OMT One Man's Trash...from Norman Leahy

Wednesday, December 20, 2006 :::

Mob Mentality

Another day brings another pressie slapping around blogs for hastening the end of civilization. Or at least the press.

WSJ assistant editorial features editor Joseph Rago burns a lot of column inches and ten cent words to make this point:

Certainly the MSM, such as it is, collapsed itself. It was once utterly dominant yet made itself vulnerable by playing on its reputed accuracy and disinterest to pursue adversarial agendas. Still, as far from perfect as that system was, it was and is not wholly imperfect. The technology of ink on paper is highly advanced, and has over centuries accumulated a major institutional culture that screens editorially for originality, expertise and seriousness.

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.

Blogs, it seems, are just a manifestation of the collapse of the established media. Rago blames conservatives for this, in part, due to their pell-mell search for alternatives to what they perceived to be a dysfunctional and outright hostile medium. Blogs may have given them what they wanted. But the price has been high, indeed -- mediocre content, based upon minutiae, peddled by the mob.

A stark contrast, no doubt, to the all-day, every-day rush of cable news to discover Jon Benet's killer, the O.J. Simpson farce, and Lord knows what other "news" that sacrifices helpless electrons in the pursuit of ratings. And that's merely what's on television. We ought not forget that newspapers, too, have embraced the race for the bottom (witness the RTD's nearly wall-to-wall coverage of Eliot Yamin's "American Idol" experience. Real news, vetted within an inch of its life, we can be sure).

Bashing blogs is nothing new. If anything, it has become an old media trope. But to dismiss blogs as simply the unsettled rumblings of the mob, is to ignore their reality and potential. Ask George Allen if blogs are a sign of decay. Ask Dan Rather if they are the mutterings of the mob. And for that matter, ask Mr. Rago to read a bit more of his own newspaper.

Like this review of "Citizen Marketers," a new book that describes how people use the new media to cut through the marketing pitches and PR campaigns of the largest companies to change the corporate landscape:

The real story of "Citizen Marketers" is the rise of the activist amateur -- "amateur" meaning not only a nonprofessional but also, in the original sense, one who loves. We're seeing a fusion -- a mashup, if you will -- of two formerly distinct spheres, the private and the public. Privately held brands are being defined not by their owners but by unpaid, and often unwanted, public guardians. In an age when most discussion of the public weal can be filed under "commons, tragedy of," this is a remarkable development.

Even more remarkable is the realization that consumers are now able to blow a raspberry heard 'round the world, whether in response to inane corporate spirit-building or customer-service doubletalk. In a perfect world, every business would take note.

Every business should take note. Including Dow Jones and its editors, both great and small.

::: posted by Norman Leahy at 12/20/2006 0 comments


"You know what the fellow said: In Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed, but they also produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love -- they had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock." -- Orson Welles, The Third Man

"The graveyards are full of indespensable men" -- Charles de Gaulle

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