The Commonwealth Iconoclast

A site dedicated to covering issues relevant to the Commonwealth of Virginia, and nation at large, plus other interesting things too, as I see fit...

Sunday, August 13, 2006

In the Search for Elusive Truth



Who can you believe?


Professional journalism vs. Blog journalism?


What is ground truth in our complex and diverse world?


Truth is where you find it... even in the blogosphere!




Team Iconoclast is always amused to see how the blogosphere continues to gain in prominence in the modern lexicon.

Even the most casual perusal of mainstream media outlets will find scores of references to blogs and the blogosphere. We even find references to blogs in the cartoons. Everybody wants to talk about blogs and the blogosphere, but still the blogosphere is a mystery to most observers, especially those much over the age of thirty… sadly, I am now pushing those limits.

This is kind of curious considering the term “blogosphere” was only first coined in 1999 and didn’t have much public exposure until just a couple of years ago (about 2004 during the Presidential election campaign season).

Still, countless academics, social-scientists, philosophers, journalists and pundits of every description are trying to make heads or tails out of what the bloggosphere is and what role it serves in the world today. The blogosphere... a product of the Internet… is an ever expanding web that never ends… so they say…

So, it was with interest that we recently read in The Southside Messenger an editorial entitled “Anonymous bloggers.”

The recent editorial piece was about blogging and contained some thoughts about what blogging is all about. The editorial points out that “up until recent years the American public was reliant on mass media outlets to obtain their news” but now “the internet has spawned a new form of journalism: blogging.”

While this is perhaps an over simplification, there is indeed a faction in the blogosphere that can be categorized as pertaining to current events, political and social commentary, etc. These blogs might fairly be considered a new form of journalism providing an important alternative source of information to those who are so inclined to search the world-wide-web.

The Iconoclast falls in that narrow category of the vastly diverse blogosphere.

On one point we take mild exception to the editorial position of The Southside Messenger where the editor states that “unlike professional journalists, bloggers are not tethered to any code of ethics.”

This is not true.

Within the blogging community which is admittedly informal, rapidly growing and constantly changing, there is a spirited debate and discussion concerning standards of ethics. For the vast majority of all news-type blogs, the unvarnished truth is the "gold standard" for measuring what is fit to publish. Admittedly, there is now and always will be spirited debate on what is the real truth. The measure of truth is elusive. Also, the truth sometimes uncomfortable if not down right unpleasant.

Furthermore, does anyone really believe the mythology that professional journalists are free of bias and report only the unvarnished truth? Code of ethics notwithstanding, every major outlet in the mainstream media has a bias on just about any issue you can think of. The idea that mainstream media is purely objective is absolutely ridiculous.

Think about it. Who in their right mind would accept the FOX (conservative spin) or CNN (liberal spin) version of the news as the absolute pure and objective, fact based news?

The fact is that the really good professional journalists are skillful at camouflaging their biases so that they appear objective and fair. Maybe it is... maybe it isn't. That is the job of historians to hash out later.

The bloggosphere is much harder to assess and categorize than the mainstream media. There are too many blogs for anyone to effectively assess. Some are very scholarly. Some are stupid and frivolous. Some are based on some form of reality. Some are based on fantasy. Some have ethical purpose of mind. Some have malicious purpose of mind. Some are in between. There is no way to fairly generalize about the nature of all blogs.

Yes, there will always be rogue bloggers who intentionally publish hurtful lies, distortions of fact, and malicious propaganda for any number of causes… good, bad or indifferent. These bad examples are normally quickly identified and challenged by a large universe of knowledgeable readers. The rogue bloggers are forced to either rebut the challenge, retract their erroneous positions, or to whimper away in silence. The rogue bloggers come and go sometimes in a matter of days or a few weeks. Most of these rogue bloggers just can’t sustain any regular readership other than by fellow crazy’s.

The Iconoclast doesn’t claim to be The New York Times of blogs… oh… maybe that wasn’t such a good example… but we endeavor to base our reports on verifiable facts and to take principled positions on those facts. These are our opinions. We are entitled to have opinions just like everybody else.

We receive a fair number of scandalous tips from readers as potential topics for new posts. Some of these tips are quite useful. As a matter of editorial policy, we do not report scandalous tips just for the sake of feeding the scandal. Information received from readers, anonymously or identified, is not used unless 1) it serves what we consider some principled purpose, and 2) it can be reasonably verified as factual through at least one other independent source. Our editorial policy is not all that different from the standard used by so called professional journalists.

