The blogosphere just "is" -- all attempts to define it fall short. There are as many types of blogs as there are people, and the collegiality that has arisen on the blogosphere has as many benefits as downsides. However, if the most influential news-oriented contributors to the blogosphere are to become a reliable alternate news source, they need to take pains to insure that collegiality does not descend into the insularity that is an occupational hazard for those working in the mainstream media.
Those thoughts first occurred to me in December 2004, when I was still new to reading blogs and I'd only been blogging about a month. I came across a comment by well known blogger that deeply troubled me, coming as it did in the wake of the astoundingly biased, uninformative blogosphere coverage of Ukraine's presidential election. With few exceptions, the coverage parroted the pap that the US Department of State and the Get Putin gang of policy institutes fed to major media outlets.
I admired the blogger's writings but his comment reflected a blogcentric view that mirrored the insularity one finds in other media. So, despite my newness to the blog medium, I felt the comment demanded an answer, which I published on a blog I did not keep up. I republish the essay here as an introduction to Pundita's 2005 Weblog Awards. (I've provided a choice between the original version of the awards post and the polite version, which simply lists the awards.)
December 20, 2004
The other night I read a popular blogger's comment that bloggers had been keeping the Congo story going. I thought of Bobby Block on the satphone, calling from somewhere in Africa, describing to John Batchelor what he'd recently seen of the fighting in the Congo. He'd witnessed atrocities, included cannibalism.
Block sounded wrung out emotionally and he was physically exhausted and still in a very dangerous powderkeg region. I remember John telling him, "Keep yourself safe" and Bobby's wry assurance that he would try.
That conversation must have been about a year ago. I forget which newspaper Block was reporting for at the time--probably the Wall Street Journal but maybe The New York Times.
I've been listening to Batchelor's radio program since the third day of the US invasion of Iraq. I can't remember when I first heard him talk about the Congo but it was not longer after I started listening. He returns to the situation every so many weeks. More than any American media outlet, his program talks about situations across the African continent and keeps the Congo story going.
John is alive to the fact that Americans can't ignore any region of the world because the enemy doesn't. The situation in the Congo is made to order for al Qaeda so it bears close watching, as does all of Africa.
A grotesque irony of this war is that the enemy does a public service by forcing Americans to think globally. The enemy is quicker than Western governments at finding the weakest links in the developing world. Run him out of Afghanistan, run him out of Yemen, run him out Iraq, he just sets up shop somewhere else. Somewhere where human life is still cheap, where armies can be bought for a song and tribal blood feuds are easily exploited.
The enemy is very sophisticated. He's an oil patch expert; he knows every region where oil exploration is underway, where oil pipelines are being laid. He knows every petroleum route by heart. He understands globalized crime and banking and how they intersect. He fights with a copy of the financial pages in one hand. For all his talk about hating modernity, the enemy thinks modern--more modern than most Americans. He understands the 21st century.
I'm wonder whether the blogosphere isn't heading toward the same mistake as the mainstream media. The mainstream pays so much attention to what their own members talk about that their attention is narrowed on their own world. That, too, the enemy exploits because he is a master at working on our blind side.