So I guess this is “beat up Michael Brodkorb day,” judging by the Strib’s “the blog house,” which appears to be the master of ceremonies for today’s activities that have been picked up from blog to blog.
Not surprising. Many in the Minnesota blogosphere — and mainstream media — can’t stand Minnesota Democrats Exposed, but not enough to (a) ignore it and stop reading it (b) stop coveting the audience it has or (c) do as well in cracking stories that Brodkorb actually cracks well.
The blog house, which is a starter home actually because apparently it can only fit about 6 blogs — usually the same ones — inside each Saturday, repeats its July praise of MDE in “forcing the mainstream media to cover some valid issues regarding 5th District U.S. House candidate Keith Ellison.” True.
But the statement suggests that the value of political blogs is only to the degree that it influences mainstream media to cover stuff. Maybe. But sooner or later, MSM is going to have to understand that political blogs and “the net” in general is the dominant source of political — and other — information for a growing number of Americans.
Tim O’Brien, who writes the column, reveals an uncertainty about this concept with his concluding statement.
The Net could be a place where important issues are discussed and candidates promoted; this gang sees it as a tool to facilitate defamation.
I get the last part. But the first part? The Net could be a place where important issues are discussed? Um, no. It already is.
It’s also important to remember that Brodkorb reported the antics of Matt Entenza in hiring a research firm to dig up dirt on Mike Hatch more than a year ago, well before — months and months before — the Strib finally got Entenza to admit to it.
MDE was also instrumental in getting to the bottom of the allegation that Senate Majority Leader Dean Johnson claimed to have discussed the constitutionality of a same-sex marriage amendment with a Supreme Court justice. (Update: And, for the record, delivered a well deserved shot to Polinaut in the process.)
Brodkorb could have stopped there and had a hell of a better year than most people who do this sort of thing for a living. But he often doesn’t.
When Polinaut, for example, broke the story that the CD the Republicans were ready to send out actually mined personal data from the user and then kept it in an unsecured online location, Brodkorb was pretty quick to follow the party lead in spreading the word — wink — that the CD wasn’t finished yet — wink wink — and the exposed data was meant to be exposed – wink wink wink — and it was always the plan to inform the user that the CD was actually mining data and they just hadn’t gotten around to it yet — winkwink wink wink.
Unfortunately, the archives on the MDE site are throwing up 404s so I can’t find the actual posting, but I recall one that said something like “Collins may have broken the law,” thus violating the headline writers’ code never to use the word “may” in a headline. Why? Because if you’re writing MAY, you don’t know. And if you don’t know, why are you writing something?
The strategy was clear and one that I would think we would have gotten use to by now. Throw up a bunch of stuff and hope some of it sticks and if in the process the credibility of the person writing what he does know is undermined, well, so much the better.
It’s an effective strategy and it can work. Once. Twice. Maybe three times. But the problem with it is a constant barrage of “throwing stuff against the wall and hoping some of it is right” inevitably undermines the credibility of the person throwing it and pretty soon nothing sticks, even that which probably should. It is, essentially, the natural order of things and it’s the political eco-system that eventually cleanses itself through natural means.
It’s a fine line that some people walk and it usually becomes a problem late in the campaign, not so much for the Keith Ellisons of the world (hey, if you think this is bad, pal, wait ’til you go to Washington!) but the bloggers who end up destroying themselves in the process of trying to destroy others.
The tables have been turned on Brodkorb by O’Brien. And, yet, there’s still things that Brodkorb has reported that Ellison should have to explain, but probably won’t have to now because all of Brodkorb’s work has been weakened. That’s unfortunate.
By the way, may I offer up Jeff Kouba of Bachmann vs. Wetterling as a fine example of a partisan blogger who does a fine job. He gives no quarter to the opposition, of course, but does so on the strength of facts — or at least someone’s confirmed version of the facts. And therein lies the source of influence. I also put Gary Miller of Kennedy v. the Machine, in that category and it’s unfortunate O’Brien pointed to one incident to lump Gary in the “this gang” category. And I think Doug Williams, who writes at Bogus Gold (and elsewhere) is just flat out one of the best writers anywhere. He can crush with you satire.
But O’Brien is wrong — dead wrong — when he suggests that these particular situations hinder the blogosphere from taking its rightful spot at the table of institutions that uphold democracy by disseminating information. As individuals, we figured out a long time ago that the National Enquirer is a rag. We’re kind of smart that way and critical thinking isn’t a lost art. OK, fine, if you only read and write about 6 blogs a week, maybe you’ll miss the “other side of the story” that might be printed on another blog, thus allowing one to evaluate all information and reach a conclusion, but, trust me, it’s a process that I — in the last few months — have come to understand is far more effective than mainstream media.