Bang, bang, you’re dead

Bang, bang, you’re dead
: Quoth Andrew Sullivan this morning:

First Lott. Then Raines. And you ain’t seen nothing yet.

Let’s hope that the blogosphere does not become known as nothing but a land of destruction.

Tearing down people can be deserved. It can be fun. It can be righteous good work.

But if all you do is destroy — and complain and carp and snark — you don’t build, you don’t contribute.

  • Catherine

    Oh, please! Stop with the sanctimony!
    These people destroyed themselves. Nobody went on a witch hunt for Raines or Lott, they dug their own graves and made a lot of enemies all on their own.

  • I have to agree with you on that note, Catherine. Raines and Lott both asked for it in a huge way and their own co-workers (or co-Republicans) were the ones that eventually asked them to leave..
    Lighten up a little, Jeff..

  • Hmm.. looking at the issue a bit closer, you seem to be somewhat conrtadicting yourself, Jeff.
    In this post you chide Andrew for “destroy[ing]” while just a few posts before you chide him for taking too much credit for the destruction. Which one is it? Am I missing something? Maybe so…

  • Del:
    It’s not at all contradictory. I’m chiding him for dancing on graves. Unbecoming.

  • Well, I can see why you might think that, Jeff, but the truth is that we should all celebrate whenever someone who treats people differently because of their race is taken to task for it. That is what Raines admitted he did and he does not deserve the position of power he had because of it.
    If we’re ever going to get to a point where everyone in this country is treated fairly, then we have to start expecting ALL of our leaders in society to completely cease from taking race into account when dealing with others. I have some more thoughts on the subject here if anyone cares:
    Amazing how my stance that all people must be treated the same regardless of race has somehow gotten me labeled as a racist.. The blogosphere is sometimes a bizarre place.. ;)

  • The reason that Andrew should be careful about encouraging the blogosphere as an instrument of destruction is because the blogosphere is what built his current incarnation.

  • Howard Rheingold wrote a book, Smart Mobs which posits the power of the mobile and informationally enhanced many (the “blogosphere” in this instance) the effectuate change. From the mobilization of Iranian bloggers (a favorite topic of hereabouts)to politics in the Phillipines.
    Blogs will be known for more than taking people down. They’ll be known as distributed platforms for fact checking. One reporter reports, hordes swarm and find out if the “truth” (or at least not a great distortion of the truth) has been told.
    Like [email protected], only for fact checking.

  • richard

    I do not read Mr. Sullivan’s remarks as being gloating or destructive. Well, maybe he can gloat a little. He is really celebrating the power of the internet that is changing and shaping the land of journalism. Many journalists and newspapers have not appreciated how profound this change is. Raines is one of them. And I believe there are others who just do not get it. And I believe this is Mr. Sullivan’s main point — plus a little gloating.

  • Well said, Anil.
    Live by the blog, die by the blog.

  • Have you noticed that you and Virginia Postrel move in absolute lockstep on this issue? Check it out, its almost eerie. I’d call you anti Andrew Sullivan bigots if that weren’t as reductive and simplistic as calling anyone who attacks the Times an Anti Big Media Bigot.
    Its telling that you and Anil Dash both decry the use of blogs to destroy people, when you’re clearly both salivating to see Andrew Sullivan get his. Most unbecoming.

  • Oh yeah, one more thing. Andrew Sullivan’s blog is one of the “Big Four” blogs, and he gets a lot more traffic than either you or Virginia Postrel.
    Following your and Virginia’s logic about the movitations of Times critics, the only possible reason for your constant sniping, snarking, and bashing of Sullivan must be jealousy of the size of his audience and influence.

  • Jeff and Anil, what exactly is your point?
    I hardly think Andrew has much to fear from the blogosphere. Only when they start spreading blatant lies does anyone have anything to fear from the blogosphere, in my opinion.
    I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for the blog world to be the downfall of Andrew Sullivan..

  • Well stated Mr. Jarvis. And at some point, those who’s only purpose in life is to destroy will eventually have no one to destroy and so turn against themselves.

