The snob’s response

The snob’s response

: There’s no greater snob — and I mean that in only the nicest way, of course — than Tina Brown. She imported snobbery into the U.S. the way the Beatles imported rock music.

Today, she exudes snobbishness about journalism. I won’t call on my usual preists-and-cathedrals image; this more the has-been queen sniffing in her castle at all the riff-raff out in the streets, typing fast.

Now the conventional wisdom is that the media will be kept honest and decent by an army of incorruptible amateur gumshoes. In fact, cyberspace is populated by a coalition of political obsessives and pundits on speed who get it wrong as much as they get it right. It’s just that they type so much they are bound to nail a story from time to time.

This isn’t Brown sniffing at bloggers; it is Brown sniffing at the audience, the great unwashed. Too bad you have to get commoners to watch your TV show to be successful, eh, your highness? She continues:

The rapturing about the bloggers is the journalistic equivalent of the stock market’s Internet bubble. You can see the news chiefs feeling as spooked as the old-style CEOs in the ’90s who had built their companies over 20 years and then saw kids in backward baseball caps on the cover of Fortune. It finally drove them nuts. It was why we saw Time Warner’s buttoned-down corporate dealmaker Gerald Levin tearing off his tie and swooning into the embrace of AOL’s Steve Case.

The equivalent today is when news outfits that built their reputations on check-and-double-check pick up almost any kind of assertion and call it a “source.” Or feel so chased by the new-media mujaheddin they start trusting tips garnered from God-knows-where by a partisan wack job in Texas.

What a crock of caviar. So now she is blaming bloggers for making Dan Rather and CBS panic and air a forged memo from a nutty Texan. Can somebody diagram the logic of that paragraph?

Damn, I guess Gawker has gotten under Tina’s skin.

: Tina is fooling herself not only about the Rather story and the fate of news media and the role of citizens but also about the campaign:

Documents or no documents, everyone knows Bush’s dad got him out of Vietnam. Everyone knows he thought he had better, funner things to do than go to a bunch of boring National Guard drills. (Only a killjoy like John Kerry would spend his carefree youth racking up high-minded demonstrations of courage and conscience, right?) Like O.J. Simpson’s infamous “struggle” to squeeze his big hand into the glove, the letter was just a lousy piece of evidence that should never have been produced in court. Now because CBS, like Marcia Clark, screwed up the prosecution, Bush is going to walk.

: UPDATE: See also Wonkette’s simultaneous translation.

  • http://scrutinyhooligans.blogspot.com Screwy Hoolie

    Here’s a story for the ‘Gotcha’ media: Media glosses over catastrophic decisions of the current administration in favor of reporting on blogosphere flame wars.
    Scrutiny Hooligans have more.

  • ricpic

    You say it at the start of this piece: she’s a has been.
    So why waste ink on her?
    Gob smack the strumpet, I say!

  • http://www.02564.net Kelty

    ‘Old media’ is getting pissy and defensive about bloggers.
    I guess we must be on to something good, and something that’s a real threat to their territory – otherwise they wouldn’t be throwing hissy fits about ‘pajamas’ and ‘incorruptible amateur gumshoes’ – ha!

  • http://www.joelblain.com Joel

    Funny how the Dean bloggers were “The wiz kids of the internet” but bloggers with actual substance are mocked.

  • pianoman

    “Documents or no documents, everyone knows Bush’s dad got him out of Vietnam. Everyone knows he thought he had better, funner things to do than go to a bunch of boring National Guard drills.”
    Yup. It’s so obvious. Look at all the documents that back it up. They’re just spilling out of the sky.
    “Fake But Accurate”

  • Jack Tanner

    ‘Media glosses over catastrophic decisions of the current administration in favor of reporting on blogosphere flame wars.’
    Some people can actually focus on more than 1 thing at once! It’s incredible! There’s actually this thing in my daily paper called a ‘Sports’ page that doesn’t seem to have anything to do with international disputes. Believe it or not I actually know both how many debates there are and how many games the Red sox trail the hated Skankees by. And it’s the same number!

  • Tim

    Now because CBS, like Marcia Clark, screwed up the prosecution, Bush is going to walk.
    Walk on what? “[E]veryone knows … [e]veryone knows …” It reminds me of “no one I know voted for him”.
    Here’s what I know: Someone wrote somewhere that Bush’s National Guard service was meaningless in this election and writing about it was slinging mud, wasting blogspace and distracting from “real” issues”.
    I think it is the definition of insanity that liberals, after 5 years at this story, think that Bush’s National Guard service isn’t distracting Democrats and wasting their resources and media access.

