Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Insomnia and Some Nice Michael Totten Finds

4:36 am. I've been up for about 45 minutes. Awake for indefinite period prior to that. Insomnia. Ugh.

Knowing the pattern, I will probably be able to fall asleep about the time the kids wake up. But that's no good because the wife has a dentist appointment in the morning, and I'm watching the kids. And when she comes home, I have to go to work. It will not be a fun day.

If there's a bright side, it has allowed me to catch up reading some longer pieces I've intended to get to, but rarely do in my average "30-60 seconds of peace before the next interruption" day.

This post from Michael Totten is interesting: Drinking with Christopher Hitchens and the Iraqis

Totten was invited by Jim Hake from Spirit of America to be part of Iraqi election coverage on CSPAN, along with some distinguished Iraqis and Christopher Hitchens. This post is about what they did afterward. They went drinking. Lots of interesting little anecdotes in there. There's this:

Christopher Hitchens said to Ghassan Atiyyah: “If the Iraqis were to elect either a Sunni or Shia Taliban, we would not let them take power.” And of course he was right. We didn’t invade Iraq so we could midwife the birth of yet another despicable tyranny. “One man, one vote, one time” isn’t anything remotely like a democracy.

But Atiyyah would have none of that. He exploded in furious rage. “So you’re my colonial master now, eh?!” You have to understand – this man’s voice really carries.

That part doesn't sound pleasant. After much more about the argument (Totten calls it a fight), we get this:

“If you wanted more Iraqi support,” Atiyyah bellowed at Hitchens,” you should have given us more money and food once you got there!”

“So you’re saying, sir, that you can be bought,” Hitchens shot back.

Remind me never to debate Christopher Hitchens. On the record anyway. Off the record it would be a blast.

Later in the evening, one of the Iraqis with them offered this:

At one point, apropos of something I can’t remember, Ahman said to me: “I can tell you in one sentence how my country feels about your country.”

“Really?” I said. “Can you really boil it down to one sentence?”

“Yes,” he said. “And it is this: Thank you for coming, now please leave and take us with you.”

Good stuff. Michael's a terrific writer. One of those I consider harbingers of the future of media: a pro-journalist as well as a blogger. And on that topic, Michael points to a piece by Steve Silver, who happens to be another pro-journalist/blogger. The article offers his insights on what he sees as flaws and weaknesses on both sides of that divide: In Defense of "MSM"

The only overall criticism I have of his approach is that he misses a cultural element. "MSM" is a term applied to those who have been more or less enculturated into a common set of assumptions and practices and, yes, even biases. I don't mean necessarily political biases.

And, really, other than that he makes plenty of valid criticisms of bloggers abusing the term "MSM." Beyond merely painting with too broad a brush, it draws a dividing line that only kind-of-sort-of exists.

But, I would note, he personally fails to grasp the nature of some of the criticism. The reason bloggers have a difficult time not mixing up all the MSM is because we get most of our news this way. To put it bluntly, after a while you all look alike to us.

And, no, that's not fair. And, yes, that is an example of bias going the other direction. I consider it an unintended consequence of the transition period we're in. Old media models don't necessarily serve new media consumers very efficiently or well. That will be resolved over time.

In the meantime there will continue to be misunderstandings, unfair accusations, and lots and lots of bias all around. That's the situation, and no one is going to change it overnight. But read Silver's piece anyway, because he offers some good insights into areas not many others are offering.

And now, I think I will try to catch at least another hour of sleep before I must get up. Wish me luck.

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