November 9, 2005

Bloggers are Evil

Blogs are an evil blood sport and bloggers are a bunch of sickos.

Forbes magazine journalist Daniel Lyons, goes straight for the jugular, with a dozen scythes waving, in his cover story “Attack of the Blogs” (14 November 05, edition), in which he writes:

“Web logs are the prized platform of an online lynch mob spouting liberty but spewing lies, libel and invective. Their potent allies in this pursuit include Google and Yahoo.”
If you do a Google, you’ll find that the blogosphere has already been flooded with commentary in reaction to the Forbes article – 185,000 search results, last time I checked.

The charges leveled against companies such as Google and Yahoo are on the basis, essentially, of being enablers, compounded by their refusal to provide identities when demanded by companies of whom bloggers are speaking ill. To label Google and Yahoo “allies” is a curious thing, and not mere allies, but potent allies. Would Forbes be equally accusative about gun companies being allies in murder; or McDonalds being an ally in making people fat; or charging Microsoft with being an allies in the demise of spelling and correct grammar the world over? I’m guessing not. Allies are something much more than a mere enablers. Come up with your own, similar, ally accusations, and you’ll quickly realise how ludicrous and flimsy is the analysis contained in this piece.

It’ a bit like saying “do mobile phones result in people having mobile phone bills?” Der. Yeah. Ah, right then, the mobile phone companies are allies in emptying people’s wallets and must be stopped. Well, give it your best shot sunny-boy.

Lyons gives an almost cute, but erroneous, rendering of a potted history of blogging:

“Blogs started a few years ago as a simple way for people to keep online diaries. Suddenly they are the ultimate vehicle for brand-bashing, personal attacks, political extremism and smear campaigns.”
Like none of that EVER happened before “blogs”, in particular, or before the Internet, more generally. Funnily enough, I’ve never heard of any of the corporate stories cited in the Forbes article, but we’ve all heard or read about, in the MSM headlines, people doing really dumb and scandalous things with their email. The damage caused by good old-fashioned email seems to have by-passed Lyonsastute radar.

The lethal potential of the blogosphere is yet to be fully unleashed on humanity; or so we are hyperventilatingly informed:

"Bloggers are more of a threat than people realize, and they are only going to get more toxic. This is the new reality," says Peter Blackshaw, chief marketing officer at Intelliseek, a Cincinnati firm that sifts through millions of blogs to provide watch-your-back service to 75 clients….”
Yeah, yeah, we're beginning to get the point - before blogs, no-one ever bad-mouthed a company or smeared anyone’s reputation.

While these comments are already mildly interesting, even if they apply to only a tiny percentage of the 20 million blogs out there, it gets far more interesting, and much more to the point, when we find that much of the “evil” blogging is perpetrated by companies, not by your garden variety blogger.

Some companies now use blogs as a weapon, unleashing swarms of critics on their rivals. "I'd say 50% to 60% of attacks are sponsored by competitors," says Bruce Fischman, a lawyer in Miami for targets of online abuse. He says he represents a high-tech firm thrashed by blogs that were secretly funded by a rival; the parties are in talks to settle out of court.”
So blogs and bloggers are off the hook then, at least to a large degree? Not so.

Despite the statements of experts, and despite the fact that the entire article is about the smearing of companies, or commercial, that is, profit-making bodies, or whatever you want to call them, Lyons continues to write his entire piece “as if” the blog concept and Mr & Mrs Joe-& Joe-ette Blogs blogger are malevolent forces, with nothing more interesting to do than sit in their pajamas and morph into hardcore spooky anonymous operatives trying to destroy multi-million / billion dollar companies.

At no point does Lyons acknowledge that all of his evidence points fairly and squarely to corporatist’s doing what they have always done – try to break each other, by whatever dirty means they can – with the single difference being that they have appropriated a tool and a medium that happens to be available to the person in the street.

In the past, companies had to rely on slyly framed advertising, or their sales force, or word of mouth spread like manure around “the industry”, to plant the seeds for the ruin of their competitors, or merely the ruin of a much hated colleague. Now they can do bigger, faster, and better, with blogs.

You’ll notice how, despite the corporate guilt in instigating these things, Lyons insists on emotively calling bloggers “online haters”. Wouldn’t “cyber corporate death crusaders” or “dummy bloggers butchering each other in business” be more accurate? As always, these are commercial decisions, and have nothing to do with “hate” and very little to do with the average blogger – it’s business, big business, and the big boys are using the little persons tool. Yet, Lyons wants to bash the little person – an abrogation of logic and an abrogation of the bleedin’ obvious.

Lyons also goes to great length to ram home the guilt of blogger allies:

The online haters have formidable allies amplifying their tirades to a potential worldwide audience of 900 million: Google, Yahoo and Microsoft, plus a raft of other blog hosts. Google is the largest player; its site attracts 15 million visitors a month….An upstart, Six Apart in SanFrancisco, owns three blogging services--TypePad, LiveJournal and Movable Type--that together run a strong second to Google.

This almost smacks of online envy, rather than anything inappropriate, illegal or evil being perpetrated by the companies that Lyons insists are the allies and cheer squads for nasty stuff on the Internet.

Blogs and bloggers, are, according to Lyons the creators of an entirely new phenomena – gossip, nasty stories, reputations ruined, gratuitous abuse, vitriolic outbursts. Apparently this sort of thing wasn’t possible and just didn’t happen prior to the advent of the blog.

Lyons wants Google and such to play adjudicator of blog content, and wants these companies to bare responsibility for ensuing “fair and accurate” content. What the fuck?

