True Lies


Internet alarmist Bill O'Reilly is at it again. Last night, after a not-unreasonable Talking Points memo on the Schwarzengangbanger story, O'Reilly brought historian Douglas Brinkley to discuss the real question: "[W]hy is this stuff in circulation?" The truthful answer—Mickey Kaus is an incorrigible gossip, people have been known to hold onto their old soft-core porno mags, and the interview itself is pretty interesting—apparently would not do.

O'REILLY: But the other thing is that the court system in this country does not protect anybody in the public arena. You—look, with the rise of the Internet—you see the vile stuff on the Internet? You could say anything you want about anybody.

And it just goes unchecked. Shouldn't there be a check and balance in this?

BRINKLEY: I think so, too, and I think the Internet—you know, you mentioned the Clinton era, and, of course, that's when the Internet kind of blossomed into our lives, and, suddenly, you had a billion e-mails going around the world and—on—every day, and I think the Internet's so unregulated and that so many false things come up.

When I used to do a book, Bill, I would go to "The New York Times" index, which had a quality thing. Today, if I'm going to look up somebody, you look them up on the Internet. So what's on there, some people take as truth.

One of the hardest parts of being at a university is constantly telling students anything you read on the Internet is worthless, it's not factual.

To belabor the obvious, the Oui interview actually took place, and was published in an actual print magazine. No amount of government regulation, court protection, or lying to college students is going to prevent people from reading old magazines. But then, O'Reilly seems a bit on edge these days. From the same interview:

I wouldn't answer—look, I've got to—I've got to tell you, Doctor. They're after me. You know that. And even you've had some problems. Anybody who goes on television and speaks their mind, they're going to attack.

NEXT: Viagra Falls

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  1. First off, we now know better than trust whatever we happen to find in the New York Times. There are vast numbers of sources – may of them on the internet – that I would more readily trust to provide accurate information.

    Second: I think what Douglas Brinkley meant is that the hardest thing about being at a university is having to stand up in front of a room full of students who may have been exposed ideas outside the liberal orthodoxy that forms the foundation of the majority thinking by university faculty.

  2. Bill (and it seems Douglas, too)wants a monopoly on discourse. Too bad…

    And Bill seems to have joined the groups he has long railed against — “victims” and whiners.

  3. The reason this is out there is due to its salacious nature; in other words, sex sells, especialy when politicians or would-be politicians are involved. Just ask Louis XVI and his wife Marie, they were the object of a wholly unregulated (but illegal) “gutter” or back alley press that helped bring them down.

  4. “Anybody who goes on television and speaks their mind, they’re going to attack.”

    That’s great! So, since the people on the Net enjoy talking about what a prick he is, he wants to regulate the internet. How bout we regulate his crappy-ass tv show?

    Sounds like Bill (shit, can I say that name or is it trademarked?) is officially losing it.

  5. Is it just me or does Bill’s rantings about the internet and how “anything” can be said (like this factual interview) make you suspect that Bill has a BIG secret that hasn’t hit the public yet. When a member of the media has apopleptic fits over the 1st Amendment and true statements being made, one has to suspect that said media personality has a secret to hide.

  6. Mo,

    I think you are on to something.



    I wonder if it will be the “Smoking Gun,” that breaks it?

  7. Thanks to Brinkley, it looks like Salinger Syndrome has finally met its counterpart.


  8. I think Bill needs to get Savaged.

    Maybe we should have an Appropriate Bill O’Reilly’s Identity for Your Own Purposes Day.

  9. Bill is just part of the elitist, big ego, big media crowd–one that thinks they earned their place, and deserve respect. People in powerful positions, in politics, media, entertaiment, etc., and are humble are the exception (say David Brinkley, Katherine Hepburn), O’Reilly is the rule. His no-spin shtick was funny when he first used it–I thought it was completely toungue-in-cheek, but it’s not, and that makes him sad, and pompous.