  • http://mithras.blogs.com Mithras

    Back in the day, I did company-side venture capital work, raising money for startups run by MBA students who had barely graduated. It didn’t matter that their business plans made no sense, it was the internet, and all these companies were just going to defy the laws of physics and keep going up, up, up. And people just threw money at them. One of them promised to predict the weather a year in advance – no lie. I think we raised $15 million for them in the “A” round. (Know what the “T” round was? It stood for turkey – never going anywhere.)
    Underneath all the hype and internet triumphalism there was actually an opportunity to move information around more with unprecedented efficiency, but it was just an opportunity, and it needed (and still needs) a lot of work to realize. That’s where blogging is now.
    My basic problem with the Blogs Triumphant thing is that I don’t understand how it is we’re supposed to be taking over reporting. Jarvis waves his hands around and says, “Open sesame”, but it’s not clear what that means. Disclose interview notes? Disclose draft stories that got spiked? All this stuff that was not verified or discovered to be actually false, given permanent life on the web? Two words: legal liability. Also, what’s the relevance? Jarvis also goes on and on about “the news is a conversation”, but you can only have so many conversations and actually understand anything, much less have time to do your job. When it comes down to it, you have to separate out the noise and decide for yourself if a fact is true. What’s the alternative? Take a poll of commenters at Little Green Footballs?
    Right now there’s already a pretty good relationship between bloggers and journalists. They read us, we read them. Some of them are us. Maybe this publicity will get a few more to read us. But that’s basically it. There is going to be no magical process where we all collect and report the news and it’s a much better product. That’s just a libertarian fantasy.
    Even worse, it may be the CBS thing will end up demonstrating the folly of thinking blogs are going to replace journalism. The memos may have been a political dirty trick by a Nixon-era Republican operative. In other words, you got played. The internet and blogs just made it easier for them to play you. Congratulations!

  • Mike G

    Setting aside Mithras’ ranting, which is just one notch shy of saying the Mossad was behind it all (and hey, aren’t the Protocols of the Elders of Zion the original “fake but accurate” documents?), what dear Tina still doesn’t get is that what the Internet does isn’t replace one medium with another, it (quite literally) disintermediates, it aggregates the behavior of a crowd. It’s okay if there are partisans running blogs because the aggregate behavior of the crowd is constantly sifting through everything and letting the good stuff rise while the phony sinks. Blogs aren’t the new authority– the marketplace of information is the new authority, and blogs are what it’s sorting through. Nobody “tuned” to LGF instead of CBS– they listened to LGF, Powerline and 20 other sites at once, and as the evidence mounted from multiple sources, it became obviously irrefutable (except by Mithras, perhaps) and the single voice of authority became obviously threadbare and desperate. Well, Tina, too bad for authorities, but so was the end of the divine right of kings.

  • http://mithras.blogs.com Mithras

    Setting aside Mithras’ ranting, which is just one notch shy of saying the Mossad was behind it all
    Way not to deal with my arguments. And a snide accusation of antisemitism to boot. WTF?
    Nobody “tuned” to LGF instead of CBS– they listened to LGF, Powerline and 20 other sites at once, and as the evidence mounted from multiple sources, it became obviously irrefutable
    Hey, that’s a good thing (assuming for now the whole thing wasn’t a con by the same people who are supposed to be the heroes of this tale). But it’s not a revolution. It’s an incremental step. It’s as if the letters to the editor section of the paper got infinitely huge all of a sudden. It makes it easier to write back to the paper, but it doesn’t fundamentally transform the business of journalism.
    Get a grip.

  • http://submandave.blogspot.com submandave

    Mithras: “assuming for now the whole thing wasn’t a con by the same people who are supposed to be the heroes of this tale
    I think Mike’s point was that comments such as this taint your argument with an air of paranoid conspiracy not unlike those who see the evil machinations of the Jews and their minnions in everything. That you tend to prefer the Republicans as your boogey-man does not make it less bewildering to the casual observer.
    Get a grip.
    As another might say” “Indeed”

  • http://users.metro2000.net/~stabbott/soundingoff.htm Stephen A.

