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February 11, 2005

Hugh Hewitt's Hobbyhorse?

In Jay Rosen's latest post, he links to a liberal blogger who calls the Eason Jordan scandal Hugh Hewitt's "hobbyhorse." Salon blogger Michael is an erstwhile fan of Jay's; his ardor seems to have cooled because Jay has three Jordan posts. He writes:

[M]y impression is that Rosen has slipped into the same fundamentally uncritical infatuation with the supposed "revolutionary" potential of blogging vis a vis mainstream journalism that people like Jeff Jarvis and Hugh Hewitt trumpet so relentlessly. And it's had a bad effect on the tone and approach of the PressThink project.

Palling around with the likes of Jarvis and Hewitt can't, on the face of it, be good for anybody. It's with serious disappointment that I note, as of this writing, that the last three entries at PressThink are taken up with the Eason Jordan flap (see below), which has been Hewitt's hobbyhorse for the last couple of weeks now. I don't remotely think that Rosen has the same kind of poisonous ideological agenda as Hewitt or Jarvis, by any means: but though he insists on reserving judgement, Rosen (whose first post on the matter was occasioned by his appearing on Hewitt's radio show to discuss it) is essentially acting as an enabler of that agenda in giving the issue such sustained and exclusive attention.

I could blog long about the post, but time is limited, so let's get to it. First of all, Jay has been critical of bloggers covering this story, so "uncritical infatuation" is only for effect. In contrast, Michael seems to have an uncritical infatuation of CNN types who slander the United States military and a misguided, though eloquently written, criticism of Jay blogging about it and being in league with the likes of Hugh Hewitt, who, according to Michael, has a "poisonous ideological agenda."

I can only speculate that he's referring to conservatism in general and Hugh's prescient ruminations about the power of the blogs specifically. What the blogosphere has done to MSM is undeniable and can't be overstated. It simply can't be. When a group of non-journalists force Big Media to write about something they don't want to write about, not only is it revolutionary, it's an astounding feat no one could have imagined a few short years ago.

Secondly, I need to clear up something. What happens when bloggers descend on an issue is a blog swarm - two words - not a blogswarm, blogstorm or blog storm. In BLOG, Hugh devotes a chapter to blog swarms and opinion storms. The analogy describes what happens when dozens of bloggers "swarm" around an issue/story like...a swarm of bees. That's the image. An opinion storm is the result of a blog swarm. This a pet peeve of mine, and I cringe whenever I see "blogstorm." Grotesque.

So obviously Michael hasn't read Hugh's book. Moving on. He says that not all blogstorms are created equal, that Rathergate "stinks of Karl Rove from start to finish" and that unfettered opinion and blog swarming may render the blogosphere "a tool of citizenship to a tool of political control."

Certainly the "power of the blogs" can be used for good or evil, just like anything else. Some bloggers will fall prey to opportunistic types who'll use them and their blogs for nefarious purposes, but Michael's real beef is with conservative bloggers, not his liberal cohorts.

Count on liberals to downplay something as paradigm-shifting as the blogosphere, except when it comes to liberal blog swarms, that is. I've written about blog envy many times on my blog, and I think it's the case here. Conservative bloggers have been at the forefront in breaking stories that eventually became scandals that Big Media reluctantly covered. Besides the Trent Lott fiasco (Republicans who had more to do with Lott's resignation than bloggers), what has the liberal blogosphere done lately?

They've manufactured a scandal about a conservative who may or may not be a homosexual, and may or may not have used an alias at the White House, and may or may not have gone to journalism school, and may or may not have asked President Bush a softball question. Good for them. (See Power Line, Wizbang and INDC Journal for more details.)

I'll never understand why people think it's worse to expose and flush out people like Eason Jordan, who slandered our military by accusing them of assassinating journalists, than it is to actually be a military slanderer. But thanks to this, Michael can freely express his dismay for conservative "blogstorms," and we can freely express our belief that Jordan must account for what he said.

More on Jordan from Lawrence Kudlow.

Update (2/12): Correction to my post from Salon blogger Michael:

La Shawn: Political disagreements aside, you've misinterpreted my remarks at one point here, and I believe a correction is in order. (Since you pull the quote at issue, it seems likely that this is in fact a misinterpretation rather than a deliberate mischaracterization.)

You say, of my term "uncritical infatuation," that "Jay [Rosen] has been critical of bloggers covering this story, so 'uncritical infatuation' is only for effect." Look back at my text.

I suggest that Rosen has "uncritical infatuation" for the potential of blogging to make a media revolution-and that this has caused him to celebrate what, since I regard it as a witch hunt, ought not to be celebrated. I did not suggest that Rosen was uncritical about bloggers' approach to the Eason affair; I read his posts on the matter and noted, also in the quote you pull, that Rosen had "reserved judgement" for himself on it. My entire point here is about infatuation with a medium for jounalism, not infatuation with a particular journalistic subject.

I did not, in fact, read Hugh Hewitt's book, and did (as I noted prominently on my blog, after I saw your post) correct my misattribution of the term "blogstorm" to him. (The original attribution was, in any case, only an incidental part of the post. I don't consider Hewitt an honest broker, as it were, and have no reason to think that familiarity with his book would change anything I have to say on this topic.) But the passage in your post I'm taking issue with here suggests that I criticized Rosen without having informed myself about what he was saying, and that's not true.

I thought Michael implied that Jay wasn't uncritical of blogs, when I knew that Jay took issue with the swarm and even criticized the name of this blog. But upon reading Michael's post again, it's clear he was referring to Jay's "uncritical infatuation" with our (bloggers) potential to bring about a media revolution, which is inevitable, in my opinion.

Yes, Michael and I have many differences, but the exchange has been stimulating. :)

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