Continuing the series...
Originally posted June 19, 2003
From the background provided, it is clear that this is a complex situation and that simplistic solutions just won’t cut it. That is not to say that some of the suggestions I am going to put forward will not be simple and easy, but each will only be a part of what needs to be done.
The first thing I recommend is acknowledging the attacks on the Internet, the WWW, and the blogosphere as a start. These come from both within and without, and should be a matter of concern to everyone.
With all due respect to Senator Hatch, which is damned little in this case, he is just one of the people who are broaching the idea of controls and rampant intrusion into private lives and private activities in the guise of protecting private property, to wit copyrights. While one can question his position in regards the DCMA and the RIAA (and pockets therein), there is no question to my mind that his proposal is clearly unconstitutional and that he is well aware of the fact. The current copyright law is extremely poorly crafted, and while there is considerable debate as to how deliberate that was, it is also clear that this needs to be addressed.
It does not, however, need to be addressed by actions that violate the Constitution by eliminating due process and providing for government sanctioned destruction of private property without due process, recompense, and other little niceties of law. I seem to recall that the last time something like this was tried, that some tea got dumped in a harbor and a small fracas ensued. If Senator Hatch, and any other congresscritter, fail to understand their sworn oath to the Constitution, then they need to either resign, join the appropriate totalitarian party and run in an honest manner, or be defeated under false colours.
This also applies to regulation by content. While I deplore a great deal of the content that is out there, and just love the spam I get each day promising to enhance different portions of my anatomy, the government does not need to get involved under any pretext. This is called a slippery slope, and it is not well regarded for a number of reasons. Almost all totalitarian actions began with the pretext of doing something for the public good, and this is a real threat to our freedoms and the Internet as we know it.
Whatever aid and comfort can be given to those opposing totalitarian regimes or other assaults on free speech should be given. This is already being done in the case of a number of bloggers in Iran, for example, and should be expanded. Since the free exchange of information and ideas scares these people, let’s really scare them.
We also need to view with some concern, and a lot of contempt, calls from those within The Media who want to regulate. Their reasons for doing so have been brought out in the previous posts: continuation of media dynasties, control of news and gatekeeping, protecting a privileged position (i.e. being a member of the press), and control of the economics of the media.
The blogosphere will play a key role in that by acting in the best and purest motives of real journalism: providing accurate and immediate information that will go out to the world. By providing multiple sources of information, thoughtful and documented commentary, and means of discussions through comments, the blogosphere will prove the ideal of rational discourse and the ability of the masses to govern themselves.
This will mean some changes to the blogosphere as well. For now, there is a perception, if not a reality, that all blogs do is negative. Blogs expose lies, corruption, bias in reporting, and more. Critics charge that this is all there is, and while it can be refuted fairly easily, it is a charge that unfortunately tends to resonate with those who are not yet a part of the Web and blogdom. One must also consider that many who make and shape laws are a part of this latter group, and act accordingly.
The real issue being this charge is the difference between being a destructive force and a constructive force. Blogs have been destructive in that they have exposed lies, misrepresentation, mismanagement, and more at major media outlets. While one can argue that such is in reality constructive, there is a need to provide some positive context so as to live up to the potential inherent in the medium and eliminate this avenue of attack.
This is already underway, and discussions are readily found at a variety of sites. This multi-part presentation could also be seen as a sign of constructive action in that specific actions will be called for in each, that will help remediate the problems identified here and elsewhere. Other sites are, I believe, doing the same thing but as noted earlier I have not read them so as to avoid potential problems.
Another point to consider here is historical trend, and the fact that The Media, and media as we know it, will no longer be the same. Newspapers, broadcast outlets, magazines, and other staples of traditional media will never completely disappear, but their role and importance is already in a state of fundamental change. Most of them are operating under old models and having considerable difficulty adapting to the changes that are taking place. This will make for interesting times in terms of the Chinese curse, and much of the mantle of journalism has already fallen onto other shoulders.
Blogs and other new media to be developed will most likely take over much of what was the role of traditional media outlets. Some outlets will adapt and move in. For example, the Wall Street Journal does have one of the better WWW sites of the “old” media, and seems poised to take advantage of the new media. If they can or will remains to be seen, but do expect to see some make the transition.
This does place a heavy burden on blogdom, however, in that with freedom comes responsibilities. Those very responsibilities that we harp about to “Old Media” (and yes, I do love comparing The Media to Old Europe a la Rumsfeld) have now become ours to uphold as well.
So, here are the first suggestions I am putting forward:
1. Let your congresscritter know, in no uncertain terms, that attacks on freedom of the press will not be tolerated, and that blogs and people on the net are just as much journalists as are people at the New York Times or Fox News. Remind them also that America does not condone or accept the licensing of media.
2. Let your congresscritter know that you oppose other government involvement in, and regulation of, the Internet for any reason. What is free speech today is all too likely to end up as pornographic or unacceptable tomorrow. Beware the slippery slope.
3. Support your local blogger. Make that monetary donation if they have a tip jar, and make comments to keep them honest. Promote valid discussion and rational discourse. That is, after all, one of your duties to the Republic as a Citizen. It should even be argued that it is your duty as a Citizen of the World.
4. Bloggers need not only to point out problems, but suggest means of remediation directly or encourage discourse such that one or more means are developed in the course of said discussion.
5. Bloggers also need to make use of the fantastic opportunity to update, correct, and refine offered through the medium. The best already do this, the rest of us need to follow the lead.
6. Bloggers need to operate to the highest standards possible, both for themselves and for the duties that are headed our way. This is not only for large sites, but for individual sites as well. Remember, anything worth doing is worth doing right.
With this as a start, real journalism can indeed be saved. Tomorrow, some more thoughts and suggestions on other aspects.