August 15, 2002
9:35 AM   Subscribe

"While many intelligent people read the site and are not seduced by its methods, the overall effect is to build a self-reinforcing community of aggrieved partisans and to help break down taboos ... against the rhetorical viciousness promoted. The editors' claim that their actions are a justified response to the tactics used by others is both insufficient and, ultimately, circular." Spinsanity describes MediaWhoresOnline, or FreeRepublic, or WarBlogger Watch, or Lucianne.Com, or Smirking Chimp, or Little Green Footballs, or ...
posted by rcade (27 comments total)
It would be difficult to place MWO in the same camp with FreeRepublic or Lucianne as far as invective and incendiary comment go. So far as presenting factual information and not vicious rumor Lucianne and FreeRepublic also fail the litmus test. Classifying a group of sycophantic journalists stenographers as whores is rather mild considering the harm they do to public discourse.

The common thread that all these sites present political spin would be correct but that in itself is not necessarily a bad thing, in my opinion. The reality is there are absoutely no sources of information that do not contain at least a modicum of "spin" and that's where SpinSanity goes overboard to present some sort of balance that never has and never will exist.

Perhaps fairness would be a more achievable and worthy goal. No advocating the deaths of their erstwhile "opponents" might be a start.
posted by nofundy at 10:22 AM on August 15, 2002

but they deserve to die...
oops - wrong forum....
posted by quonsar at 10:26 AM on August 15, 2002

When a group of people of "like mind" gather and live together, they create a system with strong feedback. As they interact, their common values become mutually-reinforcing. When one member sees most other members behaving in a certain way, that member will tend to align with them. Over time, these behaviors strengthen into self-sustaining "norms" and standard, accepted behavioral patterns.

The common behavior of such a group of people becomes self-organizing and self-reinforcing. Each member reacts to cues that indicate collective approval or disapproval from other members. This feedback system is the force that creates and sustains the constraints on member behavior.

By this process, the group members create a higher-level "community" aggregate object. The common, collective norms make up the "culture" of the community. The resulting behavioral constraints enforce limits on members' behavior, causing the unique properties of the community aggregate object to emerge.

As the group grows, closer adherence to behavioral norm becomes necessary for the stability of the community.

-- Community Culture

posted by dhartung at 10:35 AM on August 15, 2002

As the group grows, closer adherence to behavioral norm becomes necessary for the stability of the community.

That explains why so few arguments break out on Metafilter. [/snark]
posted by Skot at 10:40 AM on August 15, 2002

Honesty should be a goal. "Fairness" as it's often interpreted is a very dangerous goal. Too often the press intrepret fairness as meaning that all opinions should be treated equally, without regard to truth and accuracy. A simple real world example of this was a mainstream TV show demanding equal time for holocaust deniers on a show with holocaust survivors. The show's view was that they were both just opinions, they balanced each other, and so it wasn't a problem. They were shocked that the holocaust survivors didn't want to appear on the same platform with people who denied that their historically well-documented experience didn't take place.

Most policy discussions and reportage in the mainstream media fall into this trap. They present whatever partisan views they are handed in a press release, and announce them without bothering to analyze their truthfulness. This was terribly apparent in the 2000 election where Gore tried to point out that Bush's math didn't add up, and the press for the most part reported it as a "he said, she said" disagreement, rather than bothering to do the math and reporting who was telling the truth. This may be "fair" to the two opiners, by some measure, but it is not fair to the truth or to the US population.
posted by alms at 10:51 AM on August 15, 2002

that's why i rely on prwatch, for all my PR watching :)
Effective today, we have added a new feature to the PR Watch web site: a message board where visitors can post their own comments and questions about public relations manipulations of the news and public opinion. The PR Watch forum is linked to Spin of the Day, so by clicking on the link at the bottom of each item you can join a thread that discusses that particular story. Use this forum to talk back about flacks!
discuss this item!
posted by kliuless at 10:52 AM on August 15, 2002

why do we expect fairness, or objectivity, or truth from our media outlets? it isn't anything that they can provide. i can't imagine a situation in which i would ever simply be provided with the facts (whatever that means) about any situation.

just read everything as if there is no certainty about what you're reading and you'll be better off in the end.
posted by callicles at 11:19 AM on August 15, 2002

The editors have gloated about the drug problems of Michael Reagan's son, mocked the sordid personal problems of the Wall Street Journal's John Fund and called conservative syndicated columnist/author Ann Coulter "Ann 'Thrax'" repeatedly.

