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news & opinion with no titillating non-news from the major non-news channels.


I am: progressive, not a wild-eyed Progressive; liberal, but shun liberals and Liberals; conservative, but some Conservatives worry me; absolutely NOT a libertarian. I am: an idealist, but no utopian; a pragmatist, but no Machiavellian. I am a realist who dreams.


I welcome all opinions.

Friday, December 16, 2005

The New Old Guard:
   An Exercise in Disingenuous Rhetoric

Every generation must fight their Generation War where the new generation challenges the Order of their parents. In the 60s, the "Flower Children" balked and fought the stifling society of strength, order and stability that their parents built in the aftermath of the upheaval of the Great Depression and World War II.

Spurred by a revolution in politics and the media, in the wake of Vietnam, the Kennedy Presidency, the triple political assassinations, the Pentagon Papers and the Watergate scandals, these battles like all generational battles were neither polite nor genteel. Slurs abounded from both sides of the generational fence. One of the more clever labels thrown about by the Flower Children was antidisestablishmentarism, a word from English Anglican Church history redefined as a negative philosophy of steadfast and stubborn resistance to change, and one that had the virtue of being one of the longest words in the English language.

Today, the children of that generation are finding themselves, and the liberal society they have created and vigorously defended and protected, assailed by their own children of the internet. And the slur of the new children this time is the deceptively simple moniker, MSM.

Franklin Foer, senior editor at The New Republic, takes umbrage with the electronic usurpation of the established liberal press by the bloggers and their blogosphere, accusing the blogosphere of corrupting the free press. It seems he also takes issue with "the blogosphere (that) nurses an ideological disdain for "Mainstream Media"--or MSM, as it has derisively (and somewhat adolescently) come to be known"

Foer believes that his "Mainstream Media" is the moral equivalent to Plato's philosopher-kings; the Knights-Templar of the Holy Protective Order of the Free Press, if you will. The Inquisitors of this Holy Order are solely charged by Foer with maintaining the purity and integrity of an independent free press, "Newspapers deserve an army of enemies that nag them to be less lazy, less timid, and less nice (but) they don't deserve the savage treatment that they routinely receive in the blogosphere."

I suspect that Foer's Holy Order believes it should police itself, and all newcomers (or newbies, as his children might say) should be brutally suppressed, nay, dare I say it, tortured. His griping is tantamount to "flaming" the blogosphere as a Pretender to his Office of the Holy Inquisitor. Foer, in a revealing peek into his partisan beliefs, identifies the spawning grounds of this beast,

"You would expect this kind of populism from the right, which long ago pioneered the trashing of the MSM, or, as Spiro Agnew famously called its practitioners, "nattering nabobs of negativism." "

but Foer despairs,

"that liberal bloggers seem to have forgotten [...] (t)he right has used media-bashing as political gimmickry (and) want to weaken the press so it will stop obstructing their agenda [...] By repeating conservative criticisms about the allegedly elitist, sycophantic, biased MSM, liberal bloggers have played straight into conservative hands. These bloggers have begun unwittingly doing conservatives' dirty work."

Or to deconstruct and undiscombobulate, "No fair, they beat us to the punch!"

But Foer gets back on the high ground and continues, "What they (the bloggers) are attacking is the MSM's Progressive-era ethos of public-minded disinterestedness. By embracing the idea of objectivity, newspapers took a radical turn from the raw partisanship that guided them in the nineteenth century."

But Robert W. McChesney and John Nichols, in The Rise of Professional Journalism at inthesetimes.com, have a very interesting take on the (de?)evolution of the twentieth century newspapers that Foer exalts and exhorts. In short, McChesney and Nichols take to task the oligarchical consolidation of that raw ideologically partisan free press, typical of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, to a more narrow commercial, business-minded, market-share ideology of non-ideologies, Foer's rosy exuberance for a time that never really existed notwithstanding.

