Political Weblogging Writing

SFSU “Blog burst”

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

Several bloggers have gotten together to express their opinions of the SFSU pro-Palestinian/pro-Israel clash. You can view a summary of this event at Winds of Change.

Of particular interest to me was Facts of Israel claims of bias at the San Francisco Chronicle. The reason for my interest is the Jewish Bulletin pointed out what it also considers bias of the Chronicle. However, the Bulletin also carefully mentions that the current Chronicle Execute Editor, Phil Bronstein, “…got his start as a young reporter at the Bulletin in 1973.”

One comment: Facts of Israel needs to link to online articles if they’re going to paraphrase and editorialize on the SF Chronicle content. With this, the reader can then verify for themselves the validity of the interpretation of the material.

In the interests of equal representation I’m also linking to an IndyMedia posted comment representing the General Union of Palestinian Students viewpoint. Note, though, that IndyMedia is not known for being an unbiased publication.

Only one weblog (armed liberal – see link and full quote later in this post) from the Blog Burst effort references the material I’ve presented about the DA referrals resulting from this clash. And armed liberal equates turning over pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian students as “…moral equivalency…”

On to other things.

I am concerned about this so-called Blog Burst. Though bloggers are not Journalists and may express their opinion at will, what do you call a formalized process to gather like minds together, resulting in multiple voices united in expressions of anger, paranoia, and hate?

Selected readings:

“The sort of people who run colleges certainly love Palestinians — love them because they are so incompetent and useless. They dote on feckless minorities, because they need to feel superior to someone. If they really cared about them they would tell them to pull up their socks and work hard and make something of themselves.” Random Jottings


“There is a difference between yanking down a flag and stomping on it while yelling words that basically mean, “You should be dead”, and calling someone a “camel jockey”. It’s inappropriate to use ethnic slurs, but that is not morally equivalent to wishing someone dead because of his or her race or ethnic origin. This reluctance to call evil “evil” is the same thing that gives Arafat and his homicidal thugs the ability to continue playing both ends in Palestine – targeting innocent Israelis repeatedly while holding up their hands to the world and saying, “I’m just protecting myself” when called on it.” cut on the bias


“Now, I’m not on the ground in San Francisco, and I’ll defer a little bit to some folks who have first-hand experience of the events there. But there are a few things that are incontrovertible and clear:

The pro-Israel/pro-Jewish side seems to be taking all or a vast majority of the physical damage;


The acknowledged racist comments are all coming from the pro-Palestinian side;


The powers that be are taking a ‘children, children, you shouldn’t both be fighting’ moral equivalence stance. They have turned three students over to the District Attorney’s office for possible prosecution – two pro-Palestinian and one pro-Israel.” armed liberal

Though not part of Blog Burst, Mike Sanders wrote:

“The riot incident at SFSU on May 7, 2002 is just a symptom of the climate at SFSU campus and many other American campuses. Hate speech is not free speech and is not sanctioned by the law. The fine line between being anti-Israel and anti-Semitic is easily crossed and I have yet found an acceptable set of guidelines for making the distinction. This is partly because it is not just the words that are being said, but who is saying them, and what have they said before. America is founded on both freedom of speech and freedom of religion and we must insure that both freedoms are protected under they law”

“I have yet found an acceptable set of guidelines for making the distinction.”

The concept of Blog Burst disturbs me. The results of this event disturbs me.

Lewis Carroll wrote one of my favorite poems, The Walrus and the Carpenter. I’ve always felt that one particular verse of the poem typifies weblogging:

The time has come,” the Walrus said,
“To talk of many things:
Of shoes — and ships — and sealing wax —
Of cabbages — and kings . . .”

Today is not the day to talk of shoes, and ships, and sealing wax; and I have no heart for cabbages and kings.


Blogging as Journalism and other modern myths

I’m not sure if webloggers buy into the whole “weblogging as a new and better form of Journalism” because they truly see themselves in this light, or because they seek some form of justification for all the time they spend weblogging.

