Thursday, February 17, 2005

Freedom envy, and persuasion bunches

Furious at having one of their own (Eason Jordan) brought down, and at being reduced to an acronym, MSM (mainstream media) has hit out at bloggers. As Peggy Noonan puts it in a piece in the Wall Street Journal titled "The Blogs Must Be Crazy":
"Salivating morons." "Scalp hunters." "Moon howlers." "Trophy hunters." "Sons of Sen. McCarthy." "Rabid." "Blogswarm." "These pseudo-journalist lynch mob people."

This is excellent invective. It must come from bloggers. But wait, it was the mainstream media and their maidservants in the elite journalism reviews, and they were talking about bloggers!


When you hear name-calling like what we've been hearing from the elite media this week, you know someone must be doing something right. The hysterical edge makes you wonder if writers for newspapers and magazines and professors in J-schools don't have a serious case of freedom envy.

The bloggers have that freedom. They have the still pent-up energy of a liberated citizenry, too. The MSM doesn't. It has lost its old monopoly on information. It is angry.

But MSM criticism of the blogosphere misses the point, or rather points.

Noonan goes on to list, comprehensively, the many different ways in which blogs provide a public service. It is one the finest pieces I've read on blogging, and I urge you to read it.

Accusations of being part of a mob aren't exactly new to me, and Eugene Volokh points out in a lovely post how misplaced the analogy of bloggers as a mob really is. He writes:
... I realize that "lynch mob" is figurative, and hyperbole at that. Still, figurative references and analogies (even hyperbolic ones) only make sense to the extent that the analogy is apt -- to the extent that the figurative usage, while literally false, reflects a deeper truth.

The trouble is that here the analogy is extremely weak. What's wrong with lynch mobs? It's that the mob itself has the power to kill. They could be completely wrong, and entirely unpersuasive to reasonable people or to the rest of the public. Yet by their physical power, they can impose their will without regard to the law.

But bloggers, or critics generally, have power only to the extent that they are persuasive. Jordan's resignation didn't come because he was afraid that bloggers will fire him. They can't fire him. I assume that to the extent the bloggers' speech led him to resign, it did so by persuading the public that he wasn't trustworthy.

So Jordan's critics (bloggers or not) aren't a lynch mob: If they're a mob, they're at most a "persuasion mob." What's more, since they're generally a very small group, they're really a "persuasion bunch."

I got the link to Volokh's post via Instapundit, who also has an excellent summary of the aftermath of Easongate at

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