Wake up to find out that you are the eyes of the world ...


I'll be giving a lecture in L.A. next Tuesday called "Is Democracy in America Even Possible?" at the National Center for the Preservation of Democracy You can get the details here. It's free but I think there may be tickets ...

But enough about you:

Ann Althouse, and the conservative bloggers who love her, have been making a big deal about something I said, in passing, on bloggingheads.tv. Today we made the big time ($). She quotes me saying: "I think it would be good if we had some sort of, you know, blogging -- you know -- council, where we could condemn people. ... You could still blog if you want. Nobody's going to stop you. But everybody's gonna know that you're not to be trusted."

As a result of the above ramble, I've been accused of lots of things, including wanting to license and censor bloggers and generally exhibiting the typical liberal tendency toward fascism that we are all so eager to see Jonah Goldberg expose if he ever writes that book he's been promising. OK, fine, I assume Ms. Althouse is accurate. (I mean, that female blogger did, in fact, have breasts, and she was standing next to Clinton ... that was true.)

Anyway, here's the deal:

1) It was a conversation. I was just sort of musing. But still, it's fair game.

2) I do actually believe what I said. Ever since the beginning of blogging-time, I have worried -- in public and on blogging panels -- about the loss of the media's gatekeeper function. Now, I believe I literally wrote the book on this topic -- and it's about to go out of print for the second time, so if you don't own it, hassle Cornell University Press -- and I am as aware as anyone on earth, I believe, of the dangers of the misuse of that function. Almost all of my books deal with this tension in one way or another. But the fact is, the function is absolutely necessary. A democracy of hundreds of millions of people is functionally impossible for reasons it requires an entire book to explain. Particularly when the media profess to strive toward objectivity, punditry/gatekeepers play a crucial role. My problem with the punditocracy has never been that they are pundits, but that they are so incompetent at the job they do.

3) If bloggers are going to perform this function -- that is, helping busy and usually uninformed people make sense of the world -- we are going to have to employ some sort of standard with which to judge their reliability. If they are pathological liars, psychopaths, religious or ideological extremists who cannot be trusted to tell the truth, well then, it'd be useful to have them branded as such -- in order to keep them from further infecting the body politic with even more lies, ideological obsessions, and intellectual corruptions. True, the mainstream media do not do a great job of this themselves anymore, but many people inside it do try. In many cases, their brands and relationship to their peers depend on it.

4) Bloggers tend to argue that this problem will sort itself out over time. I worry about the "over time" part. I also worry about all the damage that can be done in the interim. And so I raised it on Bloggingheads.tv and offered up a notion in response. Maybe it's a bad idea. It's not as if I gave it any thought before I said it. But I'm not convinced it is. Or at least, I've yet to see a better one. After all, it's a panel of bloggers; it's the judgment of one's peers and it would enjoy no power whatever, save the influence it amasses by virtue of the quality of its judgments. Just what is so threatening about that?

Meanwhile, Boehlert says it's time to acknowledge what has blossomed into one of the Beltway's most dysfunctional media liaisons: the love-hate relationship between The Washington Post and right-wing bloggers. The Post loves the bloggers, but the bloggers hate the Post. It's also time the Post ended this ill-conceived romance and for the Post to show influential liberal bloggers a little love. There's more here.

Ron Brownstein has become a pundit rather than a straight reporter. That makes a lot of sense, but it leaves me without a clear favorite in the "best straight political reporter" category. Nominations?

Remember all those articles about how Murtha and the Democrats blew it on the war? I read one of those on the front page of the Post and another inside the Times -- echoed, or perhaps inspired, I can't remember which, by the Smart Boyz at The Note. Well, I guess they blew it with everyone except the majority of Americans.

To think I am perceived to be defending these people ... reels the mind.

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Tim Howe
Hometown: dc

I am very worried about some of the language that was used by the campaign the other day in response to Hillary's campaign and the Dowd column. By that, I mean the reference to the "Lincoln Bedroom." That canard, that the Democrats "sold" out the Lincoln Bedroom to raise money for the DNC was a very effective weapon that was used by the GOP to draw first blood from Al Gore. It has also been investigated and was proven to be a bogus allegation. A study commissioned by the Congress and GAO have shown that the number (and type) of guests who stayed in the White House during the Bush years (both Sr. and Jr.) were consistent with the numbers during the Clinton period. (The WashPost actually had to admit the numbers of shady guests they reported included young Chelsea's sleepover friends in their totals.) The problem with that understanding is that the truth didn't come out until Gore had been labeled, defeated and retired. False GOP scripting placed George Bush in the White House in 2000. It is disheartening to me to hear my own side giving any credence or reference to these false, dangerous and distorted myths.

Name: Steve
Hometown: Vermont


Prompted by Joe Lieberman's op-ed in the WSJ, in which he implores us to allow the escalation plan a chance to work for nine months, I've got this proposition. Let's give them their nine months, but with this provision: If, after nine months time, conditions in Iraq have not improved enough to bring home at least half our troops at that time, Bush, Cheney, Lieberman and all the other escalation advocates will resign from their offices immediately. Let's see how confident they really are in their plan.

Name: Jesse Zander Corum
Hometown: Portland, OR

Sullivan's comment is perhaps the stupidest thing you've ever related from him, which is saying a lot. This is like reviewing the Mona Lisa while refusing to go to France to see it in person. I don't care how good your TV and speakers are, theaters are the only way to get a full cinematic experience. Even more ridiculous is that it comes in a mini-review of Babel, a film vastly different on video than in theaters. On video it is merely contrived to the point of meaningless pretention ("Let's cross the border, at night, with a driver with booze on his breath, a gun in the car and two Aryan moppets in the back seat!"). In a theater, the film's relentless shakey-cam made me physically ill. And in a theater, the club scene (that Sullivan praises) is loud enough to feel the bass in my butt, except when we cut to Deaf-girl-POV, when the bass disappears entirely to remind us, yet again, that deaf people can't hear. Too bad, because I like Amores Perros. Thanks for passing on the laugh.

Name: John
Hometown: Los Angeles, CA

Dr. A, great Broder piece. Like a fine wine it aged quite well. The one thing that stood out to me is: what's with this obsession over "serious" personalities, among Republicans and much of the media? All the Cheney lovers and right-leaning pundits always seem to have this puppy love for any politician who can act like a father figure. Despite what they say, or do, as long as they speak with authority and a grave manner etc., it's all good. Of course the Dems are never "serious" about national security or Iraq, etc., no matter what they suggest. Why do Republicans have the majority of the market share of "seriousness"? And has this always been the case, or simply a result of the Reagan revolution?

Name: Mark Shotzberger
Hometown: Dover, DE

If you have been following the news, you might have heard that chimps have been observing using spears to hunt.

Sure! Today it's spears! Tomorrow it's arrows! Then we have the chimps developing nuclear weapons!

We must act preemptively to stop the simian threat!

The chimps hate us for our freedom (tm: GOPAC) and want to destroy our liberty (tm: PNAC)!

Arrest Jane Goodall and throw her into Gitmo!

Do you want the smoking gun to be a giant monkey on top of the Empire State Building?

We've changed our commenting system to Disqus.
Instructions for signing up and claiming your comment history are located here.
Updated rules for commenting are here.