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Citizen Joe Stands His Ground

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.