Sunday, February 27, 2005

The Pendulum Swings Like a Scythe

“You don’t always get what you want, but sometimes you get what you need.” The song by the Rolling Stones plays over in my head as I sit down in front of the keyboard to bang out this post. Perhaps the song’s being a big part of the movie “The Big Chill” adds to feeling that there is something in the lyrics that holds meaning for life.

Let’s turn the Wayback to the end of the sixties and early seventies when I was coming of age and the great revolution against the establishment was in full flourish. I like many a child embraced the new culture as something bringing hope and new freedoms. Like every generation, we felt we were unique and had something special to offer, and the times provided a whole new arena to exercise these new freedoms in what we considered was an entirely new way. Our passage lead us to a new land in which we dared not consider returning to the old order. Government and large private institutions could not be trusted. The antiestablishment man became the role to emulate. Patriotism was passé.

The thinking as one people that had served the country well in WWII did work as well in the fight against communism. I came to feel I had more to fear for my personal freedom from the anti-communist than from some possible communist takeover. The seemingly natural paranoia of the right for some monolithic communist conspiracy did more harm to the nation than any communists anywhere ever actually did. And the final victory over communism came from peace not militancy. Certainly containment and the threat of annihilation kept the communism in check, but it was peace that slew the dragon. But the fear of falling dominos lead to our mistaken involvement in a war of independence in Vietnam and a distrust of the government and institutions that got us into it.

But our rejection of the establishment and authority came with a heavy price. I sensed a loss of feeling for community cohesion, national unity, and faith in civilized order such as our government and major institutions. Lack of trust is a doubled edged sword harming both the institution that lost its constituency and the individual that lost feelings of support and identity with the whole. I knew our intentions in Vietnam were honorable, but our goal was not realistic. I did not have the deferments Cheney had or the connections Bush had or even the personal patriotism Kerry had, and so when I was drafted, I went feeling I didn’t have any other choice.

I remember my father’s stories of the days after Pearl Harbor and how it galvanized the nation. He volunteered because he felt he would have to go anyway. In the seventies, I wondered at this feeling of national unity, but I knew I was different; I could not go there. Maybe it’s me or maybe it’s the culture I grew up in: To think independently of national intent, to question authority both right and left, to put the rights of the individual over the rights of the whole, to believe unfettered freedom will accomplish more than any collective society, to believe free markets are more efficient than planned economy. What would it be like to return to a time when people believed in their government and what it was doing?

And now I know. Perhaps it was 9/11 or maybe it was a mood against all things tainted liberal that had been slowly building through out the nation that became manifest some time before the year 2000. With the new administration coming into office, a new order or way of thinking seem to come with it. I wondered what it would be like for the old national cohesion that was prevalent during WWII, and now I am experiencing it personally. And what do I feel? Exclusion. Loss of freedom of thought. And the realization that this patriotic zeal is a step away from fascism. A majority of society or at least enough to re-elect a “you are either with us or against us” President seems to be the prevalent order of the day. Right wing bloggers seem on a campaign of unquestionable loyalty and intolerance for descent. I expect any day that the brown-shirted right wing bloggers will go on a spree of Kristallnacht in the blogoshpere. Get your mind right or get your ass off the net.

While I may have longed for a feeling of national unity, is the current situation what I or this country needs?

Sunday, February 20, 2005

What Hath Blogs Wrought?

While commenting over at I suddenly had an epiphany.

I agree with many bloggers that one day a blogosphere lynch mob will take down the wrong person or unduly taint someone’s reputation. Like any mob rule, eventually they hang the wrong man. When this happens the blogoshpere will be reduced to something less than that into which it appears to be developing, and the MSM can say, “I told you so.” Columnist and established journalist will lambaste and chastise blogs to no end. Perhaps the blogoshpere will go the way of talk radio instead of the way to a new world order in journalism. My comment that blogging is the best thing to happen to journalism since the First Amendment would be proven false.

My epiphanic moment was the realization that the blogoshpere will self police. Imagine my surprise when I discovered Peggy Noonan had listed this as item six in her The Blogs Must Be Crazy epistle. While I don’t have the rabid aversion to the MSM that the right wing bloggers do, I do feel there is much that is wrong with MSM. One being its inability to self regulate. News organizations rarely if ever call foul on another news organization.

