Barking on a public scale

15 Sep

One of my favorite “New Yorker” cartoons shows two dogs in conversation. One says to the other, “I used to have my own blog, but now I’ve just returned to mindless, incessant barking.”

I know blogs are one manifestation of the democratic involvement fostered by the Internet. No longer must one be part of a media organization in order to get out the word on a worthy cause or a public issue. Now it’s possible for everyone to be a journalist in some sense.

And that certainly sounds like a good thing. Why should any point of view be shut out simply because the people with that point of view don’t have access to the mass media? Aren’t we better off hearing everyone speak? Shouldn’t we be happy to “let a thousand flowers bloom,” as it were?

Hmmm. Unfortunately, we face the problem of clogging the flowerbed — or the lily pond — with so many seeds that one can’t distinguish between the flowers and the weeds or even among the types of flowers. Yes, a blog that’s linked to a “regular” media site has a bit of a different smell to it than one that’s simply out there on its own. But when a reader does a browser search for a particular topic, who knows what’s going to pop up first and what will get read and what will be ignored?

This isn’t a newly identified problem, of course. But during this political season, it seems even more relevant. With so many voices out there, barking incessantly and often in mindless opposition to each other, it’s tough to distinguish the truth or even the legitimacy of any particular one. And the worst worry is that many people won’t care to bother trying to make the distinction.

Maybe mindless, incessant barking would be an improvement.

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