KNOW YOUR PLACE, PEASANT! This just in: Old media dowagers still hate their readers, particularly when they comment on their articles:
The other problem, especially for opinion sites like The Spectator, is the comments have become the place that make the writers cry. Sure, there’s lots of inane chatter in the comment threads, but it is also where some smart people post corrections and point out the many glaring logical errors. Guys like Damian Thompson have fragile psyches so seeing their mistakes highlighted for everyone to see, right under their posts, is a source of constant distress. Look at the first comment under that blog post.
When you live in the snow globe of opinion journalism, the outside world is horrifying. That’s why you went into the snow globe in the first place, to get away from the cold, pitiless world of reality. The Spectator is a collegial place where peers josh with one another, engage in witty repartee, but always respect their “shared dignity.” Those angry Dirt People in the comments with their facts and reason just don’t get it. Many of them don’t even have a PhD. They are ruining it for everyone!
The media’s new war on their readers is part of the general unrest we are seeing in the West. People in the media have long viewed themselves as the fourth estate, part of the ruling class, but policing the ruling class. This was always nonsense. The press has always been staffed by obsequious rumpswabs and toadies. The reason for that is noticing is dangerous in the mass media so only the most blinkered and stupid thrive. Suddenly, these dullards are learning that the rest of us have no respect for them.
But it’s not a “new war on their readers”—the late Ginny Carroll, a bureau chief with Newsweek, then a division of the Washington Post, wore a “Yeah, I’m in the Media — Screw You” pin to the 1992 GOP Convention—and defended her slur on C-Span shortly thereafter. Six years later, the Washington press corps openly despised Matt Drudge not just for showing them up by publishing the Lewinsky story that was buried (coincidentally) by Newsweek, but because they recognized that he was one of the first and most visible of what was soon to become a rapidly growing phenomenon—the one man news Website.
In those pioneering World Wide Web days, Drudge was rolling his own HTML code from scratch, but it didn’t take long for Blogger.com and WordPress to develop their own prefab blogging platforms. For me, one of the most revolutionary aspects of the Instapundit in its early days was that Glenn was one of the first self-publishers on the Web to use the Blogger platform not as a daily diary, as it was originally intended (hence the name “weblog”), but to quickly aggregate posts commenting on news articles. On the afternoon and evening of September 11th, 2001, small Websites such as the nascent Instapundit and Virginia Postrel’s Dynamist e-zine (I think Virginia was rolling her own code back then) stayed readable when the servers of the big boys like the New York Times, the WaPo and CNN went dark, knocked offline by the sheer number of people looking for information on what just happened.
That, and all of the misreporting by the MSM during the early days of the War on Terror led to lots of other people wanting to become news aggregators and critics as well, and by early 2002, Steve Green’s Vodkapundit site and my own Ed Driscoll.com were online, also initially using the Blogger.com platform as were loads of other early blogs inspired by Instapundit—who were of course, dismissed near en masse as navel-gazing cat food eating losers typing away in their parents’ basements. Ask Eason Jordan, Trent Lott, and Dan Rather how that worked out. Similarly, in late 2004, “when Time magazine held a lunch to discuss candidates for its person of the year, he exposed a side of his personality that is seldom seen on the air. When a fellow panelist mentioned that bloggers had had a big impact on the reporting on Election Day, Williams waved that point away by quipping that the self-styled journalists are ‘on an equal footing with someone in a bathroom with a modem.’” I wonder if the former NBC anchorman regrets that comment these days.
As Roger Ailes once told Matt Drudge, “You don’t need a license to report. You need a license to do hair.” At least for now. The DNC-MSM would love to have a Ministry of Truth-level monopoly on information. And if and when the Internet ceases being under American control, so would the governments in much of the rest of the world.
Earlier: Why We Turned Off Comments.
(Found via Kathy Shaidle, who advises always read the newspaper upside down—“newspapers’ online comment sections are ‘the place you get the real story.’”)