January 30, 2007

A Little Self-Critical Sanity Regarding the “Weblogosphere”

Every few weeks or so, dear reader, it seems as if some bigwig (or not-so-bigwig) from the much-vaunted mainstream media causes a brouhaha by excoriating “webloggers.” It’s getting pretty predictable: On a given Tuesday, an upstart from, say, The Wall Street Journal, or, say, The Spectator says something disparaging about “weblogs” and all heck breaks loose.

That obtuse hack! How dare he misconstrue the “weblogosphere”! He’s a complete moron! Thus do sundry “webloggers” and commenters shout in response all across Al Gore’s World-Wide Web.

Now, we, the crack young staff of “The Hatemonger’s Quarterly,” are ourselves the proprietors of a “weblog.” A smashing and deeply popular “weblog,” of course, but a “weblog” nonetheless. Accordingly, one might infer that we have great sympathy for the legions of fellow e-scribes who rip into “webloggers’” critics.

And, we should say, we do—up to a point. Given the threat that Al Gore’s Internet undoubtedly offers to mainstream media outlets, we have the sneaking suspicion that many of these journalists’ demolitions of the “weblogosphere” betray great nervousness about the future of print media. Hence the vitriol one often finds in these rants: They reek of the distinct aroma of fear.

Still, we, the crack young staff of “The Hatemonger’s Quarterly,” would be remiss if we failed to mention that we don’t find these anti-“weblogging” screeds entirely without merit. In fact, oftentimes we share some of their criticisms.

For one, journalists often note the ill-tempered rants of many “webloggers” and commenters. Now, to be sure, we don’t tend to find “weblog” “posts” much more inflammatory than, say, Frank Rich’s weekly columns in the Gray Lady, in which Mr. Rich routinely casts the President of the United States as a deeply delusional lunatic. If that’s an example of good manners, we hate to see the bad ones.

Even so, we think it entirely true that the level of discourse on the World-Wide Web can be frighteningly low. In fact, we’ve received our share of whacko e-mails, penned by unhinged authors basking in their e-anonymity. Quite frankly, these don’t leave us with a good impression of the intellectual climate of the “weblogs.”

More importantly, we think that most comments on “weblogs” are complete rubbish. As regular readers of this humble “website” well know, we have never allowed comments; if a reader has something to say, he can always send us an e-mail. But we just can’t take the umpteen retorts written by functional illiterates with severe learning disabilities. Who the heck wants to read something like:

They should kil Busch and Chaney, for, being such Evil men, together.

Sorry if we offend you, but we don’t think this speaks wonders for the Internet.

So, come on, fellow “webloggers”: Just admit it. The Internet is great; it has allowed citizen pseudo-journalists the opportunity to check up on the mainstream media, and has done much to expose their bias and flaws. Although “webloggers” far more often comment on first-hand reporting than offer examples of it themselves, they provide a valuable service.

But let’s not overreact. Surely there is room for improvement, and the touchiness is more than a mite pathetic.

Posted at January 30, 2007 12:01 AM | TrackBack