Phew. For a moment there, I thought I might have to agree with a post over on (un)Sound Politics. But then I followed through the link. What a relief.
Unquestionably, there are good things resulting from the democratization of the media. The best bloggers are delving into issues and information that may be bypassed by professional journalists. But with everyone holding a virtual megaphone, will we be able to hear the wiser voices amid the din of full-throated free expression?
Here’s my Burning Question:
All things considered, is our understanding of the world made better or worse by an unfiltered cacophony of opinions?
Miller calls it a “revealing question” that displays a “dangerous misunderstanding”:
Freedom of speech is not something owned by public officials and “professional journalists”. It belongs to all of us, regardless of how wise David Horsey may think we are. It is up to the listener, or the reader, not some filter, however “professional”, to decide what should be believed — and what should not be believed.
The loss of their monopoly has hit many journalists hard. But to see one half wishing for filters on the freedom of others is still dismaying. I have criticized David Horsey more than once, but I have never said that he should be filtered. But he seems to believe that it might be better if I were.
What a pompous, paranoid load of crap.
The fact is, Horsey’s question isn’t “revealing” at all, and the only “misunderstanding” is the one that Miller willfully foists on his readers by presenting the question entirely out of context. If you click through the link and actually read Horsey’s piece (something I’m sure Miller understands a small minority of blog readers generally take the initiative to do) you’d understand that this week’s Burning Question is the final installment in Horsey’s long-running series.
The world of punditry has been democratized. The mainstream media are surrounded by non-professional competitors who employ a wide array of formats to exchange opinions unfiltered by editors or experts.
In this new context, finding a place to express a viewpoint is hardly a challenge. Thus, with that need more than met, Burning Questions will close up shop next Saturday to give way to new things.
Miller tsk-tskingly accuses Horsey of “half wishing for filters on the freedom of others” (totally oblivious to the fact that us bloggers are media filters in our own right,) but a fair reading of Horsey finds that he actually celebrates the new media, openly acknowledging that the Burning Question series has come to an end exactly because us bloggers have made it superfluous and outdated. That said, Horsey then goes on to raise some legitimate concerns about the blogosphere in general, and our comment threads in particular.
Yes, it does seem good that average folk can have their say, just like George Will and Paul Krugman. Yet, most times when I’ve read through a long string of comments posted on an online forum, I have come away with the same doubts I had about the amateur hotel reviewers.
Not just doubts, actually, but worries about the intellect and analytical skills (plus spelling ability) of my fellow citizens. In so much of this populist punditry there is an overabundance of ill-informed spouting off infused with incredible rudeness, paranoia, bias and bile.
Gee, I dunno… that seems to me like a pretty fair description of the comment threads on both (u)SP and HA. I’m not exactly sure what Miller finds so objectionable.
As for the claim that Horsey’s question is “revealing,” Miller ignores the basic conceit of posing a “Burning Question” in the first place. The whole point of the exercise is to spark debate. How could a question possibly be revealing if the very nature of the rhetorical device demands that it be controversial?
Jesus… what an idiotic and/or dishonest critique.
The irony is that by reading between the lines to portray Horsey as a status-quo-defending, patrician enemy of free speech, Miller pretty much confirms all of Horsey’s doubts about the “intellect and analytical skills” of us citizen bloggers. (Though I gotta admit, Miller’s spelling is dead on.) Unpoisoned by Miller’s paranoid analysis, I think the average reader would find that Horsey was actually saying some pretty darned flattering things about us bloggers.