Hierarchy versus anarchy — in the blogosphere

There’s a fascinating discussion underway in a Listserv of the Media Bloggers Association (of which I’m a member) regarding a code of ethics. It’s been going on for two days, and I wish I could share it with everybody. Jeff Jarvis said he didn’t like the idea of a set “code” of anything, and he made his case. Dana Blankenhorn of Corante’s “Moore’s Lore” wrote a blog entry with his opinion, taking Jarvis to task for his. He then posted this on the Listserv (or it could’ve been the other way around).

Not being one to resist, Jeff blogged his response.

Both sides are worth reading, and here’s what I posted as a comment on buzzmachine:

Having met with local bloggers from two entirely different communities, I’m happy to report that we all have much more in common than not. These are living, breathing communities of people, each with a passion that’s found only in those with something to say. There are many, many things that make the blogosphere different than mainstream media, but this one strikes me as the most significant. For people with something to say are inherently different than people who are paid to say something.

This is why I always back away from discussions that smack — in any way, shape or form — of joining, supplanting, or otherwise replacing the mass media. The media is one of the most common topics of discussion in the blogosphere, because a.) we know a lot about it, b.) we’re bombarded by it every minute of our lives, and c.) we’re not happy with it. The “Media” Bloggers Association is an organization of people who do just that.

And yet, amongst media bloggers, there is a perceptible force that sees blogging as the “new” media, one that will work alongside and, perhaps one day, BECOME the media. When we talk “A‑list, B‑list,” want recognition as “journalists,” and desire our organizations to reflect certain standards, etc., I come away with this conclusion.

We cannot rail against the man and want to be the man at the same time. That’s been tried before, and nothing new ever comes out of it. The personal media revolution (Lasica’s term) IS something new, and I think those of us in it would do well to act as though we really believe that. Then we wouldn’t have arguments about rules, for we’d realize that it is the rules that are the problem in the first place.

I hate to use Biblical quotes, but they’re apropos. We are in the world but not of it, and you can’t pour new wine into old wineskins.

We can do better than a code of ethics. Thanks for being you, Jeff.

I’ve been advocating that we (the MBA) consider the model of Alcoholics Anonymous. A.A. is the prototype postmodern institution. The organization appears anarchical, but it is held together by common interest. There are no rules, no codes, no “objective standards” for membership (only a desire to stop drinking), no hierarchy, no governing body and nobody in charge. It’s based on suggestions and traditions, and only a member can decide if he or she belongs.

I don’t know where we’re headed with this, but the ride is fun. And I have confidence that, in the end, we’ll somehow get it right. I certainly hope so.


  1. Henry Harrison says

    Given the ‘Modern’ world’s addiction to authority I think you are right on the nail with your A.A. organisational model Terry!

Speak Your Mind


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.