Dan Gillmor, the new media guru and author of We the Media, is quick to invoke the word "Orwellian" about the editorial judgement of the New York Times, pilloring Bill Keller for justifying what he views as his neutral position of quoting different sides in the waterboarding controversy using the words they wish to deploy for the topic, rightly or wrongly.
I'm going to be quick to invoke the word "Orwellian," too, then, since with this new Silicon Valley Influencers-directed campaign, we're now past having this term tethered to actual Stalinist or Nazi practices and their sympathizers in British media of 70 years ago.
You want to talk Orwell? Let's look at the awful set of rules that Dan Gillmor would have us obey in new media influencing operations that would bear little resemblance to free media as we know it now, but would be something like the Soviet Union's agitprop in the Lenin Corner.
These 22 rules are...creepy.
First, we "can't" run anniversary stories because this is lazy journalism -- although Dan himself is not above running his diatribe against Bill Keller opportunistically on July 4th, the nation's birthday, and pegging his piece to notions of independence.
Under these new rules, we're to endure a "multi-directional flow of news and information" without any quality control or accountability -- and bloggers can't look for pay from "the journalism process" (no longer a profession, but a "process") and have to wait for a vague incentive system. Gillmor himself founded a failed "community journalism" project that he himself critiques, although others are more pointed -- the problem was too much progressive ideology using "community" as a cover, and not enough actual community, i.e. locality.
Journalists are to make boxes -- like a kind of public stocks -- about "things they don't know" which would rapidly become busy-work to show off and become a fake-humble crowd-pleaser in a public communist-like "self criticism circle". I would submit that a journalist should write what he knows, and if the reader finds it lacking *he can go to another newspaper*.
The section the Times has called "set-rec" where the record is set straight on errors, large and small, would become, in Gillmor's metaverse, a notification service he could sign up for with the slider set to large or small.
There is the usual fetishizing of "the conversation" which is completely at odds with the actualities of most anonymous forums and even those nowadays with Facebook sign-ins. Fetishizing -- except when Gillmor is challenged in a few Twitters, then he tells me "I'm done with this conversation" as a put-down. I get the feeling that like the other tekkie influencers, nobody *ever* debates this thin-skinned propagandist. Why?
In a departure from most mainstream and alternative forums, in Dan's virtual reality, those who wished to comment would *have* to use their real names -- something that shouldn't be required in the name of free commentary. I've always advocated that the Times offer a system whereby if you pay a small fee, and you use your real and verified name to sign up, you could not only leave a comment, but get an answer from the journalists. Yet Dan wants to *enforce* civility -- and of course, that gets us far away from the First Amendment, and even the relatively lenient practices of the Times, or, say, Yahoo News, which lets through many thousands more raucous comments.
Now here's where the New-Speak and the Double-Think get scary. Says Gillmor:
We would replace PR-speak and certain Orwellian words and expressions with more neutral, precise language. If someone we interview misused language, we would paraphrase instead of using direct quotations. (Examples, among many others: The activity that takes place in casinos is gambling, not gaming. There is no death tax, there can be inheritance or estate tax. Piracy does not describe what people do when they post digital music on file-sharing networks.)
Of course, so bent is Gillmor, in his self-righteousness on correcting the politically-incorrect -- and sinister! -- Bill Keller, he doesn't realize what violence it does to the truth *not to quote a source directly* but to paraphrase using a politically-correct chart. Sorry, piracy *does* describe the *theft* involved in copying and posting digital music; the law applies. Call it euphemistically "sharing" if you must as a progressive propaganda sheet, but quote me accurately if I discuss it in a news story, and allow a variety of viewpoints. Oops, I guess you can't do that -- so much for being 'inclusive" and "transparent"!
If Bill Keller caves today on his news judgement about how and whether to use the term "torture"; tomorrow he'll have to be sure he never allows the term "gaming" instead of "gambling" and has to scrub "death tax" out and replace it with "estate tax". And so on. That's what this is about.
Gillmor's rule demanding voluminous hyperliking, like all the fake "Here Comes Everybody" stuff, rapidly devolves into what it always hopes to be -- the "avant-garde of the workers"; where Gillmor's editors would, as he puts it, "use our editorial judgement to highlight the ones we consider best for the members of the community". Sigh. We suffer from that on the Times of course, and this net-nannying shouldn't be further institutionalized.
Says another rule, intrusively:
We would help people in the community become informed users of media, not passive consumers – to understand why and how they can do this. We would work with schools and other institutions that recognise the necessity of critical thinking.
See, this is that didactic, politicized, politically-correct role that the progressives wish for the media which I hope Bill Keller and others among his peers will resist. We don't need subsidized political media to "work with schools". When that sort of construct is created -- a PC team of news-scrubbers who won't quote people precisely using the terms of their opinion but "correct" them -- then students don't learn to think critically--Gillmor means here that he wants the children to become critical of mainstream media, and consumers of his "work".
This sort of rule makes it clear that what Gillmor is talking about isn't a newspaper in any sense of the term, new or old, but a Bolshevik-type party:
"If we granted anonymity and learned that the unnamed source had lied to us, we would consider the confidentially agreement to have been breached by that person, and would expose his or her duplicity, and identity. Sources would know of this policy before we published. We'd further look for examples where our competitors have been tricked by sources they didn't name, and then do our best to expose them, too."
