on the fly vs fly on the wall
Scott is right, of course. The blogging community functions more like a sawed off shotgun than one of these, even when we’re dealing with topics that are undoubtedly long range. Some pieces might hit the mark, but a lot of them won’t. Nevertheless, there is something good and valuable to this sort of approach that I think Scott touches on a bit, but largely leaves out of his post.
First, scatter-shot though it may be, the chances of our encountering reasonable observations goes up. That’s just the law of probability at play. Essentially we’ve added a number of voices and perspectives to the conversation, and these are able to build off one another in important ways. The rapid fire, on the fly sort of output the blogosphere provides is a much different analysis than the traditional journals and news magazines produce And while it is no way replacing those mediums, I would say that what we do get in the end is a more lively, organic, and informative whole.
Second, I wonder if the after-the-fact analysis that inevitably comes out of these big events is any less important or less savvy than it would have been before the advent of the blogosphere? In other words, if we were to take the blogs out of the picture, would the professional Iranian analysts paint any different a picture than they do now? That deeper analysis will come, after all. After the dust settles in Iran and the blog chatter dies down, some foreign policy expert (or twenty) will write their columns and papers and we will all learn a great deal more.
Only now we’ll have had time to shape our opinions to some degree. We will have read some conflicting opinions, a plethora of reports. We will have seen the numbers, the polls, the videos. We will have read the interviews and witnessed the bloggy battles take place. In some sense, we will have – if not an upper hand – at least some stake in the argument, some ability to see beyond the expert’s veil and into the thorny issues beneath. We will better understand the bias, the balance – some small fragment of historical context. And that’s what the internet has done – it has leveled and democratized the playing field. The experts no longer hold monopolies over our information.
As long as we bloggers and readers of blogs have the humility to second guess ourselves, to admit our mistakes, and to commit above all else to intellectual honesty – in other words, to adapt in the way that blogging requires we adapt to each changing set of facts and scenarios – than I say let the twitters fall where they may. As long as we understand the difference between news and opinion what harm can come of it? Let the very fallibility and rapidity of the blogs work to our advantage. At the end of the day, they’re still quite often providing a more thoughtful and timely response to today’s events than anything you’ll find on TV.