The political panel included John Podhoretz, Richard Fernandez of the blog "The Belmont Club", David Corn, Claudia Rosett, and Larry Kudlow as the moderator.
For most of the panel Fernandez closed his eyes and tilted his head back as if her were deep, deep in thought. On the few occasions in which he did speak he started using terminology from I'm not sure what discipline - software? engineering? - I'm not sure what, but I certainly didn't understand what he was trying to say. He doesn't know how to do panels.
David Corn makes a good point out the outset which is that blogs are mostly dependent upon the MSM to gather facts. I think OSM is supposed to get blogs more in the business of gathering facts themselves somehow, but nothing I saw yesterday indicated how that would happen. Corn's point doesn't really go far enough though. Blogs are actually dependent upon the MSM for the vast majority of their content period, as that content is mostly reaction to and criticism of the MSM. I even wonder if most of the bloggers in the room would actually like to see improvements by the MSM. What would there be left to talk about. Of course you could always talk about someone not reporting things your way and how that means they're "biased".
Fernandez manages to say one comprehensible thing here which is worth responding to. He says "blogging is the revenge of the guy with the day job." This is true if your day job is law professor, or software developer or think thank fellow or if you're some kind of consultant who works from home or something like that. Try blogging when you have a regular day job where you have to go to a cubicle and your boss is constantly hovering over you and internet is probably filtered or you're not allowed to use it at all.
J-Pod says that he has special qualifications and there's really no reason anyone should listen to him, but he's an MSM opinion leader and "there's a mystique to being an MSM opinion leader that isn't earned," whereas "in blogs the authority comes from the work.
Kudlow winds up for a long time into a question. He says he's reading the new Doris Kearns Goodwin Lincoln book (J-Pod asks "Who wrote it?") and in the book there's a lot of stuff about the various political races Lincoln was in in the 1850's and of course 1860 and how back then there were innumerable different explicitly partisan papers who would all report the exact same debates etc. with completely different storylines. The point obviously is that we now have the same kind of situation with blogs and everything's just hunky-dory and no one should strive to mute their bias at all. The exact question he asks David Corn is whether this sort of Lincoln-era situation is okay and everyone should just let-'er-rip or if individual sites should strive to be "balanced". (Paraphrasing except for last word obvs.)
Corn makes an interesting comment, which is that the internet in general has put opinion journalism on the same footing as traditional "objective" news, since you can so easily click from the New York Times coverage of an event to that of The Nation or National Review depending on your persuasion. He also makes what I think to be the second most important point made during the panel, (He also made the first most important later.) which is that with blogs and internet opinion journalism "everyone has self-ghettoized". This is true and is one of the most disturbing features of this new media age we live in. Initially, it started with the MSM, which as Podhoretz correctly said later "thought they weren't a niche when they were.", but now a conservative counter-niche has been created through talk radio, cable TV, blogs etc. in which the inhabitants also don't think they're a niche. OSM/Pajamas Media has made various noises about trying to do something about rectifying this problem, but I fail to see how bringing together over 70 bloggers who all are (to varying degrees albeit) pro-Bush, pro-war etc. does this. Not that there's anything wrong with putting together a partisan site in the same way that the Huffington Post did, but I just don't see where all the talk of intending to "foster dialogue" etc. comes from.
I'll just move on to Corn's best point, which he phrased in the form of a question, something along the lines of: Isn't there value at least to the aspiration to be objective, accurate, to get things right? No one really touched with a ten-foot pole, I think because the question points to a huge problem with the way the endlessly lionized bloggers there view blogging. There's this idea that you can be as intellectually lazy, as resistant to dissonant data as you want, and as long as your explicit in your bias, as long as your bias is blatant not latent, that this is okay. While it's correct to point out the MSM's frequent failures to live up to their professed objectivity, I agree with Corn that the ideal, the aspiration to be not objective maybe but how about intellectually honest, to not be totally blinded by your biases should not be forgotten. It's a pity that so many bloggers have forgotten this ideal, using the excuse of "Hey at least I'm up front about my bias."
The panel closed with Kudlow asking Rosett if we will all end up working for the UN? She said that we should all take to our blogs to stop that from happening. She said the midnight ride of Paul Revere was a good reference point.
At that it was time to file out for the traditional rubber chicken (I actually didn't think it was that bad) and Judith Miller and the afternoon speakers. This was actually the most exciting part of the day for me, because it was when I got to experience what sincerely was one of the greatest honors of my life, meeting and hanging out with Lisa Ramaci, widow of murdered journalist Steven Vincent. Unlike someone who merely types and cuts and pastes links into browser windows all day Steven Vincent was a true hero, someone who put himself in harm's way and eventually lost his life trying to observe first-hand the liberation he advocated for.
Lisa Ramaci is an incredible person, warm, open, unassuming and intellectual, a medieval history expert. She spoke of trips with her husband to Viet Nam before relations were normalized and even to Iran, where it turned out everyone was pro-American. She talked about her husband's memorial service, with representatives from the fetish scene, the downtown arts scene, conservative politics etc. and is going to send me a DVD of it to watch. Like Steven Vincent, she's a true American original and an utterly amazing person. Meeting her and actually getting to talk to her at length made my day and meant a hell of a lot more than meeting some blogger or journalist.