“Rathergate” and pack-blogging

Joseph Bosco does all of us a great service by posting an otherwise unavailable article from the New Republic that puts all the controversy of Dan Rather’s “sins” into perspective. And perspective is the one thing missing from this in-large-part blog-generated tsunami.

The reporter, Telis Demos, doesn’t let Rather off the hook, but shows how far more egregious instances of irresponsible journalism have been shrugged off, if not altogether ignored by the very same bloggers and media critics now shrieking in chorus for Rather’s skin. It’s important reading, and underscores the inherent unfairness of the Rather witch hunt. Be sure to read it.

In another important post, Kevin Drum points out how the outcry for Dan Rather’s resignation and disgrace has reached insane decible levels. Not that we hadn’t noticed.

If I’ve counted correctly, Instapundit has posted 65 separate items about Dan Rather this week — and that’s not counting either the endless updates or the fact that he slowed down today in order to get some dental work done. Over at National Review Online, snarky Dan Rather references have taken over their entire home page today, which includes six full-length articles about Rather in addition to uncounted references on The Corner and the Kerry Spot.

And don’t even mention LGF, Hugh Hewitt or Tom Maguire — it’s totally off the charts. It’s a fine example of the pack-blogging phenomenon that’s polluted the blogosphere. We saw it during the UN oil for food scandal, never fully verified or adequately investigated. Instapundit posted non-stop about it for days on end, and so did the other warbloggers. After all, it fully supported many of their key arguments about those pusillanimous lying scheming French, not to mention their hysterical rage over the United Nations and Kofi Annan, the warbloggers’ Antichrist. The sky was falling; it was the end of the UN and Annan. (Only it wasn’t.)

Glenn Reynolds and the usual suspects led the charge, and it seemed they had infinite sources of shocking stories of French, Russian and German misdeeds, albeit all specualtive. Well, that sort of petered out (especially since our man in Iraq, the hero of the warbloggers Paul Bremer did all he could to stifle the oil-for-food investigation). So that didn’t work — on to the next scandal, real or perceived! Next BS scandal, please!

Welcome to Christmas in Cambodia, where Tom Maguire and InstaPuppy and Charles Johnson made it seem that Kerry’s mistake about when he was in or near Cambodia was far more important than the fact that we are losing in Iraq. And again, the decibel level was overpowering. And weeks later, look around — nothing. No one gave a damn about this lunacy. But for a few days, Glenn and Hugh and Charles and Roger erected the world’s highest mountain from the most insignificant molehill.

The latest example, Rathergate, is the culmination of this phenomenon, and by far the nastiest example. No voice of reason is permitted. The warbloggers smell blood, and the only word in their heads is “ATTACK!” just like a couple of months ago during the Sandy Berger kerfuffle. Remember the outcry, as some bloggers — even one of my HK friends! — saw it as the end for Kerry, as Berger must have been stealing the stuff for JFK. Never mind that this non-story, based on a series of unproven leaks, quickly vanished since there was nothing to it. So onward to Rathergate.

I didn’t mean to write more than a few paragraphs, but the article Joseph cites made me furious — and frustrated. Once again, the right proves infinitely superior at the art of rapid mass communication, and instead of readers demanding answers from their awol president, the tables are turned and it’s all about Dan Rather. Charles Johnson’s usual stream of anti-Moslem hatred has slowed to a trickle as he fans the flames of this orgy — his site is almost a parody of warblogger obsession. And the masses are eating it up — at times, he boasts, LGF has nearly 9,000 readers on at a time. Johnson knows exactly how to cater to his crowd of deranged wingnuts who feed on this drivel. (Don’t think they’re deranged? Try engaging them in dialogue in the comments. At your own risk.)

Anyway, for all the hysteria, the polls are stabilizing and Kerry is definitely still in the game. So it looks like the effort to blow Rathergate up into an indictment of the Kerry campaign has failed.

Oh, and don’t forget, there’s a four-letter word that casts a gigantic shadow over the entire affair. It’s spelled I-R-A-Q.

The Discussion: 15 Comments

The Republicans have been so effective in dragging red herrings across public consciousness these last few months. Rathergate is a prime example but the one that has been eating at me recently has been the Parlock incident. This terrible father brings his three year old girl to a political rally with John Edwards and gives her a Bush/Cheney sign to hold. The sign gets ripped up, the girl starts crying and pictures are taken and voila this guy becomes a superstar among right wing blogs with people crying “what is wrong with these people?!” The questions they should be asking is “what is wrong with this appalling father” and “what is wrong with our media that responds with headlines saying ”
Ripped sign spurs national debate.”


September 19, 2004 @ 12:24 am | Comment

Brian, you are absolutely right — Drudge kept that picture on his site for at least two days (maybe longer), milking the non-story for all it was worth, almost as though kerry himself had ripped the sign and horrified the poor girl. And it turns out the father is a serial attention-seeker and BS artist. Sadly, by the time the real stopry came out, the false one had taken through our beloeved blogsphere, and now it’s a myth, like Al Gore saying he invented the Internet (which he never said).