People can call themselves whatever they want in their weblogs; their space, their place. However, when they start taking themselves seriously, think of themselves as pioneering personal Journalists in a brave new World Media, then I beg leave to differ. Weblogging is not a replacement for mainstream media. Weblogging is not a replacement for traditional news sources. Weblogging is not capital ‘J’ Journalism.

While its true that webloggers can be first at a story, being first doesn’t make a person a Journalist; it just makes them lucky. In some cases, it makes them unlucky.

Webloggers can also provide a personal perspective of an event, background color if you will; supplying nuances the dry recital of fact doesn’t provide. But webloggers don’t have access to the resources that make up a story, that form what we call “news”.

Ultimately the difference between webloggers and Journalists is that Journalists have an obligation to provide the facts, all the facts. To assist them in their effort, they’re given access to resources and information most of us do not have. And with this access comes a responsibility.

In our weblogs, we hold to our own moral code of what we consider responsible writing; we can say what we think and feel, issuing compliment or slander with impunity and disregard for consequences.

The Journalist, though, is held not only to their own code, but to their editor’s, their publication’s, their peers’, the code of the law, and, ultimately, their readers’ codes. And if they slander without fact, they risk loss of respect, at best, and a lawsuit at worst. If they tell only half the story, they are condemned and censured when the full truth is told.

Tuesday, in an article titled Blogosphere: the emerging Media Ecosystem, John Hiler wrote:

Because of these limited resources, many have charged Traditional Media with a consistent bias that fails to reflect the diversity of opinions and ideas. About half the email I get on this subject claims that bias is a Liberal one, while the other half claims it’s a decidedly Conservative one. Either way, there is a strong sense from some readers that Media organizations have a mixed record when it comes to accurately and fairly reporting the News.

Many people are looking to weblogs to help address this media bias.

Using weblogging to address media bias. I almost fell over laughing when I read this. But I sobered as Hiler entered into a discussion about the impact webloggers such as Glenn Reynolds and Meryl Yourish had on the recent clash between pro-Palestian/pro-Israel protestors at SFSU (summarized at another weblog).

Hiler congratulates Reynolds and Meryl and others for bringing this breaking news to the attention of the mainstream media, to Journalism:

As Meryl and others broke the story, other mainstream outlets followed the story across the Breaking News – Analysis – Op-Ed continuum.

Hiler also quotes Reynolds:

As Glenn explained, “Sometimes a story will streak across the Blogosphere like a praerie fire. Weblogs can be the dry grass, helping to spread the story.” But interestingly, some stories don’t make the leap from weblogs to mass media articles precisely because they’ve been so widely blogged. As he put it, “Journalists will sometimes drop a story idea because they’ve already been so well covered in weblogs.”

Weblogging: a thousand points of news.

If the concept of noble weblogger as Journalist is true, then I’m curious as to why isn’t there weblogger follow-up to the SFSU story? For instance, why is there no weblogger coverage of the fact that the college referred students to the DA for prosecution for hate crimes? After all, this is news, too.

In fact, Big Media – that same biased Big Media – printed the story, as seen in:

SF Gate

The PIXPage

A SFSU news release

Mercury News

SFSU’s web site created to address the issue, including a summary of the events

However, when I looked for this story in weblogs such as Meryl’s and Glenn Reynold,s I didn’t find one mention of this information. Why was this?

Is it because recent facts have emerged, such as the fact that both pro-Palestinian and pro-Israeli students have been referred to the DA for hate crimes? Is it because of the fact that there were pro-Palestinian people working to control members of their protest, trying to keep the demonstration peaceful?

Is it because in this fight, no one was entirely on the side of angels, and no one was entirely dancing with the devil?

Weblogger as Journalist. Yeah. Right.

It’s time we put the story of Weblogger as Journalist on the shelf next to stories of Bigfoot and Ogopogo and the other great myths of our time.