I usually stay away from the various pissing matches that occur between big name commentators. Watching Hollywood actors and actresses is far more entertaining, and unlike the famous and beautiful people, pundits are definitely NOT TEH HOT! But in the midst of a clash between Eric Alterman and Joe Klein, Alterman makes an interesting observation (italics mine):
What you see with Klein, I think, is the panic of the pundit seeing his prestige destroyed by a blogosphere that can do for pundits what academics have always done for one another (and demonstrating why few pundits’ work could survive this kind of scrutiny). This includes the ability to:
a) fact-check his unsupported assertions;
b) hold him accountable for his abusive language toward those with whom he disagrees; and
c) demand some transparency with regard to his methods.
Have you noticed that every time Klein is asked to defend something he has written, he responds with a personal attack against the person making the charge? It’s not just me; it’s anyone. Look at the names he calls Media Matters and the bloggers generally. Note that Tom Friedman and Howard Kurtz, among others, react similarly. Pundits are used to making Olympian pronouncements and then having everyone praise their wisdom and courage, the way Walter Lippmann defined the job. Asking people whatever happened to the last 10 times you said Iraq has only six more months, or that Bush is sure to be a centrist, and they flip out and call you an ideologue or an “obsessive.”
I think Alterman is right. At the risk of making my own ‘unsupported assertion’, I wonder if this is one reason (but obviously not the only reason) why many bloggers who have passed through higher academia (i.e., graduate work) wind up blogging: we’re used to harsh criticism of our writing.
Update: There’s an interesting post at Firedoglake about bloggers and the news.