  10. Well, O’Reilly has already been outed on his supposed “working class” upbringing. He went a nice prep school, etc.

  11. I used to like Bill, even though I’m mostly liberal. He can be funny and he can be quite incisive.

    But Jesus, there are Chinese Communist premiers who whine less and act less prissy. The man is a first class foot stamping little diva. “It’s so unfair the mean things Al Franken is saying! I’m gonna get my boss to sue him!”

    God! What a pussy.

  12. Frankly, I trust most blogs ahead of most newspapers.

  13. Bill is just part of the elitist, big ego, big media crowd–one that thinks they earned their place,

    Er… if they didn’t earn their place, what did they do, exactly? Becoming a big anchor isn’t like opening a blog and sticking your personal rants out on the web — there actually is a competitive process that filters through contenders and rewards some more than others.

    I mean, I’m no big fan of O’Reilly — I tune elsewhere during that hour — but trying to equate dime-a-dozen blogs with real journalism… come on.

  14. In other words, Anon, blogs are exactly what journalism and the pamphlet press were in the eighteenth century: a freewheeling culture with thousands of voices, and a genuine open marketplace of ideas.

    In America until the mid-20th century, in any town of more than a few thousand people, there was a good chance that two or more newspapers were competing for readers. The cranky small-town newspaper editor with a few hundred or thousand readers was an American icon; with small circulations and relatively low-tech processes, market entry was a lot easier than today. And the best corrective for any deficiencies in the cranky old fart’s product was the ability of other cranky old farts to get a printing press and start talking back. Journalism wasn’t a “profession” that involved climbing a career ladder in a few giant oligarchies.

    In those days of easy market entry and a diversity of voices, the main mechanisms for advancing the truth were competition and the adversarial process. In today’s print media, on the other hand, the main safeguard for the truth in the oligopoly press is “professionalism” and a false religion of “objectivity.”

    Newspaper concentration replaced the market mechanism, which promoted truth by an invisible hand, with internal safeguards like “professional standards.” In the marketplace of ideas, like any other area of life, “professional culture” and administrative mechanisms for quality control are very poor substitutes for vigorous competition.

    With the internet, and the ability of these “dime-a-dozen blogs” to operate on a shoestring and challenge consensus reality, we are in many ways going back to the good old days. Journalism is no longer a “career ladder” for blow-dried “professionals.” Instead of the canons of professional journalism, the main restraint on the big boys will be the ease with which the little guys can challenge their version of events.

  15. Kevin Carson,

    You said it, brother.

  16. They’re after me!

    Who’s after you?

    The squirrels! They think I’m nuts!

  17. “Anything you read on the Internet is worthless, it’s not factual.”

    Does that include stuff about O’Reilly I found in the Wall Street Journal Online?

    Had I known this was worthless and not factual, I would never have cited it in my post about O’Reilly’s duplicity.

  18. O’Reilley is getting sloppy with both his mouth and hie research. His program last week on oil and gasoline was stupid. He is now just another mouth on TV who has opinions and then invites guests on who will either back his opinions or be so bad as to bolster his POV.

    Try Kudlow and Cramer; on at the same time and they really know their shit about economics and markets. Admittedly aimed at the very high income audience, but they do a real show.

    I think O’Reilley has seen his hilltop and is now on the downside. He is really sloppy.

  19. O’Reilly is a certifiable fool!

  20. Anon @ 7:08

    So does that mean we shouldn’t question Raines and his personal agenda? I mean he was editor of the New York *fricken* Times for God’s sake (oop, said the G-word). That’s a much tougher position to reach than merely getting a talk show. Any man that doesn’t meet follow journalistic ethics wouldn’t have reached that position, so I guess we should just sit back and not question him?

    What’s that? A bunch of “dime-a-dozen” bloggers exposed him for a crusading fraud? That’s amazing!

  21. Bloggers didn’t bring Raines down, but they helped the process. My point was that just because one “earned their place,” it does not follow that they are above criticism. Same goes for bloggers, just because they’re a “dime-a-dozen” does not mean that they can’t add anything useful.

