Monday, August 28, 2006
The New Fourth Estate, Us ...
The Fourth Estate (the press) suffered a nice shiner yesterday. In a near two week masturbatory build-up over the Jon Benet Ramsey "killer" story, the "money shot" never came. A story that (at best) should have been in page two,- and over by day three-, got the best of the media beast. No DNA, no conviction, no collective 8 o'clock orgasmic blast on the evening news. A massive thud it was.
Ordinarily I never pay attention to anything of this type. No Michael Jackson, O.J. Simpson or Natalie Holloway blurbs make my neck twist in attention. If I wanted that I can sprinkle a shredded National Inquirer to my mornin' corn flakes and just digest it. But this story made me think of the deeper failure of the press itself, and the change that the constant 24-hour news cycle has inflicted on all of us. I can go on for a few paragraphs on the history of media, the changes through the decades, and maybe some diatribe on the philosophy of news itself, and whether or not this is a reflection of our internal evolutionary psyche. Maybe another day.
What happened yesterday is not new. The media has been clinically lazy and intellectually guilty of not doing its homework for the necessity of feeding the monster. The need to fill 24 hours of news is not easy. How many stories of depth (and well produced ones at that) can they pump out on a daily basis?,.. not many; unless you have an investigative staff of thousands constantly churning out Woodward-Bernstein type yarns. And that is not likely in a bottom-line industry whose ratings are looked at and dissected with a microscopic ethos. They are, -simply put-, going to belch out as many sexy, titillating, light, bombastic and trashy stories as they can because the viewer has morphed from a "give-me-30-minutes-of-summary" audience to a "wow, this is better than Springer" lot with the attention span of a gnat.
Which brings me (finally) to the point of my post. We matter, yes we do. More so that we may ever know. This is not a self-congratulatory exercise on your humble correspondent's behalf. This is merely a way of saying that we, the blogger nation are THE insurgency of our time. Allow me to give you a few examples of what we did, that the media -in general-, did not.
1. Like it or not, Dan Rather would have gotten away with the whole GWB not going to his national guard unit story were it not for bloggers who called his mistakes and mis-reporting days before the MSM (main-stream media) got a hold of the critical mass and just belched it out, albeit kicking and screaming.
2. Think about it, Ned Lamont waxed the tail for an existing US Senator, with the unadulterated help from the netroot crowd,... us,... you! You may not have liked it, or maybe your were tickled pink with the results, but nobody, nobody saw this guy coming until he was rounding third.
3. More to the point, we were this close, THIS CLOSE, from having a candidate for the Democratic Party placed there squarely on the shoulders of the internet fund-raising prowess and the blogger nation bull horn. If the voters of Iowa had not had that singular moment of clarity (in the eyes of John Kerry anyway), Howard Dean would have run against Dubya in 04. Think about the ramifications of that!
4. Had the media done their homework, the real homework on this pervert A-hole (like a few non-distinct bloggers I read who did) they would have realized this man was a sick dillusional puppy who needed attention and wanted to get the hell out of Thailand any way he could. But nobody wanted to kill that cash cow; nobody wanted the stroking of the meat to end. None of the MSM power boys did what news is supposed to do; inquire, and ask the basics of journalism; who, what, where, when and why (and how if you have to get picky).
5. Nobody in the media, at least none that I remember, did any hard questioning in the build-up to both war campaigns in the post 9-11 time-lines. The networks has such the collective hard-on for blood and smart bombs coming at ya' in HDTV quality that they, and not Congress, did the real rubber-stamping of this war's go-ahead. We are at war in Iraq more because the media pulled it out of Bush's crotch region, and less because of the mostly stupid votes of 1oo Senators. I am all for eliminating evil from the planet,... but this war (with due respect to my brethren military men and woman) has not been our best moment, and clearly was not managed effectively from the start.
6. The word "swift boat-ed" has become part of the political lingo. Why?... once again a bunch of bloggers heard stories from John Kerry about his conduct (or lack thereof) during the war and called him on it. The results of the snow ball that ensued was lethal. Regardless of whether it was merited or not, THAT may have been the fulcrum point of his campaign,... just enough of a seed of doubt to his credibility was launched and made an uneasy independent voting block tilt towards Bush as November came around the bend. That event alone was undeniable proof of the power the blogger nation was gaining.
But do we matter? I think we do, but only if we hold each other accountable. Only if we keep the wikipeadias of the world from becoming our de-facto source of truth. We have the real advantage (so far) to not being beholden to advertising dollars, ratings or corporate board room politics. We only have us, ourselves and each other as judges and commentator-jurors to calibrate our craft. Our styles may differ, our language may convey the vestiges of our personalities, and our themes will vary from person to person and minute to minute, but as long as truth and fact are the standards, then we should be able to handle the success.
This is the first time in the history of the world that a commoner such as I can bellow to the world what I think, and (if I am lucky) the politicians will hear my trumpet and take note that my opinion as citizen of the world barks aloud. Let's not piss away this chance to correct the fourth estate. The genie is out of the bottle. The days of the news room having independence from the entertainment realms are gone. I'd like to think that I am part of the new gate-keepers. Those whose job is to keep truth afloat and sailing, ... even if I don't particularly like its course and heading.