Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Say you won't do it, Hewitt

Posted by Craig Westover | 10:48 PM |  

Hugh Hewitt writes on his website today, that he has reserved the name "SwarmingtheStrib.com." [Funny hat tip to Chad the Elder.]

In a pixel, Hugh’s idea is to impose blogosphere accountability on the Strib by recruiting and organizing bloggers to do a daily fisking of the paper’s “lapses in objectivity and logic and the flights of lefty fancy.” He writes --
“Not every article would be a hack job, of course, and the idea of instant and certain accountability as to facts and choice of subject might even temper some of the ideological zeal of the Strib's troops. Especially if the web site also made it easy to contact Strib management and Strib advertisers.”
In other words, if we can’t win the hearts and minds of the people with our own ideas, at least we can bludgeon the opposition's management and advertisers and shut them up.

Hugh’s idea smacks of boycott to me, which strikes me as just a tad bit collective for the people that supposedly support the notion of individualism.

Below is an email sent to Hugh.
Hugh --

“Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely” it appears is not a maxim limited to big government, mainstream media or ring-bearing hobbits. Power also infects radio talk show hosts/bloggers.

I just finished reading your post
Swarming and Reforming The Strib.” Although I agree more than a little that “the Minneapolis Star Tribune is as rotten a combination of no-talent tenured editorialists, biased reporters, and make-it-up-pollsters as anywhere in the United States,” that frightens me far less than your idea of “swarm the Strib to reform the Strib.” In both rhetoric and form that strategy looks an awful lot like the “Hey! Ho! Bush must go” mantra-chanting collective bludgeoning employed by the left.

Now when I find something offensive in the Strib, I’ll blog about it. I’ll even blog about negative aspects of the paper I write for, the
Pioneer Press. I think that’s the way a swarm is suppose to work -- one or two individuals pick up on something and post, others evaluate and agree, add their own thoughts, and bingo! the story has legs. Adam Smith’s invisible hand applied to communication.

But this “swarm the Strib to reform the Strib” idea smacks more of the heavy hand of Joseph Stalin. We don’t like the Strib’s point of view. So by God, let’s marshal the Cossacks and purge this puppy.

Set up a website that’s an alternative to the Strib -- heck, even the Pioneer Press -- that is a fine idea. But an “alternative" implies some originality and value-add, not simply riding out of the hills and shooting the wounded.

Writing in favor of
school choice in the Pioneer Press, I’ve taken as many ad hominem hits from Nick Coleman as anyone. He’s the one who dubbed me “Captain Fishsticks” based on a photo on my website -- and that was his most cogent argument. I stuck it back to him both on my blog and on the pages of the Pioneer Press Opinion Page, not with insults, but with reasoned arguments.

That’s the way liberty-loving individuals ought deal with illogical and nonsensical arguments. Driving them underground through organized collective bullying may yield some satisfaction and might even be effective at “reforming” the Strib in the short run, but it‘s not “right.” Replacing them with better ideas has more permanence.

Hugh, “swarm the Strib to reform the Strib” crystallizes the worst stereotype of conservatives as people with no new ideas of their own that simply want to put down the “progressive” ideas of others.

Not since the Reagan years have conservatives been in the position we are today with the “Ownership Society” concept. We have the chance to not only roll back government, but re-instill traditional American values.

Let’s not waste our efforts trivializing ourselves with unnecessary concern about a second tier newspaper. Let’s focus on our ideas and treat the Strib as a “useful idiot” only when it suits our purpose. Let’s not fall so in love with the seductive sound of a slogan that we fail in fidelity to the ringing clarity of conservative principles.

I urge you to reconsider your idea.

Craig Westover
UPDATE: When a new blogger, a "Northern Alliance Wannabe," reads Hugh and wants to get in on the "collective fisking" of the Strib, we're talking feeding frenzy not legitimate blog swarm. [Funny hat tip Shot in the Dark.]

This bad idea aside, Hugh Hewitt's definitive work "Blog" is a great read for business executives, government officials or anyone else with a need to communicate with customers or constituents. J.S. Mill has some interesting thoughts on boycotts in "On Liberty".