  22. “Is it just me or does Bill’s rantings about the internet and how “anything” can be said (like this factual interview) make you suspect that Bill has a BIG secret that hasn’t hit the public yet.”

    I really hope that Larry Flynt is reading…

  23. Anon at 12:24

    I think the problem is that you are addressing an incomplete quote; you forgot the last three words:

    “Bill is just part of the elitist, big ego, big media crowd–one that thinks they earned their place, and deserve respect.

    It’s the respect O’Reilly seems to be hung up about. He seems upset that anyone can print anything, instead of listening with rapt attention to his pearls of wisdom, as he seems to believe he has the answers (undoubtedly thouroughly researched by himself and his staff).

    I agree with you in that he has “earned” his place, via his continued ratings and sales of advertising dollars.

    As for the use of blogs as primary sources of information, I frankly have done so in regards to events in Iraq, Iran, Hong Kong, and many other spots. It’s interesting to compare some usually anonymous poster with what the major news feeds are saying. Yes, I can’t be certain everything I read is accurate, but then I can’t trust the majors much, can I? News providers (traditional or blog) must continuously earn my respect, in order to keep earning my support (advertising vs. hits/donations).

  24. Well, O’Reilly has already been outed on his supposed “working class” upbringing. He went a nice prep school, etc.

    So did I. My father was a janitor. Because I went to a high school with a net worth in the billions doesn’t suddenly make me part of the priveledged elite. I worked my ass off to go there.

    Your response shows ignorance. Believe it or not if you want it badly enough you can go to a good school even if you are poor. While I was there I got to meet people who were in even worse straits than myself, and I got to meet people whose parents bought them sports cars.


  25. Anon 1224,

    Regarding the sweat equity put into investigative journalism: actual investigative journalism into the workings of the state and corporate machines has declined considerably in the mainstream press, in favor of infotainment on JonBenet, OJ and Laci. A great deal of investigative journalism had been shifted to the radical press of both left and right.

    And BTW, investigative journalism doesn’t just mean footwork and developing human sources. As Sam Smith said, the most neglected source in investigative journalism is the printed word. Just poring through official documents and the newspaper press around the world, and putting 2 and 2 together, seems to be neglected in favor of stories made up entirely of direct quotes from press conferences and news releases.

  26. Thanks, Catch22, that was my point–respect. O’Reilly reacts personally affronted when criticism flows his way, that’s not professionalism–it’s immaturity. Just one look at how he treats guests that offer an opposing view–generally dismissive, if not disrespectful–speaks volumes. And if he earned his way to his spot through some competitive process, why is he paranoid about dime-a-dozen blogs. If you were in his position, would you be paranoid about blogs? I’d just make sure my paycheck cleared the bank every month!

  27. And if he earned his way to his spot through some competitive process

    Amazing. Despite the fact that this has now been explained to you quite thoroughly, you continue to present it in the subjunctive tense, as if it’s up for question.

  28. Let’s try replacing “the Internet” with “conversation”:

    But the other thing is that the court system in this country does not protect anybody in the public arena. You — look, with the rise of conversation — you hear the vile stuff in conversation? You could say anything you want about anybody.

    And it just goes unchecked. Shouldn’t there be a check and balance in this?
    And it’s so self-dissolving. O’Reilly’s on the internet himself(, so what is he whining about?

  29. Bill,

    “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not after you!”

  30. Kevin Carson makes a fascinating point above (and one I have not seen before!)when he likens today’s internet to the old-time pamphlet press and the pre-“media conglomerate” age of newspapers. If anything, computer technology has diffused the potential for “publishing” way further down the scale than ever before: after, in the Nineteenth Century, how many people had a printing press in their house?
    However, while too much media concentration may not be A Good Thing – too much diffusion carries with it a whole other set of problems.
    To use the analogy of print: it looks like the “media” in general is becoming divided into two types of newsstand: One carrying the New York Times, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, and the Wall Street Journal;the other carrying three hundred variations of The National Enquirer and Weekly World News. I would hope that these would not be the ONLY choices – and of course, reality is more complex than this: but I know which stand I would browse for news – and which one for opinionation and/or entertainment.

