Attack of the
Blogs Informed Citizens
In our first discussion of Forbe's folly (Attack of the Blogs), I was reserved in my criticism. Yes, I mocked Daniel Lyon, the column's author, titling my post "Attack of the
Blogs Dumb Journalists." Regular readers know that I do not suffer fools gladly.
How Ironic that only a few days after Forbes crapped out that cover issue, events would remind us all too well how significant the blogging public has become: not only to the digerati, but to the idea of Democracy and self-rule, and as a counter-balance the powerful monied corporate interests who are the dominant force in America.
One couldn't have ever asked for a better example of why blogs provide so crucial a counter-weight than Monday's DRM debacle.
On the same day, 2 posts revealed a rather nefarious scheme by Sony: Mark Russinovich posted a detailed takedown of how Sony's DRM installed malware into Windows-based PCs (Sony, Rootkits and Digital Rights Management Gone Too Far). Simultaneous to that, my own humble effort was to look at how absurd, inconvenient and pointless Sony's DRM was on a CD I wanted to purchase.
The response from the web was fairly swift. Both posts got picked up by many blogs: boing boing, kottke, Atrios, Daily KOS, Good Morning Silicon Valley, ars technica, msnbc, Interesting People, ZD-net, engadget, slyck, digg, businesspundit, infectious greed, nerdlaw, etc. It even became the fourth most popular post tagged by del.icio.us. This blog received over a 100 comments and a dozen trackbacks -- most of which were extremely intelligent, lucid and useful information.
So, we have a case where private citizens identify fairly egregious corporate behavior -- towards both consumers as well as another corporate actor. The press was unaware of the issue. Only after the blogosphere erupted did the mainstream media catch on.
And the best advice one ignorant journo could muster on the subject was to advise corporate interests to harass, file nuisance lawsuits, dissemble, and deny.
Understand: I am in favor of corporations. I think that very often, they can and do make our lives collectively better. However, when they exercise poor judgement, when they lie, when they behave badly, I believe in calling them out on it. Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis once said "Sunshine is the best disinfectant," and that's more true than ever today. Think of the blogosphere as millions of intelligent agents, all of whom are busy redirecting sunshine to where its needed most.
In George Orwell's 1984, society is a vision of totalitarian repression, with Big Brother everywhere. But in Orwell's nightmare, there is no informed, aggressive citizenry, no Little Brothers.
Over the past 10 years, corporate owned media has seen their budgets slashed. Where there were once many reporters, there are now few. Where there was aggressive investigation, there are now press releases. Where there were once muckrakers, there are now embeds.
Too often, News Reporting has become this timid, celebrity-obsessed "infotainment." Ask yourself: How did the media do in their reporting leading up to the Iraq War? There were very few stand outs. Knight-Ridder, the WSJ, and the Christian Science Monitor. Most everyone else was AWOL.
Nature hates a vaccuum. And so, that void was filled.
The most intelligent and hip members of the 4th Estate have even joined the process. Collectively, citizen journalists can do things that individual members of the media cannot. The blogosphere is simply another 100 million eyes and ears -- watching, listening, speaking, exchanging information and ideas.
If it were up to Forbes, none of this would be occuring.
Capitalist tools, indeed.
UPDATE November 3, 2005 1:39pm
An article in today's NYT notes that Big Media a Tough Sell to Jittery Investors; The piece focuses on the technological competition from Yahoo and Google.
I would draw a parallel to Radio -- if your consumers are happy with your product, then any technology changes shouldn't be anything to fear, and might even present an opportunity.
If however, you are providing a lesser service for the same price, don't be surprised when your readership feels you have taken them for granted and bolts to mnore interesting alternatives.
UPDATE II November 5, 2005 7:58am
There's an absolutely terrific read by former Forbes ASAP editor MICHAEL S. MALONE:
Forbes Fumbles the Blogosphere
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How did a company trying to make money by leveraging its property rights become "egregious corporate behavior"?
Fraud, illegal pollution, keeping workers in unsafe conditions- that's egregious behavior. Not letting you copy a CD? It may be a bad business decision, but it isn't immoral.
Posted by: royce | Nov 3, 2005 8:59:40 AM
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