Tuesday, October 18, 2005


I Spy With My Jaded Liberal Eye...

Something that begins with "U."*

If obsession can be measured in the number of PageDowns it takes to make it through a single blog post, Michelle's reached the ninth circle**.
Last week, I received a media inquiry from Wall Street Journal media reporter Joe Hagan. He wanted to talk about blogs and the University of Oklahoma bomber story. Although I was dismayed to learn the only coverage of the incident from the august WSJ would be a story about the coverage, rather than an original investigative report, I thought it would be better than nothing.

I was wrong: Nothing would have been better.
I can see her point. After all, a "story about the coverage" is about as useful as "teaching the controversy."

But amid all Malkin's bluster, one thing is clear: She wants to have her cake and eat it too. Separated by lots and lots of words are these two sentiments:
There are a few folks out there who are absolutely convinced that Hinrichs was part of an organized terrorist plot. I made crystal-clear to Hagan I was not one of them. I don't know what the truth is...

Charles Johnson at Little Green Footballs, also mentioned in the WSJ article, writes that Hagan and Chittum misled readers about his views and posts:
One point to make in response: I advanced no speculative theories at LGF, simply asked legitimate questions based on the information available about this very curious case. Not only that, I deliberately shied away from covering the story in the first couple of days, when the only reports available were from unreliable sources.

Here’s the LGF post cited by the Journal: Jihad at the University of Oklahoma? The question mark is, of course, intended to signify that the story is questionable.
It has been fascinating to watch the MSM meltdown over the new media world. From Jonathan Klein to Bill Keller and now to the WSJ news pages, the old guard has tried desperately to pigeonhole bloggers as nothing more than frivolous rumor-mongerers in order to mask their angst about increasing competition.
Frivolous or not, Michelle clearly identifies blogs as being about rumor-mongering before complaining that "old media" sees them that way. She even echoes Chazmo in calling blogs "open-source intelligence gathering."

Well, that might be a good analogy, but it also highlights a couple other problems with Michelle's theory of blogs as the new media. The first is "permanent beta." Open-source projects tend to have many different versions. When Firefox was in development, there was literally a new build every single day, which meant that someone who downloaded Firefox on Friday might have completely different functionality than someone who had downloaded it on Wednesday - or the person who downloaded it on Wednesday might find that it didn't even work. Malkin's vision of "sort[ing] out fact from fiction" tends to be taken as Version 1.0 by her legions of readers, who quickly propagate her "research" throughout the blogosphere as gospel.

Which leads us, sort of, to the second part of the analogy. I've heard this one called "Feature-based development." What it really means is that, in a typical open-source project, everyone wants to write the bells and the whistles. No one's interested in writing the behind-the scenes boring stuff. In other words, in this world of "open-source intelligence gathering", everybody wants the Rather memos. Subject might have attended a mosque? Radical Muslim! Lived with three Pakistanis? Conspiracy! No one wants to do the legwork, which appears to be revealing that the bomber was a depressed loner out to make a name for himself. To stretch the analogy a little further, this battle of egos also leads open-source programmers - not to mention "intelligence gatherers" - to focus on just exactly what would be the most useful to him or her. Case in point:
What I stressed to Hagan was that several freelance Islamists have committed acts of violence in the U.S.--the LAX El Al Muslim gunman Hesham Hadayet, for example, and the Beltway snipers--and the MSM has done a lousy job of exploring their Islamist influences
Ah yes. The MSM isn't paying attention to Muslim extremists. They're also not paying attention to this bomber, so he must be a Muslim. Let's go find a few facts to support this and "report" them. Then we'll harp on the MSM for not reporting our reporting, before backpedaling and saying we were just asking questions once those facts have been disproved.

These two factors are just examples of how the "blog" is not the be-all, end-all of good reporting. Neither is the so-called MSM, which is also subject to these shortfalls to one degree or another; the difference is that the MSM calls them "bugs" while Michelle calls them "features."

* October 24th! Makes a great gift! No it doesn't.

** Literally.***

*** This one's only four PageDowns, by the way.