I was reading Austin Bay’s article on the efforts of the Caliphascist in Iraq to get a “Tet Offensive moment” going via attacks on Coalition forces. Of course, members of Old Media will deny that they are providing propaganda services for the Caliphascist but it occurred to me that one can counter that with a simply thought experiment. If there were, say, fifty attacks on Coalitions forces in one day (ala Tet) and 49 of those ended in the slaughter of the attackers while in a single case the attack succeed in slaughtering the Coalition force, what would the headlines and reporting look like? Would it be reported as the crushing defeat for the attackers that it was, or would only the single defeat for the Coalition dominate the headlines? I think we all know the answer to that and what it indicates about the direction that Old Media drives their story lines.
In such a case the news might well be accurate but false by portraying accurately the one failure while ignoring the vaster number of successes. One might well think that Old Media has some responsibility to report something approximating the truth but that may be asking too much. Not so much from mendacity but a simple inability to actually grasp the big picture. My personal experiences with journalists do not leave me with many reasons to believe that any but a handful of them are in fact capable of synthesizing multiple bits of information in to a unified whole. Rather, the unified whole, the “story”, is already preformed and the facts are simply slotted in. If the facts don’t fit, they are modified or discarded as necessary. Others have remarked on this as well to point out that Old Media depends on story lines not to enforce their ideology so much as to relieve the cognitive burden of having to think about things.
Perhaps this is the niche that the blogosphere can fill. Not so much as generators of “news” but as a framework for generating understanding of the flow of events. This certainly doesn’t mean that some small set of alpha webloggers will do this, but rather that conceptual frameworks will be developed randomly across the blogosphere, the good ones will be promoted and the bad ones discarded. Like a gardener, one doesn’t try to create the flowers but rather awaits the flowers making themselves, while ruthlessly culling the weeds. Whatever the subject, there is someone out there who is both highly knowledgable and obsessed about it and he can provide the basis for understanding which is then hammered and improved as it simmers in the blogosphere meme pool. Of course, it will look disorderly and unorganized while this is happening and it will only be in hindsight that we can see what was going on (so it will be a perpetual “well in my day we discussed good ideas like ZZZ!”)1.
1 Of course, this is just like a capitalist economy and good businesses. It is the disorder that allows news businesses and business models to arise and expand. A well planned, centrally guided economy just can’t do that because we lack the ability to predict the future. I think we’re seeing now the “capitalization” of media and journalism, as capitalism emerged as the old guild and patent systems broke down.