The responsibility of the link

The responsibility of the link

: Glenn Reynolds answers my posts yesterday regarding his linking to a story that tried to allege questions about John Kerry’s discharge from the military. He says:

Jeff Jarvis thinks that by linking the story above, I’m engaging in mudslinging. Apparently Jeff thinks that there are some things my readers shouldn’t be told about, for their own good and the greater good of society. That seems rather Old Media to me, and somewhat contradictory when you consider his staunch defense of Howard Stern’s right to talk about Nigerian women eating monkeys.

But a link brings responsibility.

It especially brings responsibility if you’re the Instapundit and you know the number of people you’ll drive to read what’s on the other side of that link.

Of course, that’s not to say that we should limit our links. The more the better. But we do need to provide context and that context matters.

If, on the eve of the election, you send thousands of people to read one last scurrilous attack on a candidate without saying that you think it’s a bunch of monkey poop, then I’d say, yes, that’s mudslinging.

As Glenn had made clear, his blog is not trying to be fair and balanced and I don’t want it to be (for then it would be dull). He has partisan views and his blog reflects them and that’s the way it should be.

But that doesn’t excuse you from the responsibilty of the link and the test of consistency. If you complain about big media attacking your candidate too close to the election, then you can be held to the same test. Goose, meet gander. If you send people to something that’s malicious and destructive without providing context to reveal that, then it’s a tacit endorsement. It’s the same as big media giving air time to, say, Michael Moore without contradiction.

Blog links bring power, especially if you have the traffic — and attention in high places — of a Reynolds, Kos, Sullivan, Atrios, et al. And that power brings responsibility. Whether you like it or not, it’s the same power and the same responsibilty big media has.

Uh-oh, are blogs turning into big media? Well, the bigger they get the bigger media they are.

The bottom line here: Glenn wanted to get in one more splat of mud before election day. And I wanted to get in one more post whining about the mud.

And it’s good that we link to and quote each other and that you all join in the conversation. This medium is, in ways such as this, better than prior media. But keep in mind that it still bears responsibility for its action. Links matter.