Journalistas, negocios y blogueros
Pseudo-journalists blog without the facts
We are in a crisis in local government today. Besides addressing corruption and fiscal irresponsibility, which has eroded citizen confidence, we have to create an environment where responsible, publicly minded people are willing to come forward to serve in government. This becomes less and less likely with one of the culprits being the irresponsible insidious political blogging that is wreaking havoc on the political landscape.
Because of the very personal nature of the blog attacks, this relatively new but escalating problem is terrorizing local government officials.
Citizen frustration and anger at government makes blogging a popular venue. Bloggers claim to write as champions of “honest” government but their tactics are anything but honest. If you follow the blogs in any city, you are likely to find persistent, insidious, purposely uninformed and mendacious activists waging a relentless campaign designed to create distrust of government. These cyber-terrorists fancy themselves as cyber-journalists and opinion-makers but frequently distort or misrepresent the actual facts and malign even the good and decent public officials, further eroding public confidence. They are operating and claiming cover of “free speech.”
Of course, in a democracy, there should be free speech, dissent or protest. We can’t, and would not want to, do without public watchdogs. The problem is not the discourse — it is the credibility given the mass media nature of the blogs without the concomitant standards for journalism which include fact-checking and fair comment.
Further exacerbating the problem is the anonymity afforded bloggers. The accused do not get to confront their accusers; members of the public don’t get the facts or the benefit of true debate on substantive issues. What we get is what political comedian Stephen Colbert calls “truthiness” masquerading as truth. These pseudo cyber-journalists include in their messages just a kernel of truth to give the appearance of legitimacy to an otherwise deceptive argument or flawed conclusion. “Truth,” not “truthiness,” should be the standard for these publications. Issues, not personalities, should be the subject of discussion.
Yet these blogs are popular. Why? If it is citizen anger, on the one hand, that creates the bloggers, it is citizen apathy, on the other, that allows this phenomenon to take hold. It is easier to sign onto the blogs and rely on them for the information, than to independently research issues and verify allegations.
Besides, in this age of reality TV where anyone says anything and the more outrageous the better, our appetite for sensationalism is huge. Reading accusations that our local commissioners are “spending like drunken sailors” whether or not it is true is more interesting than reading the town’s budget to determine what is actually being spent.
So, with the click of the “send” button, these cyber-bullies can increase their “hits” by throwing proverbial rocks through windows and burning cyber-crosses on the lawn for no reason other than they are angry and they can — and good and decent public officials are being blamed based on distortions and falsehoods.
This phenomenon of targeting, scapegoating, and lying to achieve an end has been described by renowned psychiatrist and best-selling author Scott Peck in his book about evildoers called People of the Lie. He says lying is both the cause and the manifestation of evil done under the guise of propriety (“we bloggers just want to get rid of corruption”) and as an expression of political power (“we bloggers are merely exercising our First Amendment rights.”) Of course, this is no longer an expression of civil rights; it is an uncivil wrong. To the bloggers the means justify their ends. To an ethical person, the means is all that counts.
In such an environment, what person of good caliber and moral fiber would voluntarily subject themselves and their families to such harm and incivility?
Lynn Dannheisser is an attorney for the town of Surfside.
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