Posted from the U.S.
(Reprinted from the original posting on www.forumblog.org on February 6, 2005)
Swarms of bloggers, in a furious feeding frenzy that I have only seen before in sharks, are tasting blood and moving in for the kill. What has now been dubbed "Easongate" by Rebecca MacKinnon has begun to leak into comics, hundreds of blogs, as well as the Washington Times (Friday 2/5/05 Op/Ed, "CNN's Line of Fire". I just saw on NBC's Chris Matthews show fellow blogger and political pundit Hugh Hewitt break the story on American television, promising that next week Easongate would blow open as big news. A lynch mob of bloggers is asking for Eason's head, and it seems that all of the excitement is moving towards a seemingly inevitable conclusion: the deposing of a news media chief disliked by the right, but apparently loved by an Aljazeera audience to whom he is supposedly pandering.
What Eason said will likely become available on mainstream media and the web in the coming week, so none of Eason's CNN canned responses are really going to help him. It seems that no one ever learns that just admitting that you screwed up is a best practice (see Clinton, Monica Lewinsky). The "persistence of memory" capability provided by technology, omnipresent video, and the web will no longer allow major leaders, as well as the rest of us, to ever escape what we say or do. Like the Biblical concept of the eye that sees all, and the scroll that records all, we are entering an era of informational accountability.
What can Eason do at this point? And what should we, the angry, pitchfork carrying mob of bloggers, do, at a crossroads where the challenge is not only to Eason Jordan, but to mainstream media itself. Let me break from the pack of wolves for a moment and propose a few things.
(1) For the mob of bloggers, please review the proposed Blogger Code of Ethics, whose highlights include: Be Honest & Fair, Minimize Harm, and Be Accountable. Are we all meeting this standard? Before Eason is stoned, are we sure that we are all without sin? Right wing bloggers: are you holding our leaders to the same standard of accountability that we are now holding Eason Jordan (see George W. Bush, reasons for invading Iraq)?
(2) For Eason: Admit your mistake, and use your power and capacity as one of the most powerful media figures in the world to turn CNN into a model of ethical, fair, and fact based journalism. Create new models of accountability where your own journalists will no longer report inflammatory or highly slanted stories just to feed into the appetities of regional audiences. Tell your bosses that the world is changing, the bloggers are watching, and it is high time for a new way to report the news and do business. Stop the ridiculous attempts at spinning bloggers, which only incites them (it's like chumming the water), and get real.
(3) Getting to the truth of this issue. The philosopher Karl Popper spoke of our inability to ever prove that something was true. We are only capable of constantly testing a theory, and so long as a theory can be tested and it is not proven false, it remains the closest approximation to the truth that we, as humans, will ever get. This is a basis for how modern science works. Modern journalism, on the other hand, occasionally resembles the Salem witch trials or the Spanish Inquisition.
The statement in question:
(a) Do U.S. Troops specifically target American and foreign journalists in Iraq?
The lack of a solid response by Eason Jordan, and the general silence by the left, seems to indicate that this is a false statement. However, is a random flurry of e-mails and blogs sufficient to throw this quesion away and send Eason packing? There have been a few e-mails, bloggers, and groups that are to a degree supporting this statement. Their voice is clearly not as strong as the blog swarm working to prove this statement false, but they are there. What will happen if a soldier steps forward and speaks his heart, or a journalist on the ground risks his or her life and admits that there is fire to the smoke. We all know that terrible things happened in Vietnam, and why should we believe that in Iraq all is well, or has gone well? In the real war that begun after the war was won, U.S. troops face an unseen enemy who lurks in the shadows, who can be anyone, and who fights with absolutely no rules, no ethics, and no morality. When the Soviet Union fought against Afghan rebels there were many accounts that the Soviet troops had to resort to unusual, terrible tactics to put fear into the hearts of the rebels. They could not fight that war by conventional means. Would the Pentagon want American citizens, let alone the world, to understand in detail what tactics are required to fight an enemy who belongs to no state, who utilizes any means, and who has no boundary of morality or human decency? Can one fight this enemy without becoming like that which we hate?
Maybe Eason Jordan does deserve whatever is coming to him, maybe not. He still has options at hand to come clean and become a new leader of what the media can be, as opposed to what it is. He, CNN, and the rest of the mainstream media can come to grips with the reality of a new order, of an uncontrollable blog swarm that will always demand the truth, and demand accountability for everything you do and say. The blog huns are at the gates of old media and you can not hide behind your walls anymore.
The swarm of bloggers have an unusual power and reach, and should they just brush off completely what Eason said? He is not the only one saying it, although no clear spokesperson for the other side of this debate has emerged. Someone must know soldiers on the ground, or journalists on the ground, and there must be members of that group who have a conscience. If anything Eason or a minority of others has said resembles the truth, this truly is the time to come forward. The silence of the other side to this debate only fuels the feeding frenzy, and it will soon be a feeding frenzy of the big media sharks, ready to tear apart one of their own. If another truth is out there, speak now, because your silence is deafening.