Smear campaign against Jill Carroll helps explain Red America

There will be deserved talk today over how a group of Right-wing bloggers and talking radio party mouth-pieces (note not all, some have withstood criticism and not joined the mob – and yes it is a mob), took Jill Carroll‘s release, instead of a cause for celebration, or at least pause, to be a moment to viciously attack a fellow American for different world views. They took the circumstances around her being let go from her captors and the propaganda tape she was forced to make as evidence of her being anti-American and in league with terrorists. Attacking a victim of fear and hatred with more fear and hatred.

Right Wing Nut House’s “TWICE A VICTIM” was especially powerful in its critique and concern:

In people’s haste to be first, or different, or just plain ornery and contrary (all the better to get links and readers) a culture of “shoot first and ask questions later” has arisen in the blogosphere that quite frankly, is proving every bad thing that the MSM has been saying about blogs from the beginning. Many of us – including myself – have been guilty in the past of hitting that “Publish” button when perhaps it would have been prudent and proper to take a beat or two to think about what we just wrote and the impact it might have beyond the small little world we inhabit in this corner of Blogland.

Scalp hunting has become the national pastime of blogs. Both lefty and righty lodgepoles have some pretty impressive trophies hanging on them; Dan Rather, Mary Mapes (twice), Eason Jordon, Trent Lott, Ben Domenech, to name a few more noteworthy ones.

But is this what we are? Is this what we are becoming? Are we nothing more than a pack of digital yellow journalists writing pixelated scab sheets vying to see who we can lay low next? If this be the way to fame and fortune in the blogosphere, I truly fear that, like television, the last great technological breakthrough that promised to change the world, we will degenerate into a mindless, bottomless pit of muck and mudslinging, dragging down the culture and trivializing even the most important issues.

This is no idle concern that can be dismissed as the nature of the beast or the way of the world. This kind of thing has to be stopped, an admitted impossibility with 29 million blogs out there. Maybe it’s enough that we are aware of it and that people of good faith and good intentions will, in the end, marginalize the muckrakers and come out on top.

Don’t count on it.

…My question is what will the blogosphere look like 5 years from now? If things continue the way they are, we’ll be just another cog in the great mass communications bordeom killing machine, titillating and entertaining our readers with our own snarky takes on the dirt dished by the MSM while our blogs are festooned with ads for everything from cold cream to the latest super-absorbent manifestation of Depends.

So much for citizen-journalists…

The blogs that jumped in on this hate machine have a ton a visibility, at least one was venerated by Time magazine. More important – the dirt they are dishing will have a long term echo because on the web, nothing is ever forgotten, and on the web, he (or she) who has the most inbound links, has the most influence. The sad thing is such hatred and partisanship draws MORE linkage and influence. And some who work for the the old guard are watching.

The Moderate Voice: Jill Carroll Hostage Case: A Black Eye To Blogging (UPDATED):

If each time a weblog screeches that X person hates America or X person is a fascist it gets kind of old — unless you are a member of a choir that wants to hear the same song over and over. There’s nothing wrong with that — but it does NOT enhance the credibility of blogs.

Do blogs want to be news analyzers? Opinion shapers? Political influencers? Or do they want to become like the very worst extreme left and extreme right talk show hosts? If the choice is the latter, then why shouldn’t the news media view blogs as a written by a bunch of hyperactive political activists who want to get their harsh opinions out there first no matter what so they attract attention to themselves?

Indeed. So ask youself again, how could accidentally hire a plagerist to launch a blog to represent the views of “the majority of Americans” (which was on purpose – their goal to open their opinion section to more “diverse” opinion)?

Because it is learning, ahead of the curve, how to exploit blogs, by the worst of its examples. They seem to realize that blogs are not a threat, but something to be embraced and extended.

Good for them, but bad for us as a society. We can promote services to our better angels, or decide that promotion by division is the way to gain influence and then riches.

David Weinberger: “Small Pieces Loosely Joined”: The conversation I believe we need to have is about what the Web is showing us about ourselves. What is true to our nature and what only looked that way because it was a response to a world that was, until now, the only one we had?

He wrote those words back in 2002. That conversation still needs to take place.

With no barriers to entry to share at the speed of thought… well is this our true nature?

Lord I hope not.

4 thoughts on “Smear campaign against Jill Carroll helps explain Red America

  1. Let’s put it this way – there *are* barriers and gatekeepers. In the bogosphere, they act to amplify the most popular and partisan. Neither now nor before is only “our nature” – they’re both our nature, with different natures being selected for prominence.

    Note that while David Weinberger is a very very nice guy, his occupation as marketer and business guru does not leave him well-equipped to deal with power issues and negative outcomes.

  2. Sorry for the late reply – bad day at work.

    I don’t think David Weinberger’s profession is really a mark against his opinions related to these things. Maybe being a marketer might actually give him insight into power issues? It counts upon your point of view I guess.

    I don’t agree with everything in Small Pieces, but if you haven’t read the book, I really recommend it. I don’t think Cluetrain has aged as well. I’ve read both just recently. Sure Small Pieces may be wildly optimistic, but I think how it makes the connection between human desire, the web, and links, is an important facet to all of this.

    Sure there are barriers. But ya gotta agree, they’ve never been so low. It’s mindblowing. And I don’t think we’ve come to grips with what it means. Folks write and link as if they are participating in private conversation, when in fact, they are sharing in a far more public, permenent fashion, then ever before.

    Are there gatekeepers? There are certainly some who have the influence to drive conversation, one way, or another. Attention-driving influence. Is that gatekeeping in the traditional sense of the word? The attention influencers can help me reach many, many times more people – but they can’t purposely keep me from doing so either.

    Unless you’re suggesting they are sucking all the attention-oxygen from the web. Which ya know, you may have a point when it comes to particular corners of it.

    But honestly, if I decided to start posting porn, exploiting human nature, as a way to draw attention to the messages I wanted to get out… I bet it would work. Not that it would be right.

  3. Overall, I think the barriers are about the same as they’ve ever been. OVERALL. APPROXIMATELY. ROUGHLY. There are shifts, and tiny, tiny, changes. But it’s almost the exact same crowd – sometimes the exact same people – in positions of influence.

    (I discount here the trivial argument that if you want to chat with a few friends, well, *you can*).

    Marketers, especially the sales branch (as opposed to demographers and analysts), are optimized to come up with irrational but emotionally appealing pitches, not objective, testably, and possibly unpleasant, analytical descriptions. That is why I do think the profession is reason to be wary (even though again, personally he’s a very very nice guy).

    We see the effect here, where what seems to me a very simple point – that any popularity-based structure is going to richly reward demagogues as opposed to rationalists – is extremely difficult to get across and discuss, because it’s an unpleasant concept and contradicts much of the web marketing.

  4. “(I discount here the trivial argument that if you want to chat with a few friends, well, *you can*).”

    But you’re not my friend Seth 🙂 We’ve connected here via discussions at Shelley’s. And now we read each other’s writing.

    “We see the effect here, where what seems to me a very simple point – that any popularity-based structure is going to richly reward demagogues as opposed to rationalists – is extremely difficult to get across and discuss, because it’s an unpleasant concept and contradicts much of the web marketing.”

    No argument on that score. You’re right. And that goes back to my Red America point.

    I think realizes that – and attempted to exploit it (consider it a first pass) – and definately will again. They get it.

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