September 23, 2007

You Don't Even Know The Capital of Turkamyakfistan!

Many years ago, when I still lived on a small island, there was a great roaring debate about a lot of logging going on in a watershed. Now, there were pros and cons to each side, mostly boiling down to differences between public good (drinking water availability on an island is always a touchy subject) and private ownership (landholder wanted out and was stripping the land to sell), but one of the stranger exchanges I took part in went more or less like this:

Old Balding Man: "Oh, yeah? Well, I bet you don't even know where the salt springs are!"

The island I came from was named, in fact, Salt Spring Island; and outside of a general sense of "over there", I didn't know where the eponymous springs were. Still don't, as it happens.

Yours Truly: "On private property in the North End, aren't they?"

OBM: "Ah, ha! So you don't know where they are!"

YT: "Uh, no."

OBM: "So why should we listen to you tell people what to do?" *snort*

I waited. Ended up that what he just said was his entire argument, and it took a while to realize no more was coming. Now, I'm sure you've sensed the slight flaw in his reasoning.

YT: "So... that's it?" Nothing. "That's your argument?" Nothing. "Can you tell me what the Sam Hill difference my knowing where the salt springs are will make to arboreal biology? Clear cutting a watershed is a bad idea whether I know local geography or not!"

But as far as he was concerned, he had won the debate and didn't have to talk any more.

It was, and is, an infuriating approach. I was reminded of the encounter by another I had earlier this week with a co-worker: the point was a curfew for teen agers in our town. Eventually, she came out with:

"You don't have any kids, so you don't understand."

It's true that I don't have any kids, but that's not what we were debating. Odds are quite good that I never will have kids; but oddly, that's not stopping me from thinking. A point could be made that as I don't have any kids, my thoughts aren't coloured by the idea of protecting them at all costs and I can consider a balance between being a public nuisance and curtailing personal freedoms.

So why the trip down memory lane?

Mostly because of this sort of thing. The constant criticism of "bloggers" by folks in the main stream media is asinine: is there any reason why you have to have a press pass in order to think? Information is out there, and what people decide to do with it is up to them.

Going to criticize the blogs leaning left or right? Read more than two, and you're going to find a whole lot more than two points of view! Ends up, believe it or not, that there are a whole lot of people who actually are somewhere between the extremes.

And if you can find a single person who reads both the Washington Times and the Washington Post and thinks those rivals are equals in their reporting, then you've got a more famous searcher beat.

Going to criticize the accuracy of the "reporting" from blogs? I don't imagine I have to point out the sometimes startling degrees in quality of accuracy available from the usual sources...

How about local issues that just have a tiny three inches in the newspaper, or merely a blip on television, but can actually be considered and written about by people who care about that issue or are even directly involved?

We don't have a deadline. We don't have an editor breathing down our necks. We aren't forced to "go live, on the air" fifteen minutes after we hear about something.

We've actually got time to think. Go fig.

And what we don't have, what we most certainly DON'T have, is an obsession with Orenthal James.

We DON'T spend weeks discussing a single blond girl gone missing or died and left a kid.

We DON'T get distracted for months on end by some minor criminal trial while there's a war going on and while rights are being trampled.

Why not? Because there are too damn many of us.

We're not really fighting for ratings, because there's no way to take our competitors "off the air". We end up talking about what ever the hell interests us, because this is our toy, our soap box. We can talk for as long as we want when ever we want and however we want to.

We can even examine a government document and decipher what it means, because damned if some of the millions of us aren't damn smart.

We can review what statements our various governments make on Friday nights, even if the media tends to ignore them. Because they'll still be there in the morning. Hell, a bunch of us are still watching come 5 PM. It's because we're total geeks, but at least we're useful ones.

We are obsessive compulsives, and we'll track down stories that interest us because they interest us, not because we think they'll draw a crowd.

It's funny what an obsessive people can find out, if they try.

And we can leave the information all in one handy, dandy location for ease of reference: no passwords, no microfiche, and no locked and sealed vaults where people can pretend they never said what they very clearly did.

What it boils down to, my dear MSM friends, is this: if you're not going to help keep public figures honest, then quit complaining and get out of our way.


posted by Thursday at 4:41 pm


Blogger Gazetteer said...

Now don't tell my wife and/or kids this, but......

Sometimes I wonder if my love for them actually forces me to stop thinking sometimes.

Which, I guess was your point.

Regardless, excellent manifesto. There are many examples of the committed amateur getting to the heart of the matter. In fact, in a way, it's what separates the artists from the craftspeople, I reckon.

(And just who the heckfire was Sam Hill anyway?)

8:57 pm  
Blogger Thursday said...

Gaz -

I have nothing but respect for those folks for whom their kids are the most important things in their lives - and your's sound like a blast to have, by the way - but don't think that's going to stop me from pointing out when you're being silly about them.

Of course, you are certainly welcome to give me a smack upside the head when I'm being stupid about kids myself - it's not like I know what raising them is actually like!

As for Sam, there's one POV that has him being a failed politico:

But I like the idea of his being a more successful one who built the Peace Arch and was an advocate of good roads in the Pacific Northwest:

As a motorcyclist, I can appreciate that!

9:45 pm  

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