Today Terri Schiavo lies at the brink of execution by order of the court, she reacts to stimuli, interacts with her family, feels pain, says things like momma and help me, and yet - according to Judge George Greer and Michael Schiavo, she’s a worthless human being worthy of death by starvation and dehydration. (Courtesy of Blogs for Terri; 2/23/05)
The rap on the bloggers so far after Jordan’s resignation is that we conducted a witch hunt, and Jordan was nothing more than a victim. The dreaded term “McCarthyism” has been thrown at us as well. However, a witch hunt demands innocence of its victim, and Jordan was anything but. (Courtesy Captains Quarters; 2/15/05)
Two stories. Two important stories. Two Blogswarms. What’s the difference?
The Eason Jordan story was driven to the fore of mainstream media coverage as the direct result of the excellent work and tireless efforts of many of the larger blogs.
The Terri Schiavo tragedy has played itself out largely on the fringes of the blogosphere. The work by bloggers has been just as excellent and just as tireless as those who brought Eason Jordan to account. But the probability is that Terri Schiavo will die. And a legitimate question can be raised asking about the indifference of most of the larger blogs to what those of us farther down the food chain are talking about and whether or not their active participation in the blogswarm could have made a difference. (UPDATE: Terri’s case has been continued until 3/18).
This disconnect spells nothing but trouble for this new media. When something as vitally important as the euthanizing of a relatively healthy but brain damaged woman gets lost in the daily dish of gossip, news, and commentary found on the larger sites, one has to ask some penetrating questions about the nature of this new media and what will drive it forward.
Now, we’re not naive here. The sphere is, after all, not a democracy. People can post on whatever topic moves them. In fact in many ways, a blogger is rewarded for blogging on things that no one else is commenting on. By the same token, however, when more than 200 blogs are involved in the fight to save Terri and nary a word is heard from people that could do the most good on this issue, something is terribly amiss.
A check of some ecosystem stats may be revealing. Blogs for Terri is ranked #123 with more than 1200 daily visitors. Technorati reveals nearly 800 individual posts mentioning Blogs for Terri (more than 5400 posts on Terri Schiavo with an unknown number of those in favor of her euthanization).
Compare those stats with ones for Eason Jordan’s story. The Ecosysetm shows the Jordan story tapering off. In its heyday, however, the Easongate site received more than 8500 hits a day, which would have put it into the top 50 sites on the TLB. However, a Technorati search turns up something interesting. Taking into account the difference in time frames for the two stories (each having lasted approximately three weeks), the number of posts on the subject are almost identical.. “Terri” stories were more than 5400 while “Jordan” stories number 5600 to date.
I guess the question that needs to be asked is why was Eason Jordan given the boot while the end of Terri’s life could be merely hours away? Jim Geraghty of TKS links to a post by Doublethink about the way the right side of the blogsophere works:
Do people on the right “vote” a blog post into popularity? No. Are research tasks assigned, or project volunteers sought? No. Glenn Reynolds provides a link to a blog, an Instalanche results, and whatever message was there is widely dispersed. Of course, there are plenty of other large blogs directing traffic, so readers and ideas certainly move independently of Glenn, but he is a major hub.
Now it’s not my intent to pick on Glenn Reynolds or any other blog by name here. And I think, while generally accurate, the quote above is an oversimplification. There are other noteworthy blogs who can flog a story and have proven that in the past. The point is that once you get above a certain level in the ecosysetm, a deadening insularity is evident in what the individual sites post about. Each has their own favorites for certain issues (is there anybody but Chrenkoff who blogs the good news from Iraq better?) and each has an interesting perspective, otherwise we wouldn’t read them now, would we?