I already bitched about this earlier, but the last tactic drives me nuts. I hate, hate, hate Ann Coulter but calling her Ann 'Thrax makes the person using the tactic worse than her in my book.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 11:30 AM on August 15, 2002

Welcome to Media Whores Online.
Media Whores Online takes an unbiased, in-depth look at...

That says it all right there. Once again, any one who reads that site and believes that statement, is fooling only themselves.
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 12:13 PM on August 15, 2002

Very good points alms. Thanks!

Ann Coulter deserves what she gets if any person does. She's the queen of childish name calling. And John Fund's hypocrisy over certain matters of conception and abortion put his own spotlight upon him. Personally I appreciate the occasional sarcastic comment, done in good humor, especially towards those with a bent for invective themselves.
posted by nofundy at 12:31 PM on August 15, 2002

Nofundy: Sarcasm and wit are one thing. "Yer a doody head" is another. The writers at Mad would pass over "Ann 'Thrax" as too childish.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 12:35 PM on August 15, 2002

Heaven forbid the left does what the right has been doing all along.
posted by owillis at 12:45 PM on August 15, 2002

On the subject of the press and it's complicity with promoting political aims, I found a very good piece I'd like to share. It's about Venezuala and the recent coup:

Another on an example of the press that I wish were emulated by politicians too:

Gotta love that guy!
posted by nofundy at 12:50 PM on August 15, 2002

On one hand, you could interpret Media Whores Online and its ilk as a sign that the left needs to fight as hard and as dirty as the right to rise above the din and be heard in the U.S.

The tactics, behavior, and audience of MWO are comparable to Rush Limbaugh and his dittoheads, who were perfecting the art of shouting down an opponent before the Web existed. Conservatives dominate talk radio and have a lot of strong media outlets such as Fox News and the Wall Street Journal editorial page. Without fail, their most shrill voices hog the Top 10 of the best-seller lists every time they shut up long enough to write a book.

On the other hand, didn't liberals say for years that this kind of shallow demonization and empty rhetoric were loathsome practices by the rabid right-wingers?

I enjoy some of the jihads that BartCop and MediaWhoresOnline have engaged in over the years, but at the same time I'm fed up with the abusive nattering that passes for political discourse these days. What's the point of winning if you have to win stupid?
posted by rcade at 12:59 PM on August 15, 2002


For a great article on some schoolyard name calling, try this:

Like I said, s/he deserves no mercy
posted by nofundy at 1:06 PM on August 15, 2002

Nofundy: Good column.

Like I said before I hate, hate, hate Ann Coulter. It's not a mater of "giving her mercy" it's a matter of not sinking to her level. Because, in my experience, once you're there it's almost impossible to pull yourself back up. I.e. if you've established yourself as one who deals in the Coulter style, others will only engage you in the Coulter style. One of those "if you gaze into the abyss" deals.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 1:13 PM on August 15, 2002

On the other hand, didn't liberals say for years that this kind of shallow demonization and empty rhetoric were loathsome practices by the rabid right-wingers?

And in the court of public opinion liberals (often deservedly so) got saddled with the mantle of weak and easily dominated.

What's the point of winning if you have to win stupid?
Because the alternative is even worse.
posted by owillis at 1:34 PM on August 15, 2002

I already bitched about this earlier, but the last tactic drives me nuts. I hate, hate, hate Ann Coulter but calling her Ann 'Thrax makes the person using the tactic worse than her in my book.

I couldn't agree more, and yet it happens all the time. I loathe Ann Coulter, and I find her to be an irritating, snobbish, caricature of a conservative. However, ad hominem attacks, such as name calling, cheapen debate and distract from any substantive argument for or against any position. It's amazing to me that this happens all the time. Bush gets called 'Shrub,' Gore was called all kinds of names during the election, Ashcroft gets called Asscroft all the time. Stop it!
posted by monju_bosatsu at 1:47 PM on August 15, 2002

Let me get this straight: The Three Guys and Their Website have now made a scathing article about the lack of noteriety among the Unknown Number of Guys and Their Website, while comparisons made to the Websites That are Just What Other People Think, and all of them are arguing over which one I'm supposed to support as a bastion of factual information and fairness.


One of the things I like about doing cartoons is that there seems to be such a smaller threshold of people expecting you to make sure every thing you say is perfectly accurate. After going over MWO, Spinsanity, the right-wing sites, and the left-wing sites, it seems to me that half the times these sites aren't just stopping at grasping for facts to counter against each other, but they're looking for ways to make grammar checks as well. (A recent Spinsanity attack on a Ted Rall article was essentially 1500 words on how Rall phrased his sentences contrary to their own choice of wording, for example.)