    What’s sad and pathetic about MS. Brown and her Old Media colleagues is that they sniff about how the bloggers fail to “double check” their facts (as ironic a statement as CAN be made, in these post-CBS docugate times) yet she and others ignore thinly veiled partisan hackery like that exhibited today by NBC’s White House correspondent David Gregory.
    He asked the most biased, loaded and condescending questions of the president, then got on the air afterwards and pontificated about how badly HE thinks the Iraq postwar situation is, and how the president failed to back up the thesis of HIS important question.
    He he been watching the Nixon/Rather newsconference videotapes from 1973? Is he trying to make a name for himself? Is he running for something?
    The Mainstream Media has long been overdue for a wake-up call. Perhaps the bloggers aren’t the final part of that call, but they are certainly the first one. And it’s long overdue.

  • David R. Block

    The informal logical fallacy of “every schoolboy [or girl] knows” has already been noted by Tim above. But never mind the fallacious arguement method and the faulty evidence: Bush is guilty until proven innocent. And these folks complain about Ashcroft? How does this differ from some of the complaints? Not much that I can tell.
    What do you want to bet that the exposure of any fake documents used against Kerry would result in his vindication on any subject in question? But not for Bush.
    Double standard? In freaking spades. It is getting to the point that it is difficult to ignore the disconnect that the left has with reality.

  • Victor

    Were there not a concern among the general public concerning the accuracy and fairness of media, then bloggers would not be as effective as they are.
    I thought Ms Brown’s show was opinion and not news anyway- how does this differ from opinion blogs?
    Watching the talking heads decay like pumpkins in December actually is a source of enjoyment for me. I liken the Blogs as the underdogs in this respect.
    Funny how the “alternative” media is labeled as right wing or of a conservative bent- I thought the Democrats/ Libs were the great grass roots organizers.

  • Tim

    Mithras: “The memos may have been a political dirty trick by a Nixon-era Republican operative. In other words, you got played. The internet and blogs just made it easier for them to play you. Congratulations!”
    OK, remember how low Democrats felt after the 2000 and 2002 elections? Remember how empty the rhetoric sounded? How crazy and conspiratorial? How Democrats needed to break out of their tin foil cocoon, find their core beliefs, sell their ideology to the “stupid people” that were voting against their interests and take back the word liberal from being a slur?
    Well, that’s not helping.

  • http://www.2020hindsight.org/ Susan Kitchens

    Who’s Tina Brown?

  • http://triticale.mu.nu triticale

    “Documents or no documents, everyone knows Bush’s dad got him out of Vietnam. Everyone knows he thought he had better, funner things to do than go to a bunch of boring National Guard drills.”
    If daddy had enough clout to get him into the Air National Guard when they were seeking people willing to train full-time on the F-102, and enough clout to get him back out when they no longer needed pilots, why didn’t he have enough clout to get him out of a drunk driving ticket back when they were no big thing?

  • http://mithras.blogs.com Mithras

    Well, tim and submandave, you guys are good at changing the subject, if nothing else. If the possibility of a dirty trick is the product of a “tin foil cocoon”, then you better alert Ed Gillespie, who “challenged [CBS] to reveal who created the documents, who provided them to producer Mary Mapes and whether Kerry’s ‘supporters, party committee or campaign played any role.'”
    But enough of your distraction. Care to address the issues?

  • Mike G

    My apologies if anyone assumed that I was accusing Mithras of antisemitism. I have no reason to assume his paranoid ranting is anything but entirely prejudice-free.
    As for himself, though, I’m sorry he missed that I was dealing with his actual issues– the term for the way in which I dealt with them is “mockery.” But to take them head on, I find two problems with the theory that Republicans fed bad things about Republicans to liberal reporters so they’d screw themselves and the Democratic candidate up with it all. One, it doesn’t pass the Occam’s razor test– it’s too convoluted and relies too much on people behaving like you hope they will to be realistic. (This is, of course, the problem with most conspiracies.) Two is, even if it’s true, the best you can say for the liberal media is that, boy, Karl Rove sure read those suckers right! Give ‘em anything anti-Bush and they can’t wait to collude with the other party to feed it to the public.

