Echoes and Incompetence
Artist's Choice

Bitching For Sport

The shadow spreading over my country from the Crescent City has taken away my appetite for writing for the last week.  I've been obsessed with following the story and, since I rarely watch TVnews, I've been getting it online.  I read the coverage in the New York Times and the Washington Post, and check the Times-Picayune for updates.  I click on AP headlines to see if there's anything new.   When I run out of new news there, I can't help myself from digging further into the blogosphere.  That's where it gets really depressing.

I'm not surprised at the partisanship, at how quick the anti-Bush crowd is to see this as more clear evidence that the idiot should be impeached, while his defenders just as quickly focus on the failures of local and state officials and praise W for his efforts to rescue them from their manifest incompetence.  At this point I can almost give a shrug of resignation at the paucity of genuine thought on both sides, how the partisans cherry-pick the news for those items that "prove" their points, while ignoring or dismissing all evidence to the contrary.  It's as if recognizing the fact that Nagin waited too long to call for a mandatory evacuation would enable our president to slither away from the blame, or to admit that the head of FEMA is manifestly out of his depth would be to allow an unadmissible chink in the armor protecting W, the great and decisive leader.  The partisans have long since decided what they want to believe, and in this age of emotion and irrationality, it is considered completely acceptable to rummage around in the barrel of broken facts and pull out just those that you can arrange neatly as "evidence" for your position.

Most dismaying, however, is the amount of petty viciousness.   Not so much in the blog entries themselves, but in the comments.    Over and over I see comment threads that descend into hostile name-calling among anonymous posters.    Clearly these people are not interested in anything like discussion.  When you call someone a "reactionary, ass-sucking, right-wing fuck" I don't think you're trying to persuade them to your point of view.

At this level of babble there's no distinction between the right and the left.  And I can't figure out what drives these people.  You imagine them hunched for hours over their keyboards, scanning their hundred favorite blogs, feeling like a heat-seeking missle, looking for postings or comments that they can obliterate with a blast of withering, scatological scorn.  I suppose they think that they're incredibly clever.  Do they think they're defending their version of the truth?  Or is it just another videogame -- seek out and destroy the bad guys.

This is the part of the blogosphere that the sceptics (remember Gorman?) are talking about.  And there is a lot of it.   For all the self-preening among bloggers about "citizen journalism" and the dawn of a bold new age, most of the billions of words that get spewed every day present us at our very worst.  Makes me want to close up shop and quit participating.  I don't want to be associated with those people.

Comments

Marcus

I hope you don't stop blogging, Scott. T. Scott is the anthithesis of the most disheartening aspects of the blogosphere.

Perhaps the blogosphere is differentiating into the high-brow press--like T. Scott and, dare I say it, Marcus' World--and the tabloid press, which is most everything else.

We've seen a similar split in the print world for many years. Online these extremes are even more obvious because people don't feel bound by any sense of decency or decorum.

In times of doubt, turn to the Osmonds. As they said, with less than stellar grammar: One bad apple--or even whole truckloads of bad apples--don't spoil the whole darn bunch.

http://osmonds-lyrics.wonderlyrics.com/One-Bad-Apple.html

whitneydt

I completely agree that the chatter is disheartening, and there's no feel-good response to it, I'm afraid.

What heartens me is that the blogosphere is no different than any other media; there are the dregs among TV channels, magazines, newspapers, and radio. I suppose there's a lot more swearing online, but the idea of shallow, one-sided, idiotic blather is nothing new.

And, just like the other media, there is a lot of thoughtful commentary happening online. Many people choose NPR over AM talk out of personal preference, and your blog is in my list of feeds for the same reason.

Mark D

I have doubted blogging and its value to society. At first, I thought it a waste of time and electricity. Then again, the study of history is my hobby. It dawned on me, one day, reading your blog that blogging is not new. I realized that once again I had been hoodwinked by the techno-nerds oversimplification and overstatement.

Blogging is just a modern version of an ancient art. The Emperor Claudius used to write "histories," which he would then post in the forum. Cato and Cicero were famous for their "defenses" of clients in the rostra. Franklin and Jefferson used pamphlets. No, bloggin is as old as humanity. And like humanity it can rise to greatness or sink to the depths.

Blog on my dear friend. I agree with Whitney, you are the NPR of the blogosphere. That goes for the commentary as well. Scott, you have created a small modern version of the forum.

T Scott

Now you're all making me blush! Thanks. It is good to be reminded that all of the various media provide plenty of outlets for us to show ourselves at our worst. What is it Theodore Sturgeon said when someone criticized the quality of much science fiction? "Ninety percent of everything is crap." And as with movies, music, tv, print, it can be very worthwhile to seek out the good stuff.

Eric

Thank you for saying so much of what needed to be said. If I had read this posting first, I wouldn't have needed to post all that blather you see under "Echoes and Incompetence". Sorry!

The comments to this entry are closed.