  • Catherine

    Jeff has a bug up his butt about Andrew Sullivan. I detected in earlier posts and links where he made snide comments, now he’s sounding bitter, angry, and maybe jealous?
    That’s what is unbecoming.

  • It’s odd that Andrew left out the name “Bill Clinton.” After all, wasn’t it Drudge who first broke that one?

  • Brian

    Well said, Jeff. The blogosphere has a curious indifference/hate relationship with the media; maybe a little gloating is in order.
    Still, bloggers need to keep the end of “Animal Farm” in mind.

  • BR

    Good call Kate. W/o drudge, would Newsweek ever have published the story?
    The internet’s power isn’t in destruction, it is in protecting the truth.

  • Andy Sullivan? Unbecoming? Surely you jest.

  • Mike Steele

    The blogosphere is a GOOD thing. Ask yourself when the last time any network had average people in to discuss events, and offer commentary on the news? Aside from MSNBC’ ill fated Alan Keys show, (which he ruined by talking down to everybody) the networks aren’t listening. This is what the founders envisioned, ideas in public forums to debate and discuss. Andrew is a bit over the top though. I remember my Dad talking about the “Silent Majority” in the 50’s… well it aint silent no more.

  • Mike: The blogosphere is a GREAT thing, a frigging revolution, publishing power to the people! But we do need to keep things in perspective and check our collective ego or we will lose our collective credibility.

  • you’re clearly both salivating to see Andrew Sullivan get his
    I am? I don’t even read the guy’s site, and I don’t know him personally, either positive or negative. I just want to see the weblog realm credited for the amazing, positive, beautiful things that it builds, not the notches in its belt from the people it’s taken down.

  • Well, I think we’ve seen why Andrew Sullivan’s at least got some time before the blogosphere “takes him down.” You can’t so much as whisper criticism of him without some folks resorting to accusations of jealously and the like.
    Moreover, even when they’d have justification, very few of the major blogs (and other types of Web sites… let’s remember that they exist, too) will tackle him. His online stature coupled with his unique ideological/personal situation seem to generate rhetorical armor.
    The Internet’s a big place, though, and it doesn’t seem a bug-up-the-butt-ism to suggest that our stars remember that the asylum’s spotlight could shift to them, as well.
    (Full disclosure: I’m a little jealous that he’s building a full-time, paying career out of blogging. Who isn’t? Better a bit of healthy motivational envy than fawning.)

  • T. Hartin

    There is an odd sense in many of the discussions of “the blogosphere” that it is some kind of unitary entity, that destroyed this person, built up that person, etc. It’s not, you know. It is not under anyone’s direction or control. It is a true emergent order.
    I don’t know how it is possible to say that “the blogosphere” did this or that, or even that many or most in the blogosphere di this or that. Did “the blogosphere” bring anyone down, or is “the blogosphere” on a rampage of destruction? Of course not. There is no blogosphere. There are only individuals, blogging. On most issues, for every blogger on one side, you can probably find another on another side.

  • Young Andy Sullivan has already been through his Internet trial-by-fire, re: the revelations of his trolling for bareback action in on-line chat rooms, dontcha know. It was pre-Sept. 11, 2001, so there were no significant blogs to cover it, or it might have turned into something.
    Politics of personal destruction harm the whole political process, at the end of the day, so we really should be judicious when it comes to taking down public people.
    It’s interesting that Raines and Lott are both Southern white boys dealing with the gnarly problem of race in their own ways. Yankees don’t understand a whole bunch about how this works for such folks, and they’re a little quick to throw rocks, Brits understand even less, and Sullivan is more interested in bareback action than in understanding complex personal dilemmas.

  • mj

    Regarding Andrew Sullivan,
    I think his “armor” comes from his approach. Other than issues relating to the NYT, his tone is moderate and unassuming. I think he was over the top about the NYT: well before the JB scandal he was on Raines virtually every day. I was willing to cut him some slack since he was forthcoming about his personal history / bias.
    Even though I still think he overhyped the subject, I think his analysis was also correct. It’s easy to see how a “Big Media” jounalist can overhype the NYT, especially one that had a personal run in with management.

