The Electric Commentary

Friday, December 10, 2004

This may be the single worst thing that I have ever read.

CBS should be embarrassed that they have their name on it. Click on the link at your own risk, but be warned that I am now dumber for having read it. At no point does this article state anything that can be construed as a rational thought.

Seriously, read this quote:

“The question is: What are the appropriate regulations on the Internet?" asked Kathleen Jamieson, an expert on political communication and dean of the Annenberg School for Communications. “It’s evolved into an area that we need to do more thinking about it.

“If you put out flyers, you have to disclaim it, you have to represent who you are,” Jamieson said. “If you put out an ad you have to put a disclaimer on it. But we don’t have those sorts of regulations for political content, that is campaign-financed on the Internet.”

Notice that no one sees the restrictions on free speech that they refer to -- "regulations on the internet" and "disclaimers" -- as a bad thing. They see the lack of regulation as a bad thing. And this from the Dean of a communications school! I suppose there is less material to cover in the field communications if we cut back on all of that pesky communication.

Moving on:

First Amendment attorney Kevin Goldberg called blogs “definitely new territory.”

“[The question is] whether blogs are analogous to a sole person campaigning or whether they are very much a media publication, which is essentially akin to an online newspaper,” said Goldberg, who is the legal counsel to the American Society of Newspaper Editors. “Ultimately, I think, the decision will have to come down to whether the public will be allowed to decide whether bloggers are credible or whether some regulation needs to occur.”

I'm not sure what the last sentence means, if it means anything at all. "Whether the public will be allowed to decide?" Who will stop the public from deciding? This is actually too stupid to discuss further, I wrote seven different sentences in place of this one and they were all insulting to your intelligence. (At least they were insulting to your intelligence before you read the article).

Then there is this smear on Duncan Black, AKA Atrios, one of the most widely read bloggers, who runs the Eschaton site. I don't agree with Black on anything really. I think he's often dishonest, and almost always wrong, but he is widely read, influential, and he's committed no "ethical violations" (other than being wrong) in the time he has been blogging. How then does CBS arrive at this conclusion:

The affiliations and identities of bloggers are not always apparent. Take writer Duncan Black, who blogged under the name Atrios. His was a popular liberal blog. During part of the period he was blogging, Black was a senior fellow at a liberal media watchdog group, Media Matters for America. Critics in the blogosphere said this fact wasn't fairly disclosed. “People are pretty smart in assuming that if a blog is making a case on one side that it’s partisan,” Jamieson said. “The problem is when a blog pretends to hold neutrality but is actually partisan.” That is not a legal problem, however, but one of ethics. Black eventually claimed credit for his blog and his affiliation with Media Matters. Fellow bloggers heavily publicized his political connections. And Black continued blogging. Defenders of Black point out that unlike the South Dakota blogs, he was not working on behalf of a campaign. And clearly, absent blog ethical guidelines, what Black did was not that different than many others.

Of course CBS would never run a story without checking its facts. But just in case, let's get Mr. Black's side of the story:

Dear CBS & David Paul Kuhn I'm writing to you regarding your recent story titled "Blogs: New Medium, Old Politics." Your article, which was concerned with, among other things, whether "bloggers are credible," contained some errors. First, the title of this blog is "Eschaton" and not "Atrios." This is apparent from the big black letters at the top of the page. Second, you state that I had been working with Media Matters for America "all along" while I was doing this weblog. I began writing this weblog in April, 2002. MMFA only came into existence in May, 2004. I began working with them in June, 2004. Third, you suggest I had an "ethical" problem. Could you be more specific about what that was? Having one's character impugned by a major media outlet is a serious matter. Finally, a quote is positioned in your article such that it suggests my assocation with Media Matters for America makes me somehow "partisan" and that beforehand I therefore was perceived as non-partisan. I have never worked for a candidate or campaign, though I have never made my political views secret, any more than has the editorial board of the Wall Street Journal. This blog is produced entirely using my own time and resources, and Media Matters for America is a non-partisan "501(c)(3) not-for-profit progressive research and information center dedicated to comprehensively monitoring, analyzing, and correcting conservative misinformation in the U.S. media."

Black is now, was then, and will forever be, as big a lefty as a person can be. This was no secret and he has never claimed to be objective. It would take all of ten seconds for someone reading Eschaton for the first time to determine the political leanings of the host.

For more, read this rather devastating roundup by Harry Copeland. Read this too for an update.

The article ends chillingly (so to speak):

Beginning next year, the F.E.C. will institute new rules on the restricted uses of the Internet as it relates to political speech. “I think those questions are going to have to be asked and answered,” said Lillian BeVier, a First Amendment expert at the University of Virginia. “It’s going to be an issue and it should be an issue.”

A great big hat tip to Instapundit.

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