Buy Generously IV

by Maria on December 30, 2004

Following my thoughtful and inventive co-bloggers, here’s a list of 2004 recommended reading with links to the Amazon Associates programme and my promise to match and forward any fees to the Red Cross for tsunami disaster relief. It may take a day or so for my Associates registration to work out, so please be patient. But now that I’ve finally set an account up, I promise to match and forward any Associates fees I receive in 2005 to the ICRC.

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The blogging two-step

by Henry on December 30, 2004

The perennial issue of mainstream media bias and the superiority of blogs is undergoing a minor revival in the right wing blogosphere at the moment, much of it centered on a “column”:http://www.startribune.com/stories/357/5158765.html by Nick Coleman of the Star-Tribune, which has the temerity to take on PowerLine. Coleman’s effort to “fact-check” the factcheckers is rather weak, but his main point is hard to refute – it’s a bit rich for slavering right wing hacks to accuse the mainstream media of ideological bias and expect to get taken seriously. On which, see further Matt Welch’s “entertaining takedown”:http://www.reason.com/0412/co.mw.biased.shtml of Hugh Hewitt. There’s a curious sort of doublethink going on here, which culminates in a sort of dodge-the-responsibility two-step. On the one hand, bloggers like Glenn Reynolds respond to their critics by saying that they can’t cover everything, and that they’re not providing a news service, only opinions. On the other hand, they seem to believe that blogs should radically change or replace the mainstream media. Either of these statements is reasonable enough on its own,[1] but taken in conjunction, they’re pretty jarring. If you think that blogs should replace the mainstream media, then you should be prepared yourself to live up to some minimal standards of scrupulosity, intellectual honesty, and willingness to deal fairly with facts that are uncomfortable for your own ideological position. You should be prepared to live up yourself to the standards that you demand of others. Exercising the “shucks, I’m just a little old blogger” get-out clause is rank hypocrisy when you want the blogosphere to devour the New York Times whole. Funny that Reynolds et al. don’t see it that way.

Update: “Glenn Reynolds”:http://instapundit.com/archives/020159.php responds to my post in a characteristically evasive fashion. He weirdly mischaracterizes my argument by saying that I conflate “InstaPundit with the blogosphere as a whole, by suggesting that my statement that InstaPundit is not a news service somehow means that the blogosphere isn’t up to news-gathering.” I don’t know where he gets that, but it allows him to duck the main point – whether bloggers like Reynolds are being hypocritical in criticizing other media for bias. Let me explain it again in plain, simple, English. Glenn Reynolds complains regularly about liberal bias in the media. He says that he doesn’t believe that blogs should replace big media, but that they should pressure big media to do a better job; I’ll accept his characterization of his own views, although he’s certainly given a “different”:http://instapundit.com/archives/017254.php “impression”:http://instapundit.com/archives/019026.php in the past. But even on this more limited definition, bloggers like Reynolds are being hypocritical – they don’t and won’t practice what they preach. If I understand his argument correctly (it’s somewhat unclear to me exactly what he’s saying), he seems to think that this is OK because the blogosphere is a big place, and that stories are going to come out no matter what (no blogger can block them). This is an abdication of responsibility, pure and simple, and it’s also factually incorrect. Blogs like Instapundit on the right and Atrios on the left, serve an important function as filters of news, both for other bloggers (who read the big bloggers disproportionately) and for outside readers (who tend to gravitate towards the big blogs that everyone has heard about). In a very important way, these blogs shape both the political blogosphere’s perception of itself, and outsiders’ perceptions of it (the blogs on the ‘long tail’ usually only come to prominence when one of the bigger blogs picks up on their story). Saying (if that’s what he’s saying) that he doesn’t have any responsibility for what he does or doesn’t post on, because others are going to pick up on important stories anyway, simply doesn’t cut it as an excuse.

Update 2: I come back from my New Years vacation to discover that Glenn Reynolds has responded again, in a further “update”:http://instapundit.com/archives/020159.php which is not only evasive but dishonest. He attacks my credibility as a scholar, saying that “it really is going to make it hard for me to take Henry seriously as a scholar of the blogosphere, now that he’s written off half of it so unpleasantly.” That’s a very serious accusation to make – especially when it’s based on the entirely false claim that I’ve written off half (presumably the right half) of the blogosphere. If Reynolds had bothered to check, he’d have found that I’ve been similarly harsh when left wingers have “engaged in hackishness”:https://www.crookedtimber.org/archives/002490.html. My objection is not to right wing views, or to right wing criticism of the media; it’s to criticism of the media from people like Reynolds who are partisan hacks, whether they come from the right or the left. Mark Kleiman has documented over time Reynolds’ resort to “bizarre conspiracy theories”:http://www.markarkleiman.com/archives/_/2004/01/who_admitted_what.php, “vicious slurs without evidence”:http://www.markarkleiman.com/archives/the_wayward_press_/2004/12/does_mickey_kaus_know_something_i_dont.php and unwarranted “attacks on the patriotism of those who disagree with him”:http://www.markarkleiman.com/archives/terrorism_and_its_control_/2004/09/the_politics_of_war_and_terrorism.php (on this last I’m reminded of Dr. Johnson’s dictum that patriotism is the “last refuge of a scoundrel”). Kleiman concludes with regard to the Kerik scandal, that Reynolds “has no standing whatever to complain about anyone else’s journalistic ethics in this regard”: – I’d broaden that to say that he doesn’t have standing to complain about anyone else’s journalistic standards, period. Or, as Kleiman remarks “even more pungently”:http://www.markarkleiman.com/archives/the_kerry_intern_hoax_/2004/02/kerrys_nonaffair_with_the_nonintern.php.