  • The blogosphere gives you local knowledge and true expertise applied contextually to what is happening now. Andrew Sullivan has local knowledge of East coast journalism, of Howell Raines, he’s been an editor. etc. I also like the fact that he’s the only guy who’s ever written a PH.D on Michael Oakeshott. I’ve learned more about Oakeshott from Sullivan’s blog than from half a dozen journal articles. To me, that’s a contribution.

  • Diana

    Jeff, I agree with you 90%…the blogosphere is or should be a way to faciliate communication between people that could not otherwise be.
    That said, let’s not overstate the importance of blogging or certain bloggers to destroy, as you put it: the Prez didn’t like Lott, and cleverly took the opportunity to give him the boot. No amount of Sullivan’s kvetching over Santorum would induce the Prez to get rid of him, because they are friends. And because Santorum speaks for an important part of the Republican constituency.
    Oh, I do think that Sullivan enjoys some kind of halo effect. Not sure how he does it but he deploys his homosexuality very effectively and lotsa people are loathe to take on a gay guy on a rampage. I’m certainly not.
    But, taking courage in hand, I’d like to out myself as the source that Krugman used for his little swipe at Sullivan in an August 2002 column, when he added that the once-McCainiac Sullivan once wrote an article entitled: “Bush Shows His Poisonous Colors.”
    And I have the email, entitled “Covert Acknowledgement” to prove it. I figure Krugman couldn’t care less now. If he’s reading this, apologies.

  • Anil: Thank you for clarifying your point. I’m sorry that I misunderstood, and therefore mischaracterized your remark.
    “Richard Bennet”: I’m glad to see a former president having such a web presence Mr. Clinton, but why are you using a pseudonym? I mean, its pretty obvious who you are. Recycling the “politics of personal destruction line” was a great idea. Stick with the greatest hits. People love that stuff. But this time you took it to a whole new level by simultaneously attacking someone else’s private sex life. They don’t call you Slick Wille for nothin’

  • Sanctimony

    “I don’t even read the guy’s site, and I don’t know him personally, either positive or negative. I just want to see the weblog realm credited for the amazing, positive, beautiful things that it builds, not the notches in its belt from the people it’s taken down.”
    Anil,that takes real “chutzpa” to comment on a site that you say you don’t even read. And, we’re supposed to take what you write seriously?

  • Sanctimony

    I think that the blogosphere does what it is supposed to — whether someone has an obsession or not. I don’t really understand why all obsessions have such a bad connotation. I would have to think that Edison, Bell, etc were all obsessed with one idea and thank goodness they were.
    Calling someone on a lie or misstatement and making them accountable is very, very important. We all have different interests and that’s what makes the blogosphere so interesting. When any “blog” forms an obsession that I don’t agree with, I click through, I don’t need to ridicule.
    Sometimes, I think that the liberal streak in all of us comes out when we are questioned or an opposing idea is promoted. One that maybe a few years ago would never have gained traction. Free flow of ideas is important, even ones we disagree with.
    And, ridicule isn’t necessary.

  • Diana

    Aw don’t be sanctimonious, Sanctimony.

