Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Common Ground in the Culture Wars - Pt II

A couple of weeks back, I blogged about some suggestions from Jeff Jarvis of the conservative BuzzMachine. At the time I said that I didn't agree with Jarvis on much of anything, but the suggestions he put forth highlighted a common complaint on both sides of the moonbat / wingnut divide: neither side feels the mainstream media is doing its job.

In another posting, I recognized another right wing blog, Outside the Beltway, for much the same reason - not because I agree with Jeff Joyner day in and out, but that we had a common complaint. In this particular case, both OTB and ASZ were targeting the USANext slime job on AARP.

And now, crap - lightning has struck twice. While I don't agree with the slant of one of Joyner's recent postings, I agree with the substance to the extent that he correctly dissects the role that bloggers play in the "new media":

...Few bloggers are reporters, let alone possessed of the skills and resources to traipse halfway around the world and cover news stories for months on end. While there are notable exceptions, most bloggers have day jobs. To the extent bloggers are going to cover the story live and bypass the MSM, it'll be local folks in Beirut, Gaza, and other places where the news is unfolding. Internet cafes are increasingly ubiquitous.

The rest of us can certainly piggyback on the work of professional journalists and scholars, highlighting news that gets less attention than, say, Michael Jackson's chimp, and draw interesting conclusions. That's a not insignificant contribution, incidentally, but it's not the same as heading out to change the world.

The blogs-as-media debate continues to rage. One of the principal arguments against bloggers-as-journalists is that most bloggers truly aren't journalists, in the sense that bloggers don't go out and mine for a story. And that's true. Bloggers are more the antithesis of the (as Atrios puts it) punditocracy. But I think more to the point (and to tie it into our ongoing blogistan organizational theory series), it's about the community nature and synergy of blogs. That's where a lot of learned people who are analyzing this kind of thing are missing the point. In its best incarnations (Kos, AMERICAblog), blogging becomes a cross between Vermont-style participatory democracy and investigative journalism.

So to answer Joyner's central question: "Can Bloggers Promote Freedom?" -- I think the answer is clearly yes. If the word "promote" is interpreted or interchanged with "influence". If "freedom" is not interpreted as advancing imperialistic aspirations, but self-determination. The jazz great Miles Davis said in his autobiography, "Knowledge is freedom; ignorance is slavery." Blogging on either side of the aisle opens that window of freedom just a little bit wider, if for no other reason than it shines the light in places that light doesn't normally reach.