A fascinating and thoughtful piece by Ron Radosh reminded me of a nagging problem that causes a certain amount of misunderstanding. With an Atlantic piece by Mark Bowden as a starting point, Radosh examines the deeper question of whether all journalism is inherently biased:

Bowden says in conclusion that we now live in a “post-journalistic” world, in which our democracy is in a constant political battleground. Bloggers exist to help one side or the other, which leads to what Bowden sees as “distortions and inaccuracies, lapses of judgment, the absence of context,” which do not bother the bloggers, since they are simply ammunition for their own chosen side. Truth is simply what comes out of whoever wins a particular battle — it is winning that is key, not who is right. This, Bowden argues, is not journalism.
What he despairs is the result that we have more propaganda, and not news, with no room for compromise. Hence he asks a key question: “Isn’t there, in fact middle ground in most public disputes?” Can’t one weigh public good against factional goals? Can’t we decide the public interest in other than through a “partisan lens,” in which “politics becomes blood sport”?
Here is Bowden’s key paragraph:
Television loves this, because it is dramatic. Confrontation is all. And given the fragmentation of news on the Internet and on cable television, Americans increasingly choose to listen only to their own side of the argument, to bloggers and commentators who reinforce their convictions and paint the world only in acceptable, comfortable colors. Bloggers like Richmond and Sexton, and TV hosts like Hannity, preach only to the choir. Consumers of such “news” become all the more entrenched in their prejudices, and ever more hostile to those who disagree. The other side is no longer the honorable opposition, maybe partly right; but rather always wrong, stupid, criminal, even downright evil. … In a post-journalistic society, there is no disinterested voice. There are only the winning side and the losing side.
What he would love to see restored (and he doubts that it can ever take place) is what he calls “honest, disinterested reporting over advocacy.” Rather than shaking preconceptions, the new post-journalists reinforce prejudices, writing or reporting to gain a victory for either the conservative or left-liberal side. He favors those who aspire “to persuade” and are seen as fair-minded and trustworthy by those “who are inclined to disagree with him.” Bowden is firm: no liberal or conservative, he thinks, can have the “disinterested voice of a true journalist.”

He goes on to look at Beck and Hannity versus Olbermann and Maddow, none of whom I have the slightest interest in watching.
Here’s what causes misunderstanding. I am often at a loss to explain it, but I do not regard this blog as a form of warfare. I write what I think, and it necessarily takes the form of posts, on whatever subject strikes my fancy. I am just tickled pink that people read them, but I have little control over who is reading, or why. If people want to think I am a partisan blogger, working towards specific identifiable goals, they can. Certainly I oppose certain things and I support certain things, and I make no secret of what they are. But that does not obligate me to write about anything in particular, or in any particular order.
The paradox is that while I am not seeking to be any kind of warrior, I also don’t seek to be “unbiased” or even particularly “objective.” I try to admit my biases, so if I feel strongly about something, I try to say so. Within the bounds of reason, I also try to be willing to identify contradictions in my own thinking as well as that of other people, and question my premises. I admit, it’s a very poor way to run a war, but a war is not what I am running here.
I suspect that everyone is biased, and there’s nothing dishonest about our biases. What is dishonest is conceal bias and pretend that it does not exist. That is what the MSM got away with for years, and I think people got sick of it, so now they can choose between Beck and Hannity on the one hand, and Olbermann and Maddow on the other. Whether it’s “journalism,” who knows? Does anyone really care? Is what I’m doing right now a form of journalism? Technically, yes.
But I’d hate to think that might make me a “journalist,” because once you accept a label, you become the label, and conditions attach. “Blogger” is a much bigger, much safer category. It’s also more honest. (I’ll take a biased blogger over an unbiased journalist any day, as I know what I’m getting.)
Yet as Radosh points out, blogs — even the biggest, most influential blogs — are routinely ignored, and what they say does not “count” until it gets noticed and repeated by the guys who have the large, FCC-licensed mikes:

The expose of Jones’s background and previous life as a far-left revolutionary was exposed by a blogger who writes under the name Gateway Pundit. Material about Jones was made available at David Horowitz’s website DiscoverTheNetworks.com. The material was relevant to the public’s right to know whether such a man should have ever been appointed to a White House position. The blogs were completely ignored, until Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck took up the case and nightly aired segments about him.

I take a certain perverse delight in the knowledge that when I write posts I’m likely to be ignored, because there’s freedom in that. Freedom to just be yourself. The larger the mike, the more the pressure, and the greater that paralyzing sense of “responsibility” becomes. Also, the more likely it is that you’ll be singled out by the smear outfits and treated like Joe the Plumber and “brought down” or “demolished” or whatever they call it. The more off the radar screen you are, the freer you are to be yourself and be honest. Because power corrupts, the lack of power that goes with being off the radar screen allows a refreshing form of self honesty. Ironically, this echoes the “journalism” which Bowden argues has been lost:

Journalism, done right, is enormously powerful precisely because it does not seek power. It seeks truth. Those who forsake it to shill for a product or a candidate or a party or an ideology diminish their own power. They are missing the most joyful part of the job.
This is what H. L. Mencken was getting at when he famously described his early years as a Baltimore Sun reporter. He called it “the life of kings.”

Except truth seekers are not now, and never have been, kings.
They’re more likely to be fools. Not so long ago, only fools had the freedom to speak their mind. Now anyone can be what Bowden calls a “carpal-tunnel curmudgeon.”
For some awfully strange reason, the unpleasant topic of truth-seeking reminds me of this fascinating irony uttered by the late Irving Kristol:

There are different kinds of truths for different kinds of people. There are truths appropriate for children; truths that are appropriate for students; truths that are appropriate for educated adults; and truths that are appropriate for highly educated adults, and the notion that there should be one set of truths available to everyone is a modern democratic fallacy. It doesn’t work.

I was never a fan of Irving Kristol. However, I think he may have been onto something there. For as the Internet will attest, truths are out of control. Truths of all stripes are running wild all over the place. The Internet is a great place to find whatever truth you want. It’s especially great for people who simply do not want any truths except those which conform to what they want to believe. Selective truths for selective truth seekers. Seek the truth ye want, and ye shall find the truth ye seek!
Dealing with those who believe they have found the truth that’s right for them is difficult — especially when their truth is said to be absolute. Disagreeing with such truths is seen as evil. OTOH, making allowances for it as their truth, or as “the truth that’s appropriate for them” is seen as moral relativism. Whether truth is opinion or fact can get dicey, because facts are inherently true while opinions are opinions. Yet that does not prevent people from insisting that certain opinions are facts, if not “truths.” An opinion said to be the truth is still an opinion, and calling an opinion an ultimate or absolute truth does not alter that fact.
So it’s probably good that power abhors truth and truth abhors power. Just think about the consequences if power actually sought truth. Because, if power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely, then absolute truth would become absolutely powerful, and absolutely corrupt.
So what could be more foolish than attempting to speak truth to power?