  • Tim

    Kevin Drum: “TINA BROWN NAILS RATHERGATE….I hate to say this, but Tina Brown (yeah, yeah) gets it exactly right in her dissection of Rathergate today in the Washington Post. She gets the motivation right, she gets the blogosphere’s role mostly right, and she gets the bigger picture right. It’s the best thousand words I’ve read yet on the whole affair.”
    Mithras,
    “If the possibility of a dirty trick is the product of a ‘tin foil cocoon’ …”
    I think someone recently created the memos and forged deceased Lt Col Killian’s signature in order to revive and further the AWOL/Deserter smear and embarrass the President. Considering how little care was taken in preparing these hoax memos, I’m open to the idea that Burkett created the documents himself or with the help of a friend, then burned the originals to protect himself. Perhaps in coordination with DNC’s “Fortunate Son”.
    Of course, if “everyone knows” already that Bush did everything that his accusers say he did, there would be no need for memos – no “breakthrough stuff” – no news – no 60 Minutes scoop.
    Would there?

  • Kim

    What a hypocritical prat!
    Brooklyn, N.Y.: What do you think about the blog phenomenon? Are there any bloggers out there that you find to be both informative and entertaining? Should magazines recruit bloggers for staff positions? (As was the case with Elizabeth Spiers.)
    Tina Brown: I love the blog.s Think they are really channging the collective voice of journalism. People are sick of mediated coverage. They like the noholds barred appraoch
    http://discuss.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/zforum/03/sp_style_brown102303.htm
    I wonder will you be invited back to the home of Harold Evans and Tina Brown for this years The Week blogger of the year award?

  • JorgXMcKie

    Jeff: The Beatles perhaps _re-imported_ rock into the US. You’re old enough to remember that rock was invented here (see Ike Turner: Rocket 88, et al) and that the (Silver) Beatles were originally a skiffle band that began doing Chuck Berry covers (not a bad thing, mind you).
    About Tina Brown, well, perhaps we really should have tighter import and immigration laws.

  • http://submandave.blogspot.com submandave

    Mithras, I was not commenting at all on the post subject, but rather your knee-jerk offense at Mike G’s ribbing (and before you conclude that we have colluded to gang up to discredit your argument I must testify that I have no memory of ever having met Mike G before, and he says he doesn’t know me either).
    Concerning your original comments on the importance of blogs in the Media, I agree that they serve to complement rather than suplant the big media houses. After all, if AP dried up and closed shop tomorrow, there’d be at least 50% less links out there to make and comment on. Your analogy to the letters to the editor is apt, with the addition that blogs are letters the editor can’t spike.
    I do not, however, agree that any nefarious intent that created the forged memos might return to discredit the blogs. Let’s assume someone intentionally put these out with the intent that CBS would use them and they would later be discredited. The failure of CBS to do its job still happened and that failure within the organization was still revealed, and rightly so, largely due to blog action. The intentions of the memos’ creator does not change those facts, nor does it change that revealing the truth about the memos was the right thing to do. That there may be additional truth that is not known does not lessen the positive of presenting what is known. And if it turns out there was an intent to manipulate the blogoshere, I have more confidence that the very same bloggers who were manipulated would respond with greater candor and much more agressively against the manipultor than CBS did concerning the person who apparently manipulated them.

  • C Bennett

    Some time ago we had a local network station news anchor come to our university to speak to a student club of campus office-holders. She looked great: hair, skin, nails, clothes — especially on a campus, she really stood out.
    During her talk, which was quite interesting, she let slip the old adage that “the masses are asses.” Once it was out, though, she owned up to it: it’s too bad, she said, but it’s true — they just remember someone’s name but little else.
    I think Tina has the same basic DNA — it’s in her bones, like seeing a slight curve in the horizon when she flies because she knows the world is a sphere, she sees the masses as asses, albeit asses that type. And, like asses, chance allows them to be right every now and then.
    Gallup says the media is at its lowest level of credibility among the asses in thirty years. The Iowa markets have Bush at about 68 cents a share, up from about 52 cents three weeks ago.
    Maybe, when you’re royalty, you don’t have to worry about polls or markets — your insights come by divine right and are not subject to Gallup gut-checks. You don’t need a window on society to see if your assessments hold, just a mirror. That’s confidence enough.