  31. >>Frankly, I trust most blogs ahead of most newspapers.

    Gene 6-pack – -that statement’s ridiculous – most blogs are a regurgitation of newspapers (and TV).

    So where’s the trust come in – that they spin it your way?

  32. I don’t get why people keep referring to an interview in a mass circulation magazine, of which there were once several hundred thousand copies, as if it were a secret document that had to be uncovered by digging (or by incorrigible dirthounds). By definition, it’s been “out there” all along, most people just forgot about it.

  33. And Kevin Carson does indeed nail it — but that does not go to the trust issue (which wasn’t his direct point but another’s).

    >>What’s that? A bunch of “dime-a-dozen” bloggers exposed him for a crusading fraud? That’s amazing!

    Mo. Again – bloggers brought down Raines. Right. That’s Patently Bullshit (another Fox News trademark)

  34. Throughout history, the ruling elite have tried to control 3 resources: 1) the use of force; 2) food; and 3) information. In the Western world they have largely (largely) lost control of number 2. It is quite possible that they don’t really control number 1 (at least not well). Number 3 is really bugging them.

    Look. It’s _all_ information, but all information is not equally true nor equally valuable. I know a couple of conspiracy freaks who appear to me to be operating on wildly bogus info. They still managed to survive, work, raise families, etc.

    However, control of information does allow some control of behavior. All, ALL, elites want to control the behavior of non-elites because it interferes with their enjoyment of the perks of elitehood. O’Reilly is no different. His elitehood is endangered. He must work harder to protect it. No one wants to work harder. Q.E.D.

    Large organizations that attempt to control the grapevine soon find themselves in trouble. Alternate sources of even bad info are incredibly useful to the functioning of a loosely organized, de-centralized system, and, in the U.S., all but a few govt bureaucracies and all large private and non-profit organizations tend toward loose organization and de-centralization, whether they like it or not. It’s called the agency problem, when we think it interferes with the goals of the body.

    Our system is one with a goal (well it used to be, anyway) of personal freedom and relatively free market business. It _needs_ alternative info sources to survive and thrive. Even if you agree with the goals, the odds are very high that, if you are among the elite, you wish to suppress those forms and channels of info that appear _to you_ to be interfering with effectiveness, efficiency, or whatever. You also tend to conflate what is good for you with what is good for the system.

    Besides, O’Reilly’s shtick is getting really, really old. I quit watching more than a year ago.

  35. Is this Brinkley David Brinkley’s son?

    O’Reilly is a liberal who correctly determined that he could get a better gig pretending to be unbiased. He never says he’s a Republican or a Conservative, so he isn’t lying, but he gives the impression that his politics are somewhere to the right of center. Not so.

    There must be something out there that he’s afraid will expose him, but a previous poster said it, his schtick is getting old.

    He should retire gracefully from the fray. Lucky for him he’s multi-millionaire now and doesn’t have to work.

  36. Jay C.: Actually, there’s nothing novel about Kevin Carson’s mini-history of journalism; you just apparently haven’t seen it before.

    Also, though he addressed that post to me, it didn’t really counter the main point I had made, which was that it’s ridiculous to say a top news person hasn’t earned his position.

    Here was the sequence:

    Forbes Turtle wrote: “Bill is just part of the elitist, big ego, big media crowd–one that thinks they earned their place”

    I responded that while I don’t like O’Reilly, it’s ridiculous to say he didn’t earn his spot, considering it was achieved in a competitive process that rewards some and not others.

    Kevin Carson then wrote a quick history of journalism.

    Nowhere did I defend what he describes as the oligopoly of modern media. I simply noted that anyone who rises to the top has earned it. Irrelevant is one’s opinion of the venue in which such rewards are earned. The fact is, within that venue — in this case, the sphere of loud-mouthed personality punditry — they ARE earned. The market has decided that person X gets position Y over person Z.