  • back40

    Blogs are subjected to continuous close scrutiny like any other form of publishing. Sullivan gets “fisked” when he blunders just like the NYT. To maintain readership bloggers have to respond to their critics in timely and credible ways. Sullivan will endure until he fails to respond well or until he becomes boring.
    Print and broadcast publications do the same things as blogs. They muckrake, crotch watch and seize on every brain fart in pursuit of the holy grail of bringing the mighty low… in an entertaining way. The only differences between old media and new are the speed of publication and the number of publishers. This continues a centuries long trend and introduces no novelty.
    By continuing to have access to more information societies will continue to make better decisions. Mobs of all sorts will continue to become less important, less able to alter societies with small numbers of narrowly focused opportunists – however well organized, however speedy their attacks – since the number, sophistication and diversity of minds to move has increased. It is evolutionary rather than revolutionary.
    The scandals we see here at the boundary of old and new media are temporary kerfuffle as folks adjust to a higher velocity world. Some are slower to adjust to speed and get caught in anachronistic behavior. Soon we’ll get used to it, become jaded, take it all for granted and return to more measured and insightful methods of opinion formation. We’ll listen to new media voices, add our own comments, research weak areas of knowledge and form our opinions at about the same rate as ever but with better information.
    The significance of better information is greater than that of faster response. We won’t see cell phone mobs rising in an eye blink and performing close order drills in the street, we’ll see individuals sitting on the curb with wireless information devices sampling a rich information streams, talking to one another, reasoning jointly and publicly, arriving at superior conclusions than in the information starved past. Only the very young, the very dull and nutters will be in the streets with their fists in the air.

  • HA

    “I just want to see the weblog realm credited for the amazing, positive, beautiful things that it builds, not the notches in its belt from the people it’s taken down.”
    A rather disengenuous comment coming from someone who made his name by trying to “take down” Charles Johnson. Save your sanctimony.

  • Sanctimony

    I’m not, Diana, and you are. Temper, temper. You all take yourselves way too seriously and I guess only you can possibly call someone on it when they do it.(i.e. Krugman, Sullivan, etc.) My abject apologies. I’ll try to do better.
    Oh, by the way, when are you going to start blogging again? Despite your comment, I did enjoy your blog.

  • Dan

    Picture all these individuals running into each other and causing accidents while fixating on the rich information streams with their wireless information devices. Add some skateboards to the picture, and democracy sure gets funny.
    The text-message lawsuit threat stream may be a significant growth driver for wireless technology vendors. Accident/fistfight documentation may be the first useful application for the video/photo-phones. Hack in and watch the geeks get pounded real-time.

  • Aaron

    Sure the blogosphere is a great new thing. I’m glad it’s around and I hope it continues to grow, but let’s all keep in mind that probably 90% of the people in this country have no idea what a blog is. Which is too bad, seeing as how many people I talk to fall for stuff like Dowd’s distortion the other week or the Guardian/Wolfowitz report. But face it, unless you have the kind of job where you can safely surf the ‘net all day, it’s hard to keep up with even 4 or 5 blogs. Most people don’t have that kind of job.

  • James Lindgren

    I agree with your concern.
    For the most part, the furor over Haines was argued on the merits and reached a reasonable conclusion–an accomplishment for which some bloggers can justly take credit.
    As one of the scholars whose research pointed to serious problems in the work of Michael Bellesiles, however, I am surprised at the joy expressed in the downfall of Raines, and the hatred expressed toward Rick Bragg.
    I was shocked that, in his letter to colleagues at the Times, Adam Clymer said that he “despised” Bragg and assumed that others at the Times did. This is a pretty mean-spirited comment, even if Bragg did (as was alleged) cross the line on giving credit to stringers and defend himself by suggesting that more people did it than Clymer and others believed had done so. Disagreement, yes, even anger, but despising Bragg for it–that seems out of proportion for the offense.
    While one expects to see some meanness coming from people commenting on internet sites, I am surprised to see it in the NY Times matter coming from people so prominent in the public eye.
    By way of comparison, Michael Bellesiles claimed to report details from hundreds of documents that never existed or were destroyed a century ago (not unlike Blair, who also reported details from sources that never existed).
    Bellesiles also reported on records he supposedly read in several archives that never had them.
    Similarly, archivists who had some of the records that Bellesiles says he read in those archives, but whose documents do not match Bellesiles’s claims about them, insist that Bellesiles never visited their archives (much like Jayson Blair filing from towns that people suspect he never visited, misdescribing details in those locations).
    While one would have to give the edge to Blair in the error rate, for sheer numbers of nonexistent sources, Bellesiles’s Arming America exceeds the claims about Blair’s work.
    I think one of the reasons that Michael Bellesiles lasted as long as he did is that those academics who evaluated Bellesiles’s scholarship–whether in our own scholarship, on Emory’s faculty investigative committee, on the outside committee that finally judged Bellesiles guilty of “falsification,” or on the Columbia Board of Trustees revoking the Bancroft Prize–stuck mostly to the facts and were very cautious in drawing conclusions from errors that would probably have sunk a reporter like Blair much more quickly than it did an academic like Bellesiles.
    Yet people leaving their jobs in disgrace is not a time for celebration–even in private, let alone in public. Such events are at bottom sad affairs.

