Friday, February 23, 2007

Much Ado About Blogs

Today’s Boston Globe has 3 items concerning blogs.

First a front page story about attempts of traditional public relations firms to influence political blogs. The story reports that:

With big corporations now hiring public relations firms to pay fake bloggers to plant favorable opinions of the businesses online, many political bloggers are concerned that candidates, too, will hire people to pretend to be grass-roots citizens expressing views.

Second is an Op Ed column by liberal worrier Ellen Goodman, who is today concerned about the surprising permanence and easy access to historical information on the Internet. Goodman notes the dismissal of 2 bloggers from the Edwards presidential campaign organization after their posting history turned up “allegedly insensitive statements”, or so they are called in today’s front page blogger story. Goodman’s column provides readers with 2 actual quotes:

There was McEwan's description of President Bush's “wingnut Christofascist base.” There was Marcotte's slam on the Roman Catholic Church's prohibition on birth control as a way to force women to “bear more tithing Catholics.”

Thanks for illustrating the news value of Op Ed columns, Ellen! Your column quoted 2 terms that the squeamish Globe newsroom editors, on the same day, decided not to print. Thus Ellen’s readers could gauge for themselves if these terms are insensitive. The same news value is even more characteristic of blogs.

The 3rd Globe blog story is about Paul Levy, the CEO of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, who has a blog about running a hospital and publishes information that includes performance metrics such as infection rates.

For all the ink the media wastes denigrating blogs, its funny to see 3 stories about them in a single Globe!

The common thread in these stories is our wrestling with the far greater transparency of Internet information. This has increasing importance as more and more of our individual daily activities are documented with Internet-based information.

I’m not terribly worried about this.

PR firms and politically oriented groups and foundations have always tried to be hidden influencers. That is the nature of their business. Their energies have traditionally been directed at the mainstream media. The classic example of such media manipulation is the funding of the media frenzy over “campaign finance reform” that resulted in the McCain-Feingold law. It turned out that the overwhelming majority of funding underwriting the so-called reformers came from a just a handful of deep-pocketed foundations.

Having many, many voices in the public sphere, rather than just a chosen few, makes such tasks of PR fakery more difficult. Permitting many voices a great concept. We should thank our founders for it. They called it “freedom of speech” and protected it in the 1st Amendment to our Constitution. It’s still a concept that can make us all squirm at times – with freedom comes responsibility. But it’s definitely a keeper.


Ramon Amore d'Hombre said...

Hmmmmm..... Though "wingnut" would be an appropriate term for a person who thinks they know who created the universe depite the failure of astronomy, astrophysics, and cosmology to answer the question. Maybe the writers of the Bible were just smarter or oh yes "inspired" by god(s).

Oh well. I guess "[christo]fascist" may be an exagerration. Or maybe the question just isn't a scientific one and we should just give up and accept the answers of a 3,000 year old book.

John said...

Ramon, you certainly appear to have a hang-up about that Book, or those to whom it is important...maybe they were just smarter, or "inspired"?

"Something deeply hidden had to be behind things" Albert Einstein

"There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments and which cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance-that principle is contempt prior to investigation." Herbert Spencer

Harry said...

I am afraid this remark will offend Ramon, but what John wrote will make me say what I have left unsaid.

Ramon, your zeal reminds me of St. Paul in the days when he was named Saul, before his trip to Damascus. Sorry if you find that offensive. I mean it sincerely, and not as an insult.

Ramon Amore d'Hombre said...

"It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religious convictions, a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it."

-Albert Einstein

I never understand why people constantly dredge out quotes by Albert Einstein which seem express sympathy for religion. He may not have been and caustic as I am but his beliefs are very much in my camp. The man had a poetic sensibility and sometimes made statements of a quasi religious nature. Even if he did believe in something "hidden" it in no way suggests it was your particular god of the thousands of human history. And there is no justification for such a belief. Yes I do have a hang up about that book, and Harry you are not the first to say I am headed for a St. Paul moment. Then again we all have our hangups (Harry's is obviously liberal bias in the media, mine is religion, though of course we can both discuss different topics) I could have a St. Paul moment and convert to any of the thousands of religions out there. I find it so hackneyed to bring out Einstein quotes as if to say "Hey look who's on my side. na nananan.." Einstein was not the only smart man ever to live and today 93% of the members of the Natl. Academy of Sciences deny belief in a deity. So I am in pretty good company too.