In part our time’s story is determined by what we think. Much of what we perceive of our reality is determined by who the writers that make public opinion are. Related to this is the nature of the source in which the makers of opinion can be accessed. Both factors hinge on what is officially graded as respectable. The extent to which unfiltered facts are accepted as starting points for interpretation depends on whether their source is rated as main stream or is rejected because the media establishment denies it official status.
The issue then is not always whether the reported fact from which interpretations are extrapolated, checks out as accurate. Nor does it count if the extrapolation from this data is within the boundaries of reason. Often the decisive question can become whether the fact fits the official consensus. Thus the issue is whether the material integrates into what is proclaimed to be legitimate that is, whether it fits the concept drawn erected prior to the event. (This mentality gave rise to a pun. “The new thesis explains reality, however, the real question is whether it fits the theory.”)
Another aspect of acceptance pertains to “who says it.” 2x2 equals a “whatever” and that amount is flexible as it often depends on who the respondent might be. This makes “four” independent of math. The approval or rejection of the answer often considers the status assigned to the respondent by those who determine what, considering the “complex social situation of the respondents”, the desirable solution should be.
Consequently, the proclaimed truth is not singularly a consequence of confirmable facts and their interpretation by some rule of logic. Much rather, true is what corresponds to the postulated consensus seized up by those who are “licensed” to determine it. The follow up is the allegation’s reproduction by “legitimate” publications and their oracles. Therefore credibility depends on who says it and where it was said.
Since the dawn of the age of democracy, what folks think has crucial importance. Admittedly, majority rule has not brought about the hoped for rule by pure reason. Why? Oddly enough, until a crisis hits, majorities can remain unaware of the issues that determine their existence. In the crucial questions pluralities react but fail to act preventively because a limited span of attention bolstered by wishful thinking hinders the assessment of middle- and long tem implications. Therefore the ability to influence in the present the common man who lacks a past and a future is, especially in the age of hedonism, of growing importance.
In influencing the public, the media plays a crucial role as it determines, by exploiting the missing perspective of its customers, what is news and how it shall be interpreted. This ability to grade and therefore to censure news goes beyond what open editorializing does. What is not reported did not happen, while what is told repeatedly can become a value-wrapped truth. This being the case, the control of the channels that lead from the reporter to the analyst and from there to the public attains significance. Under terms that prevailed till recently, “the news fit to print” was often what suited the world view of the media insiders. Those who adjusted had access – and jobs as well as a name – while those whose presentations did not fit the mold were silenced by being kept outsiders. (Admittedly, many who would like to publish lack talent. Their case is not at issue here.)
Therefore, much that is important is not heard of precisely because it is of significance. Not infrequently, the real story is not the event but what is done to it before it becomes the news you see, that amounts to the real story. While this is still often the case, the situation is changing.
Thanks to the internet which could be called “the mass’ voice,” the standard news sources are becoming subject to effective scrutiny. Situations occur in which a falsehood, that in older days would have prevailed, get unmasked and the official media colporting it has to retreat. (One case: Bush’ falsified military record that, without the instant prounce of bloggers, would have decided an election.)
In the light of the foregoing it is understandable that the competition impacting on the power inherent in influence and its perks can jolt the traditional media as a stiff upper lip does not make the challenge go away. This provocation demands an active response. Much being at stake, a piece about “The Bloggers of Confrontation” in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung (May 4) deserves to be partially reproduced here. The more so since the paper is one of the world’s best and is regarded, also by this writer, as objective and also as conservative.
The piece continues with a follow up punch with the subtitle “internet diaries against ‘the creeping islamization of Europe’.” The introduction asserts that the Bloggers have “declared war on Islam”.
Since the crisis of the Mohammed caricatures the minutemen of journalism fight Europe’s “stealthy islamization”. In doing so they disseminate a mixture of “alarmist and ridiculous” appeals calling on the public to resist the new Moslem conquest, while they urge Europe to hold on to its own values. Representative of these combat bloggers’ approach are the exploitation of topics such as that ham sandwich for which a pupil got disciplined, that a critical journalist in Canada was clobbered and that Australian convicts convert to Islam.
