This is a remarkable medium. Remarkable for many reasons, not the least of which is the fact that because writing on the internet is essentially free, it is perhaps the most level playing field in human history. Literally billions of voices, all with more or less the same access, and success or failure governed by the cutthroat laws of natural selection: those with something worth reading survive and prosper. Those without can look back on a few months or years with a few hundred hits from friends and relatives. And that’s the way it should be.
One deep flaw this medium has, however, is that it combines the removal in time and space of the printed word — which books and magazines have — with the instantaneous quality of a phone conversation, text, or email exchange. This is the source of much mischief, which I have seen before and see again now.
Case in point for this 24-hour cycle is a statement made by my fellow PJTV employee Joe Wurzelbacher, better known as Joe the Plumber. Pajamas TV sent Joe to Israel to cover the conflict in Gaza from a genuine citizen reporter’s perspective, and that is exactly what we have gotten from him: reports that contain a moral and personal perspective that while present in a professional reporter would most certainly be transparent. Not so with Joe’s reporting. Like Lincoln’s plain manner of speaking, Joe’s commentary is still unvarnished; it still “has the bark on” as the phrase was applied to Lincoln. And if anyone reading this immediately jumps to the conclusion that I am comparing Joe Wurzelbacher to Abraham Lincoln, you have a perfect example of the dynamic I am talking about.
Joe stated that he did not think reporters should be allowed on the front lines to cover conflicts. This generated a lot of heat: some from the left, whose elitist disdain for Joe was best captured by John Stewart, sneering at him for his lapses in professionalism as he reminded all of us that a career being the primary news source for an entire generation of voters cannot be entrusted to a rank amateur like some common plumber, but must instead be vouchsafed to a person with a far nobler and serious and weighty background … a career in stand-up comedy, say.
Those elitist criticisms are understandable and easily dismissed for obvious reasons. What was more distressing to me was that some extremely patriotic men — J.D. Johannes for example — construed that to mean that Joe was referring to people like him, and Michael Yon, and Michael Totten; people who, at great risk to their lives and on their own dime, have for years now been placing themselves in harm’s way in order to get out the story that is not getting out any other way.
I think this is a terrible misunderstanding, although certainly an understandable one. I cannot speak for Joe, but I for one let that remark flow right over me simply because I took it to mean that he was referring to the leftist, anti-Western, so-called “professionals” from Reuters and the BBC and others; people who he has confronted on the ground in Gaza on the moral grounds that they are there to show each and every Palestinian casualty (and willing to fabricate them if necessary) while remaining utterly mute and invisible while rockets rain down on Israeli families. I cannot imagine for an instant that Joe was referring to common citizens like J.D., Mike Yon, and Mike Totten who — like me and like Joe himself for that matter — are simply regular people called to try and fight back against the tide of bias and outright deception we see in the media.
When Joe said he didn’t think that reporters should be allowed to have front-line access, he certainly wasn’t saying anything new: censorship of press releases has been a staple of war coverage from the beginning. I suspect that his having watched TV crews don flak jackets and Kevlar helmets for a news segment, only to remove them the instant the cameras ceased rolling, put him in the same mind as I am about these so-called journalists.
Which brings me to the point: if the news professionals did their job the way we were told they would do their job — namely cover the facts without bias (including selection bias) and not deign to illuminate us with their superior moral sense — then there would be no need for Joe, or J.D., or Mike, or me, or Pajamas Media, or any of that.
The only reason we are here is because some of us simply refuse to sit back and watch these people poison the well of Western Civilization. Those of us who pay attention to history know what the end result of this kind of self-loathing elitism is.
I think this latest flap is simply a case of a mortar round crashing into a position where no one expected there to be any friendlies. There’s one way to find out, of course: next time I speak to Joe, I will ask him myself.