Monday, May 16, 2005

I Couldn't Do Any Better

Glenn Reynolds has put in his two cents, plus the usual plethora of apropos links and excerpts therefrom, on the belated retraction by Newsweek of their Koran Flushing Story.

His comment:

"I want to add that I don't think there's anything immoral about flushing a Koran (or a Bible) down the toilet, assuming you've got a toilet that's up to that rather daunting task, and I think it's amusing to hear people who usually worry about excessive concern for religious beliefs suddenly taking a different position. Nor do I think that doing so counts as torture, and I think that it debases the meaning of "torture" to claim otherwise. If this had happened, it might have been -- indeed, would have been -- impolitic or unwise. But not evil.

And anyone who thinks otherwise needs to be willing to apply the same kind of criticism to things like Piss Christ, or to explain why offending the sensibilities of one kind of religious believer is "art" while doing the same in another context is "torture." If, that is, they want to be taken at all seriously.

Like the title says, I can't do any better.

I do contend, however, that the staff at Newsweek were incapable of foreseeing the reaction their report would produce. They aren't wired to be parties to the conflict t - they doggedly presume the status of observer, and purport to perform the act of messenger when they are actually packaging stories to advance their own agendas.

We've been at war with militant Islam for three decades now. The last four years of constant conflict have been too frequently marked by singularly horrible incidents of decapitation, street murders, and suicide bombings that arrive in our living rooms or PCs with revolting regularity.

Who in this fight are the barbarians? A bunch of leash holding morons or the people who cut Danny Pearl's head off?

Which side are YOU on?

Those questions are never, ever asked in organizations like Newsweek or the New York Times. If they ever were, and were answered publicly and honestly, those answers would have the same effect on the media landscape and the publics perception of media as the asteroid impact had on the dinosaurs. Actually, the answers are irrelevant now. I believe that Rathergate, the ongoing newsrag circulation scandals, the SwiftVets odyssey, and CNN's spiral to tabloid existence are all evidence points supporting a systemic failure of what we recognize as "corporate journalism".

An extinction event doesn't have to mean that all the dinosaurs pass on in a blink - though the thought of researchers finding Frank Rich's frozen carcass in a glacier with fois gras still in his mouth is appealing - but it could just as well be a process that becomes irreversible over time. No, not global warming: we aren't dealing with arcane models here. We are watching old media fail to adapt to the information age or, on the human level, recognize and act against a deadly threat.

There is voracious demand for source data and fact that mass media is institutionally incapable of providing.

New species rise to fill empty niches.

Did we miss the flash and boom?

The media dismisses blogs as an annoyance or tries clumsily to mimic the medium. All the while, bloggers are feasting on dinosaur eggs.

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