But blogs do. Something akin to that occurred with the Easton Jordan affair. Many bloggers did not believe that Jordan should have resigned, and that the video from the Devo meeting should be reviewed to determine what Jordan said and when did he say it before any calls for resignation can be made. There were a lot of postings calling for the tape. If the footage don’t fit you can’t commit.

There were a lot of right wing accusations of the liberal, anti-America, anti-Bush MSM, and today many journalists believe that this mob carried the day. But I think not. If Jordan had been just a bottom feeder reporter or the head of group having a special interest, he would have an undeniable right to express his opinion however right or wrong it may be and continue in the role he had prior to his statement. But Jordan is the head of an especially large world-wide news organization that is supposed to be objective. His slur against the American military is no better than if he had been blind to any of its abuses – much as the right wing bloggers are, but they are not the head of a major news organization.

I am certainly no friend of the fascist on the right, but agree that Jordan should have resigned. After the blogosphere began to heat up, I googled and found a list of journalist killed in Iraq and the circumstances around their death did not seem out right targeting. I’m not going to assume the worse of the U.S. military as some do because it fits their expectation to do so. Is there a major story on targeting of journalist that should receive an airing on CNN? If not, shut up. Fireman should not yell fire. Policeman should not pretend to shoot someone. Doctors should not diagnose what’s not there. And journalist should not make idle accusations.

So, did the blogogshpere hang an innocent man or did the MSM receive the correcting influence it sorely needed? I believe the latter to be the case for the reasons I’ve just given. Do the brown shirted bloggers on the right attempt kristallnacht in the blogoshpere? Yes, we must be ever vigilant to the attack on freedom by these fascist who claim to be defending democracy by closing it down. Are the too political correct bloggers on the left missing the point? Yes, we must fight for our hard won freedoms. There is a place for conservatives in the liberal world, but there is no place for liberals in the conservative world.

I will continue my struggle here and in comments at other blogs against the right wing campaign of painting MSM as liberal. Its problems are nothing so noble as partisan politics. But when the right is right, I will agree, and I hope there are enough reasonable people on the right, that when the left is right, they will agree also. If so, journalism and the blogosphere are in for an exciting ride. Just think, the printed word is making a come back. At this day and age, who would have thought?

Saturday, February 05, 2005

As I take pen in hand...

Since personal correspondence became common hundreds of years ago, the letters of noteworthy individuals have become a means to better understand and personalize an otherwise cold objective figure. Prior to WWII, letter writing was a common task. Historians have the letters that notable people wrote home and to loved ones to round out their more famous histories.

The letters of John Adams show he was not the stiff shirt that superficial histories portray. The letters of the great and famous make them seem human and normal and driven by special circumstances.

Dropping someone a note to tell them you had arrived and how things were going allowed the human touch to creep in on the image of a great or famous person, but that all went away with the advent of the telephone and rapid transit. One need not write when a simple call can to say, “I’m O.K.”, would suffice. Or, why write at all when you can be across the country the next day to see the person with whom you are concerned. Thus, a major aspect of history was lost. The fleshing of the icon goes undone or greatly reduced if the mundane and common is not left behind for anyone to read.

But with the introduction of email and computers, it has returned. How ironic that something so modern would provide something so quaint. Most computer network servers, especially government servers are backed up every night. A record is made of important documents, but also the mundane correspondence that goes on with today’s emails. That is how they caught Oliver North in Iran Contra. He deleted the memos he wrote after they were printed, but he left them on his computer overnight while he was composing them. They were backed up along with everything else and the rest is history.

I hope the backups from the White House, State Department, Congress, as well as other governmental organizations are being kept for future historians. There is a world of daily, routine correspondence that would seem boring today and invaluable tomorrow. After the respective computer division within each organization has held the backups for whatever length they deem necessary, they should send them over to the National Archives to hold for posterity.

Imagine a historian one day being able to word search all electronic documents that were written in the run up to the Iraqi War. As today’s emails are forwarded and replied, a long change of correspondence develops in many of them that are like a stream of consciousness in the development of policy. No doubt there is many a Neocon who has removed Ahmad Chalabi from their Favorites list unaware that the record has already been made.

Someone somewhere who is a nobody but will one day be a somebody is currently typing a comment, an observation, or an endearing phase that will one day help paint him or her in a way that no straight forward objective history ever could, and it will be saved in a archive file somewhere – hopefully for some future historian to find.

By the way, Red Word / Blue Word has been updated.