April 19, 2005
Darn it, that Nick Coleman is Just Good Copy
"Press Think? I'd like to see that some day." The Star-Tribune columnist, known for tangling with bloggers, sent me this letter.
I think this is what set him off. If you know him a little (Nick’s a rebel) you can figure it out. Anyway, here’s the letter. More or less in the fashion I called newsroom bully baroque, when I wrote, “Newsroom Joe Hates Bloggers: Nick Coleman’s Classic Hit” (Oct. 2, 2004.) It came today:
Gosh. Do you THINK the press is being de-certified? Which side are you on? I thought that was your game plan. You ripped me last fall without even speaking to me because I had the poor judgment (or maybe the balls) to confront right wing wingnut bloggers who have my newspaper (and most others) in the crosshairs of a constant all-out partisan attack. And they are winning, prof. The Star-Tribune now has hired a by-god certifiable right wing activist and power megaphone. Funny, I haven’t seen you make any mention of that yet. Nor do I remember you defending me in December when I criticized the dudes at Powerline, who I called extremists while most of the academic press fakers of the world were bending over to kiss their jodhpurs. By the way, in case you haven’t paid attention, many other journalists have since come to the same conclusion. I could cite chapte and verse, but why bother.
Press Think? I’d like to see that some day.
Coleman Watchers out there, send me an explication de text in a paragraph. If it’s good, I will post. (jodh·purs (jŏd’pərz)Wide-hipped riding pants of heavy cloth, fitting tightly from knee to ankle.)
As I read it, Coleman says that right-wing bloggers are making it more difficult for mainstream media to honestly report the news. By putting partisan pressure on news outlets to “balance” their reports, they are pulling mainstream media to the right. Such pressure, I would extrapolate, would increase the incidence of “he said/she said” reporting, and/or create a chilling effect, resulting in news outlets not reporting anything that might be construed as critical of right-wing politicians and causes. [more…]
Is Coleman right? I don’t know, but I think it’s worth Jay’s time to honestly investigate. Jay is fond of talking about the “decertification” of the press, but if, as Coleman suggests, the press is now concluding that blogging is the domain of wingnuts, the public may well be drawing the same conclusion. Weblogs are now read by only about a third of Internet users [pdf]. Is the entire enterprise in danger of being marginalized before it gains a foothold with mainstream Web users? The “decertification” of blogging due to the effect of a small number of highly influential blogs - how is that not a PressThink story?
There’s more at her weblog.
UPDATE 1.0, April 20: Coleman is now claiming his letter above was personal, intended only to start a dialogue with me. Alas, there was nothing in the letter about that. When a communiqué to my PRESSTHINK mailbox is not for publication what most people do is write “not for publication” or “personal” somewhere in it. And calling me an “academic press faker” is perhaps not the most efficient method of signaling dialogic intent.
They’re on opposite sides of course, but Nick Coleman really reminds me of David Horowitz. Some practices common to both: the instant demonization of others, the personalizing of all disputes (“nor do I remember you defending me….”); the masochism in saying what you intuitively know will get you ripped; the comical self-image as the baddest, bravest truthteller of them all; generating side issues (like the “unauthorized” publication of Coleman’s note) in case the main one flags; the use of politics for narcissistic self-display, and the quality of seeming “unhinged” in public debate.
This is in addition to the most obvious parallel: the principle of all-out overstatement, almost all the time, the practice of rarely using a neutral term when a more inflammatory one can be found.
UPDATE 2.0, April 20.
“The state of transition in which we exist today is little more than its infancy and a maturing is years away.” Riehl World View (conservative blogger, self-described) responds to Blood and Rosen with a description of blogging’s illusions about itself, which are those of an infant. This is part of a long and considered reply:
The blogging phenomenon is prone to the folly of any early adoptive trend. It is more often and more rapidly embraced by the zealous, as opposed to the moderate—and in their zeal, that same group often garners the bulk of attention from anyone looking in or over…
Powerline has set itself up as a shrieking warlord against the media for the Right— but if you want to dissect their work point by point, it simply doesn’t begin to measure up to a small town daily. And with repeat visits and multiple clicks, likely doesn’t honestly reach a great many more people.