  • C Bennett

    One other comment: when Rather finally apologized, it was Mithras who felt he was the victim in this episode. The new hit-and-run assertion is that maybe Rove duped him.
    I think Mithras is onto something and I don’t like it: the RNC and its operatives are taking advantage of media proclivities by feeding them bogus stuff, waiting until they swallow, and then pointing it out. That’s dirty.
    Like this classic case: crank up a sophisticated forgery kit like Microsoft word, pick an obscure font like Times New Roman, throw in some superscripted fonts, make up some military abbreviations, fax the whole thing from a Kinko’s — that is very high-level deception. WHO could cook up a scheme that convoluted? It’s no wonder that an entire network investigative team with seven years of auguring under their belts — the vaunted 60 minutes clairvoyants — would be hooked by this ingenious scheme.
    Is Mithras serious? Is a more far-fetched explanation possible? Burkett owns it; Lockhart owns it; Mapes doesn’t deny it. But Mithras, broken by pity for Rather, thinks maybe it was Rove, whom everyone knows owns Microsoft Office, behind the behind-the-scenes faxing.
    Mithras is the segment of the population that still has confidence in the media. And that’s media’s REAL problem.

  • http://www.buzzmachine.com Jeff Jarvis

    Mithras: I have said again and again that bloggers will not replace reporters. So don’t misquote me. What I have said is that this is a complementary relationship. On one level, bloggers do add to media with questions and fact-checking and perspective and, yes, in some cases, reporting. On another level, bloggers are citizens and by listening to blogs you begin to listen to citizens and that is important for media as well as for government and business. The problem I have with Brown’s and Rather’s dismissals of bloggers is that they are dismissing the people they supposedly serve… that’s snotty and just stupid.

  • Tony Alva

    I too attended a guest lecture by a big media on air personality while in college and got the “masses are asses” speech from her as well. This was in the midst of the Iran/Contra hearings which was the main topic being discussed during all my journalism classroom lectures. It was my first taste of how corrupt our major news outlets were. From that day on I began to filter what I read or saw. I see a slow, but certain shift coming for the big guys. They aren’t going anywhere, but as they weather the ratings declines they will eventually right the ship. Blogging will not replace them, but it could be a major influence on whatever the new product ends up looking like.
    I think this is the point Mithras was trying to make. She has first hand experience in the Dot.com boom/bust that is applicable and I agree that the tendency with any new technology, propelled by market shark feeding frenzy and media, is to treat it like the second coming of Christ. I recall making this point to my IT professional neighbor when he was talking about how great online grocery delivery was and how he thought it was going to be one of many internet ventures to make it to profitability. I told him I just didn’t see it happening for many reasons, but was unsuccessful dissuading him for his zeal for the venture. Jeff grounds the discussion correctly in the previous response, but Mithras is making a good point too. We ARE at the beginning of this evolution. No need to pump ourselves up and start talking like media crusaders and simply stick to what bloggers do best and see what happens. Being new to this blogging thing I’m quite excited to see how it all turns out.

  • Walter E. Wallis

    That shriek you hear is gatekeepers being deprived of their control over what the public hears and sees. 20 years ago, letters editors would be relegating questions about documents to the round file. It is hell to lose power.

  • Rich

    Tony,
    Not to ruin a good example, but I do have online grocery delivery from Peapod.com. The selection is nearly as good online as in the actual store, and I get to skip my least favorite chore: hauling groceries to and from the car.

  • http://mithras.blogs.com Mithras

    Jarvis-
    Sorry if I have mischaracterized your position. You get so fervent sometimes, it’s hard to tell exactly what you’re proposing.
    I’ll say it again: Right now there’s already a pretty good relationship between bloggers and journalists. They read us, we read them. Some of them are us. Maybe this publicity will get a few more to read us. But that’s basically it.
    Keep something else in mind: There are a limited number of people who actively seek out political/current events blogs to read. That number is not going to grow very quickly, since it’s not as if America is a nation of readers just chomping at the bit to subscribe to a couple hundred web feeds.
    No, the relevance that blogs have now to journalists is entirely, completely dependent on search engines. Google any issue and almost certainly a blog will be on the first couple of pages of results. I assume – because I am a cynical bastard – that someone or something will come along and fuck that up. (Remember, those search results are valuable real estate – that’s why there is such a thing as comment spam – and the only thing that allows us to retain it is the fact that others have not yet figured out a way to elbow blogs aside.) If journalists stop finding blogs in their search results, the relevance of blogs to them basically dies.
    The relevance of blogs to us won’t die, though, because what we do is explain, which journalism is pretty lousy at (worse than just reporting facts). And since bloggers now comprise the set of people who care the most about journalism, there will always be a symbiotic relationship between us. Just, as I have said, not a revolutionary one.