At the Founding of our Republic, a hundred years before Foer's "radical turn" of the free press, there existed numerous smaller partisan broadsheets, newspapers and pamphleteers that colored the free press with a broad spectrum of Diverse Opinions. This was the state of affairs when the works of Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Paine, John Dickinson, James Madison, John Jay, Alexander Hamilton, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, to mention a mere few, were published in broadsheets and pamphlets.

Foer's School of Objectivity did not consolidate the multitudinous diversity of Free Opinions until a hundred years AFTER the Founding of the Republic. Foer fails to understand that the Republic survived, nay prospered, for those hundred years, despite (or indeed because of) that "raw partisanship that guided them in the nineteenth century."

The blogosphere, contrary to Foer's "nattering nabob of negativism", has spurred the free press to return back to what it does best, encouraging and provoking the debate of public policy so vital to a free democracy. The free press fails utterly in that solitary responsibility if it imposes entrance requirements...

And what is that requirement to admission that Foer would impose?

The Holy Grail of Objective Facts.

"That "objective" style worked well for many years, because, in the postwar period, political elites shared broad assumptions about policy with one another--and the media."

I am not sure if Foer has retreated into a fantasy world again, but what shared broad assumptions and what postwar period? The Red Menace? McCarthyism? Hoover at the FBI? Perhaps he is thinking of a mere slice of that era, somewhere between Watergate and Ross Perot?

But, never the less, what happened to Diversity of Opinion? Has it no value? Objectivity is fine when you are talking about mere Facts. But much of what is going on within the blogosphere is the sharing and dissemination of Opinions and the subjection of those Opinions to the fiery crucible of open debate. I guess Foer believes select opinions belong on the Editorial or Op-Ed Page of established newspapers, or in unresponsive and highly edited Letters to the Editor (me! me! pick me, sir!). Or perhaps in journals and magazines such as, say, The New Republic??

And what has happened in recently history to Foer's Holy Grail of Objectivity? Has not MSM botched even getting the Facts straight? Has it not confused agenda and opinions with Facts? Remember Rathergate? And how many journalists of renowned press agencies such as the New York Times have recently eaten crow with their scrambled eggs because their trusted journalists invented the Facts?

But, ignoring these pardonable lapses of integrity as Foer is apt to do, are we to assume from his analysis that the general populace needs issues dumbed up for them by Foer's elites? In fact, is that not the core of a pre-internet criticism of the free press, by the free press, for the free press, that by dumbing up the news in the interest of increasing market-share, we have endangered an educated critical public and replaced it with uncritical consumers of news? Anybody remember the antics of the Mary Tyler Moore (MTM) show as it parodied local news in the 1970s?

Of course, an ever objective Mr. Foer understands where his shining city on the hill has failed. "But the Bush administration has violently rejected that consensus [...] (of) political elites shar(ing) broad assumptions about policy with one another--and the media."

Ah, so now we understand. The Blogosphere is an invention of those unscrupulous scoundrels who have stolen three successive national elections!

"The mainstream blogosphere (MSB) (Foer's less than adolescent moniker for the bloggers) is only too happy to bury the old media regime, because it has an implicit vision for a new order, one that would largely consist of ... bloggers"

I think Foer, in his "objective" mode of journalistic integrity, is blinded by one salient Fact. Neither Bush, nor Gore, invented the internet. And neither party is driving it alone. Maybe that is what Foer's hidden agenda is all about, buried under his "objective" journalistic analysis. He implies that his Holy Inquisitor is more competent than either party, or the people themselves, to "control the horizontal and the vertical". We cannot trust the other guy, so trust me!

What Foer fails, or refuses, to recognize is that in the end, the blogosphere is dominated, not by the behemoths of the two party system or that "independent" fourth branch of the government, but by the little people, as in We The People, much as it was in that era of Revolutionary broadsheets and pamphleteering. In fact, would it not be too large of a stretch of the imagination to classify the collective works of The Federalist as a pre-electronic blog?

Give Mr. Foer a dictionary, please. Can anyone spell "disingenuous"? Or maybe Elmer Fudd should just fall back to more simple "dishonest".


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