Friday, February 09, 2007

Bologosphere vs "an ever-growing network of scandal-mongers and filth-peddling purveyors of baseless, petty innuendo"

Glenn Greenwald follows up on the blogosphere's significance in the Edwards story.
With the merciful (and generally positive) conclusion of the Edwards "controversy," it is worth examining the story's significance and the reasons it merited as much attention as it was given. On several levels, what happened here illustrates some very important developments.

For the last 15 years or so -- since the early years of the Clinton administration -- our public political discourse has been centrally driven by an ever-growing network of scandal-mongers and filth-peddling purveyors of baseless, petty innuendo churned out by the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Matt Drudge, various right-wing operatives and, more recently, the right-wing press led by Fox News. Every issue of significance is either shaped and wildly distorted by that process, or the public is distracted from important issues by contrived and unbelievably vapid, petty scandals. Our political discourse has long been infected by this potent toxin, one which has grown in strength and degraded most of our political and media institutions.


What kind of government and political system -- what kind of country -- is going to arise from a political landscape shaped by the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Matt Drudge, Sean Hannity, Fox News, Michelle Malkin, and their similar right-wing appendages in talk radio, print and the blogosphere? Allowing those elements to dominate our political debates and drive media coverage guarantees a decrepit, rotted, and deeply corrupt country. That is just a basic matter of cause and effect.


With rare exception, our national press has completely abdicated the function of scrutinizing any of the cheap "scandals" churned out by the right-wing machine because they have merged seamlessly into the political power structures they are supposed to be scrutinizing, or, worse still, they eagerly become an appendage of that machine -- as illustrated, in the Edwards case, by ABC News' Terry Moran's mindless, one-sided echoing of the right-wing blogosphere's chatter on this story ("Does John Edwards Condone Hate Speech?") .


The blogosphere fundamentally altered the arc of this story. All of the balancing information which made its way into the national press within a very short period of time was found by bloggers, amplified by other bloggers and by groups such as Media Matters, and that shaped the story -- both how it was discussed and its ultimate outcome -- in numerous ways. And it re-inforced the idea that the rotted network composed of the Michelle Malkins and Bill O'Reillys and Bill Donohues cannot drive media stories unilaterally anymore and cannot force major presidential candidates to capitulate to their demands.

It is still the case that the political impressions of most Americans are shaped by how our dominant media outlets discuss political issues. That is true for every issue from the seemingly inconsequential (staffing decisions of the Edwards campaign) to whatever issue you want to say is the "most important" -- Iraq, Iran, presidential power, debates over domestic policy, and everything in between. How the national media reports on all of these matters, which sources they depict as credible, and the factions that influence and shape that reporting is still the single most influential factor in the outcome of all political disputes.

We are in the position we are in as a country because there has been really no effective counterweight to the lowly, deceitful and filth-peddling right-wing network which has dominated our political discourse and the media's coverage of it. That is clearly changing -- slowly perhaps, though still meaningfully (which is why the Edwards campaign felt sufficiently comfortable in defying these pressures, and it is also why -- as Time's Ana Marie Cox surprisingly acknowledges (while linking to FDL) -- the most astute and insightful reporting on the Libby trial (and so many other news items) is coming from the blogosphere, not the national press).

As long as Matt Drudge -- and Rush Limbaugh and Fox News, etc. -- rule the world of national journalists, little can be accomplished on any front. Diluting their influence and forcing actual facts into these public discussions is of the utmost urgency, and the growing (though admittedly still incomplete) ability of the blogosphere to achieve that objective is the true significance of the Edwards story.


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