WaPo Blogic: This Does Not Compute

Washington Post‘s Jim Brady says
that the public never saw the most offensive comments to ombudsman Deborah Howell:

Pensacola, Fla.: After reading the over 400 of the comments in question, which by the way, were saved by someone before they were removed, I saw no hate speech, one four letter word, and I can’t imagine what you found so offensive as to remove them. Could you please explain exactly what problem you had with them?

Jim Brady: You were reading the ones that were posted live. There were a few hundred others that were removed the site altogether, and those would not be on the page you’re looking at.

He says that the comments are not pre-screened:

Bloggs Park: I guess the most obvious suggestion, and I’m sure you considered it, why not have someone screen the submissions the way Amazon does on its buyer reviews?

Jim Brady: Pre-screening is something we’ve discussed, but in a perfect world, that would not be necessary. Real-time debate about the issues of the day is exciting, and what the Web can provide. Any pre-screening makes that harder, but in certain subject areas, it may be the way we have to go. But we’ll see.

He says that the comments are blocked:

IP: Salon has a screen shot of the comments from the shut down blog. They are just critical of the inaccurate and misleading statements being made by your Ombudsman.

Jim Brady: As I said earlier, that screen shot is only what was live, not what we blocked. There’s no way for you to see what we blocked, and you should be happy about that, believe me. I learned some new words this week.

Regrettably, my question didn’t make it through to Brady before he left for his turkey sandwich lunch, but I asked:

Mr. Brady: Can you explain the difference between “screening” comments (which you say you do not do) and “blocking” comments (which you say you do)? And why, if your comment blocking prevented the posts the WP objected to (since you say they did not appear on the snapshots taken by Salon and others) was it necessary to remove those posts if they weren’t the objectionable ones?

The Revolution Will Be Recorded

A letter to NPR:

Elaine Korry reported this morning that a UCLA alumni group is promising to pay for students to monitor left-wing instructors who have been “brainwashing” students. But Korry’s report makes no effort to determine whether this is an actual phenomenon or whether it’s a simple publicity stunt, to which NPR has now lent its credibility. Did Korry interview any students or alumni who had actually been “brainwashed” (as opposed to those whose political opinions were unchanged by their instructors)?

If another alumni group claimed that instructors were turning students into fish, would NPR report that story without any verification also?

Let Me Finish…

I just got around to watching Virginia Gov. Mark Warner — a presumptive ’08 Democratic presidential primary candidate — on a recording of This Week With George Stephanopoulos and much as I disliked him for his view (or lack thereof) on the Iraq cock-up, I found something else in the exchange on the show that made me like him even less.

I’ve always thought that one of the most telling traits of George W. Bush’s testy personality has been his irritation at being interrupted during interviews. It betrays his inflexibility and his unwillingness to respond in a substantive manner to direct questions. When an interviewer attempts to break into one of his monologues in order to get back to the point they were asking about, Bush imperiously cuts them off with “Let me finish….”

That’s the same tack Warner used several times with Stephanopoulos on Sunday. Warner, too, had some talking points to deliver, and he wasn’t about to be thwarted. It’s not as if his speech throughout the interview was so eloquent that it had to be presented in its entirety; he’s not someone who speaks in paragraphs. The impression is that of a business executive (which he is) unused to being challenged in even the mildest of ways, even when he’s talking to someone far better known than he is, in an attempt to garner a little national publicity.

3D Demos

As usual, Peter always passes on the coolest visual effects samples he finds, including these pieces by Andreas Gysin of Switzerland, which include several Shockwave 3D pieces (check out .sky and .f/a-18).

The Daily Show Goes South

The Daily Show: Goin' South
Quicktime (4.35MB)

There’s plenty of room for people to dispute about whether singer Harry Belafonte going to Venezuela, hanging out with President Hugo Chavez, and calling US President George W. Bush “the greatest terrorist in the world” was a good thing. Not everyone would agree that starting a war on potentially phonied-up intelligence and killing tens of thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians was worse than the 9/11 attacks that killed over three thousand people, and The Daily Show star Jon Stewart certainly stuck it to Belafonte on Monday (9 January), contrasting his statements with his role as a UN goodwill ambassador and flogging every banana boat joke possible. Stewart’s certainly right that most Americans couldn’t find Venezuela if it bit them, although he may be underestimating the number of people of South and Central American heritage in the US who might know better (about 4.75 million, plus another 18.4 million of Mexican ancestry in the 2000 census data). He kids, he kids!

