Monday, January 09, 2006

Washington Post is clueless about blogs

The Washington Post, an MSM newspaper, is clueless about blogs.

When you read the quoted article on Wal-Mart and bloggers, be sure to notice the pseudo-journalist's prejudice against the New Media, and his ignorant dismissals of blogs as, well it's clear as mud what he really thinks a blog is.

I suspect that he, like most MSM journalists, has no idea what a blog or web site is.

This is natural, since his medium of newspapers is dying rapidly due to the rise of blogs and other internet information venues.

There emerges a deep-seated antagonism to what blogs represent: the rise of individual voice against MSM information hegemony.

Ahrens longs for "the good old days" when individuals did not express ideas outside of family debates and cocktail parties. He's obviously not comfortable with news or information being anything other than what his boss says it is.

[QUOTE-with Vaspers commentary in bracketed red type]

Wal-Mart Sees How Fast Bad Press Spreads Online

By Frank Ahrens

Sunday, January 8, 2006; Page F07

Used to be, when you were angry with a corporation or a government or even a person, you had to stand outside the building and hold a sign, or at least yell a lot.

[VASPERS: Ahrens uses a very common ploy: begin with a comical statement portraying an absurd scene and a ridiculous event.

This is a not-so-subtle set up, a precursor, a foreshadowed attitude: "blogs are goofy and cause trouble".

The petrified, dumbed-down version of "blog" the MSM is clutching as it disappears into the quicksand of public disinterest and adverstiser exodus.]

Your distribution -- and potential impact -- was limited to the range of your voice or the size of the letters on your sign.

[VASPERS: Has Ahrens not heard of grapevines, word of mouth, grassroots message proliferation? This ignorance is appalling. But MSM has an intrinsic animosity to "little mouths", narrowcasting, and anything other than MSM.

This is the root of neo-fascism: disparagement of, hostility toward everything new and "different".]

If you hoped for a wider audience, you had to hector the local television news to show up. If you got really lucky, its feed was picked up by the networks, and you'd get 30 seconds at the end of the evening news.

[VASPERS: According to Ahrens, self-express and social activism begin with a protest sign and ends with a television blip.

Signs and Television. No other signifiers are acknowledged.

According to this MSM journalist, a protest, criticism, complaint is carried out by fanatics and nuts. The MSM covers it, not because of its inherent value, but because the protest kook dressed up in a chicken suit and set fire to a United Nations flag.

This compulsively conformist pathology, this underlying rotten and ill-considered attitude permeates the entire article like a putrid stench of imbecility.]

But now, you can go from zero to global in a matter of minutes, as Wal-Mart painfully found out last week.

Early Thursday afternoon, some bloggers discovered a horrifying sight: Wal-Mart's retail Web site was telling potential buyers of "Planet of the Apes" DVDs that they might also like to buy DVDs featuring the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., black boxing legend Jack Johnson and black actress Dorothy Dandridge.

[VASPERS: "bloggers discovered a horrifying sight..." This expression diminishes the reality, once again. Ahrens is good at this distortion. He is confusing facts and his own opinions. Saying the blog weirdos discovered a "horrifying sight" is deliberate exaggeration to serendiptitiously pretend to debase the ugly reality he's about to describe.

Why did he not say rather "disturbing fact"? "The bloggers discovered a disturbing fact" or "the bloggers uncovered a dubious situation". I think you know why. "horrifying sight" makes the bloggers look hysterical, over-reacting, impulsive, immature, overly idealistic.]

In another nasty linkage, those titles were also recommended to buyers of a "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" DVD.


Perceived racism is like anthrax to a company: potentially deadly and hard to clean off.

[VASPERS: Ahrens is wrong again. And evil headed.

It actually was digital racism, compuNazi error, not merely "perceived racism".

It was actual racism. It may not have been intended. It may have been sabotage by a young hacker/cracker. We may never know the truth, the deep private confidential truth, so we must judge the only thing we have: the appearance. Racist. Period.

Then Ahrens acts like racism is "like anthrax to a company", "hard to clean off", as if racism is just a smudge, just a soiled reputation that needs Ajax or Comet abrasive detergent. Maybe a wetnap. Just brush it off, rinse it out, and hang it up to dry.

Like it's the allegation of racism that is a drag for a company. Lost is the hard, sad reality that allegation of racism may prove to be correct, and the racism of a company has been contributing to poor treatment of an ethnic minority that was once enslaved by the good Christian and secular humanist whites of wonderful America.

He diminishes and dumbs down the fact that we don't give a crap about what allegations of racism do to a company that is in fact racist.

We care what racism does to the race that is mocked, harrassed, and despised. Nobody gives a shit about the big fat ass corporation that let their prejudice leak out accidentally or deliberately.]

