October 30, 2005
What’s the Biggest Change?

Call me dense. But I’ve never understood the oft-repeated meme that 9/11 changed everything.

What? What did it change? No facts. I agree it changed perceptions, but only among those whose perceptions were widely divergent from the facts. Clearly the horrific crime of 9/11 changed the lives of those who died or were injured, as well as their friends and families; and on a smaller scale, those who lived near Ground Zero and had to make other living arrangements. But the US has been making such changes world-wide for over a century (consider, for example, Jonathan Kwitny’s Endless Enemies).

I submit that the biggest changes were:

  1. Americans who had always believed that we could bomb anywhere we chose with no fear of retaliation learned that they had been tragically wrong. This invulnerability ended with the advent of the atomic age, but many people didn’t adjust until they saw the towers fall fifty years later.
  2. The international perception of Americans as self-absorbed, money-grubbing bullies was put aside for a time in sympathy. That sympathy was quickly quashed by a war-mongering, profit-oriented administration.

In contrast, I’d argue that we’re living through two sea changes right now. The slower-moving one is the increasing importance of the web, and in particular the blogosphere, in shaping popular understanding. The Washington Post put a link to Talking Points Memo and a photograph of Josh Marshall on its politics page every day last week. The New York Times had a sidebar of links to blogosphere reactions in its examination of the Judy Miller fiasco. The cable channels are fond of showing pictures of blogs, often including those of the news anchors, on their television shows, presumably to prove they’re hip to the blogosphere. I can’t think of any other reason to scroll unreadably small text past the camera.

It’s no longer possible for the MSM to claim that its view — singular — is the only realistic one. If you want to understand the Fitzgerald indictments, for example, you don’t go to CNN or MSNBC; you go to firedoglake or The Next Hurrah or the Booman Tribune. Many of the bloggers at these sites and others are actually knowledgeable about the topic at hand. The three I just named have at least one lawyer each.

Parenthetic comment: why do people call them “loyers”? Do you call cops loy officers? Does Congress pass loys? No, it’s law. Thus, law-yers.

Anyway, my point here is that television news, which has long used the MacNeil-Lehrer trick of talking to a right-wing Democrat and a right-wing Republican and calling that the whole range of opinion, is no longer the leading edge, and even the MSM is being forced to acknowledge that. This is a great thing for the Republic.

The second sea change is the relatively faster-moving issue of the Fitzgerald investigation. This thing is, as John Dean famously called it, Worse Than Watergate.

There are enough details to discuss on this topic that I’ll put them in a separate post.

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Posted by Chuck Dupree at October 30, 2005 01:14 AM
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