Tuesday, December 14, 2004

The Sociopathology of the Troll 

Very interesting item yesterday (or maybe the day before? I haven't been on vacation in sunny Guantanamo, just hideously busy which makes my time sense more warped than usual) from our esteemed friend Juan Cole.

It's a slighly different topic from his usual fare but one which he has had cause to look into since he became the target of a very well-organized witchhunt. (Go read back a few days, but the the short version is, the Likudniks are gunning to shut him up from telling inconvenient truths.)

Starting from an item at Martini Republic he discourses as follows:
The phenomenon of blog trolling, and frankly of blog agents provocateurs secretly working for a particular group or goal and deliberately attempting to spread disinformation, is likely to grow in importance. It is a technique made for the well-funded Neoconservatives, for instance, and I have my suspicions about one or two sites out there already.

The manipulation of public information by rightwing think tanks in collusion with corporate media is already well advanced. Kevin Drum points out that supposedly "liberal" CBS News interviewed a think tank author on the need to "privatize" (in other words, get rid of) Social Security, portraying him as an ordinary 28 year old citizen who "doesn't expect the program to be there" when he retires. I guess not, since he is working so hard to destroy it. Journalistic ethics should have required CBS to identify the interviewee as a principal with an axe to grind.

Will the blogging world go the same way? So far, if you look at the top hundred sites at technorati.com with regard to incoming links, what is striking is how above-board they are. Is the collective wisdom of the blogging world such as to reduce the dangers here? Is the blogging world actually less open to manipulation than corporate media? Stay tuned.
There have been some very ominous statements made in DC of late on the "need for regulation of the Internet" in such areas as political fundraising and a widely-quoted remark by ex-CIA chief Tenet on the need for "greater security" on the Net. At the same time we are seeing individual reporters being threatened with, or actually subjected to, jail time for upholding the right to protect sources.

Frankly, folks, I think They are out to get all of us in the news-dissemination business. Shut us up, shut us down, or scare us into self-censorship. I guess I have to take back the rude things I said about Judith "Kneepads" Miller earlier this year and stick up for her too (ack, hack, gag, but oh well.)

CONGRESS SHALL MAKE NO LAW...ABRIDGING THE FREEDOM OF SPEECH, OR OF THE PRESS. That's it. If that goes down the Republic goes with it.

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