The Wrong War?

Law professor Glenn Reynolds, known in the blogosphere as the InstaPundit, recently published an excerpt from his forthcoming book, “An Army of Davids,” in which he suggests how ordinary people armed with powerful media can topple “big government, big media and other goliaths.” The excerpt I read was engaging and well-reasoned but missed what I consider to be an essential point — that the real media revolution will only come when we turn our tools on the topics closest to our homes, our neighborhoods, our schools and our daily lives.

The essay in question entitled, “The Rise of Guerilla Media,” appears in The New Atlantis. This is an interesting journal that I wrote about once before.

Reynolds leaves no doubt that what he calls “Big Media” equates to liberal media and he clearly thinks it’s due for a comeuppance. It is not only the slant he finds suspect in Big Media. The authority of the establishment press has been weakened, he argues, by budget cuts that have closed bureaus and made big media outlets dependent on a
handful of wire service inputs. “Like the industrial beer makers they’ve watered down their product,” he writes.

In contrast, Reynolds offers us home-brew media types who offer first-person accounts of events such as a pro-democracy rally in Baghdad overlooked by the New York Times but noticed — thanks to an Iraqi blogger named Zeyad — by “the left-leaning webzine Salon” which posted an item that ultimately linked to Zeyad’s blog entry and pictures.

It’s a powerful and interesting anecdote. It illustrates the point that establisment media can only paint a limited picture of controversial events and what they leave out may be as important as what they put into their stories. And whether the failures are thru bias or incompetence or being spread too thin, the danger is that we operate on an incomplete or incorrect view of the world. And gound-level bloggers can supplement and challenge “Big Media.”

On all these points I wholeheartedly concur, and this would be a good time to remind anyone who isn’t aware that I am a card-carrying journalist who gets paid by Big Media and does this blog as a hobby. So I won’t argue with Reynold’s view of Big Media as liberal. I hear the same from my brother James, an InstaPundit fan incidentally. Of course I hear the opposite from my wife, Mia, who hears her world views reinforced on Amy Goodman’s Democracy Now. So I am accustomed to being called both liberal media scum and corporate media scum, and have concluded that at very minimum I must be media scum since that is the common term.

So if media scum can be permitted an observation it would be this: to capture the truth or spirit of any event is darn near impossible. The bigger the event the less the likelihood of success. Furthermore, even if we could obtain perfect information, large events are impervious to our control. Let’s say Zeyad and an army of fellow ground-level bloggers from Iraq gave us the “true” picture of events in Baghdad. Then what? Could we call U.S. Central Command and suggest that they move troops in or out of Anbar’s province?

Of course not. Right now we use media inputs about world and national events to buttress views that we have somehow formed in order to continue arguments about events that we cannot change. My brother James hurls an InstaPundit at Mia’s Democracy Now and if we’re lucky everyone still has a good memory of Thanksgiving dinner.

The real revolution will occur when citizens take media tools into their own hands and direct them at city hall or the school board, or use the county grand jury report as the basis for a critique of local government operations. At one point in his essay Reynolds quotes blogger J.D. Johannes, author of Faces From The Front saying:

“When enough bloggers take the leap, and start reporting on the statehouse, city council, courts, etc., firsthand, full-time, then the Big Media will take notice and the avalanche will begin.”

But we are not yet there. We are still fighting the last war. Oh, well, there’s still time.

Tom Abate
‘Cause if you ain’t Mass Media, you’re Mini Media