A Good Time to Be a Blogger; or, I Know How Dan Rather Feels

Thursday, September 30th, 2004, 9:52 pm

Wasn’t too long ago that the average American, upon hearing the word “blogger”, thought it was a reference to a video game–you know, there was “Frogger”, and this must be the PlayStation 2 sequal. But blogs have been big in the news lately, thanks to CBS News and their rather shaky fact-checking policies. Get it, “rather” shaky, Dan Rather…BWAHAHAHAHA! Ehh, I guess it was funny the first thousand times the joke was made out in the blogosphere, but not the next four million.

Unless you live under an especially large rock you’ve heard the story by now. CBS News gets some documents written by Bush’s commanding officer that allege someone was pressuring him to “sugar coat” Bush’s military record. CBS went with the story on 60 Minutes II, and within milliseconds bloggers were crawling out of the woodwork contesting the authenticity of the documents. Within a day a variety of bloggers had shown that the docs looked like they’d been written on Microsoft Word; that the docs in question did not look anything like docs typed by the same office at a similar time; that it was highly unlikely that a National Guard post would have had access to the sophisticated typewriters required at the time to produce such novelties as superscripts.

At first CBS said it had verified the documents independently, but then their verifiers said, “Uh, no, we verified zilch”, and the scorn and calumny started to pile up as it became obvious that, not only were the documents almost certainly bogus, but CBS hadn’t even bothered to check them out. If you want a full accounting of the scandal, including the ceaseless circling of the vultures, check out Glenn Reynolds’ site Instapundit, which has been providing total gleeful coverage of the whole thing.

“Rathergate”, as the affair has inevitably been called, illustrates the enormous power we humble folks blogging for kicks can exert. You get a few motiviated cranks (and I use the term with all due respect) with bullshit detectors set on HIGH and they can quickly rip through stories and reports that in an earlier day would have been taken as gospel. Without the rapid response of the blogger brigade the CBS story may have sat out there, unchallenged, for days, even weeks. Eventually the Bush campaign would have done some digging and thinking and possibly exposed the documents as frauds, but when you’re busy thinking up synonyms for “flip-flop” and concocting labrynthine explanations to hopefully confuse the electorate into thinking everything is going swimmingly in Iraq, you don’t have a lot of time to deal with this sort of stuff.

And so bloggers came to the rescue and gave CBS one seriously black eye. I don’t think, as so many of the political bloggers do, that Rather will resign over this. Rather is a total kook, has been one for years, and I don’t think anyone at CBS News has the oomph to even broach the subject. Maybe Sumner Redstone will look at CBS News’ plummeting ratings and decide he needs to do the shoving, but I’m not holding my breath. Nor do I much care. I don’t get my news from the networks anymore. I listen to NPR, watch CNN, I read Slate and The New Republic online, and I read a fair number of blogs. This menu may mark me as a political liberal, though I prefer the label “independent thinker”. I’m a big boy, I know that there’s bias in reporting, “fair and balanced” nonwithstanding. I can tell when a story is slanted, or, if I’m not sure, I take my news with a grain of salt and double-check things.

That’s one of the blogosphere’s greatest virtues. You hear something on CNN, and with a few clicks you can see what half-a-dozen intelligent (or, if you prefer, not-so-intelligent) pundits think about it. What’s more, they usually read and comment on each other’s stuff, so you get a lot of back and forth discussion and debate. From there its up to you, the reader, to sort the wheat from the chaff. Instead of Dan Rather staring at you and intoning today’s headlines, you get a big room full of people talking back and forth.

A big, big room. Lots and lots of people. And sometimes they aren’t talking, they’re yelling. Screaming. Rending their garments. That’s a problem with blogs, trying to figure out who’s worth reading and who isn’t. And there are lots and lots and lots of people worth reading. Far too many. For God’s sake, check out the blogroll the next time you visit Iggy, it’s out of control. And those are just blogs about poker, for crying out loud. Or check out l’homme gros for an endless list of blogs, poker and beyond.

You could spend all day reading blogs and never even scratch the surface. It shows how many intelligent people there are out there, interested in every subject under sun, connected to each other by serendipity and hyperlinks. Blogs connect people who otherwise might never have known that there was someone else out into the same weird stuff. They enlighten people looking for another point of view. They let folks express ideas and dreams that otherwise may have died away, or been recorded in some dusty journal that would never see the light of day. Not every blog is worth its bandwidth, but there’s so much good stuff out there that it’s worth some digging.

While I haven’t done anything like expose a fraud committed by a network news organization, I like to think I’ve done some public service. I noticed I got a lot of hits from people looking up stuff about Dutch Boyd, and hopefully they read my posts detailing his involvement with an online poker room that went belly-up, stiffing a lot of players who had funds in poker accounts there. ESPN hasn’t breathed a word about the controversy, preferring instead to glorify Boyd and his “Crew” and turn them into stars who make their WSOP coverage more compelling. As they’ve done to Phil Hellmuth, giving him tons of airtime the past two years to act like a self-absorbed, self-involved jerk, and I wrote a screed that argued behavior like that is NOT a good thing. Hopefully a few eyes were opened.

