Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Council Winners

This week's Watchers Council winners have been posted.

First place went to your humble servant's post We Could Be Heroes, by a nose, over A Few Points That Are Not Morally Equivalent by that new guy, AbbaGav. He takes a powerful stand, and I agree with him:

So I say it plainly: the morality of Israel's self-defense is superior to the morality of those who attack her, decade after decade, through wars of annihilation and pizzeria suicide bombings alike.

Also getting votes were Clans of the Alphane Moon by ShrinkWrapped, a fascinating look at various descents into madness, both individual and collective. And yes, bonus points for the Philip K. Dick reference.

Other votes went to The War Against the Jews and the War Against Us by Joshuapundit, Hiroshima: Same Time, Next Year by Right Wing Nut House; and Ignoring a Minor Detail by Rhymes With Right.

Outside the council, the winner was Israel Has No Right to Exist by One Cosmos.

Other votes went to A Photojournalist Weighs in on the Adnan Hajj Scandal by The Shape of Days, which looks at the case of the Reuters photographer who clone-stamped in a whole lot of smoke on his photo of Beirut under fire and subsequently got fired himself when bloggers smoked him out.

It's a good post, but it makes me wonder about the whole "citizen journalist" thing. A blogger who cheerfully admits to not knowing much about mass media digital photography editing goes out and finds someone who does know about it and conducts an interview.

On one level, that's great! It's exactly what the media does. You go out on an interview intending to appear ignorant, and then you collect your answers and shape them into a story that hopefully explains some issue or situation to your readers.

But we already have the MSM for that. A blogger outside the big media box might ask specific questions the professional reporters might omit. Certainly that is an answer to the frustration expressed by both left and right: "Yeah, but what about _____?"

But in a world where dozens of actual photojournalists, and countless freelance photographers, have their own blogs, isn't it better to eschew the filters altogether, however well-intentioned?

In that light, one of the nominees I voted for was Talk of the Town by BuzzMachine, in which Jeff Jarvis, who was the involuntary contributor of some of the straw for a "New Yorker" anti-blog straw man, responds and elaborates. It's a great world when the sources can talk back to the media, and probably have as many readers.

Also, the dismissive tone here was not helpful. I thought Hajj's excuse that he was hitting the wrong button on Adobe, while hardly convincing, was at least plausible. Hell, it's better than any Floyd Landis excuse I've heard. Doesn't mean he's not guilty.

Finally, on that whole matter, when I got into journalism in 1983, I dreamed of being a foreign correspondent (Woodward and Bernstein were not my idols). But even then, I was told to forget about it. Already, the pool of full-time foreign correspondent jobs had shrunk to little more than 1,000, and most of those were filled by locals. In other words, the AP wasn't going to spend money to send an American to cover Iran; they were going to hire a native Iranian.

The advantages were obvious. The disadvantages perhaps were not. In volatile political settings, a local could more easily take sides, could more easily manipulate the reporting, and could more easily slip such work past an editor unfamiliar with the reality on the ground. American reporters would have their biases and tendencies, too, but I think overall they would resist the temptation to inject them so blatantly, in a fight that didn't involve them personally, and they would be more easily perceived by their bosses when doing so.

Islamist Bandwagons, a useful set of links by Abu Aardvark also got votes. This blog goes in the "indispensible" category. The author has his points of view. And they certainly will not always be yours, whoever you are. You are not required to accept them as unassailable, but you had better bring an argument; his are based on specific information and usually built from the bottom up, not from the ideology down. Here, among other things, he takes on the emerging view that the Sunni-Shia rivalry explains the modern Muslim political scene.

Finally, there's Crusader, who, bless his heart, looks at the modern mess and asks, "What would Alfred do?" Alfred the Great, that is. The post title is "Alfred and the Complexity of War."

Rarely in history have we seen anything so farcical as the situation we have now between the West and Islam. On one side the enemy beats its shields and howls for our heads, while on the other side we look for any possible excuse...not just to avoid war...but to avoid acknowledging that the enemy even exists.

I deeply sympathize with the idea that war ought to be a last resort. War is a horrible thing to behold, and the war that is coming will be nasty, brutish and long. But the barbarians are here whether we like it or not, and they want war, and there is nothing very complicated about that.

Just remember, you can't burn your cakes and eat them, too.