The persons who claim that “Muslims” and “Islam” conspire against open societies are, by and large “unknowns” in the world of journalism. According to these bloggers the attack to be fended off takes place on all levels. The, by implication hysterical, examples of the perceived assault involve everyday life, the attacks on the foundations of (democratic) constitutions and the sinews of the host community’s social order. The bugle-call feeds on Moslem-inspired rules and efforts that enable the minority to curtail the rights of the majority. Emphasis is given to odd cases, such as that of Islamic taxi drivers in Minneapolis that refused to transport the “unclean” guide-dogs of blind passengers. Instances, when the belligerent bloggers can assert that, in the name of multi-cultural correctness and due to cowardice, businesses and governments submit to Muslim rules, are exploited. Recently added topics are attacks on Jews and gays.
Such portrayals, they are rated as being devoid of nuance, are said to resemble the modus operandi of “antifascist denunciations.” Not the “lunatic fringe” is condemned by the bloggers in pajamas but the entire movement. “Thus every Moslem is reduced to a single identity that makes him into a threat” by being a follower of a “‘pedophile mass murderer’” and a person that endorses mutilation and stoning. Indeed, much of what the bloggers post is unappetizing, loaded with resentment and unsuited to support their claim of juxtaposing the truth to the regular press’ conspiracy of silence.
Limited by the tunnel vision of “zealots”, these fighters of the war of cultures peruse websites posted by the legitimate press while they also scrutinize the local sections of the papers whereby a “one-sided” selection can be made. Their efforts aim to penetrate the boundaries by which dailies separate significant occurrences from the less important ones. This way, a notice in a provincial Bavarian paper about Turks harassing a Catholic procession can become a globally noted event.
Even so, the piece, while rejecting the bloggers’ topic, does not call all websites pools of unmitigated prejudice. Readers desiring a “more differentiated” and “reliable” view of current events, are referred to a site maintained by a German state organ for political education.
In conclusion, the piece recommends not to dismiss the “provocations of the nasty blogs”. Their popularity reflects resistance against a prevailing inclination to mix inappropriately “lecturing and information” by the proper media. The blending-out of the vicissitudes of multicultural living and the general silence regarding the ethnic-religious background of criminals are errors that aid the bloggers. An equally costly mistake is the kind of heavy handed propaganda that loudly and uncritically praises the virtues of foreign cultures and customs. Such approaches are suited to provoke in a significant segment of the public the suspicion of manipulation. This perception is stridently confirmed by the kind of bloggers the essay intended to expose.
This tempted author refrained from interrupting the shortened article by his own comments. The issues raised here deserve that the task of thinking the matter through be left to the perceptive reader. Most likely, these reactions will display all the colors of the rainbow. No wonder, since the paraphrased author – who is a good publicist – has points to make. Admittedly, a certain number of the general detractors of Islam resemble – at least in some of their thinking – the mirror image of the Jihadists. After all, the legitimate objection is not to Islam as a religion but to the politics of violence pursued in its name. On the other hand, the writer does not try to refute the authenticity of the news Islamists create on their home turf and when guest outside of their native area. One is led to suspect that what provokes the ire exhibited here is not the doubt concerning the genuineness of the events on which the blogs’ dwell. His ire seem to rise because the wrong publications and people handle a subject without politely muting the facts with a restraint that perseveres in the pursuit of compromise. Still, “tone it down” and “overlook it” has, whenever a party made the price of “peace” the other’s right to exist, not served well its advocates in the past century.
Perhaps the blame for radicalization (self-defense to some) should not be put on those noticing, reporting and countering extreme behavior directed against them. Possibly, the credit for raising political temperatures should be given to those who, through their comportment, create the unpleasant news that are beyond the pale. Meanwhile it seems that, regardless of the alleged lack of balance, the blog and the blogger is here to stay and is likely to thrive. Not being subject of pre-publication self-censorship by PC and enjoying the independence to ignore taboos, create conditions that support the forecast. One day, private citizens who care for a free press that brings results, will begin to fund quality blogs. With that blogging will cease to be a personal sacrifice and the role of this informal and “private” press that serves by paralleling the “official” media, will be reinforced. Anyhow, like it or not, the blog is unlikely to “go away” very soon.