If they are genuinely concerned about these matters, maybe Lyons and Forbes magazine could tackle the rather larger problems being born and perpetrated in the MSM – which is still the primary source from which the overwhelming majority of people get their news and gossip and biased reporting and daily dose of vitriol. Either that or they could have started off by gunning for the telco companies, for the millions of unsavory, scurrilous, bitchy phone conversations carried over their copper wires and their wireless technologies every day of the week. I'd like to see them give it a shot, really, I would.

“Attack blogs are but a sliver of the rapidly expanding blogosphere”, Lyons admits.
From that sliver Lyons takes two, three, maybe four “case studies” of profit making companies being attacked, and one minor and unremarkable political example. All of them, it would seem, perpetrated by competitors, or vested interests, if you like, rather than individual bloggers. That’s it, that’s all he came up with from 20 million blogs, for his front page story.

“Companies now live in fear of lynch-mob bloggers. "A blogger can go out and make any statement about anybody, and you can't control it.”
The same can be said of MSM content.

"It's not like journalism, where your reputation is ruined if you get something wrong. In the blogosphere people just move on. It's scurrilous," Grantham says.

Gosh, sounds like blog content can sometimes be just as scurrilous as MSM content. As for the reputation’s of journalists – only a handful of fraudsters have ever been “ruined” – and they almost inevitably get to write a book about it; so much for “ruin”. Journalists don’t even bother to admit or retract their more scurrilous content, which is read by hundreds of thousands of people. Most blogs are read by a handful of people, at best. The most popular blogs are viewed by a tiny percentage of readers compared with a daily newspaper, or the television news, with viewers in the millions.

Lyons rounds out his piece by insisting that:

“…the blog mob isn't democratic at all. They are inclined to crush dissent with the "delete" key. When consultant Nick Wreden criticized credit card banking giant MBNA on his blog, a reader responded in support of MBNA. Wreden zapped the comment.”

Again, and at the risk of being tedious and predictable, how is this any different to the MSM when they pick and choose which letters to publish; or when they pick and choose which stories to cover; and make decisions on the angle they will take - and let’s not kid ourselves (unlike Forbes mag, which is kidding both itself and its readers) there is no longer such a thing as “objective reporting” in the MSM – they all have an angle; a barrow to push; a soap box to mount; a public to sway and influence; a political and social agenda to set. This is their bread and butter – massive censorship and bias.

Some blog-owner hitting the delete key on a comment because they don’t want it sitting on their site - unethical? Not at all – that’s no different to towing away a car that someone rudely left in your drive way: it’s your driveway, you can do whatever you want with property left there. It’s your blog: it’s entirely your prerogative what you do with it, what content you allow, and how you manage your site, and you don't have to post warnings or apologies.

The exception is when someone is dumb enough to declare themselves the Diety of Ethics; or claims a superior libertarian or democratic foundation than the rest of the universe; or who has a long and tedious set of written guidelines. When that same person then flouts all ethics, all notions of libertarianism and free speech, and then twists and turns every one of their own guidelines on a daily basis, but demands that commenters abide by the “rules,” well, let’s just say that hypocrisy is an ugly business, even on blog. The legitimacy and credibility of blogs is challenged by this latter group, not by the bloggers who get pissed-off with someone for being a jerk and deletes their dick-brained comment.

The breathless and sloppy bias in the Forbes article also makes a prior assumption that anyone acquiring information via reading blogs is dumb and incapable of making a judgment about content. It’s easy to understand this assumption, since this is precisely the foundation upon which MSM keeps their business in huge profits: by assuming that consumers are idiots. But, journalists continue to cling to their belief that they are objective and that they are offering factual, unbiased information.

Still, I’m curious: with the small amount of evidence collected, Lyons chose to write about the world of blogging, instead of writing about corporate greed and their propagation of lies, misinformation, and vindictiveness, and the lengths to which they will go, and the risks they are prepared to take, to vilify and ruin their competitors, and the extent to which they lie to consumers; it’s just that they have a new tool with which to do it. That’s what the story was really about, yet Lyons managed to turn it into a piece about big business being under attack by evil lynch-mob bloggers. So much for objectivity and ethics in journalism.


  1. Anonymous8:24 PM

    I think Forbes is just suffering from envy of a newer, more free, media.

  2. Anonymous6:12 PM

    um, well...

    (not sure just what to say)

  3. How cool! So far, in the blogosphere, I've been called a fuckwit, a racist and now evil. Not bad going for a few months' effort!

    I wonder what the next few months will bring.

    You're spot on, as usual, Caz. The MSM do all that blogs do - the difference is that if you're called on your leck of ethics in blogland, then you'd better back yourself up. Fast.

    The newspapers can always ignore it (and they do) because by the time the next edition rolls around, the readers have also moved on.

    I've noticed that bloggers tend to keep tabs on things and revisit.

    Gotta love the 'add to favourites' list.

  4. With all those accolades, what a proud little blogger you must be! Keep up the excellent work!

    I think bloggers keep tabs on each other, in a strange way, and they tend to vote with their mouse. With the MSM, people will still buy the paper tomorrow, and still turn on the same news service - it's just bubble gum for the eyes, so they don't really care.

    With blogs, you have to go out of your way, and you have to put in a bit of effort to read the content, so people won't hang around if someone is really on the nose, or just taking garbage. It's a self-selecting, self-censoring, and self-balancing environment, in many regards, indeed it can be rather brutal toward those ends.

  5. Caz, as the administrator and publisher of a blog, I put it to you that you are solely to blame for all blogging's flaws!

  6. Geeze James! I've only been doing this since July this year. When did I get to be Goddess of the blogosphere, and all that we survey therein?!

    Does this mean YOUR blog is all MY fault too? Bugger, that's harsh!!

  7. Way to go, girlfriend! All this and you're the Goddess of Blog.

    Well done!