But I’ve had rather a Rather moment myself. I read something poker author David Sklansky posted on one of the 2+2 message boards, a truly loony thing about women being insatiably attracted to intelligent men who are good at math. I read it, thought it deserved a reply, and cranked out a mammoth ripjob. Only to find out a few days later, thanks to Felicia, that Sklansky was just joking, that he writes oddball posts all the time. Well, shit. Unlike Rather, I immediately put up a post alerting readers that I’d goofed and overreacted and that my previous post should either be treated as fiction or as sewage. An honest mistake, and only perhaps 100 people read the thing, but I still felt goddam stupid and embarassed. Another weakness bloggers must work hard to overcome–too often we rely solely on the Internet, and other bloggers, for our information. Have to be very careful you don’t get isolated, insulated from voices outside your normal sphere, that you aren’t merely parroting what someone else said just because of who said it. It’s not like I could’ve rung Sklansky up and said, “Hey, are you nuts?” as a “regular” reporter might have done, but I should’ve at least read the whole 2+2 thread to see if he’d come back to say he was joshing, which he in fact did. Bad Gene, no biscuit.

But blogs are here to stay, they’re in the mainstream now. If you don’t have a blog, start one. Right now. Go to the top of the page, to the NavBar, and on the right you’ll see the button marked “Get Your Own Blog”. Couldn’t be easier. If a total moron like me can put up a blog, you can too. And you should.

OK, that’s enough. If you weren’t planning on visiting Iggy today, you should, because today is his blog’s birthday! One whole year of destroying workplace productivity, imagine that. Thanks to Ig and SirFWALGman and Ryan (and I don’t mean my 7-card-stud playin’, Bush-votin’ brother) for their help trying to get those stupid Adsense ads to work. Still isn’t working right, which means I’m doing something wrong. Ahhh, I’ll get it figured out eventually.

I’ll be asking for more help from my fellow poker bloggers in the near future, tho not about HTML this time. I’m writing a novel (well, I will be soon, more on that in a later post) in which poker of course plays a big role, and I need info from my fellow enthusiasts to give the story verisimi…verisamil…to make it sound like I know what I’m talking about. And since I have access to this vast body of knowledge and expertise, why not draw on it? Why not, indeed.

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9 Responses to “A Good Time to Be a Blogger; or, I Know How Dan Rather Feels”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    1. Bush is The Man. Let Kerry go snowboarding with his African American Wife….She should be ashamed.
    2.7 Card Stud is Poker. Not Texas Hold Em..And its Hold THEM not EM you losers. All poker players need to learn that luck is a lot more important then they think. F odds, odds are just the possiblity of losing not winning.
    3. Dan Rather is a hack….What is the frequency Kenneth??? I will tell you. Dan Rather is Matt Lauer on during prime time. An Man who had to fill in for Walter Cronkite and before there was cable. Today Dan couldnt get a job selling Stacker 2 during a WWF pay-per-view.

    The Brother

  2. AlCantHang Says:

    Brilliant post. On of the best I’ve ever read.

  3. Anonymous Says:

    Great post sir.

    Since you are writing a novel featuring poker, may I suggest a new book I just read (not a shill, I get nothing).

    It’s called “King of a Small World: A Poker Novel”

    I liked it, let me know what you think, I assume it’s on Amazon.

    JohnnyHarp

    sidewayspoker.blogspot.com

  4. Ignatious Says:

    great post, gene. i’m still embarassed to ever tell anyone out there in the Real World that i write a blog but it’s not quite as cringe worthy as it was a year ago.

    congrats on getting that adsense fixed, too. 🙂

  5. Dr. Pauly Says:

    Best of luck Gene!

    Shoot me an email when you get a chance. You should look into this:

    http://www.nanowrimo.org

    I did it the last two years. It’s a great tool!

  6. StudioGlyphic Says:

    Re: the political liberal menu

    I don’t think listening to NPR qualifies as a liberal activity, or at least it shouldn’t. There was that PIPA poll which showed that NPR listeners were least likely to believe there was a connection between Iraq and 9/11 or that weapons of mass destruction had been found in Iraq, while Fox News viewers were most likely to hold misconceptions about the facts. In my opinion, accurately reporting the news doesn’t mean NPR leans toward any end of the political spectrum. I suppose there is the off-chance that Fox and NPR report the same news and that the self-selecting audience is so vastly different that they take different things away from it, but I wouldn’t risk any money on those odds.

    As for The New Republic, it’s not really that liberal. I think they endorsed Joe Lieberman and supported the Iraq war (and still supported it for a long time, though I haven’t checked back recently), which doesn’t make them very left at all. Of course, with the right-wing tugging at the political spectrum as far as it will go, anything to the left of Nixon is going to seem liberal. In fact, by today’s standards, even Nixon would be considered a rather liberal Republican. Didn’t he have a plan for universal health care? Didn’t he normalize relations with China, that big bad Commie superpower of the East?

    Anyway, my two cents.

    StudioGlyphic

    P.S. CBS fucked up big time. Blogs are great. Keep writing yours.

  7. Anonymous Says:

    Gene –

    If you’re at all interested in NaNoWriMo, keep in touch with me. Pauly’s pushed me toward doing it this year and I think I will. I’m in the middle of outlining, character-building, and all those other fun things I need to be able to crank out lots of words. There’s no poker playing content in mine, but it’s still writing and that’s always a good thing. If you need moral support, I might just be able to commiserate with you.

    – Jason
    Catching the Antichrist (catchingtheantichrist.jasonkirk.net)

  8. Anonymous Says:

    Okay, I didn’t even read past the first paragraph.
    I liked the Rather joke. It’s been made before?
    I only read poker blogs, so I can be excused for missing it, I hope.
    I can’t think of anything more to say. I think your first comment said something about Stud being real poker. I have played mostly Hold Em, and some Stud.
    I have to say that Stud is mostly luck, just like the comment says, and is very frustrating to play.

  9. "check here" Says:

    “pdf information”

    “[…]t Music began playing when I opened this web site, so annoying! kh[…]”

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