I respect Norah Vincent quite a bit and almost always agree with her politically, but she is rather thin-skinned for a big-time writer and a blogger.
When Rebecca Blood and I discusssed blogs on NPR’s Public Interest, Norah was good enough to call in, but her main concern was civility among bloggers. While bloggers are running around fact-checking everyone’s asses, civility isn’t necessarily in the forefront of their brains, nor should it be.
- But what about pipsqueak bloggers who can’t afford to protect themselves from the umbrageous hordes at home, let alone abroad? The Australian precedent could burden them immeasurably and thus raises the question: Is policing speech in the blogosphere a good and necessary thing or just another way to mum the common man?
Actually, it’s both, which is why there is cause to be heartened and concerned.
….As much as the blogosphere is full of brave and vital input, it’s also full of the careless, mad and sometimes vengeful ravings of half-wits who will say anything, especially about established journalists and writers, just to attract more attention to their sites. This can get ugly when content is unregulated.
In the major media world, editors and fact-checkers try to catch inaccuracies, excise lies and slanders and print corrections and retractions for mistakes that slip into print. But few bloggers follow this protocol. What they say, however outrageous or unfounded, tends to stick.
Full disclosure: This happened to me when I integrated four words from a Jackson Browne song into a piece I posted on my blog. Another blogger accused me of plagiarism, and the unmerited charge spread across the Web at frightening speed.
As any conspiracy theorist knows, falsehoods take on an authority all their own on the Internet. So when bloggers willfully defame those with professional reputations to defend, that is a serious breach for which they should be held accountable.
Maybe – reckless defaming is wrong and should be checked, but the thing is, it already is. The most impressive thing about blogs colectively is that they are self-policing: While Ken Layne’s famous “fact-check your ass” pronunciamento may have been directed at the mainstream press, it just as often applies to blog-on-blog fact-checking. What do you think all of that incivility is often about?