Modems, Beers and Bathrooms

Today, yet another member of the mainstream media waxes colorful on that vexing question, how to regard bloggers and the relative influence they wield. “Bloggers are like basketball fans, ready to spray beer on pampered stars whenever they make a mistake,” muses the Los Angeles Times’ Margaret Carlson, referencing, of course, the Ron Artest moment of over a week ago that went so vastly under-covered by the MSM.

While some may argue that New York Times columnist David Brooks is neither “pampered” nor a “star” (or perhaps one but not the other), some bloggers have been spraying him with beer, so to speak, since the appearance of his latest column on why journalists should call on John Stott, rather than Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, when they want to interview a “representative” evangelical Christian. Matthew Yglesias writes, “According to Brooks, not everyone on the religious right is a mad dog, nutty, hate-filled, gay basher. Some people are, like Stott, calm, cool, collected, intellectual, self-reflective, gay bashers.” But, Yglesias reminds readers, “hardline anti-gay views are hardline anti-gay views, even if they’re packaged in a friendly erudite manner.”

&c.’s Noam Scheiber rises to Brooks’ “partial defense,” noting that “at least part of [Brooks’] criticism of Falwell and Robertson is that they’re colossal bozos in addition to being bigots.” Andrew Sullivan is not as easily satisfied. “If the real religious right is not represented by these blow-hard haters,” Sullivan writes of Falwell and Robertson, “why can’t a leading Republican say so? If the Democrats are always being required to castigate their [own] extremes, why can’t the Republicans?” Ron Dreher, over at The Corner, offers that he was “thrilled to see David Brooks’ column criticizing ‘Meet the Press’ for having Revs. Al Sharpton and Jerry Fallwell on, as representatives for the religious left and right respectively” and he does not quibble that Stott might better “speak for evangelicals.” Dreher, who “has worked in the MSM all my life,” then gets in a dig in at his peers: “I can attest to how completely out of touch most mainstream journalists are with the world of religion. They call Falwell and Robertson, for example, because Falwell and Robertson are on their Rolodexes, and will show up on time.”

Over at Oxblog, David Adesnik puzzles over another critical issue of our day: “[W]hy most of [the Washington Post’s] commentary on the media appears in the Style section.” The hook? What Adesnik calls the “extraordinary … [though] I don’t necessarily mean it in a complimentary manner” Mike Allen article yesterday — about, in Allen’s words, “the dark arts of covering a prickly president” — which, Adesnik asserts, “presumably without the intention of doing so … demonstrates how transparent the fiction of journalistic objectivity really is.” Adesnik’s insightful conclusion? “The only way to raise the level of public debate is for the president to be more candid and for the press to challenge him on substantive matters, rather than forcing him to walk through a rhetorical minefield.”

And to think that Brian Williams equated bloggers with “someone in a bathroom with a modem …”

Liz Cox Barrett

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Liz Cox Barrett is a writer at CJR.