I have a mascot for you, Dan.
We can't use the word "must". And "the more we wish we'd done the journalism ourselves, the more prominent the exposure we'd give the other folks' work," says Dan.
Hmmm. Presumably this sort of utopianism and fake humility is what caused Bayosphere, Gillmor's "community journalism" concept to fail -- there isn't a sense of loyalty to brand or company or bottom line; there's no sense of the *commercial* operation that media has to be both to support itself and to win the public trust.
This sort of paper is not one that people will want to read -- it's too didactic:
"The more we believed an issue was of importance to our community, the more relentlessly we'd stay on top of it ourselves. If we concluded that continuing down a current policy path was a danger, we'd actively campaign to persuade people to change course. This would have meant, for example, loud and persistent warnings about the danger of the blatantly obvious housing/financial bubble that inflated during this decade."
Dan always wants the media to be the same as Amnesty International or a political action committee -- each story has to have a "what you can do" box by it. And he has some other great ideas for how to run a newspaper:
"We would make it a habit not to extrapolate a wider threat from weird or tragic anecdotes; frequently discuss the major risks we face and compare them statistically to the minor ones; and debunk the most egregious examples of horror stories that spark unnecessary fear or even panic."
Somehow, I don't think he means global warming...
This Newspaper of the Future has another rule that is sure to make it particularly dull and preachy:
"No opinion pieces or commentary from major politicians or company executives".
Of course, you get the idea: we should listen to a committee of Silicon Valley Influencers, a handful of technical elites with progressive agendas -- and shut up.
"We'd work in every possible way to help our audience know who's behind the words and actions. People and institutions frequently try to influence the rest of us in ways that hide their participation in the debate, and we'd do our best to reveal who's spending money and pulling strings. When our competitors declined to reveal such things, or failed to ask obvious questions of their sources, we'd talk about their journalistic failures in our own coverage of the issues."
I'll say! Dan Gillmor worked in mainstream journalism for a number of years and then at the San Jose Mercury acquired his fame as the first "real" newspaper blog on tech topics. This launched him into a wider career as a Silicon Valley Influencer (as I call people like Mitch Kapor, who funded Dan Gillmor, Steve Gillmor of the Gillmor Gang, Robert Scoble and other tech gurus). Today he is everywhere on blogs, Twitter, mainstream newspapers, conferences, etc. No one ever, ever debates him. Not a critical thing about him can ever be found in Google. And yet his 22 rules for journalism are hugely troubling and make for far more a slippery slope to Orwellianism that Bill Keller sticking to his guns about how he feels a controversy should be framed.
It would be one thing if Gillmor ran his newspaper in this way -- indeed, his blogs or some "progressive" newspapers *are* run this way. But he wants more -- he wants to intrude into the very way society is constructed and bend it to the progressive will:
"We would refuse to do stenography and call it journalism. If one faction or party to a dispute is lying, we would say so, with the accompanying evidence. If we learned that a significant number of people in our community believed a lie about an important person or issue, we would make it part of an ongoing mission to help them understand the truth."
Wait. You would trust this man -- willing to quote people inaccurately, willing to expose confidential sources, and demanding to indoctrinate children in schools with the social task of determining when someone is lying, and when they are articulating a sincerely held opinion?
People in a community "believed a lie"? Or simply *had a different opinion* on their understanding of the intentions and actualities of something like the "death panels" issue? It's one thing to hold a "progressive" opinion -- it's another to foist it on the public coercively by claiming it is a scientific proposition. (Of course, this is what the White House did with their notorious email@example.com concept of turning in your neighbour if they promulgated "incorrect" information about the health care bill.)
I see all this differently.
I see newspapers, in keeping with First Amendment values, not as targets to be hijacked by progressive social justice movements and turned into bully pulpits, but commercia propositions that may be staggering now, but will find a way to adapt and continue to make money with ads as well as paid content and subscriptions. However they survive and continue to serve the public interest *really*, it will not by becoming sectarian committees of the politically-correct.
Rather than "22 rules," we need simpler validation of what is already implicit in the First Amendment:
The right to an editorial voice.
The right to a political position.
The right to make news judgements.
The right to reflect a variety of viewpoints.
Millions of people aren't persuaded by the incantation of universality arguments -- UN treaties, legal language -- that waterboarding is torture. They will have to be convinced in the way you always have to convince people if you do it legitimately, with argumentation, reasoning, facts, field cases, etc. -- not by shaming and browbeating.
P.S. Gillmor's response is to claim his rules are for "transparency" and "inclusiveness" -- both the new "progressive" buzzwords for coerced political correctness.
P.P.S. The ankle-biting Timothy Post, failing as usual to have an original thought, falls back on the usual geek forums-fighter gambit of claiming that *criticism* of a position like Gillmor's (so unexpected! *gasp!* How can this be?!) is the same thing as "attempting to silence" them or "drive them off the Interwebs". I'm not for driving anyone off the Internet (Post and his ankle-biting fellow Komsomoltsy work at that assiduously with their constant mocking, bullying, and harasasment of people whose views they don't like). I would consider adding a new rule for a $100 fine for any time someone used the smarmy little fanboyz term "interwebs" however.