Listen: The TV industry is

: The TV industry is one of the few that is smart enough to use the Internet to listen to its audience, witness today’s very good piece in the NY Times magazine on the critics who matter.

It is now standard Hollywood practice for executive producers (known in trade argot as ”show runners”) to scurry into Web groups moments after an episode is shown on the East Coast. Sure, a good review in the print media is important, but the boards, by definition, are populated by a program’s core audience — many thousands of viewers who care deeply about what direction their show takes.

Every other industry — not to mention government and media — would be wise to follow the example. The Internet is the first medium owned by the audience and if you want to hear what your consituents are saying, all you have to do is log on and listen.

Free speech
: Tony Pierce calls me out, among others (and I’m honored to be in the company, even if for dishonor) for not retyping Sean Penn’s $56k ad in the Friday Washington Post going after Pres. Bush for threatening war on Iraq and other actions that, along with “deconstruction of civil liberties all contradict the very core of the patriotism you claim.” Tony complains, shouting in lower case:

i go to the Instapundit and i don’t see Penn’s transcript. i go to Little Green Footballs and i see that some other actors have chipped in to decry the war cry, but i don’t see their ad either, instead they get called “high profile idiots on the anti-American left”, because apparently freedom of speech is anti-American when it comes from the left. i go to blogdex, nada. welch, layne, jarvis, no one has it.

i may as well be in russia. dissenter? kill him or ignore him, but at all costs, dont pick on king george.

what’s a brother got to do to get his words read after he puts his money where his mouth is and gives the raspberry to the commander in chief?

i thought you people ran political blogs focused on this war on terror?

you cant seriously tell me that this isn’t newsworthy.

Let me first dispose of the specifics of the indictment before getting to a more substantive point:

First, I don’t live anywhere near D.C.; haven’t seen the ad. I know the Post was talking with a company about putting up an image of every page and I would have paid for it and retyped the whole thing just to give Tony what he wants but I could not find any such service and so I couldn’t.

Second, Sean Penn! Let’s say it again: Sean Penn! He’s an actor! Just an actor. An irritating actor. An irritating actor in bad movies. An irritating actor who married an irritating singer. Do I care what irritating actors say about world affairs? Rarely. Very rarely. I covered actors for many years. I know how little they have to say. I know how silly it is that we listen to them anyway. Sean Penn, I say. Sean Penn! That’s almost as funny — almost — as listening to what Barbra Streisand, Woody Harrelson, or Charlton Heston has to say.

: But let’s get past the bad example — Sean Penn! — and still give credence to Tony’s point, which has weight: Voices of dissent are not being heard fairly today and this is troubling.

During America’s last big war of preemption and containment — preempting communism from spreading by containing it — I was protesting and getting French lessons for my new life in Canada. We were heard. There was a real debate. Today, there is no debate.

There are many reasons for that — among them, the fact that we were attacked this time. But that’s no reason to avoid debate.

So Tony’s onto something. But I hate to think that Sean Penn would be the poster boy for democracy.

: I haven’t taken a stand on Iraq in part because I doubt anybody could give a rat’s rump what that stand is and in part because I’ve been muddled.

But I do feel foolish writing under a war banner and not writing about this war.

So I’ll say this:

Bush has not made the case for war.

He has made the case that Saddam is a bad guy; we clearly know that. But do we have license to attack any bad guys? No, we don’t have that power and should not want it. It puts us in the position of stage-managing the world; just because we’ve been accused of doing that in the past doesn’t mean we should start doing it now. It puts us in the difficult position of not being able to work with other bad guys (see Pakistan) or of being called out when we do not topple bad guys (see Saudi Arabia or North Korea or China…).

He has not made the case that Saddam is tied to the terror attack on us. If that case could be made, then war would be defined as self-defense, as justice. But the case has not been made, so it’s aggression of one definition or another.

He has not made clear the risk this war will put us under — and it will.

I honestly cannot calculate Bush’s motive: How much of it is about avenging his father’s partial victory and resulting election loss? How much of it is wagging the dog amidst our terrible economy, about which Bush has been ineffective? How much of it is distraction from the failure to arrest the real terrorists who attacked us? How much of it is something we just don’t know? I don’t know.

I support the war against terrorism. I know Saddam is evil. But the two are not yet linked.

Bush has not made the case for war.

: And that counts for about as much as Sean Penn’s opinion. Not much.

: You see, sometimes it’s important to know when to shut up.

If I had something to add to the Iraq debate — in facts or reporting or perspective or wisdom — I’d add it; I’d have added it long since.

But I don’t. So I should get points for adding nothing.

For if we are not careful, weblogs will turn into catalogues of “what I think about…”

When people could publish their own web pages, they too quickly became catalogues of “my CD collection.” As if anybody should care.

Weblogs should not turn into catalogues of opinions, as if anybody should care.

: One small but useful function weblogs can perform is alerting the audience to events of interest they might not otherwise see.

Nick Denton alerts us to a Hitchens/Sullivan appearance at NYU this Thursday; without that, there’s no way I would have known about it.

Elizabeth Spiers tried to alert us to a talk about magazines and newspapers I would have died to join at the Yale Club (though, sadly, I didn’t see the post until the morning after).

The other day, John Malone spoke at an event for The New Yorker and Syracuse’s Newhouse School in my own office building and I didn’t know about it until 10 minutes after it ended; I’ll be somebody from Syracuse could have blogged that.

Matthew Haughey also wants a calendar standard.