Truth hurts

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

There are a lot of people upset at a Forbes Magazine cover story on weblogs (free and easy registration required). Of course, it seeks to generate heat by the lead-in, which is inflammatory to say the least:

Web logs are the prized platform of an online lynch mob spouting liberty but spewing lies, libel and invective. Their potent allies in this pursuit include Google and Yahoo.

Oddly enough, this statement could be something found in weblogs, where broad strokes of the brush are used to define any number of subjects. However, as we all know, weblogs are many things, and sometimes they’re full of lies pretending to be truth; other times they’re truth pretending to be lies.

According to the article:

But if blogging is journalism, then some of its practitioners seem to have learned the trade from Jayson Blair. Many repeat things without bothering to check on whether they are true, a penchant political operatives have been quick to exploit. “Campaigns understand that there are some stories that regular reporters won’t print. So they’ll give those stories to the blogs,” says Christian Grantham, a Democratic consultant in Washington who also blogs. He cites the phony John Kerry/secret girlfriend story spread by bloggers in the 2004 primaries. The story was bogus, but no blogger got fired for printing the lie. “It’s not like journalism, where your reputation is ruined if you get something wrong. In the blogosphere people just move on. It’s scurrilous,” Grantham says.

And though they have First Amendment protection and posture as patriotic muckrakers in the solemn pursuit of truth, the blog mob isn’t democratic at all. They are inclined to crush dissent with the “delete” key. When consultant Nick Wreden criticized credit card banking giant MBNA on his blog, a reader responded in support of MBNA. Wreden zapped the comment. “I just thought: ‘This has to be a plant,’” he says.

Where is the lie in this? I have seen, time and again, webloggers repeat even the most unbelievable stories as truth; and they do so without batting an eye. As for our ‘openness’ — I don’t think we have to go back over five plus years of discussing how disagreement is ignored, and links are used as rewards for the faithful to provide proof of this allegation. The very fact that I can agree with certain points in the Forbes article will almost guarantee that none of the outraged pundits will acknowledge that this post, and my contrarian viewpoint, exist.

Regardless, many webloggers do have unwritten agendas when they write on particular issues, people, and organizations. Many webloggers do stretch the truth and accuse without facts. Many webloggers do have an interest in causing harm, and don’t accept accountability for their actions.

Let’s be honest: webloggers can be evil–just like everyone else. Am I concerned about being lumped in with the “Do no Good” webloggers? Not a bit–my writing is here to read, and will either stand, or fall, on it’s own. If I don’t go around telling people I’m a weblogger, it’s not because of the article; I didn’t go around telling people I was a weblogger before it was published.

(I’m personally thinking of printing up “Member of the Burningbird Weblogging Mob” t-shirts. Anyone want to be a Burningbird Weblogging Mob Member? We’ll have a secret handshake, magic decoder ring, and rituals where we howl at the moon, while sticking pins into iVoodoos, the new Apple product– complete with easily scratchable surface, by design.)

As for the overall condemning nature of the article–it got attention, didn’t it?

What I don’t understand is why the pundits think this article is harmful. Forbes has issued a wakeup call that will make companies pay attention to weblogs in a way that all of the “markets are conversation” cheerleading hasn’t been able to accomplish. We wanted them to pay attention to us; now they are.

All in all, I found the article to be an entertaining read.

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