The graveness of the situation was reflected in Wal-Mart's quick public apology, in which it said it was "heartsick" over the incident.

As of late Friday, the Bentonville, Ark., retail giant insisted its site was not hacked. Instead it called the unfortunate product linkage a problem involving its "mapping" technology.

On a retail site, mapping takes product titles -- books, CDs, DVDs, etc. -- and thematically links them to other products.

It has turned out to be a powerful consumer theory, made popular by, based on the assumption that consumers will buy other stuff if it's similar to the stuff they just bought.

The first time I noticed this practice was nearly a decade ago on one of the early versions of .

I'd look up a signer, say, Joe Jackson, and the site listed "similar artists," such as Elvis Costello and Graham Parker. I thought, "How'd they know I liked those guys, too?"

[VASPERS: Ahrens doesn't even understand this simple online marketing ploy, which is actually beneficial. The "similar artists" is not "we know you like, or will like, these artists". As an outmoded MSM journalist, Ahrens dumbs down every detail he can.]

Turns out, like most of us, I'm pretty predictable. Only rabidly self-conscious and eclectic hipsters can outsmart The Map. Wal-Mart's mapping technology is based on the same cross-referenced affinity-link assumptions as Allmusic's.

[VASPERS: This use of hysterical-traumaphobic expressions as "rabidly self-conscious" and "eclectic hipsters" betrays an inner insecurity. To use faux exotic phrases to denote the geeks and bloggers, the intellectuals and artists, the thought rebels and early adapters, the beta testers and tech-smart...this would qualify as laughable, if it weren't so tragic.]

But as mega-corps such as Wal-Mart, Amazon and Target profit from the Web, they are discovering it has drawbacks, as well. Indeed, Wal-Mart, the world's biggest retailer, has found a bull's-eye on its back bigger than Target's.

Anti-Wal-Mart sites, such as and , blast the company for what they consider poor practices and all manner of evils, from driving local retailers out of business to paying its employees low wages.

As happened with the supposed Air National Guard service records of President Bush and countless lesser stories, the Web -- bloggers, alt-news sites and so forth -- can now drive mainstream news coverage. Folks who never read a blog but read papers and watch the news now know that significant anti-Wal-Mart sentiment exists.

Thursday was a bad day for critical thought.

[VASPERS: What punk?--"a bad day for critical thought"? Ahren doesn't even know what critical thought is, nor how to use it, judging by this article.

The thread of Ahren's thought is "bloggers are goofy, cause trouble, and--now he tells us--those awful bloggers don't use superior critical thinking skills".

When a rumor spreads through the blogosphere, it's supposedly a "bad day" for "critical thinking skills". What punk?

We're so eternally grateful that newspapers and other MSM have such a squeaky clean track record for honesty, accuracy, and helping us exercise our critical thinking skills. Just toss the sports page into the vomit hole.

Where were Dan Rather's critical thinking skills when he reported a lie, then arrogantly refused, like all celebrities and politicians, to admit his mistake, his unprofessionalism, his emotions running roughshod over his rational faculties?]

It was amazing, frankly, how quickly some bloggers were ready to believe that Wal-Mart linked its "Planet of the Apes" DVDs to black-themed DVD titles on purpose.

[VASPERS: And where are the links to sources that prove that Wal-Mart did *not* do it on purpose?

Here we have bloggers portrayed in, guess what?, a negative light: "some bloggers were ready to believe", an implication that some, most, or all bloggers are cynical, hateful, anxious to trust any anti-corporate rumor.

Notice the arrogant, smug use of "...amazing, frankly..." Oh, gee, thanks for being easy to astonish and for finally condescending to be "frank", by which I assume you mean "rather than fred".]

Aside from kiddie porn and e-mail scams, this is perhaps the most troubling trait of the Internet: Rather than opening minds, it can close them, thanks to echo-chamber Web sites and blogs.

[VASPERS: The MSM always likes to conclude news reports with a note of caution, grief, warning, skepticism, gloom, fear, anxiety. They do this to increase the sales of cruises, sedatives, food, alcohol, shopping sprees, and other consumeristic solutions to their audience's creeping neurosis.

The internet is now accused of "closing minds". Newspapers and other MSM outlets have never "closed" any minds? Never misrepresented, rushed to judgment, or was eager to trust a poll or anonymous source?]

Which, coincidentally, works on the same premise as retail-site mapping.

We like to read Web sites and blogs that we agree with and that reinforce our opinions.

[VASPERS: Yet another allegation that is groundless. I don't form an opinion, then go seeking blogs and web sites that will confirm it. I usually form a question, then go seeking blogs and web sites that can answer it.