What bothers me, and I'm sure I'm not alone here, is when you write something and one of these sites is linked to you by a reader, be it a fan or an enemy. First of all, thanks, pal, yes I've heard of Snopes before. Second, when the FUCK did any website is the universe become diehard debate-ending fact?

Sites like Cursor and Snopes are not, by themselves, statements of fact. They're opinionated sites that post links to the sites of usually established news sources. Granted, the argument over the lowering validity of the American news media is one I'd be happy to join, but I don't use "Cursor said so" EVER as a fact point in an argument. If I need a fact, I'd point out that "Cursor linked to this article in the New York Times."

All of these sites are opinion sites. And until people accept that and start writing responses to posts like the (admittedly arrogant and shit-eating-grinnish) MWO people that say "I disagree" instead of "they're wrong," as if you can magically declare someone's opinion factually irrelevant, then public debate is just going to continue down the obnoxious slope that these own sites created.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 1:57 PM on August 15, 2002

Just curious: would calling Coulter, say, "Ann Liar Coulter" be ok with the delicate minds at Spinsanity? Or would that count as "rhetorical nastiness" that should be wrapped with a ruler?

I've always been turned off by Mediawhores and Bartcop, mainly because it was obvious I couldn't trust them to give me the whole story about a given issue, but you know what? I'm starting to get just as turned off by Spinsanity. I'm trying to figure out what it is but haven't quite nailed it yet. One thing's for sure, though: I completely understand why some Democrat supporters are using ugly gutter tactics against people who've been using much worse, unapologetically, for years. I think it's dumb in terms of convincing people, but goddess knows the idea of aggressively pissed-off Democrats is one U.S. public discourse could stand a bit more of. Tom Daschle certainly isn't supplying it.
posted by mediareport at 2:39 PM on August 15, 2002

Um, "rapped" with a ruler.
posted by mediareport at 2:40 PM on August 15, 2002

Spinsanity: so holier-than-thou that they expect their office to become a place of pilgrimage any time now.
posted by riviera at 3:04 PM on August 15, 2002


People who are angry need to vent. It's healthier to do it on opinion sites with obviously tilted forums than to rage at your family, friends or strangers.

These sites serve a purpose and it is not to inform but to vent negative emotions.

I am tired of people on both the left, right and center trying to
tell people that what they are doing is wrong. People lie, people make mistakes, people are angry occasionally and they express it. These sites also provide an alternative to the sugarcoated view expressed by the mainstream media. Big whoopty doo! These sites reflect that and give voice to the expression of alternate views.

Spinsanity seem to be giving themselves circuitous pat on the back by slagging on sites that our not as nuanced as their observations. I for one appreciate the varied types and levels of opinion and discourse that now exist in our society via the forums and sites mentioned in the intro to this thread including Spinsanity.

I believe that many people are smart enough
to spot hyperbole when they see it.

Most of us don't get news and opinion from one source because we don't have to. We can read dissect, observe and assemble our viewpoints from a variety of sources and discussions.

BTW did I spell whoopty right? :-)
posted by yertledaturtle at 3:22 PM on August 15, 2002

Not that, apparantly, any of us care, but MWO has officially posted its response to Spinsanity. (Can't give a link because MWO has frames and no permalinks and horrible HTML site design for linking to and I'm a big lazy whiner)
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 10:32 PM on August 15, 2002

MWO's response does a pretty good job of answering the criticism. Maybe the site is getting more responsible in its old age; I still have been judging it by the flamethrowers that get reported by the media and other sites.
posted by rcade at 5:12 AM on August 16, 2002

No-frame link to Media Whores' defense, which makes me want to start reading them again:

" long as G. Gordon 'Aim for Their Heads' Liddy and Ann 'Execute Him in Order to Intimidate All Liberals' Coulter are featured as respected opinionmakers in the 'mainstream' media - criticism of tactics such as a little name-calling and a few email protests should provoke not hand-wringing and concern among liberals but uproarious laughter."
posted by mediareport at 8:42 AM on August 16, 2002

I had (shameless self-plug not intended. Really.) mentioned this on my own site about this the other day, but the Washington Post's Richard Cohen wrote a piece on Coulter's name-calling which just made me giggle with the idea of a nice old man like Cohen verbally slapping the shit out of the little spoiled brat. I just look at Cohen's bio-pic and Coulter's bio-pic and I picture that scene in Happy Gilmore where Bob Barker wipes the floor with Adam Sandler's ass.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 10:52 AM on August 16, 2002

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