Monday, October 21, 2002

MSNBC, HEAL THYSELF: Regular readers of this page have surely noted my frequent links and references to Little Green Footballs, a national treasure among blogs. Charles Johnson should be commended for his tireless fight against worldwide institutionalized racism and antisemitism -- a crusade which, by its very nature, inevitably forces one to take sides.

But in the topsy-turvy, touchy-feely, multi-culti Bizarro World -- where every point of view is arguably correct, as long as you're willing to overlook enough history, context, science and reason -- Charles often takes a lot of heat from those who are deeply invested in a certain emotionally comforting, but intellectually lazy (or fundamentally dishonest) narrative of current events.

Yesterday, MSNBC's Weblog Central feature -- having recently listed Little Green Footballs on their "Best of Blogs" link list -- decided that it hadn't enough professional objectivity to make its own determination whether LGF's one-sidedness rendered it, arguably, the equivalent of a "hate site."

In recommending LGF to MSNBC's readers, Weblog Central editor Will Femia was actually at first, rather boldly asking of his readers that they be prepared to choose sides. But having received a handful of objections from Charles's detractors -- who will remain unnnamed and unlinked here -- Mr. Femia apparently hadn't the courage of his own convictions to stay out on that limb, and swiftly fell back on that old, safe disclaimer: The comments of Mr. Johnson do not necessarily reflect those of this website or the management of MSNBC. More tellingly, Femia invited his readers to weigh in and advise him whether to altogether revoke LGF's prominent link.

This is not merely an act of cowardly editorial ambivalence; it's yet another face of moral equivalence. Femia is saying -- in effect -- that when LGF merely exposes the racist, hate-fomenting lies of the Arab world's state-owned, state-controlled, state-censored newspaper and television broadcasts, LGF is itself equally guilty of anti-Islamic racism. After all, a truly fair and balanced weblog would concede that each side is equally likely to be right in the context of its own culture.

The problem with such lovely sentiments is that some cultural mythologies are both unequivocally untrue and dangerous -- too dangerous to let stand unchallenged. For example, the Jewish Blood Libel, which was published last spring in a Saudi-run newspaper under the guise of a "scholarly" article, is an unconscionable lie. And when its sentiments are allowed to spread, unchecked, to American college campuses where it is embraced as "just another point of view," someone has be ready call the liars what they truly are -- no matter that their feelings may be hurt.

The beauty of Little Green Footballs is that it strives to make its point on factual and intellectual merits -- while its frustrated adversaries can only resort to the smokescreen of blatant ad hominem attacks, in an attempt to discredit the person rather than the argument: i.e.,

  • Charles Johnson's one-sidedness could be interpreted that he himself has a racist agenda;
  • Therefore, he can be wholly dismissed as an unreliable, untrustworthy racist person.
  • No intelligent person would waste any time even bothering to examine the evidence or arguments put forth by a racist website, so it doesn't belong on MSNBC's link list after all.

MSNBC must really be on the skids, if they cannot bear to offend those few dozen readers whose only successful debate tactic is to shout the equivalent of "I know you are, but what am I?"

One could make the point that LGF does have a sort of a public relations "problem," to the extent that its largely unmoderated comments section attracts all kinds -- including a few overwrought wingers on both sides, who are oftentimes a little too quick to verbalize their own baser instincts. But they are vastly outweighed by the number of participants whose contributions are thoughtfully, carefully fact-checked and backed up by amply linked references.

In short, by encouraging such spirited give-and-take, Little Green Footballs is a vertible "marketplace of ideas" -- exactly the kind of forum which is antithetical to superstitious rot, unintentional misstatement and outright falsehoods. LGF is eminently willing give a fair hearing to "alternative" belief systems -- but it will not accept them at face value simply because they are widely held. Only those ideas which can survive under the light of rigorous intellectual scrutiny will be given the respect they deserve -- and those which fail the test will have their fraudulent underpinnings revealed for all to see.

How could MSNBC possibly have mistaken such a nobel endeavor for a true "hate site," of the sort which would merely function as an echo chamber for its authors' prejudices? Only by defining down "hate" itself until the word means anything -- or nothing -- until it is, to quote the omnipresent Instapundit, merely "a synonym for what certain people just disagree with."

Mr. Femia's cowardly backtracking is pathetic. Up until now, I've barely taken note of MSNBC's Weblog Central feature at all, and I will assuredly go out of my way to completely ignore it in the future. I do not even care to suggest that my own readers show their support for LGF by bombarding MSNBC with e-mail, as this whole sorry episode is just as likely a manufactured controversy, intended only to drum up traffic to this feeble excuse for a corporate blog-wannabe.

PatioPundit weighs in here.
BitchPundit weighs in here. (Fix your permalinks, dollink!)
Skippy weighs in here.
Misha weighs in here.
Tony Pierce weighs in here.
John Bono weighs in here.
Greatest Jeneration weighs in here.
Laurence Simon weighs in here.
Bill Herbert weighs in here.
Meryl Yourish weighs in here. (Oh, and scroll UP, too. It gets even better.)
261 (at this writing) readers of Little Green Footballs weigh in here.


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