Journalists say that they don''t like bloggers.

Well, they don't like most bloggers. They like the kind that post lots of statistics and expertise information that they can use in their articles. But they don't like kind that critique their articles and op-ed pieces. I interviewed reporters a couple of years ago about that. One reporter compared them
to “barnacles on a ship".The best grouchy quote that I got was,

Talk is cheap. Everyone's got an opinion. Just because you know
how to use the Internet doesn't make your comments any better than the wiseacre
at the end of the bar. In fact, give me him: at least he's accessible for

On the other hand, while they complain about bloggers, they sure do read them a lot.

Maureen Dowd writes about Internet abuse.

If I read all the vile stuff about me on the Internet, I’d never come
to work. I’d scamper off and live my dream of being a cocktail waitress
in a militia bar in Wyoming….

“The velocity and volume on the Web are so
great that nothing is forgotten and nothing is remembered,” says Leon
Wieseltier, the literary editor of The New Republic. “The Internet is
like closing time at a blue-collar bar in Boston. Everyone’s drunk and
ugly and they’re going to pass out in a few minutes.”

She writes about the skanky blogger controversy. And basically called pseudonymous bloggers cowards. 

There are a lot of excellent bloggers who shield their names. They might have to protect their identities, because their workplace would frown on their blogging. Maybe it allows them to speak some hard truths.

This just feels like a lot of whining to me. If you're on the opinion page of the New York Times, you have to be able to take the heat. It's part of the game. If you're not up for it, then I've got a waitress job for you.

UPDATE: Hysterical response by Tim Burke. An excerpt:

The conversation about anonymity, pseudonymity, real names and
reputation capital is a long-running one in online discussion, with
thoughtful contributions on all sides of the debate. Here comes Dowd,
acting like she just crashed into Hispaniola and planted her flag on
terra nova. That’s a fabulous example of amnesiac fogginess. If Dowd’s
column were a blog entry, she’d have to cover her ears to drown out the
roar of the yawns at so elementary a restatement of the basics of this
long-standing debate. Anybody with skin in that game has gone beyond
just noticing that the issue exists.

And Dan Drezner channels his inner-Maureen Dowd with the finesse of a drag queen and translates her prose.

“The velocity and volume on the Web are so great that nothing is
forgotten and nothing is remembered,” says Leon Wieseltier, the
literary editor of The New Republic. “The Internet is like closing time
at a blue-collar bar in Boston. Everyone’s drunk and ugly and they’re
going to pass out in a few minutes.”

Translation:  "You know how, later on in this essay, I say
that insulting individuals on the Internet is rude?  That's only if you
do it badly.  If you insult broad swathes of people in a charming
manner, that's just witty banter."

4 thoughts on “Cyberbullies

  1. I disagree with Tim, i.e. this is “old news.” In particular the “skank” case that brought the issue up, as well as the more disturbing previous version (the law school gossip site in which women law students — i.e. private citizens — were being harassed in violent and threatening ways) bring up significant issues. And, the issues have certainly not been resolved, and new facts (i.e. a law suit forcing blogger to reveal anonymous identities) certainly makes the topic newsworthy again.
    The general legal consensus is that the revealed blogger (Port) doesn’t have a case (against Blogspot). There’s discomfort in the legal community, because it’s also true that people think Cohen successfully exploited a version of a “SLAPP suit” (i.e. strategic lawsuit against public participation) in which a lawsuit is threatened to hamper speech that would otherwise be protected.
    The case should make anonymous bloggers think a bit, ’cause, basically, it sets a fairly low threshold for breaking anonymity. A disinterested party — Google, holds the information, and is in charge of defending the anonymity in the court, while the anonymous blogger is not in the case (by virtue of their anonymity) means that the courts can be used fairly effectively to squeeze out the information, as Cohen did, by appropriately lawyered-up people.
    I think most legitimate anonymous bloggers realize that — they see their anonymity as a way of masking to the general public/internet searches, but not legal anonymity. I suspect Google had better write a disclaimer stating what level of anonymity they’re going to defend — and I think it’s going to be pretty low. If we need higher levels of anonymity (and, Chinese bloggers who would be jailed or killed if their identity was revealed comes to mind), we need to develop new services/new laws to protect them. Google gives those people up, too.
    (I’m not sure why people think that Dowd’s column isn’t contributing to the debate)


  2. Libraries, on the other hand, will fight their best fight to protect your borrowing records (at least when the librarians are in charge)


  3. It seems to me that Dowd is making a pretty good living writing — my hubby is a darned good blogger who makes nothing writing — with the paycheck comes some abuse. I know he’d take the abuse for her paycheck — me, I’m not so sure.


  4. There are certainly interesting things to be said about the case in question. But Dowd merely uses the case to make an utterly generic observation about online discourse (anonymous people sometimes use anonymity to say mean things), and from that, to a trite generic bashing of the whole Internet. I think if you want to take up a case that puts some new wrinkles on an old discussion, come into the discussion where the real points of contention are sharply drawn. Otherwise this is just more of the conventional rage of an increasingly disenfranchised New York-Washington chattering class at their inability to control or direct the public sphere as they once imagined they did.


Comments are closed.