From time to time, the Iconoclast will make a mistake in a post. Errors in fact or of a clerical nature will be corrected as soon as they come to our attention.

But, for the most part, points of disagreement are not due to error. They are simply a reflection of honest differences of opinion on any number of contentious issues. Readers who take exception with the Iconoclast’s editorial position on any issue are encouraged to express their disagreement in the form of comments. We only ask that the comments be kept reasonably civilized.

But... in case you are wondering... we do not retract positions or opinions just because somebody gets their feelings hurt.

Some might ask about the anonymity that is so prevalent in the blogosphere.

Participants in the blogosphere include those who write posts on a blog and those who participate in the discussion of those posts. Anonymity is a common practice in the blogosphere for many reasons.

The Internet was born in the murky world of international cold war politics and secrecy. J.C.R. Licklider, one of architects of the evolving information technology “saw [the idea] of universal networking as a potential unifying human revolution.”

Think about it: universal networking… a unifying human revolution. What does this mean? Does the word “revolution” give you any ideas?

For one thing, the concept of universal networking tears down all barriers concerning who has the right and capability to express ideas. With universal networking, otherwise known as the Internet, everyone has the right and capability to put their thoughts out there on the world-wide-web for better or worse.

Anonymity is useful because ideas are dangerous… even good ideas… even progressive ideas.

In some parts of the world today, the expression of certain ideas that most of us would consider righteous can result in almost certain assassination, execution, torture, or indefinite incarceration for no lawful reason.

Even here in America, where we have the First Amendment right of freedom of speech, the expression of ideas is not always welcome by the prevailing political authorities and can result in very real and unpleasant political retribution. Consequently, many individuals who participate in political blogs today in America elect to remain anonymous. They chose to let their ideas do the fighting.

As a political / social commentary blog, the Iconoclast does not shy away from controversial issues, stories or personalities. In fact, controversy, or sharp differences in positions on various issues is exactly what makes for interesting blog posts. We are not afraid of offending traditional sensibilities and we do not mind making irreverent fun of bad behavior by important people.

Regular readers of the Iconoclast will recognize that we often discuss examples of bad behavior by public officials as a way to teach better behavior. From these examples of bad behavior, others can learn to avoid the same mistakes.

On the other hand, the Iconoclast doesn’t mind giving a tip of the hat and thanks to those little people who distinguish themselves by taking the righteous stand against injustice under the color of authority. There are many unsung little heroes in every community who stand up to against the “tanks” of abusive authority every day. Some get run over. The least we can do is to give them a little unsolicited recognition and appreciation.

So, during your search for the elusive truth, don't presume that the mainstream media will always tell you the truth and don't presume that the blogosphere will always tell you lies.

The Iconoclast advises that readers should evaluate critically all sources of news and only after careful evaluation use your analytical skills to determine where the truth really is. It takes work... but it is worth it.

The truth is out there... and maybe even in the blogosphere.

You, my friends, are the final arbitrator of what the truth is.

6 Comments:

  • At 8/13/2006 10:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Well Done.

    And remember, many of our earliest revolutionary tomes were published anonymously.

    Just because it is anonymous, doesn't mean it's a lie.

     
  • At 8/14/2006 9:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    The Southside Messenger telling someone to keep it classy? That's a good one.

     
  • At 8/14/2006 10:10 AM, Blogger Vivian J. Paige said…

    Good post.

     
  • At 8/17/2006 8:40 PM, Blogger Will Vaught said…

    From you, I take that as a complement.

     
  • At 8/21/2006 5:27 AM, Anonymous An Old Sheepdog said…

    An excellent overview of the nature of blogging and how it can be used to highlight news of interest while providing a refreshing commentary on that news.

    Blogs such as the Commonwealth Ionoclast also provides a voice to many people who are afraid to speak out against local and state politicians who can be vindictive at times. Many of us lose sight of the number of people who are on the payroll of local governments and the State. They, more than any other group of people, are aware of abuses and mismanagement by elected and appointed officials. However, they are also vulnerable to retribution from their masters if they openly expose wrongdoings or excesses by those they work for.

    The Commonwealth Iconoclast provides a way for those individuals who cannot speak out publicly to give voice to their frustrations. Keep up the good work.

    With regard to the Southside Messenger article, it falls in the category of the “pot calling the kettle black.”

     
  • At 11/29/2011 4:46 AM, Anonymous images and pictures said…

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