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Friday, January 20, 2006

Combating Zombie Journalism

The Deborah Howell/WaPo fiasco seems to be blowing up outside the blogosphere, which is great. We have a lot of these conversations amongst ourselves and we think other people must be hearing them too and they aren't.

This will probably be the first time many a TV talking head like Zombies-Ate-My-Brain Kyra Phillips will even hear that Abramoff did not give money to Democrats (Crooks & Liars has the video). If she hadn't heard it before this morning she probably has now. Not that it will make any difference to her, but still, it's the first step in disciplining the press. The talking heads may not give a rat's ass about the truth, but nobody is going to want to be the next Deborah Howell.

I should take a moment to thank Jay Rosen for his help in all of this. I didn't mention it before because I didn't know how Jay would feel about it but he wrote about it himself this morning -- it was Jay who initially suggested to me that the focus of everyone's comments should be the "Maryland Moment" on the That was a real watershed event for the blogosphere, and there has been much communication back-and-forth between bloggers this week about using it as a model during discussions about working together to effect change.

We quite inadvertently repeated it in the attempt to bury the book of WINO (Woman In Name Only -- someone emailed that to me and I just love it) Kate O'Beirne. The creation of a public record that cannot be erased, that the subject will have to come to terms with, is an incredibly powerful tool. They're now replicating it with great success on the Chris Matthews blog (18,500 unique visitors last time I checked) for much the same reasons -- it's time to discipline these people out of the sloppy repetition of GOP memes like comparing Michael Moore to Osama Bin Laden (which Joe Scarborough evidently just did).

(As a side note -- John Kerry just joined our blogswarm of Matthews with a post over at DailyKos. I am so happy to see this happening, and good on Peter Daou for spearheading it. We are learning. And rather quickly)

So all hail Jay for his help. If I was hard on him this morning it was because I don't think there is any larger consciousness that what Brady is talking about is TROLLS -- Kyra Phillips is essentially going into fits of hyperanxiety because of fucking TROLLS. I'm not surprised they've never heard of them, but to dismiss all participants in this discussion just because they've never heard of the problem before is not only absurd, it leaves them playing a role in a larger constantly repeating cycle that Atrios sketched out so clearly today:
[T]his whole situation is really reminiscent of the 2004 Adam Nagourney incident. Rough version: Nagourney wrote an article which passed on Bush administration peddled horseshit about how after the handover to the transitional government in Iraq U.S. casualties had declined. But they didn't. No matter how one squinted at the data, casualties hadn't declined. There was no way to slice it and dice it to make it so. Many angry exchanges between people and Nagourney and the useless Okrent. Many denials from them. Finally half-assed correction and an Okrent column which revealed the name and hometown of a rather "uncivil" reader because of his dastardly incivility.
We've been down this road before. It's quite sad that the learning curve of many is just getting around to an awareness of the existence of fucking trolls, and it's quite beyond comprehension that they designed their whole system without ever taking them into account. I don't buy it for a minute as I've said before, but at the very least it makes them look like a bunch of diddling idiots who become tools for the GOP disinformation machine.

And I'd like to thank them for fucking the whole thing up so dramatically that the message is reaching a larger audience. Arianna called to say she's being interviewed by the NYT over it, so this is not going away. The cautionary tale of Deborah Howell is being told to an ever larger audience, and that message will be carried no matter how much they want to jump up and down screaming about how uncouth we all are.

Deborah Howell lied. Jack Abramoff did not give money to any Democrats. It's in black and white and it is not going away.