Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Sock Puffery

[posted by Callimachus]

Patterico examines the recent history of media figures caught abusing puppets. That is, reporters who wrote online, then couldn't resist the urge to create other Internet voices to applaud themselves. A shameful and shabby practice rightly execrated.

The craft of blogging is now well-understood enough that people can look back into history and discover ur-bloggers; people who were essentially doing what we do here, before the medium existed. Just a week or so ago the New York Times book review section identified one of them in John Adams; the second president's extensive margin notes in the books he read amounted to a pithy fisking that reads much like a good blog.

Well, media sock puppets are nothing new either.

When Walt Whitman, a printer and journalist by trade, published "Leaves of Grass" in the fall of 1855, three anonymous reviews among the 20 or so that appeared truly grasped the importance of the book and the poet's masterful, holistic vision. They appeared in the "United States and Democratic Review" ("An American bard at last!"), the "Brooklyn Daily Times," and the "American Phrenological Journal."

All three were written by Walt Whitman.

This wasn't a scandal in those days, even if it had been known. Journalists, even prominent ones, routinely wrote good reviews in exchange for money. Promoting your own book was nothing different. Back then, it was called "puffing."

The funny thing is, Instapundit titles his link to Patterico's post Song of Myself

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