    As for blogs being real journalism… As soon as I see blogs devoted to hitting the streets every day, cultivating myriad sources, and consistently digging out information we didn’t previously know — then I will happily turn to blogs for my news.

    The bottom line is that trust is a critical part of the equation here. And no matter how much fun it is to chide the big media — important, too — the fact remains that many, many people trust what they do. I know we could sit here and split hairs all day about the subtle bias in this New York Times headline or that CBS characterization of such-and-such, but the bottom line is that on the level of providing raw information, people trust these outlets.

    That is where their real power comes from: their audience.

    Blogs are fine for punditry. I mean, look, I’m obviously sitting here happily taking advantage of the opportunity to spout. I’m just not sold on their ability to farm raw information on their own. That is not so much a crack on bloggers themselves — some would surely make fine reporters — as it is on the medium.

    Because there’s one key irony not noted in Carson’s post: While the “barriers to entry” in the physical press DO lead to a concentration of papers and TV stations, that same concentration consequently makes those few outlets more powerful. That power, that reach, is the reason a Washington Post can do what it does toward uncovering truth.

    Woodward and Bernstein probably would never have had Deep Throat looking them up if they didn’t have that institutional power. When a Post reporter rings up the office of an unscrupulous senator, her call is going to get returned. Etc.

    You can apply this to any level along the way — down to town council meetings in little hamlets. The local paper will find things out, will have sources who cooperate, because of the relative power of its reach.

    There is a downside to this, of course: That same reach also makes some potential sources skittish about cooperating. (“I’m not having MY name attached to that in the paper, in front of that big audience.”) But I’d say the balance ultimately falls in favor of press power being helpful for getting real information and uncovering truths, and serving its role as one of democracy’s essential safeguards.

    I’m not sure this power would remain intact if reporting duties were spread out among infinite little outlets, none of which had any real pull on its own.

    At the same time, I’m not making an argument in favor of limited media; just an empirical observation with some speculation tossed on top.

  37. Shut off your computers, move out of mama’s basement and go get a fugging job! How in hell can you trade your free government cheese for an Internet connection and keep a straight face?

  38. The issue of O’Reilly being exposed on the falseness of his “blue-collar roots” has little to do with his attending prep school. O’Reilly wrote in one of his books that his father was the sole breadwinner in the family, supporting his wife and kids (I forget how many kids, I believe 3 to 5) on a salary of $30,000. People look at that $30K figure and assume, oh, they were scraping by. What they don’t consider is that O’Reilly Sr. was making that in the 1960s, when the average annual family income was something like $4,000-$7,000. The O’Reillys weren’t having cavier every meal, but they were far, far from poor.

    As for relying on blogs for your primary news source: Dumb, dumb, dumb. It’s as bad as relying on message boards, which I know lots of people do. The execllent point made earlier is that blogs are, for the most part, not primary news sources–they take their info from newspapers and other media sources. How is a blogger a more effective filter of information when s/he is just getting it from a filtered source in the first place?

  39. Whine, whine, whine. Why does FOX News scare you internet babies so much? Could it be that they are #1, and nobody cares how you feel about them? O’Reilly is far from right wing, and since the 2000 elections, he has tried too hard to prove his neutrality. Aside from that, he’s on the money about this one. The leftist crap You read on the internet is often presented as fact, and these juvenile liberals take it as just that. Exmpl:…The Bush IQ hoax…Revised Bushisms. FOX News rose to the top from a need for balanced journalism that is lacking in the mainstream press. Imagine if you are a liberal, and for 40 years, the only news souces you could access, were FOX News and Rush Limbaugh. That’s how Republicans felt, until talk radio and Fox News landed on the scene. Did you really think the liberal stranglehold would last forever?

  40. Anon at 12:24PM (08/30) wrote: “I’m not sure this power would remain intact if reporting duties were spread out among infinite little outlets, none of which had any real pull on its own.”

    Hopefully, the “infinite little outlets” would be GETTING PAID for such duties, I presume? Newspaper reporters (such as they are) get a paycheck every two weeks.

