Editor's Desk

Is the Web Driving Us Nuts?

Is it better to watch Aaron Brown, or read a blogger?

By 2.13.02

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NO RE GRETA: Whether a recognizable Greta Van Susteren would have scored this big we'll never know. But her numbers tell the story. According to a morning report, she outdrew her CNN rival Aaron Brown by more than three hundred thousands viewers a day in their first head to head confrontation last week.

Must have been unhappy news to leading "me-ziner" Josh Marshall, who last September 15 heralded Brown's hiring by CNN as a "dynamite pick." Not having ever really watched him before Sept. 11, Marshall was drawn to the "ingenuousness" of Brown's "TV manner" and the way he "elicits or explicates new information that more stuffy or programmed questioners and anchors would never arrive at." In short, said Marshall, a strong liberal voice, "He's got this way of thinking aloud on air which, for me at least, really works."

It's easy to see why. According to samples culled from the files of the Media Research Center's anti-bias brigade, Brown is the sort of newsman who rued the U.S.'s decision to connect Yasir Arafat to the illegal shipment of arms of from Iran to the PLO as a step that "will not exactly help get the peace process back on track"; who raked White House counsel Albert Gonzales over the coals on the subject of military tribunals but lobbed softballs at Sen. Patrick Leahy; who reported that the argument that politics played no role in the Supreme Court's resolution of the Florida recount "may be a hard sell to many Americans" and that "many people" worry that the court's "precious commodity has been diminished."

Perhaps I've spoken out of turn. Not about Brown, but about his erstwhile champion, Josh Marshall. As best I can tell, he hasn't returned to the subject of Brown; maybe he liked him only in the immediate post-nine-eleven context. But there's a larger point: how long is anything said by a so-called "blogger" -- an already tired term used to describe the growing number of individuals talking and posting away on their own personal websites -- to remain valid?

"The Weekly Standard" this week posted a definitive parody of run-amok blogging and the wacky back and forths and cross-linking and self-referentiality and full immersion in the increasingly ephemeral that the genre inspires. In this climate, it seems, nothing lasting can be said, nor even anything remotely serious.

But that's of course unfair to all sorts of bloggers, whose energy and enterprise provide readers with access to untold amounts of information. Just yesterday, for instance, James Taranto's Best of the Web Today provided easy links to the statement 60 scholars signed in support of the war on terrorism. Among the signatories, it turns out, one could find Glenn Loury, an erstwhile neoconservative whom the "New York Times Magazine" recently trumpeted as a black American who had seen the error of his ways and even had a reconciliation of sorts with Jesse Jackson. So what was Loury's name doing on the letter? The Web will probably provide an explanation a lot sooner than the Times will.

What's more, it turns out, many bloggers don't suffer from logorrhea at all. The hard-to-top Andrew Sullivan is merely capacious. By comparison, Marshall or Mickey Kaus are minimalists, clear exponents of less is more. They read and think first, then write a few choice paragraphs or even sentences. Maybe they're protecting themselves against burn-out. How long can Sullivan, say, go on at it his current pace?

The real problem with the Web isn't excess, but our inability to process and convey as much information as we'd like. So we adjust, mindful as before that "the now" is not the only thing in life.

Or at least we say we'll adjust. But then we remember there's another Best of the Web Today going up tomorrow.

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About the Author
Wlady Pleszczynski is editorial director of The American Spectator and the editor of AmSpec Online.