Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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September 18, 2005
By: Kevin Drum

TRUTH TELLING....Via Ethan Zuckerman, here is Jay Rosen's comparison of the mainstream media and the blogosphere:

Jay believes that blogs became such a powerful force in political discourse because political journalism is so constrained. Journalists cant evaluate truth claims bloggers can. Journalists arent permitted (or dont permit themselves) to go beyond the usual suspects bloggers can and do. Journalists have to represent themselves as free of political bias bloggers dont and are transparent about their biases.

Jay believes that by 2000, political journalists were incapable of truth telling. Bloggers could tell the truth, and therefore become powerful.

I just don't get this. It's true that American journalists don't generally evaluate truth claims, and it's true that bloggers generally do. But who cares? This only matters if the blogosphere's collective evaluation actually gets at the truth.

In the field of science, for example, there is a long established and widely accepted methodology for evaluating the truth of a claim. It doesn't work perfectly, but history shows that over the long run it works pretty well. Claims that become well accepted by the scientific community really are the ones that are true.

Despite the best efforts of the philosophical and political communities over the past several millennia, however, no such method has arisen for non-scientific questions. So while present day reporters may not do all that well at getting at the truth, neither did reporters in the pre-objectivity era. Neither do reporters in Europe, who don't generally subscribe to American notions of neutral journalism. Neither does talk radio. And neither do bloggers. The blogosphere has several attributes that give it great power primarily size and speed but in terms of truth telling it's not really doing anything that hasn't been done before.

So enough with the triumphalism. Besides, if Instapundit, Power Line, and Michelle Malkin are the truth tellers of our age well, just hand me a copy of the Washington Post and a stiff Scotch to go along with it. The end of western civilization is closer than I thought.

POSTSCRIPT: I have a long list of complaints about the MSM, one that's probably not all that different from Jay's, but let's face it: most of these criticisms date from about 1700, not 2000. The rise of the blogosphere in 2000 was pretty clearly due to a combination of (a) technology and (b) sufficient leisure time to create a blogging class. If the internet had arisen in the 30s, there would have been bloggers in the 30s. It had nothing to do with an allegedly terminal decline of the MSM in the suspiciously convenient year of 2000.

And now, all of you can take advantage of the power of blogs and instantly tell me I'm wrong. Comments are open. Take that, MSM!

Kevin Drum 11:40 PM Permalink | Trackbacks

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