have been easy enough) who put out the rallying cry to go spit vulgarities out all over one of the Post's people, not to mention Brady himself. He doesn't articulate from which side of the political spectrum the hate mail was streaming from, although its reasonable to assume the Left given the particulars of the story. Were this a news story, I would call that lapse journalistic bias given that it's an important part of the story especially for those WaPo readers who don't delve into the blogs themselves. This is an opinion piece, however, so Brady's not required to be fully informative. It would have been a good touch but I definitely sense the attempt on his part to avoid naming names for whatever reason.

Brief aside for Brady: if you avoided telling us who were the spiteful morons behind this incident out of a sense of decorum I commend you, even if the effort is utterly wasted on the aforementioned morons. If you did so to avoid getting another barrage from these clowns then I must ask you if that's not a surrender out of fear? You know they won't respect that and they will do it again anyway, right?

Being a blogger, I don't think I'm surprising anyone when I disagree with his contention that there's no such thing as the blogosphere as a separate entity. He lumps bloggers in with mainstream media and contends there's no distinction there worth noting. The blogs stand opposed to each other sometimes and, he says, the media's exactly the same way. Here's where I have to part company with Brady. I would like to ask him - or any other member of the media - to point out a story in the last 6 months where 1 media agency, whether it's a paper or a TV station, did an investigative report on another media agency to show that agency had hidden facts or argued fallaciously. I can count on my 2 hands the number of stories covered in the media where another media agency's activities were the story. I run out of fingers in about 10 minutes when we're talking about the blogosphere.

The blogs and the media are symbiotic (or perhaps parasitic, as he says) but they are not the same. The rules of etiquette the media has been used to dealing with for decades are not followed in the blogosphere and they need to understand that when they venture into this space. Brady made the right call and he took heat over it from people who don't buy the concept that reasonable people can disagree and admitting a mistake clears the air.