Tag Archives: marketplace of ideas

Why isn’t Rush happy?: Limbaugh inadvertently illustrates democracy in action

America’s democratic ideal doesn’t work perfectly. Sometimes it doesn’t work at all, and in these cases it feeds our cynicism to the point where we’re tempted to conclude that the very possibility of true freedom is a sham. I know whereof I speak, because there are few people out there more soaked in bile than I am.

Still, this whole “marketplace of ideas” is a marvelous concept. Perhaps the most marvelous concept in history. Drawing on the Miltonian belief that if people are allowed to enter the agora and freely state their cases, then “the truth will out” (that is, an educated and informed citizenry will unerringly perceive the truth and that weaker ideas will be disregarded in favor of stronger ones), our nation’s founders crafted a Constitution that assured people the right to voice their opinions, free from government intrusion. Continue reading Why isn’t Rush happy?: Limbaugh inadvertently illustrates democracy in action

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Why American media has such a signal-to-noise problem, pt. 2

Part 2 of a series; Previously: What Bell Labs and French Intellectuals Can Tell Us About Cronkite and Couric

The Signal-to-Noise Journey of American Media

The 20th Century represented a Golden Age of Institutional Journalism. The Yellow Journalism wars of the late 19th Century gave way to a more responsible mode of reporting built on ethical and professional codes that encouraged fairness and “objectivity.” (Granted, these concepts, like their bastard cousin “balance,” are not wholly unproblematic. Still, they represented a far better way of conducting journalism than we had seen before.) It’s probably not idealizing too much to assert that reporting in the Cronkite Era, for instance, was characterized by a commitment to rise above partisanship and manipulation. The journalist was expected to hold him/herself to a higher standard and to serve the public interest. These professionals – and I have met a few who are more than worthy of the title – believed they had a duty to search for the facts and to present them in a fashion that was as free of bias as possible.

In other words, their careers, like that of Claude Shannon, were devoted to maximizing the signal in the system – the system here being the “marketplace of ideas.” Continue reading Why American media has such a signal-to-noise problem, pt. 2

Blogging USA: Thinkworld vs. Shoutworld

This article originally appeared in the Shoptalk section of the Editor & Publisher online edition.


— High hopes for the watchdogs in the blogosphere during Campaign 2004 were only partly realized, as consumers strapped on their blinders and hung a fast left or right, looking for a witty putdown they might agree with.

(November 13, 2004) — Expectations were high among the legions surfing the blogosphere during 2004 election campaign. Web logs speaking from the left, right, and middle (although mostly the left and right) crowded every corner of the Net, and their explosive growth and perceived influence led both Democratic and GOP leaders to extend convention credentials to online journalists.

All of the sudden, the real world was taking bloggers seriously. Continue reading Blogging USA: Thinkworld vs. Shoutworld