    Bloggers? Gee, I don’t know …

  41. PS. Maybe that’s why such power prevails. It’s bought and paid for.

  42. I think what scares O’Reilly most is that these days, just about EVERYTHING gets recorded or transcribed and ends up in an Internet database, waiting to be rediscovered. So his ignorance, lies, and contradictions are waiting out there, ready to bite him in the ass if some intrepid researcher digs them out.

    I recall one particular show not long after 9/11 when O’Reilly showed not only his ignorance of basic copyright law, but refused to listen to his guests when they tried (politely) to correct him.

    If my memory serves me well, the photo in question was of the 9/11 firemen, posed similarly to the image of the flag raising on Iwo Jima in WW II. O’Reilly kept insisting that once a photograph has been shown on television or in print, it was in the public domain and that anyone who wanted to use it was entitled to do so without having to compensate the copyright holder.

    I’m sure the exchange is in a transcript somewhere on LexisNexis.

  43. Don’t worry. O’Reilly doesn’t know anything about the Internet other than the URL to his website. He’s addmited countless times on his show that he knows hardly anything about the online world. So yea, I wouldn’t worry about any O’Reilly Internet proposals.

  44. James, FOX news isn’t scary, it’s just an embarrassment, especially to conservatives like myself stuck with indefensible simpletons O’Reilly and Hannity as spokesmen. Don’t confuse the Murdoch flair for tabloid-format, blimpish UK-exported ‘patriotism’ for journalistic rigor or intellectual honesty.

  45. Anenga, maybe O’Reilly is just intuitive enough to realize the Web is 1 percent quality, 99 percent junk.

  46. The reason that blogs are better sources of news than the major news sources is twofold:

    1)The blogger usually puts his biases right on top of the page, and

    2)Bloggers usually put links to source materials that most readers would never find on their own.

    Blogs are the best source for news if one really wants to explore an issue, but doesn’t want to make a career out of finding and reading, then filtering and reporting.

    And, just in the interest of accuracy, O”Reilly is neither a liberal or conservative, he is a POPULIST, which puts him (most people who study these things would agree) somewhat to the right of center politically.

  47. Michael — He may be a “populist,” but certainly not when it comes to the proliferation of media online, which ranks among the most populist things to ever happen to journalism.

  48. “[O’Reily] is a POPULIST, which puts him … somewhat to the right of center politically. (Most people who study these things would agree)”

    Well, Michael, I study these things, but I don’t agree. What does “power to the people” have to do with the political right.

    I remember thousands of fist-clenching radicals marching in the streets, shouting “Power to the people!” but they most certainly were NOT on the political right, my friend.

    Sure, we may think O’Reily leans right (i.e. conservative), but, like myself, he’s actually a traditionalist. And, personally, I kinda like the good ol’ American 1950’s values, thank you.

    pop?u?list n. 1. A supporter of the rights and power to the people. 2. Populist. A supporter of the Populist Party. –pop?u?list adj. 1. Of, relating to, or characteristic of populism or its advocates: a populist aversion to business monopolies.

  49. Frankly the primary point of O’Reilly’s rants vs the Internet, something glossed over and ignored by all of you whilst you get prissy over your misconceptions, is that there is no accountability. This lack of accountability has also negatively impacted commerce, with huge varieties of fraud perpetrated, and social/political discourse, with people taking time to post things that they wouldn’t say in person. Then there are the rumormongers who thrill in trying to destroy reputations annonymously. Something that a number of people posting here have dabbled in, with no evidence whatsoever I might add to support such writings.

    The problem that O’Reilly seems to have with much of the Internet, as I do have on occasion, is that it’s largely filled with uninteresting, unsupportable, non-factual, confrontational, slanderous bullshit.

    Of which there is a great deal right here. I hope you won’t mind my not coming back here. Just posting this was a complete waste of my time and I’m not planning on returning to waste yet more of it.


