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Michael Ubaldi, January 18, 2005.
The Weekly Standard knows what to do with bloggers: put them to good use, doing what they do best.
Michael Ubaldi, January 10, 2005.
On air earlier today, Rush Limbaugh was scrutinizing the substandard investigation report on Rathergate, CBS News' forged-memo scandal, and quipped that for Dan Rather — who made his name at the White House of the 37th president and who, like the whole of elite journalism, sees foreign policy under Vietnam's terms and domestic policy under Watergate's — this is "Richard Nixon's revenge." So strange that the following should be today's American Minute:
Richard Milhous Nixon was born this day, January 9, 1913. A Lieutenant Commander in the Navy during WWII, he was a Congressman, Senator, and Vice-President under Eisenhower. He lost his first presidential race to John F. Kennedy by the smallest margin in a presidential election up to that date. He served as America's 37th President before resigning.
Michael Ubaldi, September 24, 2004.
Britain's Independent is a devotee of the European left and makes no bones about it, so the snide characterization of President Bush's visits and allotment of aid to hurricane-stricken localities that Craig Brett found is what one expects — and if a subscriber, looks forward to — in the paper's pages. The Telegraph is the Conservative Party's paper; the Mirror is Labour's rag. This morning, Jay Nordlinger happened to praise the candor — if not the wisdom — of the press overseas:
This is how it's done in Europe, largely: There's the Socialist newspaper, the Christian Democratic newspaper, the Communist newspaper. Everyone's all nice 'n' labeled, or nice 'n' known. I would prefer that the New York Times, L.A. Times, etc., be objective, disinterested organs, but if they're not going to be, let's be open about it. That is so much better than the pretending so many have engaged in, for so long.
Yesterday, Michelle Malkin spoke about the blogosphere as a guest on Fox News' the Big Story with John Gibson. Gibson, otherwise firmly on the right, is an old media Tory, soft on Dan Rather and CBS News' travesty; happy to note the network's half-admission of wrongdoing without adding that ten days of evasion came before it. He was derisive of bloggers and tried to bat Malkin around with a straw man about blogging's niche in public discourse, subtly introducing the idea that blogging would replace professional journalism — whereas bloggers actually pride themselves as hobbyist media commentators, making use of deliveries from the milkmen of information like Julia Child. Gibson's insistence of no standards among the internet — a dismissal that sounded very reminiscent of talk radio's critics in the early 1990s — was a direct defense of the American public's decades-long appeal to authority, not veracity, and the slowly fading ideal of fact through trust.
Fact, of course, can only be established by proof. Bloggers defend the legitimacy and integrity of their work primarily by demonstrating the ability and operational inclination to correct oneself immediately and conspicuously. By definition, an agency that performs once a day will correct itself once a day — maybe. But there's more to the example of bloggers, and that is the social inclination to scrupulously maintain a good reputation, precisely because bloggers are "nobodies" who might just post an entry in their pajamas. Online, there is no value in brand name: the dial can turn to any number of places, thousands upon thousands upon thousands of addresses. True, there is some politics, fashion and plain luck in blogging. But like all mediums empowering the individual, where a completely unknown website can be reached just as easily as the internet's most popular page, meritocracy governs bloggers. Respect depends upon accuracy and honesty; as the fall of "the Agonist" blog for plagiarism in early 2003 demonstrated, bloggers who linked to a popular website were just as quick to shame and abandon it when the author violated traditional intellectual principles.
Yet Gibson and his sympathetic guest, foil to Malkin, grinned, aren't there countless nutty sites on the internet? Of course — but how many of these are, partisan differences aside, leading the blogosphere? In the world of "objective," professional journalism, the audience is expected to be satisfied with a by-line: that's how brand-name journalism works. You buy it on their promise for product quality. There's no brand name in the blogosphere. You like it, you link it; if the blog jumps off the deep end or is consistently unreliable, you back away. As James Lileks noted, a blogger links to the original statement he refutes: readers are invited to decide for themselves. Old media all-too-often puts it in their own words. Powerline and Little Green Footballs would not have won the attention they did in discrediting CBS's documents if they weren't right on the money. CBS News tried to ply the American public with claim of entitlement for ten days because that brand name had long since subsumed fact by proof. America should have believed in the forged memos, we were told, just because Dan Rather said so.
