December 20, 2006

Fools and Imbeciles

That would be bloggers and those who read them according to Joseph Rago of the WSJ.

Dear me, how do you respond to someone who calls you a fool and an imbecile? I must necessarily be both because I blog and I read blogs.

Naturally I am chastened by his opinion of me. I had to read on. I want to understand my shortcomings and try to correct them.

Looking closely at the opinion I was struck by the following:

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.

I will direct his attention to bloggers such as Michael Yon and Bill Roggio. It's hard to get more directly involved in "reporting" the story than to embed with our troops in a war zone. There are a number of others who have taken the time and made the effort to do independent reporting on issues, but Mr. Rago apparently hasn't read them, therefore they do not exist.

He is correct in pointing out most bloggers, myself included, do not make any attempt at independent reporting. He does not seem to notice, we do not call ourselves "reporters" either. Bloggers would be quite happy to tell Mr. Rago we are offering our opinion. Last time I checked, this was not a crime, even if you are not being paid by a newspaper when you give said opinion.

It has totally escaped his notice that blogs provide yet another service for interpreting the "complex journalism" presented to us. Namely, bloggers, with expertise in many and varied fields. They are able to weigh in and provide insight into stories being handed out by journalists as "news" giving us necessary details to which we would not otherwise have access.

Anyone remember Rathergate? Within an extremely short period of time, Charles at Little Green Footballs used his expertise in fonts, to discredit the story. In the pre-internet era, this story would have stood without argument. The few people with expertise to call it a fake would have had little or no access to the media to bring it out into the open.

If we extrapolate from his narrative, Mr. Rago does not believe this type of information is necessary, it's not clear if that's because journalists have editors or if it's because journalistic writing is more "complex", complexity naturally outweighs facts.

Conservatives have long taken it as self-evident that the press unfavorably distorts the war, which may be the case; but today that country is a vastation, and the unified field theory of media bias has not been altered one jot.

In case you are wondering what "vastation" means, we have the definition from


\Vas*ta"tion\, n. [L. vastatio, fr. vastare to lay waste, fr. vastus empty, waste.] A laying waste; waste; depopulation; devastation. [Obs.] --Bp. Hall.

Ah, once again we are shown the marvelous complexity of the journalistic mind. I find myself feeling like a commonplace little note scrawler, but I digress.

Vastation is not a word in popular use (which is why I provide you with the definition), it is the root of the word devastation, so even without a dictionary we can come close to its meaning. I must assume he is attempting to sound superior to us poor fools and imbeciles because there is no good reason for using this word. "Iraq is a wasteland" would have been just as easy to write. But, hey, it loses the superior sound, not to mention it's demonstrably untrue.

Perhaps he should read, Iraq's Economy Is Booming in Newsweek. He might have heard about it, if he paid attention to bloggers, because they have been spreading the story.

Oh my, another thing bloggers will do, disseminate information others might not have seen. Is there no end to the interference caused by these pesky fools?

I'm sure there are other things in the piece that could be pulled out and examined more closely, but there is no point. After the blog swarms that have erupted when others have condemned bloggers, I think he'll be vastly disappointed in the response to his opinion piece. He released it a few days before Christmas, most bloggers won't give him the time of day. As for me, I find it an amusing piece. I imagine the old journalists said the same thing about radio and television back in the day. Nothing makes you sound old and dated faster than trying to dismiss new technology.

Mr. Rago is entitled to his opinion on blogs and bloggers. Like everyone else, his opinion is worth the pixels it's printed on. That must be so galling for him.

Posted by: Teresa in Current Affairs at 12:58 PM | Comments (11) | Add Comment
Post contains 801 words, total size 5 kb.

1 I couldn't finish his rant due to nodding off. 'Love your take, though, big time. :-)

Posted by: Sissy Willis at December 20, 2006 01:16 PM (sTYfM)

2 Nice retort!

What an arrogant waste of space. A large portion of the public have and read blogs... and these millions are all fools and imbeciles? Ugh.

