Look closer. Think harder. Choose the sound argument over the clever one.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Blogosphere Abuses

Hugh Hewitt explores some potential abuses of the blogosphere in Black Blog Ops. This is a much-needed start.

Though the blogosphere has been invaluable its end-run around the MSM's gate-keeping and exposing fraud & bias, this has been the work of a very small subset of all the blogs out there. Let's call them the trusted subset. But who should we trust? Hugh explores the unsettling possibility of blogs establishing themselves only to then intentionally mislead.

One can easily imagine a Dan Rather analogy in the blogosphere. A young, idealistic blogger over time becomes a jaded hack. Or the path that some leaders in the Christian community fall into: in the midst of a long and otherwise distinguished career, he slips into some secret vice, then covers it up, then has to live with that cover-up (or the subsequent exposure).

But how does one even distinguish between blogs to begin with? What criteria should we use? Consider the blogosphere analogy to alternative vs. traditional medicine. Traditional medicine's chief goal is to use proven techniques to answer one basic question: does this treatment or medicine really help this disease? I see significant portions of the blogosphere going the way of alternative medicine:

This is all fundamental to human nature, and we see it play out all the time: conspiracy theories about Karl Rove, Paul Wolfowitz, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld. (Just do a Google search.)

So how does one guard against this? It all has to come back to being on your guard. Caveat emptor: let the blog-reader beware. There are volumes of mis-information out there, and you're going to come across it sooner or later. You need to already know how you'll evaluate it. (The same goes for walking into a movie like Farenheit 911, too.)

So, do you discriminate as you're reading blogs, following links to other blogs? Do you adjust your level of wariness as you go from site to site? It's easy not to. And even with blogs you can and should usually trust, does the post you're reading have flawed thinking?

You need to establish what criteria you'll use to evaluate blogs. These criteria should be discussed, refined, captured and kept toward the front of your mind.

I'd make some suggestions about specific criteria, but I'm out of time.


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