December 13, 2005

Donner und Blogzen

Hatched by Dafydd

Not being in the habit of perusing Forbes Magazine, I missed Daniel Lyons' hit piece on blogs and blogging when it first appeared a month ago. I read it today while waiting in the doctor's office... which was appropriate, as reading it gave me an enormous pain in the tuchas.

(Oddly enough, you can either pay $2.00 in order to buy it from Forbes, or else you can get it for free -- from Forbes. Go figure.)

Much of this tedious and lengthy cri de coeur focuses on the use or misuse of blogs to call attention to product defects, real or imagined. Lyons releases so much angst into the troposphere, it's a wonder Mohamed ElBaradei doesn't come poking around with a Geiger Counter.

I'm truly uninterested in whether Gregory Halpern and his Circle Group Holdings were given the full Inspector-Javert treatment by "Nick Tracy," a.k.a. Timothy Miles; I'm not about to latch hold of that tar baby. And frankly, considering how much money I lost on the collapse of Red Hat, my interest in Linux -- Lyons' other major bugaboo -- is somewhere south of my interest in Madagascarene entomology. So I toss out some 93% of the Forbes piece.

But what is left -- Lyons' scribblings about blogs in general (and political blogs in particular) -- is so outlandish that I simply have to perform an intervention, if only to help Mr. Lyons find himself.

The first step is to recognize that he has a problem with blogs. They infuriate him. The very pages shake with rage. Start by considering some of his language:

Web logs are the prized platform of an online lynch mob spouting liberty but spewing lies, libel and invective....

[Blogs] are the ultimate vehicle for brand-bashing, personal attacks, political extremism and smear campaigns....

"Bloggers are more of a threat than people realize, and they are only going to get more toxic. This is the new reality," says Peter Blackshaw, chief marketing officer at Intelliseek....

[They contain little but] Vitriolic "content" [puzzling use of scare quotes there, Mr. L.; what do you think is contained within blogs if not content? -- the Mgt.]

You get the flavor. Lyons clearly wishes Congress or somebody would simply outlaw blogging... an interesting merging of visceral hatred and financial interest, as he is an editor of sorts at a mainstream magazine that could easily be hurt by too much blogging going on.

But for an editor with (one presumes) at least as much access to recent news as a well-read high-school student, Lyons shows a remarkable aptitude for completely missing some very public mea culpas from the MSM recently. Here, for example, is his take on the Eason Jordan mess:

In [a previous] case the bloggers slinked away. In the case of a CNN executive they didn't stop until they had claimed a casualty. Eason Jordan, chief news executive at CNN, noted at an off-the-record conference in January that journalists had been killed by U.S. troops. He used a touchy word:"targeted." A blogger present, Rony Abovitz, ignored the off-the-record ground rule and posted an account. Other bloggers soon piled on. One created a site solely devoted to the topic,

Jordan instantly and repeatedly denied the assertions, but the blog hordes kept wailing away. Jordan resigned in February, engulfed by a concocted controversy. Blogger Michelle Malkin crowed online, praising nine other bloggers and "legions of smaller" ones in the hunt. She wrote that the mainstream media "calls it a lynch mob. I call it a truth squad" and included a warning:"Cue the Carpenters music: ‘We've OnlyJust Begun.'"

It's hard to believe that an average American over the age of thirty with some acquaintance with literacy could be unaware that:

  1. The conference was not "off the record," despite subsequent self-serving claims to that effect; many other speeches from Davos were reported upon and described in some detail... and in fact that very panel was actually videotaped. One suspects that it was "off the record" only until the World Economic Forum could rush the videotapes into commercial distribution. (What Lyons actually means is that there is a rule codified in the bylaws of the Amalgamated Union of Pronouncers, Pundits, and Poseurs to sit upon any statements a fellow member utters that would, if revealed, tend to hold him up to deserved ridicule.)
  2. Among the witnesses were Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) and Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-CT), who were both utterly appalled by the freaky claim.
  3. Eason Jordan had made the same bizarre claim at other events -- all in foreign lands (he was simply obeying that famous exhortation, "politics begins at the water's edge").
  4. Even Jordan himself was forced to admit he had no evidence that any journalists were deliberately "targeted" by American soldiers; he "backpedaled" from that remark -- yet he had made exactly the same charge earlier, and his successor heading CNN International, Chris Cramer, had made virtually the same charges as well -- also unsubstantiated; the problem at CNN is institutional.
  5. In fact, that was why Jordan was forced to resign: not because a few bloggers or even the Divine Mrs. M. fell upon him with torches and pitchforks, but because he vilely slandered our soldiers to curry favor with the anti-American foreign press, because he led a solidly anti-American International division at CNN that routinely slanted the news against the United States (remember Eason Jordan's admission that had pimped for Saddam Hussein before the ouster?) -- and because he got caught at it.

Well! Quite a panoply of error in just two paragraphs. Mr. Lyons must have been working nights!

I especially adore the idea that public pronouncements by a public figure at a public conference (the World Economic Forum) in the very public city of Davos, Switzerland, should have been considered "off the record." What happens in Davos stays in Davos, I suppose. But if a person wants his comments to be off the record, he has the obligation not to use them to push a controversial political opinion or agenda.

Misusing the embargo like that negates it, and the speaker forfeits any moral right not to be quoted. Else, every time Howard Dean gave a fundraising speech, he could insist that the event be "off the record" and prevent anyone from reporting on whatever psychotic charge he made during the course of it.

As to Lyons' claim that "Jordan instantly and repeatedly denied the assertions," how about some eyewitness testimony?

Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), who attended the World Economic Forum panel at which Jordan spoke, recalled yesterday that Jordan said he knew of 12 journalists who were killed by coalition forces in Iraq. At first, said Frank, "it sounded like he was saying it was official military policy to take out journalists." But Jordan later "modified" his remarks to say some U.S. soldiers did this "maybe knowing they were killing journalists, out of anger. . . . [sic] He did say he was talking about cases of deliberate killing," Frank said....

Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), who was in the audience, "was outraged by the comments," said his spokesman, Marvin Fast. "Senator Dodd is tremendously proud of the sacrifice and service of our American military personnel."

It seems that Mr. Lyons has the same relation to truth that Superman has to kryptonite.

But the Forbes hysteria finally reaches Plan 9 From Outer Space levels when Lyons turns his giddy gaze upon what we all know and love as "Rathergate." The single paragraph (Dan Rather is only half as important as Eason Jordan?) performs a literary medical miracle, transplanting a lump of incompatible foreign "context" into the middle of a j'accuse originally directed at leftist bloggers -- making it appear as though the patient were castigating himself for some despicable slander... and the "patient" in this case is John Hinderaker of Power Line!

Even some bloggers see the harm they can pose. "Some people in the blogosphere are too smug about free speech. They'll say it's okay if people get slandered or if people make up fake stuff because in the end the truth wins out," says John Hinderaker, a lawyer in Minneapolis, Minn. who helps run a right-wing blog, Power Line, which hounded CNN's Jordan and CBS anchor Dan Rather. "But I don't think that excuses it."

Anyone reading this graf would immediately conclude that Hinderaker was expressing remorse for his relentless hounding of those two luminaries -- perhaps even begging clemency from Gov. Pawlenty in an effort to avoid the needle reserved for all bloggers with a larger readership than has Daniel Lyons. The "slandered" and "make up false stuff" terms, fired at those who were trying to "out" a Bush cabinet member who was openly gay and claim he was a gay prostitute, is here conscripted into unwilling service as some perverse act of self-loathing, whereby Hinderaker is made to say that Power Line's articles on the Bill Burkett documents that brought down Dan Rather were lies and falsehoods. The Biblically named Daniel Lyons bears false witness in the most blatant imaginable way.

Does he actually believe that we've all forgotten that the Rathergate documents were proven rank and foolish forgeries, which even CBS no longer disputes, even though it doesn't admit? Yet it appears as if all of the snakes and ladders of Rathergate bypassed the Lyons den entirely. One pictures him poring over Mary Mapes' new tome saying "yeah, baby!" and "right on!" every few lines (until irate passengers chuck him off the Greyhound).

Every few years, a self-styled expert in darn near everything, a shootist armed with Microsoft Word instead of bullets, imagines he will really make a critical name for himself by bumping off some literary genre with his stylistic six-guns. About twenty-five years ago, it was the Atlantic Monthly bashing what they thought of as "sci fi" with all the frustrated intensity (and literary street cred) of a toddler with poor eye-hand coordination toppling over his own imperfectly balanced letter-block castle. A few decades before that, pseudointellectuals were denouncing adventure writers such as Rafael Sabatini and Samuel Shellabarger as degraders of literature. So it goes.

And last month came Daniel Lyons' turn to play the oafish toddler in a cowboy suit, a pair of popgun gats in hand. I don't know what compels people to expostulate upon subjects that elude them -- and not even to pick the brains of someone who has some. But Lyons isn't the first, and God knows he won't be the last of the noisy ride of ghost-writers on the sly (riding snide-saddle, of course). He isn't even a memorable water-carrier, like "Smiley" Burnette or "Gabby" Hayes.

The blogosphere will survive him, I suspect. But will Lyons survive the blogosphere?

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, December 13, 2005, at the time of 3:17 PM

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Tracked on December 31, 2005 3:57 PM


The following hissed in response by: RBMN

Daniel Lyons was definitely born in the wrong place and time. He would have made a great East German Stazi officer. Then he wouldn't have to deal with all those pesky non-elitist opinions that he finds so upsetting.

The above hissed in response by: RBMN [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 13, 2005 5:58 PM

The following hissed in response by: pbswatcher

"What happens in Davos stays in Davos, I suppose"

See Euro-Liberal Las Vegas and What Happens in Davos, Stays in Davos

The above hissed in response by: pbswatcher [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 13, 2005 10:18 PM

The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh


Whoa, three thoughts with but a single mind between them!

(Wait a minute... strike that... reverse it.)

Say, here's a howdy do: I just heard from John Hinderaker -- who says he never even saw this piece.

I wonder whether they bothered telling him they were planning to creatively edit old Power Line posts to make it falsely appear as though John were apologizing for having done such terrible things to Jordan and Rather? Or whether they just hoped he would never find out.


The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 14, 2005 12:09 AM

The following hissed in response by: hunter

It is difficult to reconcile the tenacity and energy 'journailists' pour into protecting what they claim to be free speech when so many 'journalists' show themselves to be anti-freedom at nearly every opportunity.
To use Eason Jordan adn Dan Rather as examples of what is *wrong* with blogging demonstrates a lack of judgement and fact conprehension that boggles the mind. Forbes is supposed to be pro-freedom, if its publisher is honest. Perhaps Mr. Forbes should read the opinion pieces more often?

The above hissed in response by: hunter [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 14, 2005 5:44 AM

The following hissed in response by: pbswatcher

Guess they figured they would just wikipedia him.

The above hissed in response by: pbswatcher [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 15, 2005 12:33 PM

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