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The Tentacle


August 10, 2006

Media Alternative Strikes Again

Tony Soltero

I am writing this with the polls still open in the Connecticut senatorial primary. I mention this because I have no idea who's going to win, but by the time this article hits the airwaves we'll all know.

But as fascinating as the battle between 18-year incumbent Joe Lieberman and heretofore unknown challenger Ned Lamont has been, that's not really what I want to focus upon here. I simply want to make a point that has been brought to light by this primary election.

The traditional news media in the United States is a complete, utter disgrace, completely bereft of professionalism, accuracy, or integrity. And the events of today, August 8, have shed as bright a light on this sad reality as has ever been seen.

Earlier in the day, Joe Lieberman's campaign website crashed and was rendered inaccessible. Without a smidgen of any actual evidence, a Lieberman operative whined to a national media outlet that the "bloggers" associated with the Ned Lamont campaign had launched a denial-of-service attack on the site, and demanded that Mr. Lamont denounce his supporters and rectify the situation.

Now this in and of itself is simply election gamesmanship, and I don't blame the operative for trying a stunt like this. But the news media, rather than verifying the accusations, breathlessly broadcast them far and wide across the country as if they were unassailable holy writ. And thus a smear was born - an Election Day smear that had no basis in reality.

The smear traveled across the media spectrum at Mach 2, despite having all the credibility of a cheap astrology reading. Cable news and wire services engaged in no fact-checking, no independent sourcing, and no effort of verification. It took more than half the day for the cable news channels to even so much as present the categorical denial of any shenanigans by the Lamont camp - despite such a statement being prominently displayed on Mr. Lamont's website.

No, they had to get the "breaking story" out to the world as soon as possible, truth be damned. They let the accusers ramble on for minutes repeating their vapid charges, and allocated only a few seconds to the Lamont camp's refutations. Mission accomplished!

Where the traditional media failed, the blogosphere stepped in. Within minutes a leading blog had contacted a couple of networking and web-hosting experts who stated that any competent network administrator could have recovered from the hack within an hour - if indeed it was a hack.

And the investigative efforts of several respected national bloggers turned up other evidence that directly contradicted the party line from the Lieberman camp. For one thing, the email server seemed to be working fine (verified by advanced techniques only an elite rocket scientist could deploy: namely, sending them an email); for another, a companion website dedicated to smearing Ned Lamont was functioning just fine.

A little more digging revealed that the real problem with Lieberman's website was that the campaign had skimped on hosting fees, riding a server that provided only 10GB of bandwidth. The site activity on Election Day had strained the system and caused it to crash. That was all.

The blogger Wonkette, in a matter of hours, was even able to produce a copy of the Federal Election Commission report that revealed the hosting fees paid by the Lieberman campaign: a whopping $15 a month. That's like slapping donut tires on a Yukon.

Meanwhile, the traditional media just kept on cluelessly blaring away, regurgitating the spin from Lieberman's campaign manager, and even continuing to do so when confronted with real evidence that contradicted the official spin.

As this "crisis" unfolded, Mr. Lamont graciously linked a cached copy of Lieberman's website to his own, and his campaign offered to send a tech expert to Lieberman's headquarters to get his site back up. The Lieberman campaign refused the offer, deciding instead to continue trumping up its fake victim hood. And the lapdogs on CNN and Fox dutifully indulged them in their bleating (while failing to report on Mr. Lamont's offer.)

TV ratings for cable news have been plummeting of late, and newspaper readership declines further every month. Given how ridiculously inept our media has become, it's easy to see why.

In the meantime, the national blogs they love to moan about, such as DailyKos, Eschaton, MyDD, and Firedoglake, continue to trump them in reporting, sourcing, analysis, and commentary, which has led to them becoming far more trusted news sources among more and more Americans. The news media's horrid performance on August 8 will drive a few thousand more eyeballs into the blogosphere, which has become an island of real investigative reporting and critical thinking in our barren media landscape. And not a moment too soon.

The media loves to talk about blogs. They might want to consider actually reading them as well. Maybe they'll figure out once again how to do their jobs.



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