  50. Well, said, Ed. So, so true.

  51. Ed didn’t hear you, Philip. (He’s gone.)

  52. As an earlier poster pointed out: “The problem that O’Reilly seems to have with much of [conversation], as I do have on occasion, is that it’s largely filled with uninteresting, unsupportable, non-factual, confrontational, slanderous bullshit.”

    Uh huh. The internet, conversation, and even the media itself practically follow a normal distribution with a mean somewhere around “hardly worth a second thought” – sometimes you get really good, and really bad, stuff, but usually it settles around standard common discourse.

  53. Oh, the irony that I couldn’t even get the html code right when I’m telling someone else he sucks at the internet.

  54. As to “earning one’s place”:

    Please. Grand Inquisitors, dictators, cult leaders, gang leaders, et al all “earned their place”. This usually means that they have something close to zero consideration for people other than themselves and usually rather little life outside their particular role, typically the entirety of their identity is wrapped up in that particular social role, and outside of it they are generally of little use. Exceptions to this general rule are rather rare.

    Winning a given game tells one nothing other than one one a given game. All these are nothing more than standard social hierachies, and there is no real moral virtue in being at the top of one – no matter how intuitively appealing the idea may seem.

  55. Anon: As for blogs being real journalism… As soon as I see blogs devoted to hitting the streets every day, cultivating myriad sources, and consistently digging out information we didn’t previously know — then I will happily turn to blogs for my news.

    Anon, what do you think this is? Fundamentally (if you go back and look at the original post), this is an opinion post, and opinions are flying around, each promoted, argued for, and asking you to believe them. Do you get that on the Fox News Network, or on a weblog?

    As for factual reporting, “one blog” may not be “journalism” (a word that in this context tends to be defined as something only big corporations can do when examined closely, which gives you the win “by definition” but rather fails to capture the real world), but several blogs taken together has produced enough “journalism” to take down the New York times, and is starting to take down the BBC. I mean, hey, what more do you want from “journalism”? Not to mention the diversity of viewpoints, including a lot of real news, regarding Iraq coverage. (A lot of army people posting, some Iraqis posting.) What more do you want?

    Already in many instances the “weblog community” is drawing from more sources, with more thought, with more commentary, with more accountability then the mainline news. It doesn’t replace the mainline news entirely (something like the mainline news will always be necessary for basic fact gathering and certain kinds of local news reporting), but it’s very valuable.

    I think if you look carefully at your definition, you’ll find you’ve defined journalism narrowly as “that which the big companies do”. That’s your choice, but if you intend to be an informed individual, instead of a mere information target, it’s a poor one.

  56. “something like the mainline news will always be necessary for [biased] ‘fact’ gathering”


  57. What makes you think Bill O’Reilly ‘Earned his place’? I’m not sure that being the loudest, rudest, most obnoxious right winger on a right wing television network is an especially admirable accomplishment. The Chicago mob was also a meritocracy, but I bet you didn’t have people drivelling on about how Al Capone must be a great guy because he rose to the top.

  58. I would like to see Plutarck develop his idea of “amateurs v. experts” further, as I -long ago- got so sick of the battles of talking heads who are all supposed to be an “expert” at something that I just tune them out. What else is possible, unless the individual possesses knowledge in their own right that would settle the constant flood of Frick v. Frack?
    (I apologize and retract my statement if anyone has copyrighted the phrase “Frick v. Frack.”)

  59. I think Kevin Carson’s latest post is getting closest to the nut of the situation.

    If we were prehistoric humans, professional journalists would be the hunters; bloggers and others online are the gatherers. OK, awkward metaphor, perhaps, but there’s something near the truth in there.

    In the end, all anybody is trying to do is chronicle reality and process information. Professional journalists do it their way, and it is very important. Online amateurs do it their way, and it is very important. There are vital roles for both.

    Perhaps we can now all hold hands and sing in harmony.

  60. several blogs taken together has produced enough “journalism” to take down the New York times, and is starting to take down the BBC.

    Oh. My. God.

    There are actually people out there who have convinced themselves of this.

