Twilight of the press gods

The genie is out of the bottle. The best efforts of the mainstream media to blockade the story of Kerry's lies about Cambodia, and the charges by the vast majority of men who served with him in the Swift Boat operations, have failed. Glenn Reynolds  prints a telling letter from a reader who requests anonymity. Read the entire entry, but here are the key sentences:

...last night I was talking to a friend who is a hardcore liberal Democrat and is, in fact, a first cousin of a very well—known Democratic Senator. He was very upset about the Kerry—Swift Vet—Cambodia controversy. He blamed Kerry for the whole thing, saying he had set himself up for this problem by making Vietnam the centerpiece of his campaign. Two things struck me about this. First, this is a guy who gets all of his news from the biggies — the NYT, NPR, and CNN — and yet he knew all about the story. That means the Big Media filter isn't preventing the story from reaching people. Second, he had concluded that Kerry deserves the criticism and is lacking in credibility. This is a guy who, if there were any yes—but talking points in defense of Kerry, surely would have stuck to them. This says to me that if Big Media is in the tank for Kerry, they may actually have hurt him by not covering this story. They've abdicated coverage of a story that is negative to Kerry to the Blogosphere, thus resulting in more damage to their favored candidate than if they'd reported on the story, but with an eye toward knocking it down. They can pretend the story isn't there, but they can't make blogs go away.

Glenn adds:

...they're damaging themselves as more and more people notice that they're ignoring it.

Just so. Credibility, once lost, is difficult to re—establish. Ask Bill Clinton.

In April, I used the metaphor of a driver stuck in snow, who presses the accelerator, and finds the spinning wheels only melting more snow, making traction all the more difficult. The current efforts of the press to define Kerry's lies as a non—event are destroying their own traction. The media eruption over far less serious charges about Bush's National Guard service is too fresh in the recesses of most peoples' minds. And, of course, Bush didn't choose to run for re—election on the basis of his honorable, even brave service as a jet jockey, a highly dangerous occupation.

But it is summer now. So let me switch metaphors. The establishment press is facing its Gottedamerung — the twilight of the gods. For decades, god—like figures handed down their version of the truth from corporate Valhallas like the New York Times and CBS News. The public credulously accepted their writ on what is important and what is not important.

But god—like pretensions are dangerous, indeed, often fatal. Especially when combined with mono—maniacal convictions on the need for their point of view to prevail.  Post—modernity, a concept beloved of the bien pensants, cuts two ways. The public is skeptical of anyone who pretends to be an authoritative gatekeeper of knowledge. Kerry, who has never cut much of a figure as a genuine, warm, empathetic human being, is an ideal target for citizen skepticism.

The establishment press is coming across as every bit as pompous and conniving as the man who married two centi—millionaire heiresses.

They are, in fact, destroying themselves. Their industry is in serious trouble. Circulation scandals have hit major newspaper publishers, while the scandal—free press can take little comfort in their declining readership. Network TV news is a shadow of its former self, and its future is very limited. CNN's monopoly is shattered, and it boasts a poor fraction of the viewership of Fox News, the only cable news outlet fully covering Kerrygate with the same seriousness accorded Bush's National Guard service questions.

The blogosphere is the camel whose nose, and now a good part of its neck, is under the tent. Leadership in coverage of the self—destruction of the Kerry Campaign is in the hands of Instapundit, Hugh Hewitt (guru to many of us), Powerline, Captain's Quarters, Just One Minute, and many other bloggers.

Nobody had ever heard of Bob Woodward until Watergate. Afterward, he became a powerful brand name, and his and Bernstein's work inspired generations of new journalists. The same phenomenon is taking place today, and journalism will never be the same again. The big difference is that this time around, there is a technological revolution compounding the destructive force operating on the old media. Hurricane Charley has nothing on the winds of change now blowing away the old media practices and economics.

Future historians are going to find this election deeply significant for not just War on Terror policy reasons. This is a transformative election for the structure of political information.

