Raspberry’s Web of Bunk

Illustrated with stories of Gennifer Flowers, the CIA and Swift Boat Veterans, William Raspberry examines the world of Web information and finds it wanting. He sees the mainstream press being dragged into stories it ought not to be reporting by “more or less ordinary citizens” and thinks this is not good.

The explosion of the Internet leaves us, in effect, with no gatekeeper. Sometimes important information gains currency that way. The problem is that anyone with Web access can run any cockamamie story up the flagpole — and if enough people salute, prompt the mainstream press to deploy its resources.
So here’s a little email I sent to him, because I truly have admired his work over the years.

Dear Mr. Raspberry,

I’ve long been an admirer of yours, and your column lamenting the lack of a gatekeeper on the Web doesn’t change that. However, I’d like to respectfully submit a couple of important matters for you to ponder in light of your arguments.

1. The need for a gatekeeper assumes the existence of a gate. In the new information paradigm, that doesn’t exist, mostly because the people now believe it is an illusion. Besides, they’re not happy with the people who’ve taken it upon themselves to keep the gate. Traditional mainstreamers, such as yourself, cannot imagine a world without that darned gate, because you’ve taken for granted that your role in culture is to filter truth. A lot of people think that’s the bunk.

2. Your belief that a conspiracy by a well-armed (financed) political machine can taint the political discussion by feeding false information via the Internet makes the same assumption. What you fail to understand is the self-correcting nature of the public discussion that takes place on the Web. If there is no absolute truth when it comes to politics, why do we pretend that there is? Again, this assumes that there is a gate between all these various opinions and truth. There isn’t.

I appreciate your position and understand it better than you may realize. I’m simply stating that if you embrace change, it isn’t nearly as fearful as what you might think. The blogosphere has a floating floor that rises and falls with the various cultural tides that influence us from day-to-day. An idea that bursts to the surface one day is sunk the next, as we go about learning as a group. It is a very exciting place.

Respectfully,

Terry L. Heaton

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