Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Those Clueless Bloggers

Cathy Seipp rattled a veteran journo, Bob Baker, by ridiculing his mea-not-very-culpa about his thoughtless blog post. Here is the comment thread on her blog about this, complete with defenses from a friend of Baker's.
Baker used the N-word repeatedly in a Lenny Bruce dialogue cited in an imagined PR agency's defense of Michael Richards . He blamed it on his being "seduced" by the low standards of blogs.

You see, Bob Baker knows better than to do that in print, because he has these "old-fashioned" checks and balances and high journalistic standards that wouldn't let anything so objectionable get into the paper. But put him in front of a computer and let him blog. Suddenly, he's infected by what he calls the "superficial and transitory and sophomoric writing that often passes for journalism in Blogland." It's the Flip Wilson Defense: The blog made me do it!

Oh, and Baker had trouble coming up with ideas for four weeks. That's another reason for his "stunt", as he tellingly describes it. The veteran journo with his nose in the air about the Internet stumbled into a pothole. And of course it's the pothole's fault.

* * *

But Baker sounds like Paul Saffo compared to Joe Rago, a chucklehead on the Wall Street Journal's editorial page (he should be at home there), who wrote an almost incredibly bad attack on blogs. Dr. Mike Kennedy, a frequent commenter on Cathy's blog, pointed out his wretched stab at profundity:

"Blogs are very important these days. Even Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has one. The invention of the Web log, we are told, is as transformative as Gutenberg's press, and has shoved journalism into a reformation, perhaps a revolution.

"The ascendancy of Internet technology did bring with it innovations. Information is more conveniently disseminated, and there's more of it, because anybody can chip in. There's more "choice"--and in a sense, more democracy. Folks on the WWW, conservatives especially, boast about how the alternative media corrodes the "MSM," for mainstream media, a term redolent with unfairness and elitism. . .

I thought that dimwitted article was redolent with the overachieving and not-quite-getting-it off-kilter choice of words that one reads in a poor college essay. My impression was that Rago was some very recent college grad who was still writing to impress his professors. It's been decades since my college days, but I remember the style well.

And I was right. Rago graduated from Dartmouth in 2005. And the schlub can't write his way out of a paper bag. Oh, all the words are spelled correctly. They just don't add up to anything worth reading. It concerns some college controversy that I needn't bore you with. Just savor his command of metaphor:

". . .Perhaps it is best to envision the issue as a cannon firing a shot at some indeterminate angle and with indeterminate force, and we are to somehow chart the trajectory of the ball as it moves through the air. This, it hardly needs be said, is a tricky thing—not just because the ball is still moving and we would like to know where it will land, but the more so because of the various unknowns.

"I think the shot is still aerial. I will withhold my assessment of where it will go, on account of lack of evidence. There was an opportunity at the Town Meeting, and previously in my requests for interviews, to flesh out the indefinite. These were not taken. President Wright and Dean Larimore would have you believe that the cannon was never fired in the first place. This strains credulity. Such a position relies on a faint institutional memory that views the present though occluded lenses, evincing little understanding of College history. . .

This is the artless aspiring pundit who's telling us what's wrong with blogs!

Another commenter in the Cathysphere, Calvinist, pointed out the obvious reason this got published, which I should have realized at once:

"Now I'm sure his WSJ piece has been sitting around the office for some time, until there was absolutely nothing to go into the op-ed page on a slow pre-holiday news day."

Blogging certainly has its problems. But critics like these have nothing helpful to offer, because it's impossible to critique something one doesn't understand.

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