Blind to Reality

Atrios’s “Wanker of the Day” last Wednesday, CJRDaily writer Paul McLeary, penned these immortal words on the fight over whether bloggers qualify for the legal protections of other journalists.

Say that blogs are granted the same protections as news organizations. What is to stop, say, corporations or trade unions from setting up stealth blogs to promote their agenda, while collecting funds from the public or to spend on ads to promote their own interested point of view?

I wrote this in an email to him.

From: Darrel Plant
Subject: Blogs
Date: Wed, 20 Jul 2005 17:34 -0700 (PDT)

Mr. McLeary,

This is a slightly edited version of your second-from-last para:

“What is to stop, say, the Republican Party from setting up a television network to promote their agenda, while collecting corporate advertising revenue to promote their own interested point of view?”

Personally, I’d like to see a return to the days of the equal time rules, but that doesn’t seem to be on the horizon. The fact that Fox News can be considered a “news organization” worries me more than “stealth blogs”.

And got this breezy response.

From: Paul McLeary
Subject: Re: Blogs
Date: Fri, 22 Jul 2005 20:19 -0400 (EDT)

Thanks for the email, Darrel. FOX shouldn’t worry you all that much.
Those who believe will tune in, knowing exactly what they’re
getting, those who don’t believe, won’t.

Which just seemed to me to be so amazingly simple-minded in its disconnect with reality that I responded.

From: Darrel Plant
Subject: Re: Blogs
Date: Fri, 22 Jul 2005 18:43 -0700 (PDT)

That sounds like you’re shooting down your own argument about “stealth blogs,” Paul. I think that the average person would give more credence to a news source that appears in their cable listings and features interviews with government officials all the way up to the Vice President and President than they would to a site they ran across on the Internet.

McLeary apparently worked with Eric Alterman during the Republican campaign last fall, so I have to assume that he’s not an idiot. But to say something as politically tone-deaf as that only people who believe will tune in to FOX makes me seriously question his judgment. I know people who watch FOX. I know people who used to be Democrats who watch FOX and believe the things FOX tells them. Why shouldn’t they? They’re on the public “airwaves” in the minds of many people. Major government figures appear every day on the channel. If they were lying, someone would be stopping them wouldn’t they?

Pretending that someone could come in to the blog world at this point and set up disinformation sites that would have more of an influence than FOX News is just amazingly naive about the amount of sway it has.