    Please, let’s have more of your incisive takes on reality — more of your “journalism.” The world is clamoring for it.

  61. PS, I work at the New York Times

  62. In my personal experience, for what it’s worth, most of the people who set up a Blogs vs. Old Media debate are Old Media defenders who are projecting opinions most bloggers themselves do not have.

    Blogs and say, daily newspapers, are essentially symbiotic, and most good bloggers will happily admit they’d be screwed it it weren’t good (or bad) things to link to. It’s just that there’s usually only one daily per city, with a rigid set of professional standards, while there’s an unlimited supply of bloggers who usually begin by being more or less oblivious to the traditions — good and ill — of professional journalism. Are most of blogs crap? Sure! But the best of them can be very interesting, and make important contributions to the global pool of journalism. First, by being forced to do many of the same things journalists do — write headlines, gauge the reliability of sources, develop a style, build an audience, avoid libel, etc. This makes them far more sophisticated consumers, and gives them the freedom to create their own media. Second, by bringing to bear whatever expertise they have on the handful of topics they know better than any general-interest reporter could. And third, by subjecting professional work to a kind of racuous peer review & decentralized fact-check.

    To cite one of a thousand examples of the latter, bloggers ripped apart the finding and methodologies of a Marc Herold study on civilian casualties in Afghanistan within two days of him making it public; newspapes, meanwhile, were citing the study with approval for months afterward. Later, when news organizations conducted their own reviews of the data on the ground (which Herold did not), their counts were typically 25% of Herold’s.

    The blogs vs. pro journalism debate strikes me as ultimately irrelevant, except as an amusement. And in any case it has little to do with the fact that O’Reilly and Brinkley said foolish things about the Internet.

  63. Furthermore, the internet is hardly made up entirely of blogs, nor are blogs themselves entirely written by “amateurs”.

    One of the biggest problems in journalism is that so much of what is written is written by people who simply are utterly ignorant about the topics they are talking about – thus the utterly laughable state of mass journalism when it comes to science and technology, computers, the internet, and – perhaps to only a slightly lesser extent – the stock markets and the economy.

    I’ll take a “blog”, or anything else, for that matter, written by John Brignell as wholey more believable about subjects ranging from statistics to engineering to physics to statistics than the most talented reporter anywhere; why? Because John Brignell actually has some fucking clue what he is talking about, and actually would have some real ability to tell whether or not what he is writing is accurate, or whether or not what he is being told is true.

    But seing how as I don’t much replace anyone else’s judgement for my own anymore, given the inevitable nature of so many people being so ignorant and wrong about so much, “credibility” means only that it is relatively unlikely that they will intentionally lie and throw out a bunch of bullshit made-up facts. For that you cannot rely on any institution, as only individuals have character – and even that requires more than merely taking someone at their word.

  64. It occurs to me that Bill O’Reilly is not an investigative journalist, but rather a purveyor of opinion. Is it any wonder that he is sensitive to those who would point out that his opinions often suck? When he whines about the lack of checks and balances he’s really complaining that there is no mechanism to suppress opinions contrary to his.

  65. I’d like to develop my earlier comment on the printed word being the most neglected source.

    One of the internet’s greatest contributions is to make available, with a simple mouse-click, online versions of thousands of the “reliable” publications that Anon likes so much. And it also makes available, online, all kinds of other information of public record from government agencies and corporations.

    So for the first time, somebody sitting in their living room can take a statement by a politician or some oligarchy’s “public spokesman,” and compare it to what the same person said in the past. Or fact-check it by reference to the mainstream sources that Anon respects.

    And most importantly, the web enables us to scan the entire world of mainstream newspapers, government and corporate statistics, university and think tank studies, etc., and synthesize them into a coherent set of conclusions.

    In other words, a blogger or internet journalist may not do a lot of legwork or develop a lot of human sources. But he is able to take the work of those who do such traditional journalism and, with the written word research skills that journalists should have but don’t, produce the kind of analytical work that is virtually nonexistent on traditional op-ed pages.

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