The genie is out of the bottle. The best efforts of the mainstream media to blockade the story of Kerry's lies about Cambodia, and the charges by the vast majority of men who served with him in the Swift Boat operations, have failed. Glenn Reynolds  prints a telling letter from a reader who requests anonymity. Read the entire entry, but here are the key sentences:

...last night I was talking to a friend who is a hardcore liberal Democrat and is, in fact, a first cousin of a very well—known Democratic Senator. He was very upset about the Kerry—Swift Vet—Cambodia controversy. He blamed Kerry for the whole thing, saying he had set himself up for this problem by making Vietnam the centerpiece of his campaign. Two things struck me about this. First, this is a guy who gets all of his news from the biggies — the NYT, NPR, and CNN — and yet he knew all about the story. That means the Big Media filter isn't preventing the story from reaching people. Second, he had concluded that Kerry deserves the criticism and is lacking in credibility. This is a guy who, if there were any yes—but talking points in defense of Kerry, surely would have stuck to them. This says to me that if Big Media is in the tank for Kerry, they may actually have hurt him by not covering this story. They've abdicated coverage of a story that is negative to Kerry to the Blogosphere, thus resulting in more damage to their favored candidate than if they'd reported on the story, but with an eye toward knocking it down. They can pretend the story isn't there, but they can't make blogs go away.

Glenn adds:

...they're damaging themselves as more and more people notice that they're ignoring it.

Just so. Credibility, once lost, is difficult to re—establish. Ask Bill Clinton.

In April, I used the metaphor of a driver stuck in snow, who presses the accelerator, and finds the spinning wheels only melting more snow, making traction all the more difficult. The current efforts of the press to define Kerry's lies as a non—event are destroying their own traction. The media eruption over far less serious charges about Bush's National Guard service is too fresh in the recesses of most peoples' minds. And, of course, Bush didn't choose to run for re—election on the basis of his honorable, even brave service as a jet jockey, a highly dangerous occupation.

But it is summer now. So let me switch metaphors. The establishment press is facing its Gottedamerung — the twilight of the gods. For decades, god—like figures handed down their version of the truth from corporate Valhallas like the New York Times and CBS News. The public credulously accepted their writ on what is important and what is not important.

But god—like pretensions are dangerous, indeed, often fatal. Especially when combined with mono—maniacal convictions on the need for their point of view to prevail.  Post—modernity, a concept beloved of the bien pensants, cuts two ways. The public is skeptical of anyone who pretends to be an authoritative gatekeeper of knowledge. Kerry, who has never cut much of a figure as a genuine, warm, empathetic human being, is an ideal target for citizen skepticism.

The establishment press is coming across as every bit as pompous and conniving as the man who married two centi—millionaire heiresses.

They are, in fact, destroying themselves. Their industry is in serious trouble. Circulation scandals have hit major newspaper publishers, while the scandal—free press can take little comfort in their declining readership. Network TV news is a shadow of its former self, and its future is very limited. CNN's monopoly is shattered, and it boasts a poor fraction of the viewership of Fox News, the only cable news outlet fully covering Kerrygate with the same seriousness accorded Bush's National Guard service questions.

The blogosphere is the camel whose nose, and now a good part of its neck, is under the tent. Leadership in coverage of the self—destruction of the Kerry Campaign is in the hands of Instapundit, Hugh Hewitt (guru to many of us), Powerline, Captain's Quarters, Just One Minute, and many other bloggers.

Nobody had ever heard of Bob Woodward until Watergate. Afterward, he became a powerful brand name, and his and Bernstein's work inspired generations of new journalists. The same phenomenon is taking place today, and journalism will never be the same again. The big difference is that this time around, there is a technological revolution compounding the destructive force operating on the old media. Hurricane Charley has nothing on the winds of change now blowing away the old media practices and economics.

Future historians are going to find this election deeply significant for not just War on Terror policy reasons. This is a transformative election for the structure of political information.