Friday, March 11, 2005

Arise, Future Chileans
Those of us who have been blogging for a while--in my case, for about two years now--have been fascinated to watch blogging creep into the mainstream. Sometimes it's amusing. When outlets like CNN talk about blogs these days, I am reminded of a 60 Minutes piece I saw in the mid 90s, when the Internet was just catching fire. Lesley Stahl sat transfixed by a guy explaining how it all worked, but when the time came for her to go online, she touched the keyboard like it were an icky bug. Now, CNN apparently has something called "the Blog Report" on Inside Politics, which Wonkette took down in hilarious fashion yesterday. (Although to be fair, making fun of Inside Politics is like shooting the proverbial fish in the proverbial barrel, seeing as how it's hosted by the helium-headed Judy Woodruff, who manages to keep her job year after year against all odds.) The political conventions last summer brought blogs to the attention of people who'd never heard of them before (like, say, Judy), and the Dan Rather controversy was the biggest boost of all.

The generally accepted storyline on Rathergate was that CBS rushed to air with an inaccurate story about Bush's National Guard service, and that some right-wing bloggers, especially the people at Powerline, uncovered the deception and are thus responsible for Dan's retirement this week--in other words, civic-minded citizens did the legwork that professional journalists did not. Powerline, which none of us out here on the left had even heard of, ended up winning Time magazine's Blog of the Year award. Except Powerline is not exactly a bunch of civic-minded citizens who are only in it for the public good. Its writers are former right-wing political operatives, as Garance Franke-Ruta noted in a story at the Prospect this week. Franke-Ruta reports that many of the high-profile right-wing blogs are politically connected to the Repug Party, not just by shared opinions, but through funding. This practice appears to be more widespread on the right than on the left--more coordination of seemingly uncoordinated entities, which the Repugs have raised to an art form.

Mark Schmitt at the Decembrist comments on the story, and says that maybe what we need is a code of conduct, to separate the journalists from the propagandists, the paid shills from the citizen hobbyists, and so forth. That's not a bad idea, but it probably wouldn't raise the level of discourse much. The Internet is still the Wild West, still the public square at its noisiest. We're a long way from civilizing the political blogosphere--and we may never be able to, if civilizing it requires partisan hacks to admit to being partisan hacks. If that happens, the Repugs won't be able to find anybody to blog.

Road Tales: I am still in the Detroit area, where you get the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation on cable. The quaintness of Canadian culture versus American was on full display yesterday. The network has been devoting great slabs of airtime to something called the Tim Horton's Brier, which is the national curling championship, featuring teams from every province duking it out for supremacy. This event is staggeringly popular in Canada, apparently--so much so that sports columnists are complaining that the CBC isn't covering enough of it.
After telling all those irate fans they just couldn't pre-empt five straight nights of prime time TV for a sporting event, guess what CBC is doing immediately after the Brier: pre-empting five straight nights of prime time TV for the World Figure Skating Championships. A publicly funded network can't find room for a well-received slice of Canadiana like the Brier, but hands over 10 hours of prime time to a tape delayed fashion show where no Canadian will get within 100 yards of the podium?
With the National Hockey League season totally canceled, they're getting testy up there, apparently.

The CBC dropped curling for a while yesterday afternoon, however, to cover the memorial for four members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police killed near Edmonton last week during a raid on a marijuana farm. In the States, a memorial for four cops killed under similar circumstances would have gotten a few seconds amidst the stories from the Michael Jackson trial, but in Canada, it was cause for a national day of mourning and it consumed the whole country. Mass gun killings just don't happen up there, in what Reuters calls "a largely nonviolent society with strict gun control laws." I watched only a few minutes, but the grief of those in attendance at the Butterdome in Edmonton (honest to God, the place is called "the Butterdome") was palpable even to someone as culturally removed from it as I.

Recommended Reading: Via Josh Marshall, another reason why Social Security is bad--it contributes to the long-term decline of the family by keeping people from getting married and having babies. Countries with partly privatized systems, such as Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, and Chile, have higher fertility rates than countries with systems like ours.

Yeah, let's be more like Chile. That'll fix everything.

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