He is sloppily projecting specific aspects of political blogs onto the entire range of blogs. But there are far more personal blogs than political blogs.]

Aside from the few of you who practice "know your enemy" browsing, how many of you liberals read ? How many of you conservatives frequent ?

People who hate Wal-Mart are going to flock to anti-Wal-Mart sites and blogs.

[VASPERS: He fails to mention "people who are curious about various issues involving Wal-Mart" or "people who have themselves experienced a problem or unfair labor practice of Wal-Mart" or "people who dislike the No Return policy of Wal-Mart toward music CDs, which Wal-Mart blames on the RIAA" and others who may be drawn to a site that is criticial of Wal-Mart.

This "people who hate" and "going to flock to" reveals Ahrens disrespect of dissent, contrary opinion, thought that is not under the strict supervision and control of the MSM. "going to flock to" what is non-MSM, which will deplete the butts in seats configurations, the eyeball count, of the MSM.]

And they did in droves on Thursday, writing sentiments along the lines of, "Well, what do you expect from a company that has non-progressive labor rules?"

In other words: "Well, of course Wal-Mart is racist. Look at how they engage in various practices we don't agree with."

[VASPERS: He is now being sarcastic and cynical toward those who criticize Wal-Mart. It's not that the Wal-Mart criticizers just have a "disagreement" with Wal-Mart.

This MSM journalist is floundering around, void of facts, sloppy in thinking, reckless in explication, going by his bloated gut, stuffed with personal uneducated opinions and half-baked concepts. No real grasp of journalistic discipline.]

Kind of makes me nostalgic for the old days, when the only damage a kook with a sign and a bullhorn could do was annoy people on the sidewalk.

[VASPERS: Now this reporter is comparing blogging to "a kook" who "annoys"? This seems to be the implication: bloggers are "like kooks with bullhorns" who are merely "annoying". Or a sign-toting fanatic who needs to psycho-pharmacate.

Another case of the MSM "looking through the monkey hole", this Ahrens article in the illustrious Washington Post. Schmucks.

Does he mean to also imply that the doomed medium of newspapers, with drastically declining markets and readership, are somehow exalted "above" blogs?]


[signed] Steven Edward Streight aka Vaspers the Grate


carrie said...

scathing and incisive analysis.
i found it very interesting reading (both the article you quoted and your commentary).

i do not disagree with your main point that this writer was using rhetoric and hyperbole to get a shaky point across to the 8th-grade-reading-level masses...

however, i do not completely disagree with the idea that many people who claim to be anti-walmart activists DO only focus on one side of the issue and tend to include only information that supports their sometimes biased pre-drawn conclusions.

the article is just as guilty of one-sidedness as the supposed bloggers it critiques.

steven edward streight said...

I don't know much about Wal-Mart and its sins, but I do know it is hypocritical for MSM agents to keep robotically blabbering about the supposed "dark side of blogging" and all the other bullshit they try to force down passive throats seeking to be spoon fed "information".

Are you resting adequately? No stress now. Just calming vibrations from the North Star.

Harvey Dog said...

A couple of things:

1) Instead of using cheap nasty rhetoric to lambaste the bloggers spreading this news, why doesn't he discuss the supposed "merits" of this mapping technology that he seems so fond of. Convince me of its merits cause I'm not so sure. Instead of sticking his tongue out at bloggers, how about some "critical" thinking?

2) "you can go from zero to global in a matter of minutes"...why is he reacting as if this is a bad thing? Isn't this a good thing? Is knowledge that dangerous to him?

3) He reminds me of those plastic looking newscasters when they sum a story on something outside the "norm". They have this smug "looking down on all that is different" kind of look. Hard to describe, but I've seen that look from my Dad many, many times.

4) Great comments on your part, Vaspers.

steven edward streight said...

A good example of MSM being the Morbid Stream Media is this Asian Bird Flu they're trying to scare everyone with.

On tonight's evening news, robot head said that already 80 people have died from as it spreads from SE Asia into Europe and Russia.

Only 80 died?

Same thing happened with SARS.

The MSM tried to whip up a news story about a disease worse than AIDS, and so far, it has been tragic but not pandemic.

Asian Bird Flu may indeed turn into a vial from the Apocalyptic pale rider, but so far, there is little to fear.

The MSM typically reports only the negative, despite their happy little hero or good deed or whatever segment they have now, tacked onto the end of the broadcast.

"We know you need negatives, worry, alarm, anxiety...but we'll condescend to treat you to a happy positive altruism story every night, just to pamper your ideological ass."--MSM to America and the World.

carrie said...

p.s. i am resting as adequately as i can... yes. :-) not a lot of stress...