Storming the media bastille

Here’s the lead of my latest Media Guardian column about bloggers and media and the French riots.

It’s anarchy. The long-oppressed masses are rioting. The old roles are confused, the old rules erased. Am I talking about the French riots or the internet? Both, of course. It is just my cheap, rhetorical trick to tie the two together. But the arrest last week of at least three young bloggers for allegedly using their sites to incite violence precisely highlights the confusion this new medium brings. So does a controversial government official’s use of internet search advertising to push his inflammatory agenda. And so does old French media’s fear that covering this explosive story would only favour the politicians they do not favour.

Taken together, this illustrates how media used to be all about control – with journalists and governments managing the messages – but now are all about the loss of control. The audience took over the internet and blurred all the old lines: where is that line now between witnessing and reporting, between communications and conspiracy, between inciting violence and expressing rage, between speech and crime?

: Another path to it here.