So a better question should be asked of ourselves. Why should they care that 200 bloggers are desperately trying to save a woman’s life? Here are some answers from people who have been posting on this issue for weeks. Beth from My Vast Right Wing Consirpacy:
Yesterday I fumed all day about how there are dozens of us small to mid-size-bloggers and ONE biggie (name withheld. ed.) all staying on message with the Terri Schiavo blogburst, with little to no help from those who direct the fuckin’ traffic. While the biggies are busy patting themselves on the back for their success in taking down Eason Jordan (they weren’t the ONLY voices, BTW) and fighting with the moonbats over stupid shit like Jeff Gannon, of all things, we smaller bloggers are actually trying to effect POSITIVE change-trying to save a life, ferchrissake.
Beth’s frustration is showing through, but can you blame her? She and dozens like her have worn their fingers to the bone and feel like their efforts are not only going for naught, but that their voices are getting lost in the gigantic cave that is the blogosphere. With no amplification from larger blogs, the voices trying to save Terri are but a distant murmur, a barely discernible echo in the blogosphere universe.
Crystal of Crystal Clear has brought her perspective as a licensed famiy counselor to this issue in an email I solicited from her:
There are similar issues in blogging about Terri with regards to the facts, truth, and accountability that are similar to Easongate and Rathergate. The main difference I see is that they aren’t bringing down one big wig such as Eason or Rather. Additionally, there is a strong sense in the MSM and the Schindler’s have encouraged this (not right or wrong) of this being a right to die and right to live issue. Although I think that is indeed part of it, I think some people…myself included to a point until last week did not want to be associated with what are perceived in the MSM as right wing religious fanatics.
That’s a possible explanation. Most of the larger blogs do not post much on social issues. But is Terri’s life or death a social issue? Or something more? Here’s Cao of Cao’s Blog:
“…it’s a travesty that the larger bloggers haven’t taken the media to task the way they have in other cases such as the Rathergate affair, Eason Jordan, even the fake indian with his anti-American statements, John Kerry, and many others. There is enough information out there to show beyond a shadow of a doubt that Michael Schiavo is not who the media represents; and to me this an important case–a terribly important case–in terms of the separation of powers e.g., the Judiciary usurping legislative action (which isn’t supposed to happen), an individual’s right to legal counsel-which in Florida is supposed to be guaranteed, particularly if you’re handicapped (which Greer denied her), socialist euthanasia as happened in the ’30’s under Nazi Germany, and even the media bias in favor of Michael Schiavo’s lawyer who is parading his “Right To Die” book around on the money that was supposed to have been used for Terri’s rehabiliation…”
Cao raises some very serious issues. These are issues that have been written about since this story began but which have been ignored by those blogs who would normally look on these same issues with great interest; judicial activism, trial lawyer misdeeds, slanted coverage by the MSM.
What it comes down to is I don’t know why this issue has not cracked the digital ceiling that separates the larger blogs from the rest of us. From my own perspective, it’s very disappointing and a little bewildering that people I admire and who I’ve learned so much from would fail to particpate in this very worthy and worthwhile effort.
My fear is, this is only going to get worse. As late as the November election, the MSM either totally ignored blogs or didn’t even know what they were. Now many of the larger bloggers are finally getting some of the recognition they so richly deserve on both TV and in print. What does this bode for the blogosphere? Will the MSM exposure work to drive more traffic their way while insulating them even further from the rest of us?
For all the talk about the new media being open and self correcting, are we in danger of creating MSB’S? (mainstream blogs). A heirarchal structure would be natural given the ruthless form of democracy practiced on the internet . In such a large universe, the cream can’t help but rise to the top. But, not everybody can be made into Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream. Some of us will remain “off-brands” for the forseeable future.
The sphere is changing rapidly. More blogs and more readers will mean upward and downward movement in the blog food chain. What will it take to stay on top? Hopefully, the ability to lead the pack on important issues facing the country. But just as importantly, the ability to recognize ideas and issues that bubble up from time to time from the bottom. Perhpas that takes as much courage and determination as bringing down an important newsman. It will certainly mean a leap beyond one’s own insular world at the top of the TLB Ecosystem.