Saturday, October 27, 2007

Inconvenient truths taint blogosphere

"Blogs are nothing more than writing on the bathroom wall," so says my former editor, Jack Lessenberry.

The avowed curmudgeon, who ironically serves as patron saint of several left-wing blogs, has a point. If you want to read mind-numbing, inscrutable "analysis" of everything from Britney Spears' baby drama to Barack Obama's choice in underwear, then the blogosphere is for you.

Nowadays, truth is where you find it.Witness the explosion of the term "truthiness" — what you know in your gut without regard to evidence, logic, intellectual examination or facts — coined by satirist Stephen Colbert.

That's the biggest draw of political blogs. They'll tell you what to be outraged about for the day — no research, interviews or objectivity required. It's all the news that fits within the ideological prism of your choice.

Tired of thinking for yourself? Blogs can be a huge time-saver, like joining Right to Life or

If you consider reporting on troops killed in Iraq a violation of the Alien and Sedition Acts, for heaven's sake, don't read the newspaper. Just scroll right-wing blogs to reassure yourself liberals (who control the media) hate those soldiers, as well as freedom, America and all that is good and holy.

If seeing George W. Bush's face is too much to bear, turn off the news. Turn to left-wing blogs, which unlike conservatives (who control the media), only depict the president as a diabolical Alfred E. Neuman caricature, hell-bent on destroying children, the elderly and all that is holy and good.And of course, there's plenty of room for the tin-foil hat crowd to vent. (Yes, Hillary Clinton really does want to poison your guinea pig.)

The Internet's echo chamber is a dream come true for political operatives and party hacks. Sweet-talk a sympathetic blogger, and get your talking points or shaky video commentary posted instantly and unchecked.

Even better, you can now find a home in cyberspace (instant credibility, baby!) for that whisper campaign you started portraying your opponent as a gay, dog-molesting, illegal immigrant-lover who hates America and all that is good and holy.

Sure beats that pesky mainstream media that insist on fairness, facts and filtering out partisan crap.God forbid you be forced to read opinions that differ from your own. It's only a critical part of relating to others and understanding the world in which we live.

I know it's not politically correct to blast bloggers. They're the extreme reporters of the new millennium, too cool to follow old-school rules like journalistic ethics or basic grammar.

And besides, who wants to invite chronically misspelled hate mail?

Well, like anyone who's graduated from elementary school, I've survived playground taunts. Liberal bloggers already have anointed me "Wanker of the Day," and I'm also a "liberal socialist facist," according to some reactionary poster in desperate need of a dictionary.

I field complaints from self-important politicians and their overbearing flacks every week.So I suppose I'm not terribly impressed by bloggers who sport porn star-worthy pseudonyms instead of owning up to the dribble they spew. If you're so proud of your work — you know, finding the truth we in the evil mainstream media conspire to cover up day after day — pony up your name, address, e-mail and phone number.

Because when we in the media mess up — and let's be clear, we have — you know where to find us. In the Enquirer, corrections are front-page news because that's our commitment to accuracy and accountability.

That's the way it should be. Blogs need to wise up to those standards if they want to be taken seriously.Like any good Gen Xer, I spend hours online and am impressed by a handful of bloggers — those who go by their actual names and have experience writing sans emoticons.

I enjoy Andrew Sullivan's dry wit and contrarian conservatism and Eric Alterman's accessible, yet professorial liberalism. But they are rare voices of reason in the wilderness.

Most bloggers really aren't breaking new ground. They're just the progeny of 18th-century pamphleteers who viciously libeled political foes under the guise of anonymity. Savvy, flush folks will always find a way to game the system, so now it's open season online.

Sincere citizen journalists protest they're heirs to "Common Sense."I wish.

Because you have about as much chance of reading a Thomas Paine in the blogosphere as you do bumping into a Thomas Jefferson beneath the Capitol dome.

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