  • Kim

    Talkin ’bout a revolution……….Sorry Jeff I love my buzzmachine but I’m dancing in the graveyard with Andrew on this one. And this “taking down” shouldn’t be seen as a “notch on a belt” it should be a warning to all journalist’s (including bloggers) that no one is above reproach.

  • I’m glad to see Lott and Raines go. Good riddance.
    And I do think the blogosphere deserves a lot of credit for this (as it does for the Lewinske expose).
    My issue with Andrew Sullivan is this: he has a lot of great posts but he does get carried away at times, and comes across as shrill or hectoring (not exactly the first one to say this, am I :-).

  • Is Sullivan dancing on the Raines grave? Sure. And he ought to, he helped bring down a corrupt editor. I think he has a right to a little gloating, at least for a little while. If he didn’t he wouldn’t be very human.
    That said, Jeff has a point in this: power corrupts. It’s how the Grey Lady got the way it is today, and it’d be a shame if the blogosphere goes the same route. The power that it brings to the blogger comes with responsiblity too, like any form of free speach.
    When I started getting emails from people reading my blog I certainly paused a moment to reconsider how I word things, and what I post….

  • Dark Avenger

    You’re right, James. This is probably how people should feel about it: “Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird.”
    That’s my take on the whole thing.

  • i will continue to PILE ON, since the ref hasn’t blown the whistle yet.
    the NYT thing is about LIES. bald faced, uncorrected bogosities. generally speaking, people don’t like lies, and they like to see people who lie get their comeuppance.
    yes, everyone makes mistakes. but today is a good day to learn that apologizing for them and trying to do better is a good policy. stonewalling and avoiding the issue is a bad policy. as a person, it is important (ref Martha Stewart). as a commercial enterprise (ref NYT) it is essential.

  • Skeej

    I wondered if your reference to “building” things, or “contributing” was a sideways slap at Sullivan. If so, you are way off. IMHO, his content has long been original, brilliant, and timely. The NYT material is a good example, and perhaps why he has seemed shrill or overly persistent is that his depth of insight (or inside info) is such that most outside commentators don’t “get it” until much later.
    Again, Jeff, while I see your point about destruction vs constructive contribution, I don’t think it applies to Raines. He obviously brought this on himself through ego and mismanagement. The blogosphere only accelerated the process.
    Thank goodness for this acceleration, in my view, for the public as a whole, and for the long term credibility and health of the print media.

  • Interesting that you mention Sullivan’s quote “… you ain’t seen nothing yet” as evidence of some sort of bent toward destruction. I think it could be posited that the Blogosphere is just doing what good journalists have always done – serve as a check on those in power. The problem for you seems to be that the people who are taking the fall are journalists, and we shouldn’t “dance on their graves.”
    But would you say the same thing about the Washington Post’s coverage of President Nixon and Watergate, or the myriad other investigative reports that have been carried on through the years in “big media”? The editorials that called for resignations? The columns decrying public corruption?
    I don’t read Sullivan’s site much anymore (there are just too many out there that don’t have the NYT spur in their saddle), but he’s a journalist as well as a blogger.
    The real center of the problem is almost certainly that “big media” is the power now, and they require a check on themselves. The politico-media blogs are fulfilling that function. And it’s shocking to media people when the checks-and-balances are applied to them.
    Fourth Estate, meet the Blog Estate.