bq. Glenn thinks the “liberal media” are employing a “double standard.” Would someone send him a mirror for his birthday, please?

Again, Reynolds ducks the question of whether bloggers should have standards by repeating his hackneyed claim that the media don’t live up to theirs. All this criticism aside, Mr. Reynolds can rest assured that I will continue to take him very seriously as a sociological phenomenon.

In other news, Hugh Hewitt, blogger and author of “If It’s Not Close, They Can’t Cheat: Crushing the Democrats in Every Election and Why Your Life Depends on It ,” “suggests”:http://hughhewitt.com/#postid1234 that I should have admitted that I’d overwritten when I described certain partisan blogs as “slavering rightwing hacks.”

Finally, “Jay Rosen”:http://journalism.nyu.edu/pubzone/weblogs/pressthink/2004/12/29/tp04_lctr.html makes some criticisms that I take a lot more seriously – I’m willing to accept that there’s a difference that I’ve elided between believing that blogs are ‘winning’ and the mainstream media are ‘losing,’ and the claim that blogs are going to take over the mainstream media (although I still contend that much of the rhetoric suggests the latter rather than the former).

fn1. Indeed, I wholeheartedly agree with the first of these statements – but then I neither want nor expect blogs to replace mainstream news outlets; bloggers would make for lousy reporters.

Mad Monkeys, Bulkbits and Bushels of Breath

by John Holbo on December 30, 2004

OK, first things first. A kind donor has agreed to match funds to the tune of 200 euros on any amount raised in our little Amazon disaster relief thingy. This person wishes to be identified as: "’One of the blogging world’s most incisive commentators, inventor of the orbital mind-control laser and 19th dan master of "Drunken Monkey" kung fu."

That’s very interesting. Do you know, I have a DVD for Mad Monkey Kung Fu, starring Lau Kar-leung (a.k.a. Liu Chia Liang, a.k.a. General Fu who fights Jacky Chan in Drunken Master II.) Sadly, Mad Monkey is Region 3 only and unavailable from Amazon. But if you get the chance, snark out on it. You should check out the sequel, Drunken Monkey. Good Unforgiven Fu – that’s kicking people while wearing a duster. The usual Indestructible Old Man Fu. Again only Region 3. (Sigh. You poor folks never get to see any good movies.) But here’s a nice site with links to cool trailers and galleries. As I quoted somewhere or other "a monkey that is inebriated is most funny."

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Some reading (Buying generously III)

by Chris Bertram on December 30, 2004

I’d been meaning to write a brief end-of-year post about books I’ve read recently. I’ll do it now and pledge (like Henry and John) that any Amazon Associates fees I get if any of you are moved to buy any of them (or anything else after clicking on the links) will go to tsunami disaster relief. Full post below the fold.

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Buy Generously II

by John Holbo on December 30, 2004

My buy generously post below was unclear. (I was assuming folks understand how Amazon Associates works. Silly assumption.) You don’t have to buy the very items I linked. You can click any link and then search around and buy anything. I just tossed out a basket of big ticket bestsellers because direct link %’s are a little higher. Buy anything from Amazon through me and at least 5.75% of what you pay goes to me, which I (informally, not in any legally problematic way) pledge to give to disaster relief. My point wasn’t that the time is perfect to buy glitzy DVD’s – sorry if that seemed crass. I meant: buy something. I’ve stuck a convenient Amazon searchbox under the fold. Go ahead and use it.

Once again, I encourage other bloggers with Amazon Associates to follow suit. (I see Henry has already done so. Good!) The quarter is ending. Shake that little jar of change you were planning to spend on silly stuff. Give for something serious. Henry has pledged to keep up the giving through next quarter. I am happy to do the same. The logic of this is very sound. By doing this we are in effect giving immediately and agreeing to carry a little bit of debt for a short time, since the money is needed now. It would be very nice if many bloggers did this, announced it, then folks made a point of buying the stuff they were going to buy from Amazon anyway through them. (Of course this is informal, so the bloggers could just pocket the money. But if the blogger is someone you personally trust not to be such a bastard as to steal petty cash from disaster victims, the level of broken pledges should be low.)

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