Posted by: pam at December 20, 2006 04:25 PM (l6NIn)

3 Well, I'm particularly lucky.

See, I have those journalism bona-fides. I have a degree; it included a year of law & history and a a double major in history itself, where I focussed on 20th Century Military History. I've also worked for several newspapers.

And I'm a blogger.


How could I be both?

Do I not understand? Oh, wait, I'm not a "journalist" with a highly recognized paper. Got it.

The mere use of the word "journalist" decries his own arrogant misinterpretation of both the laws and history of journalism. As my old friend and mentor used to say, "The only difference between a journalist and a reporter is the size of his ego. So shut your trap, get out of the way of the story, get back to your job and report. You aren't that important." But what did he know? He was only the editor of the International Edition of the Miami Herald for nearly 20 years.

Posted by: RSM at December 20, 2006 04:38 PM (IyNwh)

4 Teresa: Nice commentary. I guess I only qualify as a fool as I only read and comment on Blogs (not that I couldn't have one. But I don't have that much to say). I prefer to think of blogs in general as being the expession of free speech we were guaranteed in the countries founding. While I may not agree with all blogs, I will defend their existence because they have that right. I hope the McCain-Feingold laws leave us with our political rights to free expression intact and blogging continues to be a viable expression of free speech regardless of politocal blogging or hamster blogging or war blogging or car blogging.
RSM: As you have pointed out, it's about hubris. It's the "don't you know who I am?" mentality that infiltrates those in "high" places who are too self important. But we needn't worry about them. They are self exposing and their exhibitionistic tendencies only continues to highlight the cliche that the Emperor has no clothes.

Posted by: MGA at December 21, 2006 02:36 AM (YcUKP)

5 Great write up!

Posted by: vw bug at December 21, 2006 08:03 AM (ZbLU8)

6 Very well said, T. I wonder which blogs Mr. Rago read in preparing to write his piece. I know a couple dozen bloggers (and there are no doubt thousands more I don't know) who write better than Mr. Rago does and who are as smart, if not smarter than Mr. Rago. And, they do it in their spare time, because they have responsible jobs - even more responsible than, say, writing pompous op-ed pieces.

Posted by: Jim - PRS at December 21, 2006 03:31 PM (a6/Kb)

7 RSM - I'm wishing now that you were out there bringing us some real reporting.

MGA - for someone who doesn't have much to say, you express yourself very well

Glad you all enjoyed it. At first I thought the man was a comedian and when I figured out he was serious, it was even funnier.

Posted by: Teresa at December 21, 2006 04:08 PM (gsbs5)

8 In this paragraph from Rago's rant:

"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 . . ."

All I could think was:

"Funny... I was about to say the same thing about you" :-)

Also, I was quite amused that he derided the value of bloggers writing opinion pieces IN AN OPINION PIECE.

Posted by: Harvey at December 22, 2006 04:07 AM (L7a63)

9 My theroy is that he is jealous because he has never been named as Time's Person of the Year, so he is putting down blogs and bloggers because of his petty jealousy!

Posted by: Quality Weenie at December 22, 2006 06:36 AM (BksWB)

10 Harvey, I was thinking the same thing... but thought my post was long enough so I left it out. LOL.

QW - ROFLMAO I didn't think of that aspect.

Posted by: Teresa at December 22, 2006 10:42 AM (gsbs5)

11 Awesome post, Teresa! I couldn't have said it better myself - in fact, I couldn't have thought it out so well first (as you obviously did).

WRT vastation: Mr. Rago might need an Amazon gift card so he can purchase the likes of "Between You and I: A Little Book of Bad English." It's a great book, as is E.B. White's "Elements of Style," Garner, the 11C, and get this - gasp - a THESAURUS! Yes, I own all these 'writerly' reference books, and I'm just some lowly scientist. As a REAL writer, he should consider investing in such useful and educational tools.

Just sayin.'

And Merry Christmas!

Posted by: liv at December 25, 2006 01:51 PM (pREqE)

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