But am I the only person who was bothered by this portion of the segment, where Stewart introduces Chavez’s “response” to Belafonte in one of TDS‘s trademark translations of foreign-language speakers?

STEWART: Chavez was eatin’ it up!

(cut to dubbed video of Chavez and Belafonte)

“CHAVEZ”: You have heard with your own ears Harry Belafonte joins the people’s revolution. Now, wait, tomorrow: Ben Vereen! And — I ask you — Venezuela, can Al Jarreau be far behind?

(cut to Stewart)

STEWART: By the way, one entertainer not siding with Belafonte; recording artist Bobby McFerrin, who described himself as: “Worried, and in no way happy.”

Just in case the faces of the performers Stewart lumps together here in his story about celebrities making silly political statements aren’t all familiar to you:

Belafonte & Co.

The War On Martin Luther King Day

Foer On the Floor

I knew I should have given up reading CJRDaily. I popped in Tuesday evening and ran across an interview by Paul McLeary of The New Republic editor Franklin Foer, who wrote an article last month about how liberal bloggers were hurting the media. An excerpt from the interview:

PM: It seems from some of the responses to your article and subsequent posts [on TNR’s blog, “The Plank”] that some on the Left don’t see that the effect of their critique — even though it’s coming from a different place [than people like Rush Limbaugh] — is essentially the same.

FF: The rhetoric is the same, I don’t think that the intent is the same. To me, it’s part of what makes the blogosphere annoying, is that there’s so little emphasis on argumentative and rhetorical precision. It’s so easy to attack — and I’m all for attacking — but when attacks become so unhinged and so imprecise, they actually become dangerous.

PM: The issue of objectivity has been batted about by many bloggers, with the Left complaining that the media’s obsession with being objective clouds a commitment to the truth, and the Right complaining about “liberal bias.” How can reporters win in this tug-of-war?

FF: I think that working within the rules of objectivity it’s possible to be tougher and be more of an annoyance to power. But I don’t think we need to abandon objectivity to accomplish those goals.

PM: Kos the other day wrote that it’s time to drop the derisive “MSM” [“mainstream media”] moniker because blogs have now joined the ranks of the mainstream media. He mentioned that if Kos were a daily newspaper, it would be the fifth-largest in the country.

FF: That’s laughable. I actually like Kos’s site — there’s actual substance on Kos’s site — not all of it I agree with, but he’s not a charlatan. I think he’s inflating his own importance, but I think that’s kind of part of the whole blogopshere’s game; that the blogosphere hates the so-called mainstream media so much that they view themselves being in some kind of zero-sum competition with the mainstream media. They view their own credibility and readership as coming directly at the expense of newspapers and television, and that mindset, I think, subconsciously causes them to be so vociferous in their attacks. They have some kind of self-interested motive in trying to destroy “that horrible MSM.”

PM: I think what gets lost in many bloggers’ critiques of the media is that without newspapers, magazines and television news programs to complain about, they wouldn’t have any news to digest.

FF: The smarter bloggers understand that. Digby has made this point, and Kevin Drum has made that point. Blogs are parasitic. With a few notable exceptions like [Josh] Marshall’s blog, bloggers analyze information, they don’t generate it. That said, I think a big logical flaw in the bloggers attack is that they want to destroy a system, but they really don’t have a viable model for replacing it.

I posted a couple of comments:

The sweeping generalization that “blogs are parasitic” is especially ludicrous coming from an editor of The New Republic. I read TNR for a quarter-century until I finally let my subscription lapse last year, and while there are certainly some articles that consist of original reporting, a significant portion of the magazine is simply opinion and that has always been the case. Anyone remember the last big story broken by TNR?

Foer’s piece on bloggers isn’t substantially different than the type of blog-based media criticism he’s complaining about. There are no citations. There are three unsourced quotes attributed to The Huffington Post, with no indication as to whether they come from named bloggers or anonymous comments. Unlike many bloggers, there aren’t even any links in the online version of the article to the posts Foer references.

The quote Foer attributes to Atrios (“If idiots destroy institutions there’s no reason to continue to respect them”) can’t be found in a Google search of his site (even in cached versions). Where’s it come from? Was it fact-checked? I seem to remember TNR having a problem with that in the past.

And what the heck is the stuff you guys were making up about “objectivity”? What blogger on the left has advocated that the press shouldn’t be objective? Can you actually point to an example where someone influential in the progressive blogosphere has called for the press to be less objective? I’ve seen a lot of people calling for the press to be less obsequious and more willing to ask questions, but how is that less objective?