Should the American media organizations admit their biases and craft them into mission statements? Maybe; the greatest sin of a partisan press office is omission. I'll argue any day that while Fox News is staffed by many anchors on the right, it daily invites guests on the left to present their case and, most importantly, reports everything. Its competitors, the broadcast networks and CNN, could easily make a separate 24-hour channel out of all the events and information they refuse to cover. The media could take enormous strides forward simply by reporting the news.
But we can all agree old media is kidding itself by seeing the blogosphere as anything but an audience that has now become active, knowledgable and nationally capable in its own right. Gibson's sympathetic guest yesterday went one step too far in the segment, chortling at the excessive "ranting and raving" found regularly on political websites. Excuse me, sir, have you ever watched 24-hour cable news?
Michael Ubaldi, September 23, 2004.
I've been healthily skeptical of a functional collaboration between CBS News and the Democratic Party to falsely accuse the president of wrongdoing using forged documents, instead betting on a "surprisingly large number of parties on the left who knew the props existed and made gentleman's bets on whether they'd fly."
The Republican National Committee, however, has done its homework (as has Jim Geraghty). How many times did DNC Chairman Terry McAuliffe ever use the word "sugarcoat" in public before [September 8, 2004], just a few hours before the 60 Minutes story broke? Lexis-Nexus would probably tell us around zero. And that's just one of about twenty awfully, awfully coincidental moves made by Democrats. One thing is for sure: 2008 will be the first complete election season when Democrats won't have the press to take an oar.
WHOOPS: Offsides, offense: five yards. Healthy skepticism remains, but so do my points above; and the ramp-up for the Democrats' attack is still interesting.
Michael Ubaldi, September 21, 2004.
Danny O'Brien gives us Rathergate: the Musical.
Michael Ubaldi, September 20, 2004.
Dan Rather and CBS News have issued a statement that pleads benign neglect. Unfortunately, Rather and CBS fail to acknowledge that nearly two weeks of flinging shreds of handpicked evidence, half-truths, distortions and aspersions like so much confetti — after airing forged Texas Air National Guard documents that experts refused to legitimate — makes them complicit in the deception, and that no amount of shrewdly prepared statements can satisfy the network's obligations to its audience, its trade and its president. "Extensive additional reporting" when all that was needed was Microsoft Word, thirty minutes of spare time and an inkjet printer?
Bill Burkett stepped forward as the man who apparently pushed the "start" button on a fax machine at the Abilene Kinko's: but as has been astutely pointed out, the disgruntled man claims only to be the messenger. CBS News' stubborn denial only inflames suspicion of a politically explosive connection.
JUST BECAUSE THEY'RE QUIET DOESN'T MEAN THEY'RE NOT THINKING: The White House sounds like it's moving in for the kill.
VERY, VERY DISCIPLINED: It was last week when everyone in the know wondered why the White House wasn't moving to oust CBS's Bob Schieffer from the presidential debate panel. According to Drudge, the Bush administration decided to wait until checkmate. Here's one vote to replace Schieffer with Brit Hume.
NOT SAYING ANYTHING: You'd think that given time, CBS's almost feral refusal to divulge incriminating source information would be explained. Powerline is following what may be an emerging explanation. And don't miss this, another first.
Michael Ubaldi, September 18, 2004.
Even if it takes four paragraphs to mention the name in question, the mainstream press moves us one step closer to Bill Burkett as the author of CBS News' fake Texas Air National Guard memos:
A retired Texas National Guard official mentioned as a possible source for disputed documents about President Bush's service in the Guard said he passed along information to a former senator working with John Kerry's campaign. Also Saturday, a White House official said Bush has reviewed disputed documents that purport to show he refused orders to take a physical examination in 1972 and did not recall having seen them previously.