That said, it does reach some influential people— but who are they? They’re the MSM of course. The media has elected to make blogs a story long before they really have the capability of covering many themselves with more than a trickle of new information or opinion, fleshed out with a multitude of links to the MSM it, in some cases, purports to so despise.
As for this we are all one big blog machine notion, it’s utter nonsense and not born out by any objective analysis of the linking patterns of any large blog. At this stage of growth, it isn’t a whole lot more than the media talking to a few new individuals and themselves, which, as with most entities, is something it usually enjoys.
Read the rest, and leave him some intelligent comments.
Andrew Cline at Rhetorica:
The rhetorical maneuvers are similar, right and left, as you point out. I believe these to be cultural choices that transcend ideology. All seven that you mention have a common cultural source.
America is the land of individuals who hold individual opinions. The ancient Greek rhetoricians had a better understanding of opinion (because their culture had a better understanding). Opinions in the Greek understanding belong to communities not individuals. If opinions belong to the individual, then fighting for them is fighting for self. And so what you identify as personalization, masochism, etc. all become a form of heroism for one’s cause, which is no different in the American sense from one’s self.
This cultural tendency makes discussing just about anything terribly difficult because Americans tend to “take it personally.”
And give it personally.
…And the newsroom has left the building. “If the folks in the building want to insist that what they do has some sort of magical quality, well, today’s stand alone journalists have an even better chance of becoming the next generation’s most trusted names—plural—in news.”
Posted by Jay Rosen at April 19, 2005 2:55 PM
jerks like nick are so far left when the look right they're still looking left!
guys like him think a bi-partisan foreign policy debate will occur when you have russert interviewing hagel and biden.
or that a bipartisan campaign finance reform debate will occur when tina brown interviews mccain and feingold.
his disdain for blogging is similar to the left's disdain for religious people: like dinaosaurs seeing the first mammals devouring their eggs; like gorbachev watching millions of Poles rally for JPII.
coleman fails to see his own comp;icitness in his own demise - and by extension, so too do the other paleo-journalists: they fail to see how their left-wing, morally relativist, post-modern elitism has alienated them from their readership, the public - the common man.
the bottom-line is that coleman and his ilk nearly hate the common man as much as they do bloggers and the religious.
that's why coleman and his ilk think that the common man is "inauthentic" and is dumb and is MANIPULATED by shrewdies like Rove into FALLING FOR "values issues" when they should be voting their pocketbooks.
And then - to top it off, the coleman-types favor higher taxes -- as if as long as you tell Joe Q. Public that you're going to increase taxes on "ONLY THOSE PEOPLE MAKING MORE THAN YOU" you should get his vote.
BUT... because MOST Americans believe in our own individuality - and not our membership in any class - we won't fall for the class-warfare crap.
and we don't fall for derogatory slams against bloggers either.
well, because most people see bloggers as their neighbors speaking at the town hall, or as the "letters to the editor" and they accept that EVERYONE has a right to express criticism.
Even of journalists.
NO: ESPECIALLY of journalists, who have - for too long - seen themselves as ABOVE the law and apart from the people, as if the Fourth Estate were the lone guarantors of democracy.
A nation where the press is above criticism is a nation without free speech for the people. Which is really what nick seems to prefer: as if the People should just SHUT UP and take the MSM's party-line.
Guys like him are useless at best.
Seeing as how my blog is home of the First Annual Coleman Award (for unhinged MSM blog-bashing), allow me to put in my two cents.
Or, more appropriately, ask about the two Nick Coleman anti-blog screeds he penned for the Strib: If Coleman's columns were so courageous and hit the nail on the head, why did the Strib pull them from its Web site? I can call up his other columns, but poof, his two print tantrums are magically missing, and have been for a while.
