Posts from March 19, 2005

Blog on stage

Blog on stage

: Riverbend, the Iraqi blog, is a play and The Times reviews it… lukewarmly. The problem isn’t the opinions (of course). What the critic complains about is the staging:

While Riverbend has a fascinating voice, this production, adapted by Kimberly I. Kefgen and Loren Ingrid Noveck, never makes the case for her blog as a piece of drama. What is lost is the sense of one singular, idiosyncratic personality, which, of course, is exactly what emerges so vividly from the blog. Instead of building a character, the show includes readings of her words from three women and one man, which adds to the muddled feel.

When not speaking, the actors pace in a triangle or perform synchronized gestures that make them look like backup singers to a 1960’s pop band.

: The Times notes that this is a new form: the blog play. And yes, I imagine that one or more people reciting a blog is not going to be compelling. For that misses the essence of blogging: conversation. How much better it would be to hear multiple voices — and multiple viewpoints — from the Baghdad bloggers: how they see the same scenes differently, how they disagree with each other, and how they link to each other.

: I also wonder whether the producers are paying Riverbend and, if so, whether they have contacted her and have confirmation that she is in Baghdad.

: See also Flickr photos here.

: And from the comments, I learn that she has a book coming from the Feminist Press.

Podcasts grow like dandelions

Podcasts grow like dandelions

: Newsweek has a podcast. So does Brian Lehrer’s show.

One complaint — nay, suggestion — for Lehrer: Don’t JUST put up podcasts; also put up MP3s so we can download any show without necessarily subscribing to a podcast feed. Please.

The public’s right to know meets the public’s right to inform

The public’s right to know meets the public’s right to inform

: Glenn Reynolds is right: This is a stirring defense of citizens’ journalism:

Whether one has journalistic protections should depend less on job title and more on function. Anyone, like Mr. Ciarelli, who gathers news on a subject of public interest and disseminates it to a waiting audience is entitled to the protection of a journalist. ThinkSecret has 2.5 million to 5 million page views a month.

A few years ago, there was an absurd debate about whether online reporters should have the same status as print reporters. The argument about bloggers will seem as frivolous – and irrelevant – in a few years.

Already, bloggers have played a key role in a number of important news stories, including Sen. Trent Lott’s racist remarks at Sen. Strom Thurmond’s birthday, CBS’s flawed report on the president’s military record and Eason Jordan’s resignation as a CNN vice president for briefly suggesting U.S. soldiers might have targeted journalists.

The democratization of the news media through the blogosphere is the inevitable product of technological development. The principle of the public’s right to know doesn’t depend on who is gathering the news. The American people are entitled to read and hear all of the information that enterprising newshounds, including bloggers, legally can pry from the clutches of corporate and government officials.

I’ve been saying lately that what’s interesting about media today is the content consumption has crossed with content creation (the iPod playlist you create to listen is the radio station you’ve created to broadcast).

This principle must be reflected in the law:

The public’s right to know meets the public’s right to inform.

Iraq: Two years on

Iraq: Two years on

: In the two years since the Iraq war, we have indeed seen the winds of freedom begin to, what?, waft through the Middle East.

It’s fair to wonder whether those wisps would be a windstorm if some things had happened differently in Iraq: If we had maintained security there… If we had quashed the insurgency before it began with greater force while we were still at war… If fewer Iraqis and American soldiers had died… If, as a result of living in security, we could have worked to rebuild the country’s infrastructure… If we had been able to start buildig the nation’s economy as well… If the terrorists there had not been able to frighten and intimidate anyone from voting…. If they at least had electricituy 24 hours a day… If we had not tortured — and murdered — Iraqi prisoners…

If all that had happened, would we see other citizenries in other nations embloldened as those have been in Iraq and Afghanistan to vote, in Lebanon to rise up and demand self-determination? Would we have seen more popular movements take on the courage to stand up not only to tyrants but also to terrorists as we have seen with the Lebanese dare to Hizbullah and the voters’ dares in Afghanistan and Iraq to the thugs who would have stopped their elections? Would we have seen more steps, abeit baby ones, toward democracy such as we’ve seen in Palestine, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia? Would we have seen other, larger steps toward democracy from dictators backed against the wall by their people? Would Americans be more united in the humanitarian cause of nurturing freedom in the world? Would our on-and-off allies in Europe be eager to help?

Fair questions, all. Answers, of course, exist for none.

I wish things had gone better in Iraq; who wouldn’t? Others wish the war had not happened, of course. But not me. I believe the world is a better place without Saddam Hussein in power. I certainly believe the world is a better place with democracy and self-determination and popular movements taking hold in the Middle East. And, yes, I believe that in the long run, the world will, indeed, become a safer place.

That is my view, two years on.

: The New York Times editorial page had a quite different view, of course.

It is an exercise in Eeyorism. The editorial, of course, complains about WMDs as a rationale for war (it never was mine). It reluctantly ackowledges that the real reason may, indeed, have been installing democracy in the Middle East (the one Tom Friedman so often articulated only a page away): “…overthrowing Saddam Hussein would shake up the hidebound, undemocratic regimes in the Middle East and free the natural democratic impulses of Arab and Islamic people. This rationale may still hold up. Iraqi and Afghani voters marching stolidly to the polls was by far the most hopeful image in the past two years.” But it qualifies even that, arguing that Iraq isn’t directly related to the positive events in Lebanon and Palestine. I’d argue with that. But having made that qualification, it comes back, heels dragging, to concede: “With all that said, even the fiercest critic of George Bush’s foreign policy would be insane not to want these signs of hope to take root. That would not excuse the waging of an unnecessary war on false pretences, but it could change the course of modern history.”

Well, however reluctantly, they did acknowledge that good came of the war. Pulling teeth out with your bare fingers would be easier.

There’s a lot more from that perspective, under the dark cloud. But this is what struck me:

The Enduring Principles

Like a great many Americans and most Europeans, this page opposed the invasion of Iraq. Our reasons seem as good now as they did then. Most important is our belief that the United States cannot work in isolation from the rest of the world. There are too many problems, from global warming to nuclear proliferation, which can be solved only if the major powers collaborate. Americans need both the counsel and restraint of other world leaders. The White House has almost unthinkable power, and the rest of the globe has the right to take a profound interest in making sure it is exercised wisely.

No, making nice with France is not the real lesson, “The Enduring Principles.”

The enduring principles of Iraq and Afganistan are these:

People want to be free.

Democracy is a natural right.

Given the slightest chance to grab freedom and self-determination themselves, any people will do that.

The greatest gift we can give them is that chance.

Blogcast help

Blogcast help

: What alternatives for videoconferencing from a PC can you all suggest?

To blogcast out on MSNBC, we have been using Microsoft’s instant messenger: It’s easy and works quite well… when it works. Yesterday, minutes before I was to go on air, we couldn’t get the video connection to work. At first, I thought it was because I had the Logitech camera software up (that will cause conflict); but even after rebooting, the video connection kept dropping. They had to delay the segment while MSNBC’s amazing production whiz, Anthony, and I switched to the antiquated Microsoft NetMeeting and it worked, though the quality isn’t as good. I don’t know what cause the IM problem; we suspect it was IM service itself. And we do have a backup in NetMeeting.

But I have to think there are better backups (besides buying Macs for everyone in the world). Any suggestions? Thanks.