2004, the year of the smear.

September 19, 2004 @ 12:30 am | Comment

While I disagree with your politics, on this you are absolutely right. Bloggers have gone overboard, perhaps because they can smell blood and actually finally prove themselves worthy adversaries of big media. That said I disagree with the “Fox News did it too” sentiment; Rather and CBS kept digging their holes well after it was clear these were fakes.

September 19, 2004 @ 8:46 am | Comment

Thanks Simon. The “Fox did it too” argument is in no way an excuse, just an example of how the warbloggers look away when they agree with the politics of the offending party.

September 19, 2004 @ 10:54 am | Comment

When you write an article this long attacking another blogger or a journalist then you know that you need to take a breather.

Having an opinion is not a crime and neither is being a hypocrite or a fool.

It is these alternative views, even the crackpot ones, that keep the blogging community vibrant.

Without bias we’d all be rather bored.

September 19, 2004 @ 11:49 pm | Comment

Perhaps you could refer to these guys “rat pack” blogers, the ones that jump on the pile.

As to ACB, entertainment value is no excuse to me for scurrlious, evil minded blogging. It should get what it deserves in the way of critical comment just like all other media.

September 20, 2004 @ 12:27 am | Comment

ACB, this is not an attack of any one blogger, but an attack/commentary on the phenomenon of pack blogging, which has the potential to create a lot of heat and smoke, leading everyobdy to believe there’s a big fire — even if there isn’t one. I wrote about it at such length because it involves topics of great interest to me — the power of perceptions, true or false; the bludgeoning techniques of the right; the willful ignorance of what shrub was doing in the 70s compared with the obsessive scrutiny of every syllable Kerry uttered during the same period; manipulating the public to ignore the real issues by catering to their lust for scandal; and, of course, the 2004 election in general and the phenomenon of shrub escaping all responsibility and criticism in particular.

September 20, 2004 @ 11:36 am | Comment

Now, after extensive additional interviews, I no longer have the confidence in these documents that would allow us to continue vouching for them journalistically. I find we have been misled on the key question of how our source for the documents came into possession of these papers. That, combined with some of the questions that have been raised in public and in the press, leads me to a point where—if I knew then what I know now—I would not have gone ahead with the story as it was aired, and I certainly would not have used the documents in question.

September 20, 2004 @ 1:18 pm | Comment

There doesn’t seem to be any question that the documents were forged. That’s not what this post is about. CBS fucked up big-time and Rather is going to have to face the music.

September 20, 2004 @ 2:03 pm | Comment

True the right-wing pundits are making a mountain out of this but Joseph Bosco’s argument has a huge flaw. You cannot compare bloggers and political commentators to top-tier anchormen like Rather. They are in separate categories. Hannity and his ilk are not journalists period. Blogging is an exceptional phenomenon but the average voter probably still doesn’t know what a blogger is. The big news is that a top-tier “big-three” news anchor fell victim to a simple mistake: letting his emotions rule over his journalistic creed. This happens in both sides of the political spectrum but when it happens to Dan Rather it is big news; sorry.

May cooler heads prevail.

September 20, 2004 @ 2:16 pm | Comment

It is big news. It is not bigger than Iraq, which literally vanished.

September 20, 2004 @ 2:26 pm | Comment

Iraq, which literally vanished.

Bologna. First two papers I looked at today had three Iraq articles, top of the front page, all very negative. Multiple Republicans criticizing aspects of the Iraq war.

A few days scandal on one of the country’s most biased reporters won’t make the war any better or worse.

September 21, 2004 @ 6:32 am | Comment

It vanished from the blogs I mentioned, and from National Review online, not from the papers. See Kevin Drum’s post I refert to for the details,

September 21, 2004 @ 7:29 am | Comment

Richard, a large part of the rat-packing of Rather is probably due to Rather (and other “serious” or “real” journalists) discrediting and condescension towards bloggers. Rather is getting his nose rubbed in his own arrogance. Can you honestly tell us that if Hannity or Rush got caught like this – you wouldn’t be doing the same nose rubbing?

This story will play itself out and the facts will come out. The blog world will drag it out a while longer than MSM but even they will tire of chewing the same bone.

Rather is richly deserving of the roasting he is getting – as are many other journalists. In the long run this will just end up as an interesting footnote.

September 24, 2004 @ 8:11 am | Comment

You’re absolutely wrong. Hannity and Rush have been caught doing it every single day. The Media Matters site on my sidebar documents it daily. But the press and the blogosphere don’t go insane, drowning out everything else. I agree, it was big news and Rather fucked up and probably should resign (though I’m not 100 percent sure; worse mistakes have been made and others have been fooled by forgeries.) An incredible mountain was made out of a molehill, and there is simplky no comparison with anything done by bloggers on my side of the blogosphere. If there is, let me know about it.

September 24, 2004 @ 8:21 am | Comment

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