WSJ ass. editor against blogs!!

I have been catching up on my reading after my travels across the Pond and down to Florida.  I found this wonderful piece by the ass. editor of The Wall Street Journal.  It is about how awful blogs are.  Here are some excerpts with my emphasis:

The ascendancy of Internet technology did bring with it innovations. Information is more conveniently disseminated, and there’s more of it, because anybody can chip in. There’s more "choice" — and in a sense, more democracy. Folks on the WWW, conservatives especially, boast about how the alternative media corrodes the "MSM," for mainstream media, a term redolent with unfairness and elitism.

The blogs are not as significant as their self-endeared curators would like to think. Journalism requires journalists, who are at least fitfully confronting the digital age. The bloggers, for their part, produce minimal reportage. Instead, they ride along with the MSM like remora fish on the bellies of sharks, picking at the scraps.

More success is met in purveying opinion and comment. Some critics reproach the blogs for the coarsening and increasing volatility of political life. Blogs, they say, tend to disinhibit. Maybe so. But politics weren’t much rarefied when Andrew Jackson was president, either. The larger problem with blogs, it seems to me, is quality. Most of them are pretty awful. Many, even some with large followings, are downright appalling.

Every conceivable belief is on the scene, but the collective prose, by and large, is homogeneous: A tone of careless informality prevails; posts oscillate between the uselessly brief and the uselessly logorrheic; complexity and complication are eschewed; the humor is cringe-making, with irony present only in its conspicuous absence; arguments are solipsistic; writers traffic more in pronouncement than persuasion . . .

The blogs must be timely if they are to influence politics. This element — here’s my opinion — is necessarily modified and partly determined by the right now. Instant response, with not even a day of delay, impairs rigor. It is also a coagulant for orthodoxies. We rarely encounter sustained or systematic blog thought — instead, panics and manias; endless rehearsings of arguments put forward elsewhere; and a tendency to substitute ideology for cognition. The participatory Internet, in combination with the hyperlink, which allows sites to interrelate, appears to encourage mobs and mob behavior.

This cross-referential and interactive arrangement, in theory, should allow for some resolution to divisive issues, with the market sorting out the vagaries of individual analysis. Not in practice. The Internet is very good at connecting and isolating people who are in agreement, not so good at engaging those who aren’t. The petty interpolitical feuding mainly points out that someone is a liar or an idiot or both.

Leftward fatuities too are easily found: The fatuity matters more than the politics. If the blogs have enthusiastically endorsed Joseph Conrad’s judgment of newspapering — "written by fools to be read by imbeciles" — they have also demonstrated a remarkable ecumenicalism in filling out that same role themselves.

Nobody wants to be an imbecile. Part of it, I think, is that everyone likes shows and entertainments. Mobs are exciting. People also like validation of what they already believe; the Internet, like all free markets, has a way of gratifying the mediocrity of the masses.

Of course, once a technosocial force like the blog is loosed on the world, it does not go away because some find it undesirable. So grieving over the lost establishment is pointless, and kind of sad. But democracy does not work well, so to speak, without checks and balances. And in acceding so easily to the imperatives of the Internet, we’ve allowed decay to pass for progress.

Mr. Rago is an assistant editorial features editor at The Wall Street Journal.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Of course, he is. The news media wants to tell us what to think and blogs get in the way.

  2. Sent you an email this morning. L’hai ricevuto? Grazie per l’aiuto.

  3. billsykes says:

    mich. cath:

    Exactly right.

    For that reason, primarily, I gravitate toward blogs that subscribe to and can elucidate a unifying principle.

    Pace Chesterton, a self-doubting, yea, a self-loathing egalitarianism predominates in the MSM.

  4. Sid Cundiff says:

    Rago = huckster. The packaging of a blog is indeed often rough. Beats slick.

  5. Mr. Rago must get his story ideas from the Catholic Spirit (Archdiocese of St. Paul/Minneapolis paper).

    The reason the “mainstream” press attacks blogs is they are scared of
    them. They are losing market share and they need to blame
    somebody. They like to discredit bloggers with the same old story:
    they aren’t professionals. They plaigerize. They don’t do their homework blah, blah.
    Seems to me the same charges could be leveled at some major
    papers: including the New York Times and the StarTribune.

    I’ve found the blogs that I like to read are very accurate and
    reliable. Yes, there are poor blogs just like there are poor newspapers. The solution: don’t read them.

    One last thing: When it comes to our Faith, you generally can’t beat
    Catholic blogs for the truth.

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