That's because the columns (one of which Mr. Rosen "ripped") makes a kindergartener's manners look like an ambassador's by comparison. The second column, which actually insinuated that the Powerline crew needs penile enhancement, was an expensive tantrum at that. According to the City Pages, TCF Bank pulled its advertising from the Strib after Coleman insinuated that people should close their accounts because one of the Powerline guys works there. (Estimates place the cost of Coleman's breakdown at a cool $250,000. Link.)
Coleman's latest e-mail tantrum doesn't support his cause, either. "Right-wing" this, "right-wing" that, "right-wing wingnuts" everywhere, and then he scratches his head and wonders why thr Strib "has hired a by-god certifiable right wing activist and power megaphone."
Gee ... what would give the Strib's editors the crazy idea that its opinion pages were in the need of a little ideological balance?
What Coleman calls a "constant all-out partisan attack" is an on-line public kindly asking the mainstream press not to air forged memos, not to accuse soldiers of intentionally killing journalists without proof, and to make getting a correction run by the mainstream press easier than designing a skyscraper.
Coleman's handlers obviously didn't put too tight of a choke chain on him after losing a major advertiser. Hopefully they'll look at this e-mail and reconsider his dosage of meds.
On the bright side, Coleman's now officially in the running to win his own award.
... I too would like to hear Jay's explanation of Powerline's "sins". And I'm the 4th or 5th here to ask. What, is it a secret? ;)
What, Powerline has broken with human nature and is without sin? That wouldn't be blog of the year but blog of the ages.
Actually, I wasn't suggesting a chapter-and-verse catalogue of sins. If you're waiting around for that, find your coat and car keys. I was explaining to friends of mine, people I respect and argue with--Rebecca Blood, Steve Lovelady, and by extension others who read them--that I am not worried about Powerline's sins, whatever they may be. Hubris? Contempt? Jealousy? Greed? Pride? Bad judgment?
I was making the point that if the authors of a highly visible weblog lie, cheat, steal, attempt to intimidate, cook the books, fake the evidence, and demagogue their way through, while failing to admit mistakes or correct the record when clearly wrong... this will eventually subtract from their reputation and effectiveness online. They will matter less. Over time. This is as true for Oliver on the Left and it is for Patterico on the Right.
Thus: "I think the sins of Powerline will take their toll on Powerline, as they should." As against dicrediting "blogging" as a whole-- which my friends suggested might happen.
Now, this is not a point about Powerline, but all the right-leaning bloggers, and their readers, who participated with such enthusiasm in the Dan Rather and Eason Jordon episodes, winning what they saw as a measure of vindication in the end.
I felt during those events that a dangerous over-confidence was building up among some, a tendency to find in the spectacular details of specific cases confirmation of laws about "the MSM" and its behavior that were actually rotten as generalizations, and likely to lead the observer seriously astray in future cases.
"I was making the point that if the authors of a highly visible weblog lie, cheat, steal, attempt to intimidate, cook the books, fake the evidence, and demagogue their way through, while failing to admit mistakes or correct the record when clearly wrong... this will eventually subtract from their reputation and effectiveness online."
That's a hell of a big IF there.
Anyway, I have a point that everybody seems to miss.
It's not the blogosphere. The blogosphere is just a blip.
It's the internet. It's the utter elimination of barriers to entry in every sphere of communication. Blogs are one result of this. But so are email, usenet, web crawlers, file sharing, forums, wikis, webcams, VOIP, listservs, MMORPGs, instant messaging, portals, Amazon, day trading, eBay, iTunes and a million and one other things. The internet is transforming everything, and you can either adapt or get steamrollered.
The blogs vs. MSM issue is just a teeny-tiny corner of the complete transformation of society that is underway and accelerating. It gets a lot of attention because it directly effects the people who we rely on to keep us informed about the world. Over a very short period of time, with or without blogs, the MSM as it exists today is going to change beyond recognition - and/or be destroyed and replaced. In the end, you won't be able to tell which one actually happened. (Though I expect someone named Murdoch will still be making a great deal of money when the dust has settled.)