Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Blog Gate

Columbia Journalism Review (linked above) has a excellent overview of the scandal surrounding CBS's supposedly "fake" documents establishing that President Bush the Younger was indeed AWOL. The blogosphere offers unique opportunities to finally wrest (some) control over the dissemination of information from those corporate interests that in no way align with those of the populace.

That said, the article describes the dangers of blogged information - unnamed, unreliable sources with undisclosed biases and the snowball effect by which an unconfirmed "fact" or someone's opinion takes on a truth value disproportionate to it's provenance and is then amplified by bloggers and even the mainstream press into the common wisdom.

For example, everyone assumed that because the documents supporting the infamous 60 Minutes piece on President Bush the Younger's Guard service records could be faked, they must be fake, a classical logical fallacy that even the supposedly more responsible mainstream press never picked up. Granted, CBS didn't help themselves with their tacit admission of some ill-defined guilt (they never admitted or denied that the documents were authentic, only that they represented the true sentiments of their author). Still, after the initial doubts turned into "facts," the game was pretty much over.

But the larger and more important point here is that as people become less willing to entertain news from other viewpoints and as bloggers, rushing to fill this niche, gain the level of access that "real" journalists have to privileged information, our fragile consensus on actual facts, on reality itself, is in danger of shattering in some kind of post modernist catastrophe.

Gee, I wonder how this fits in with the assault on the "reality-based" community...at that point it just becomes a question of who can shout the loudest, and so far our team ain't doing too well.


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