IT'S A SMALL WORLD, AFTER ALL: Another Freeper does journalism's legwork.
Michael Ubaldi, September 16, 2004.
Jim Geraghty sits where old media meets new, and the result is a string of emerging facts that suggest a possible suspect in the forging of CBS's news material. Between a Kinko's account, mistakes with terminology and a favorite phrase, disgruntled partisan Bill Burkett's culpability makes a little more sense. Geraghty adds:
This isn't proof, but it is odd that this particular phrase [and other circumstantial evidence] would show up like this. By the way, note that Rather and Mapes say they spent five years working on this story, and the blogosphere is picking this apart like piranha on a cow within a matter of hours.
On a serious note, CBS's reluctance to offer up the phony documents' source is telling, and only compounds this story's public importance. An operational conspiracy is much less likely than a surprisingly large number of parties on the left who knew the props existed and made gentleman's bets on whether they'd fly.
FROM THE FENCE: James Lileks, via IP, makes an excellent point on CBS's "fake but accurate" denial. If the evidence supporting a claim is fraudulent, what's left? Nothing. It's believed that Grecian tales of the Cyclops were more or less inspired by the misidentification of an elephant skull. So while Homer's Odyssey is still read, spoken and enjoyed, we know it as myth.
And then there's the parallel of heroes putting the intransigent monster's eye out...
Michael Ubaldi, September 15, 2004.
CBS News hangs on for one more day. Unfortunately, their only token from the interviewed testimony of Lieutenant Colonel Jerry Killian's former typist — whose "selected, not elected" views on President Bush are those of the emotionally blinded, unhinged left — is the CBS News documents that she can demonstrate as fraudulent reflect her own recollection of Killian's opinion of Bush. That, of course, deviates from Killian's widow, who maintains that the Guardsman thought well enough of the young pilot. And then there's onetime master forger Frank Abagnale, whose life story inspired the hit movie Catch Me if You Can:
Ex-forger Frank Abagnale — played by Leonardo DiCaprio in the 2002 Steven Spielberg movie "Catch Me If You Can" — scoffed: "If my forgeries looked as bad as the CBS documents, it would have been, 'Catch Me In Two Days.'"
DON'T WORRY, DAN, IT'S BEEN DONE BEFORE:
I'D SAY 'UNBELIEVABLE,' BUT...: No, CBS. Whether or not Jerry Killian liked Bush or not, though everything we know tells us that he did, is not the issue. The accusation against President Bush is that he was ordered to take a physical in 1972 and 1973, and refused. That allegation comes from documents that are inarguably forged. With the evidence refuted, the accusation is baseless, so any intrigue to Bush's past is confined to the realm of imagination — or, for the left, wishful thinking.
uBLOG EXCLUSIVE: A source in CBS news smuggled out this photograph of the news agency's "memo" originals:
Michael Ubaldi, September 14, 2004.
While media pontificator James Pinkerton credits the blogosphere for calling Dan Rather's 60 Minutes bluff, National Review locates the end of CBS News' rope with a pair of parodies that are really nothing short of Berke Breathed's mid-1980s satire of press-hyped forgeries ("The Elvis Diaries. Are they real? Will they change history? We sure hope so.").
End the farce now, Mr. Rather: at least then you can choose what's etched into your professional tombstone.
PAGE TURN, SAME BOOK: Jonah Goldberg declares the Ratherzoic Era over but insists on the Corner that journalists and private citizens like bloggers will continue to inhabit their own properties in public discourse.
Journalists, Jonah, are the milkmen of information; helpful couriers of news. If they forget for too long that there's a source consumers can independently seek out, they're in trouble.
BRAVO, BRIT!: Fox News political vanguard Special Report with Brit Hume has set the standard for network news, not only in investigating CBS's forged memos but communing with the blogosphere. Veteran reporter Jim Angle covered nearly every aspect of the controversy, pulling no punches — as has been done by central media up until now. Later on, Brit spoke to Scott Johnson of Powerline, treating him as the valued analyst he is. Ladies and gentlemen, the weblog has arrived. Many happy returns.